Tips on Doing Life While Your Child is Making Decisions You Don’t Agree With

I often talk with parents, mostly moms, who are in a season of their children making decisions they don’t agree with. By the time a mom contacts me about her child, the child is making significantly poor decisions. I remember those days. The days turn into years. It seems they will never end and it is wears on us. Today I want to share a few tips on doing life while your child is in this season—no matter how long it lasts. We don’t need to let it define our lives.

  • Hold expectations loosely. When Katie was in her difficult season she had issues with being told what to do or even being asked if she would be home for a family event (this is after she moved out). We learned to hold our expectations loosely. If she came, great. If not, well then, she missed out. If your child is still school age or at home, decide your non-negotiables. Calmly explain those to your child. A few times Katie moved back home briefly. During that time one of our non-negotiables was to call by a certain time if she would not be home for supper. It was a courtesy, but I had to make it a non-negotiable if I wanted to know how many would be at supper.
  • Let their consequences be their consequences. In my book, Love No Matter What, I tell the story of Kerry paying a well-deserved, speeding ticket.

“We let her pay it from her savings account. This was her hard-earned babysitting money. I drove her to the courthouse to pay her fine. The boy ahead of us also had a fine to pay. He was about six feet two inches tall and had the build of a football player. He leaned over the counter like he owned the place while his dad counted out the money from his wallet. . . Kerry was next. The clerk told her how much she owed. Her fair-skinned cheeks flushed as she sheepishly count out the money from her wallet and humbly handed it to the clerk.

“Who learned a lesson in the county clerk’s office in those ten minutes? Both kids. The boy learned that his dad will clean up his messes. Kerry learned that her actions have consequences for which she is responsible.”*

  • “Do relationship like you’re on the other side.” Katie** recently made this comment as we were discussing the Love No Matter What topic—as we often do. I love this advice. Some days it’s harder than others. But be alert to those times when an issue is not raging. Grab them. Talk about the positive in your child’s life—his interests, what he is doing well. Show genuine interest in his friends. Take him for coffee, a movie, ballgame, or make cookies together. By giving your child time you show him he is important to you.
  • What refreshes you? As I said previously, one of the worst things you could do for your child, family, or yourself is to let this season define you. Make time for what refreshes you—time with friends, exercise, art, prayer, a manicure, maybe even your career. When you take time to be refreshed you will be better able to care for your family. You will be more prepared to deal with what comes next. We often forget how often Jesus pulled away from the crowds and disciples to have time with God. Luke 5:15-16 tells us that even in the midst of being in great demand, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” If He needed it, how much more do we?

You may be the mom who says from deep in your heart, “Brenda, I do all these things and nothing changes.” I know. I have been there. I know your pain and at times your despair. It took awhile, but I finally realized two things that made a big difference in my life.

The first—These are my daughter’s choices. I am doing and have done all I can to help, instruct, give appropriate boundaries and consequences, but ultimately it is her choice.

The second—God has her and is working in her life. I don’t think anyone fully understands how God works in our lives and yet He has given us free will. But I do know that God is active in her life. She is His girl and He has her. I trust God and rest in that.

Which of these ideas might be in order for you to try?

*Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers), 120.

**For those of you who are new to the story behind my Love No Matter What book, Katie my oldest daughter had a season of living life on her terms and making decisions we didn’t agree with that lasted for years. As that season was coming to a close I wrote the book and Katie made contributions. We now have a fabulous relationship. Katie graduated with her MFA and was married last year. She is an art professor at a liberal arts college.

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.

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