I met her on an airplane flying First Class. She showed me how she covered her Louis Vuitton in a cloth bag to keep it from getting dirty on the floor, before stating the next bag she’d purchase would be a Chanel.
Bags were important to her.
I nodded politely. Instantly knowing God wanted to show me something about her, so I listened for it. She was a talker while I wanted silence, but, oh well… We were both concerned we’d miss our connecting flights due to the tropical depression. I felt exhausted from attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference and was ready to get home to see my family—especially my little girl, who’d sent me long voice mails during my absence.
She smiled, “How old are your children?”
“My boys are 23, 22, and 18, and I have a daughter who’s 7,” I said. “What about you?”
Her boys were in their upper twenties. She went on to say she’d been in North Carolina helping her son move into his new apartment with his girlfriend. She’d purchased new furniture for them and was there to get him all set up. She seemed to think I should be impressed.
“What does he do for a living?” I said.
“Well, nothing right now. He just lacks motivation.”
She admitted both her sons didn’t have jobs, and she’d been supporting them. They both slept in all day and smoked pot all night. They were addicted, and it seemed to steal their motivation to move forward. She chuckled. “He even called me and stated he didn’t like the apartment he was in because he wanted a garage. That meant, ‘Mom, pay for the upgrade’.” She smiled before adding, “I’m a child psychologist, and it’s important they know they have a safe place to land when they need help.”
My heart ached for her. She had a sweet friendly nature, but one easily manipulated towards compassion to a fault. She thought she was showing love for her sons by welding them to her wallet. Instead, she killed their self-esteem, perseverance, vision, and drive.
“Maybe it’s time you give them a little tough love,” I suggested. “Our kids need that from time to time.”
She smiled. “That’s what my husband says, but he’s not their dad. It’s hard when you’re making up for divorcing their father.”
(For another article on divorce and children see From Rivals to Co-Parents by Jason Umidi.
When We Parent from a Place of Guilt:
And there it was—one of Satan’s biggest tools to twist us parents into giving him what he wants—guilt. Before you think I sat judging her, I knew on that plane ride as I listened to her story, God was speaking into mine.
Several months ago, my eldest sons have taken an ownership position in a company and have been struggling. I’d been hoping my husband Jay would jump in and get things running right for them.
This morning, Jay explained he was going to let our boys run with this business and see where it takes them, without stepping in. “I see it as a win-win,” he said. “This is the greatest education they can get; let them stand or fall. Either way it’ll be good for them. Better for them to learn how to navigate failure or success now before they have families depending on them.”
I laugh now thinking back to when they were little. I’d fall into bed physically exhausted from meeting their needs and sleep soundly. I thought when they reached this age mothering would get easier, but instead, it’s mentally taxing as I lie awake at night praying over them.
God Fills the Gaps:
How many of you are facing the same thing? Are you watching your young adult children teetering while finding their foothold, standing by to spot them in case they fall?
God impressed on me that they’re no longer mine, but His. God’s standing in attendance for them, and He’s also filling the gaps that I’ve created by my very imperfect parenting. He will mold them and make them. It may take some suffering for them to get there, but I must stand back and allow Him to do His work in their lives. My job now is to keep pointing them in His direction and give them godly advice.
From my conversation in First Class, I began thinking of ways parents contribute to the creation of weak children, in order to help us recognize which area(s) we’ve fallen into, so we can surrender these to God and adjust to His will.
How to Create Weak Children:
- Give them anything they ask for.
- Pay them for every chore.
- Do not encourage them to take risks.
- Squelch their adventure-seeking by overprotecting them throughout their childhood.
- Make them dependant on you for everything.
- Don’t require them to lift a finger to help the family.
- Do not lead them to a belief in someone (Jesus) greater than themselves.
- Teach them financial success is the greatest gain in life.
- Don’t exhibit compassion for them to model.
- Never let them see you stand up for the weak.
- Do not express godly opinions on social issues.
- Do not guide them to truth.
- Do not model prayer to them.
- Do not teach them about God’s power within them, the Holy Spirit.
- Enable their addictions.
- Just make them happy and keep them happy.
- Make excuses for their bad behaviors.
- Allow them to fulfill your need of being needed.
- Never call into judgement their immoral behavior.
- Never allow them to suffer consequences for their poor choices.
- Allow them to emotionally manipulate you.
- Make parenting decisions from a place of guilt.
- Don’t allow them to learn how to feel sadness, anger, or disappointments.
- Praise them when they haven’t earned praise.
- Instill a fear of failure from harsh parenting by using verbal or physical abuse.
Truths to Parent By:
If I could rewind time, I’d speak truth to the woman on the plane, using these scriptures (from the English Standard Version), on how to raise godly children.
- “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
If you want your child to be a hard worker, teach him or her to work.
If you want your child to rely on God, stop solving all their problems and point them to prayer.
- “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24
The rod denotes the authority of the one holding it. The shepherd uses the rod to guide the sheep back onto the path. Moses held the rod, which signaled his authority to guide the Israelites out of Egypt. We must use our authority to guide our children back into alignment instead of relinquishing authority to them.
- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10
If we want our children to be wise, we must instill a healthy fear (respect) of God. Meaning, they must be filled in awe of Him and His power by seeing Him as sitting on the throne of the Universe. Furthermore, have a natural fear of disappointing Him, like a son fears disappointing His earthly father.
- “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b.
If our children are abiding in the Father, no matter what they go through they will still have joy through Him, and in that joy find strength to face difficulties.
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Adult children tend to hide things from their parents, but if they’ve been taught how to have a real relationship with Christ, they will have someone greater to turn to in times of trouble.
- “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-2“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:3
The Wisdom in Proverbs:
The Bible is full of verses that guide parents in parenting, but if you want a place to start, I’d recommend the book of Proverbs. In hindsight, I should have recommended that book to the woman who treated her purse like she did her sons. However, I did promise to pray for her and her sons.
She turned red and fidgeted in her seat as if the mention of prayer made her uncomfortable. “Thank you. I’m sure they’re redeemable.”
“I firmly believe God can turn anybody around,” I said.
I’m praying He does for all of our sakes.
Tammy Carter Adams is the founder of The Hallelujah House and host of The Hallelujah House podcast. She resides full-time in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and four children. When she’s not writing blogs, Tammy enjoys creating art, interior design, and escaping at her farmhouse in the sticks of Georgia.