The dedication in my book, Love No Matter What.
I recently talked with a mom who was upset about her daughter leaving home and not talking to her for over a year. Her heart was understandably broken. I listened as the mom shared her emotions and how she viewed her daughter’s actions. As pieces of the story came together I learned the daughter was in contact with other family. She was safe and taking care of herself. And as far as the mother knew, her daughter was not living against her Christian faith in any way. So what was the problem? The mother wanted what she wanted—her daughter home and living her life the way the mother wanted her to. The mother made the situation about herself instead of her daughter.
It is a mistake that many parents make. They let their hurt, their expectations, their embarrassment, and their desires come between themselves and their relationship with their kids. They want what they want. For these parents relationship must be on their terms—meaning the kids must be living the way the parent thinks is best before relationship can happen.
Parents are often frustrated when their kids won’t cooperate with the way the parent wants the relationship to work. But the parents need to realize how difficult they are making it for their kids to be in relationship with them. A parent’s issues can make it impossible for his child to have a relationship with him.
Early on in our adventure with Katie, I decided I did not want to be another issue for her to deal with. I did not want to become white noise that she tuned out. I wanted to have an influence in her life. In order to do this I made drastic changes in the way I parented her.
- My issues were my issues. Telling Katie how worried I was about her would not help the situation or our relationship. I dealt with my issues with God, Gene, and a few trusted friends.
- I encouraged any and all of her positive or good decisions—even the smallest of ones. Cards and a little money for coffee go a long way in saying “We are proud of you!”
- When she visited or called I let her know how much I loved being with her and loved her.
- We made visits easy. We paid for her gas to come home. We did not poke touchy subjects. There was no need to. She knew we loved her. She knew where our boundaries were and that we would help her but not enable bad choices.
- We enabled good decisions however we could—moving her to college, being supportive and encouraging when trials came, helped with groceries and her phone expense.
- I stopped trying to change her or convince her she was wrong and I was right. Instead I focused on making my words and actions speak love to her in a way she could hear.
Parent, I know you’re in a hard place. But know that God is present with you and with your child. You have no power to change anything in your child’s life except through a loving relationship and prayer. I encourage you in the same way I encouraged the mom I recently spoke with—
- Hand your child over to the Lord.
- Speak love to your child in a way he can hear.
- If your child is still in your home, I’m not saying anything goes (refer to the fourth bullet point).
- If your child feels your disappointment above your love, it’s time to make changes in how you do relationship with your child.
Last weekend the entire family celebrated Katie’s completion of her Master of Fine Arts Degree. It was a wonderful time and one that I may not have been a part of if I had remained the stubborn, know-it-all parent I was fifteen years ago. Daily I work on becoming the parent my kids need. I will never arrive. But our family would agree that we are all a work in progress.
What do you think? Which of these ideas could you implement even today? Don’t expect immediate changes in your relationship with your child. Patiently persevere in love. I’d love to hear how things change with your child.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.