8.11.15

How Do I Prodigal-Proof My Child?


by Andrea Merrell

How Do I Prodigal-Proof My Child?
The number of prodigals in our society has risen to epidemic proportions. According to recent statistics, eighty-eight percent of children raised in an evangelical Christian home will leave the church by the age of eighteen. Most will turn away from authority, parental values, and biblical teaching, losing their potential, their health, and their destiny—sometimes even their life.

Without exception, everywhere I go I meet someone in the middle of a crisis with either one or more of their children. These are the questions I am most often asked:
           * Is there hope?
           * What can I do in the meantime?
           * Is there a way to prevent this from happening to my younger children?

Having our son and daughter both take a dark path as teenagers was the last thing my husband and I expected. We had done everything we knew to raise our children in a loving and godly environment, thinking we had done all the right things. Our children went to Sunday school, VBS, and Christian camps. They never listened to secular music or read secular books. They could quote Scripture verses and knew all the words to the most popular Christian songs. Born again and baptized at a very early age, they were good, upstanding, obedient kids. What could have possibly gone wrong?

Praying for the Prodigal
The staggering truth is: Even good kids rebel—and even good parents can end up with a prodigal.

Looking back, one of my biggest regrets is not establishing a healthy foundation and creating reasonable boundaries when my children were small. When we have guidelines in place, it’s easier to recognize the conflicting signals as our children hold tightly to us with one hand and push us away with the other. This means they’re struggling for independence—which is exactly how God designed them. Just like a baby bird cannot stay in the nest forever, our children must learn to fly. Our job is to let them go, but to remain a soft place for them to land when they fall.

My greatest challenge as a parent has been the ability to be firm without becoming angry. This is why boundaries are so important—no matter how old your children happen to be. Establishing reasonable rules everyone can live with—and enforcing them when they’re broken—creates a stable environment for everyone. Children and teenagers will test the limits continually, and they are counting on consistency. It makes them feel loved, secure, and safe.

I’ve also found it’s important to be open, honest, and transparent with your children. They can see through even the slightest pretense. Be quick to apologize when you mess up. Admit that you’re not perfect and don’t have all the answers. They already know, and will respect your honesty and humility—whether they show it or not.

Be the parent, the adult—not the cool friend. There will be plenty of time to be friends later. Children need a guide, an example, a stable, focused adult to give them direction.

Whether you’re dealing with a prodigal or searching for ways to equip your smaller children to face future temptations, God’s Word is filled with wisdom, instruction, and promises for those who will dare to believe and trust Him. In Praying for the Prodigal, you will find many of His promises, along with advice from the prodigal’s point of view and thirty days of prayers and Scriptures to give you strength and courage as you travel this parenting journey.

(Excerpts from Praying for the Prodigal by Andrea Merrell, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.)

                                                                                                                       
Andrea Merrell
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance editor and has led workshops at various writers’ conferences.  Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, The Gift, and Praying for the Prodigal, To learn more, visit www.andreamerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.  






Readers, if you'd like to read my review of Andrea's book click here.

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