“How did you know you could go home and your parents wouldn’t say, ‘I told you so?’”, I asked my dear, thirtyish friend. My friend had been the proverbial wild child during her graduate school years. Her relationship with her parents during that time was almost nonexistent due to her anger toward them.
“I just knew,” she answered confidently.
I just knew. Her statement stuck in my heart. Little did I know then that it would become the mantra for my parenting.*
The above story opened my book, Love No Matter What. From the moment of my conversation with my friend, I wanted nurture a relationship with my kids in which they would know they would never hear “I told you so” from me and that they would always be welcome at home—no matter their decisions.
In order to have this relationship with my kids I would need to manage my emotions so they didn’t become an issue in our relationships. Often when parents talk to me about how to respond to their child’s poor decisions they can’t get past their own emotions. Parents share with me their deep hurt, confusion, anger, and even embarrassment over their kids’ decisions. They cycle through their emotions over and over, never gaining any ground. If the can’t move forward in dealing with their emotions, they will not be relevant in their kids’ lives.
This was my own challenge when many years ago Katie moved out in a huff. In a split second God alerted me that my emotions would need to go on hold if I wanted to be relevant in Katie’s life. All the thoughts and feelings that were exploding in my mind were not going to be helpful in the midst of Katie’s conversation with Gene and I about her new plan.
That’s where parents often get stuck. They think their emotions should play a role in their kids’ decisions or their kids’ reactions to the consequences of their decisions. Not to be rude, but this is not about you. It’s about your child—what has lead to his decision, how does she feel, what are her plans? Your role will be to move forward with her in your relationship.
Many factors play a role in your kids’ decisions. They have lots to deal with and with limited maturity. Often our kids know they are not making good decisions. They know we are disappointed and hurt. Their knowledge of how we feel only serves as one more block in the wall between parent and child.
When our kids are in a tough spot we need to do what we can to dismantle the wall. We don’t want to be another issue for our kids to deal with. We must show our kids we still love them—no matter what. We must show them we are not ashamed of them. We must show them that they don’t have to earn our love.
Yes, Mom and Dad, you have emotions that need to be dealt with. Work through your stuff with each other, trusted friends, even a counselor, but never with your kid. He needs you to be the strong, calm parent who is always there for him.
I know you are hurting. But this is your new reality. It’s your choice how you handle it. I pray you chose love no matter what, even when your kids make decisions you don’t agree with.
I’d love to hear how you have shown your kids love in the midst of their messiness.
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.