LOVE!! Love is the answer! But what is the question you may ask? It is about our children. According to the psalmist, children are a heritage and a reward from the Lord, and a person with a quiver full of them is truly blessed (Psalm 127:3-5). But with such a blessing, there comes great responsibility. We must speak life, love and positive words into our children all of their lives. In order to avoid having problems it is good to follow the scriptural exhortation to “Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). However, if you are already have issues with your child, then you must focus your attention on lots of prayer and encouraging words. Even when the “facts” seem to point to problems, keep believing and speaking that God’s truth will intervene on your child’s behalf. God makes what seems impossible possible, and he can change the heart of even the most wayward child. Here are my top seven verses for help with a wayward child.
Deuteronomy 6: 7 (ESV) “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
God has always wanted what is best for his children. Starting from the beginning of time, he has always been about loving and teaching us what is important. Once the children of Israel were released from their captivity in Egypt, God continued to exhort and educate them on the blessings that were available to them if they followed his commands. He knew that if his children served and loved him with all of their hearts, that their lives would be blessed. He also warned them about the consequences of their sinful deeds, should they choose to ignore him. Likewise the Lord reminded them about the importance of training and teaching their children how to live fruitful and successful lives. That message is repeated several times in the book of Deuteronomy, because it is so important. Modeling and training is especially important when our children are young, as they will “see” what is truly important in our lives, and it will lay a crucial foundation in their lives. However, if in spite of our best efforts, a child is rebelling and ignoring our teachings, it is still important that we continue to talk about the Lord and his ways when we sit in our houses or when we go about our daily lives. Our walk with God should be consistent even when we are experiencing challenges with our child.
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV) “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
King Solomon’s book of Proverbs is a wealth of wisdom and knowledge for anyone looking for help and direction in their lives. This includes the topic of children, as parents often need advice on raising up a child in the best way possible. In this verse, the writer explains that children will struggle with folly or making good decisions, so parents will need to discipline them. Today’s society is critical of any form of correction or discipline, and so many children do not learn how to obey and respect others. But the concept of disciplining a child is reiterated again multiple times in God’s word. Whether young or old, children need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Parents must spend time with their offspring and train them properly, so that they will learn what is important in life. A child acting out or misbehaving might be a desperate call for attention or for a parent’s love. My own dad often says that children spell love as “t-i-m-e” (time in my world everyday). In other words, we need to invest time with our children—loving them, teaching them, listening to them, and correcting them—so that they feel truly loved.
Proverbs 29:15 (ESV) “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
Parents today are very busy working, volunteering, and are often over-committed in many areas of their lives. They feel that if they provide food, shelter, and a home for their children, that in turn their young ones will feel loved. Caring for a child’s basic necessities is not enough, though, for a child to learn and grow as desired. Each child is unique and different, so the way he or she is taught and raised should also be individualized. Left on their own devices, children will make mistakes, so they need their parents to come alongside them with experiential wisdom, correction and discipline. Oftentimes, parents think that they are showing “love” when they allow their children to do whatever they want. However, what a child really hears from this is that his parents do not care enough about him to provide the boundaries, protection, and correction that he needs. True love means spending time with your child, even when they make mistakes, and correcting them, lovingly but firmly, so that they do not bring shame on themselves or others.
Luke 15:20 (ESV) “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
One of Jesus’ best examples of dealing with a grown-up wayward child is found in the passage that we often refer to as the story of the Prodigal son. In this passage, a son asks his father for his inheritance so he can go and do whatever he wants to do with his life. According to Jewish customs, a son may ask for his inheritance upon reaching a certain age. The father trusts him and gives him his inheritance in spite of any concerns he might have had. Next, the father lets him go his own way and make his own mistakes. Once his son loses everything, realizes his mistakes, and comes home, his father is also there to welcome him home with open arms. As parents, it is very difficult for us to allow our children to make their own mistakes, as we want to protect them from the harmful consequences of those decisions. However, the father in this story is a great example of how to deal with a difficult child. Sometimes we have to let them go and make their own mistakes, so that they can learn from them and eventually come to their senses. A huge key to this story is the fact that the son knew that his father loved him unconditionally and would receive him back, so even when our children make mistakes they need to know that we will always love them and welcome them back into our lives as well.
Romans 12:12 (ESV) “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Parenting is definitely not for wimps, as it is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year job and calling. Likewise, being a parent is a lifetime blessing. God in his wisdom reminds us that we should always rejoice in the tasks that he has given us. Also, he tells us to keep hope alive, no matter what happens. Even while we are enduring tribulations or struggles with our children, our hope should be firmly placed in the Lord. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) is his promise to us. Finally, he exhorts us to be constant in prayer. Our day should begin and end with prayer, for and over our precious children—these souls that God entrusted into our care. We cannot get tired or give up on them, but instead keep trusting and believing for the best.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Having a wayward child, whether young or older, is extremely difficult to bear for any parent. We all want our child to be perfect in every way—someone that others will praise and identify as our offspring. So it can be difficult for us to acknowledge that our child might have “issues” or that they are struggling with something. We might have feelings of guilt about our parenting skills, or we might feel anger at their lack obedience for what we know that they were taught when they were young. Anxiety, concern, and frustration are all normal feelings when dealing with a troubled child. And yet, God tells us something very important in this verse. He reminds us about the power of our words. Our words can bring life and healing, but they can also tear down and hurt the ones that we love. So even when our children make mistakes or choose poorly, we should continue to love them not only as our children but as children of God–even while not condoning their actions or present lifestyle. And we should also speak words of encouragement and hope into them. Saying things like “my child is enjoying the terrific twos,” versus calling that time “the terrible twos” is a better way of speaking life into your child. Practice “prophesying” great things into your child’s life and behavior, and you will see wonderful results.
Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
I believe that this verse is an important one in an open and honest discussion of helping with any wayward child. Children, both young and old, should be brought up in the instruction of the Lord, and as parents it is our responsibility to work out our parenting skills with fear and trembling. Our discipline should be full of love, and we should avoid any anger or need for revenge in our attempts to correct any bad behavior. A good companion verse to this one is “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). In other words, we should not deliberately provoke, antagonize, or exasperate our children, because that can lead them into full rebelliousness and sinful behavior. God has not called us as parents to aggravate our children, but rather to love and discipline them for their own good. We do not want to discourage our children; we want to exhort and encourage them to be the best that they can be.
Some might say that I am naïve or simplistic in my positive approach to child-rearing, but my own children are living proof of the difference that speaking hope and encouragement can make in a child’s life. Even if your child is making poor decisions now, with God’s help things can get turned around. God makes the impossible possible, and we just need to keep trusting him even in the middle of the storms of child-rearing. I truly believe that the most important investment we can make in our lives is the spiritual health and education of our children, as they will always be a part of our lives. This is above the cost of any house or car or any other temporal thing, so the more we invest in our children the better all of our lives will be. Love them unconditionally, but parent them with God’s word as your handbook. Discipline and love go together in the Kingdom of God, so practice them with your child as well. There are always consequences to our actions—whether we are a grown-up or a child. Finally, keep thanking the Lord for the blessing of your child, and keep your eyes on the Lord as you speak blessings, success, hope, joy, obedience and the fruit of the spirit into your child’s life each day.
Written by Karla Hawkins
God has been good to me over the years, and I have much for which to be grateful to Him. First of all, I feel blessed to be the pastor’s wife of a thriving church in northern Michigan and the mother of four amazing grown children. It is also very rewarding to be a Christian author, editor and translator for the Kingdom of God. Some of my favorite pastimes include supporting my children’s contemporary Christian band ONLY9AM, singing on the worship team at church, traveling, and connecting with family and friends via social media. My favorite song this year has been “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook from Bethel Church, as God has recently been stretching my faith and walk with Him in new ways. When I am not working, I love spending time with my family and especially with my precious three-year-old grandson.