Parenting kids that are 18 and older and still at home can be a real challenge. We have a 20-year-old that spent the last year at home and a 19-year-old that is away at college.
Over their lives, we have done the best we can to raise them with a strong basis of following Jesus, along with love and appropriate discipline as best we can. I would admit we probably fall a bit to the “soft side” on discipline. I agree with Andy Stanley when he says, “One goal of raising your children should be that when they leave, they want to come back and visit even when they don’t have to.” But I am not here to present a non-discipline approach to parenting or to debate child-raising strategies. I am here to share with you as a parent and help each other along.
We want our kids to enjoy their home. We want them to know they are loved and valued by us and by God. We want them to feel like they can talk to us anytime, about anything. That is different from how I grew up and it would be a real honor and a privilege if that is how they end up feeling.
With our 20-year old son being at home, we have had our share of challenges. One difficulty about having an adult child at home is that they are technically adults, but you still want to correct them like you did when they were 8, 12 and 16. Quite frankly, their behavior often looks like they are 8,12, or 16!
They don’t understand why you won’t just leave them alone. But they are still in your house, you still have rules, and you may be supporting them financially. We feel we have a right to still enforce the rules, still be shown proper respect, and even be able to “parent” a little bit.
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Amid these challenges, I was recently thinking, “What is it that my son really wants?” While he might say or think, “Doing whatever I want when I want,” I believe what he really wants and needs is this:
He needs to know that we believe in him 100% and that he has what it takes to make it on his own without us, in his life and in his faith.
Every time we suggest a way he should do something, every time we give a reminder, every time we nag about something, in his mind he hears from us, “I don’t believe you can do it on your own.”
Let me share an example of this.
One night we were having a heated discussion with our son. I made the mistake of saying how I felt in the moment, which was that he needed to show me something “more” before I was going to invest more in him and his college education. I know most may not see this statement as a mistake at all. But what he said next, and how he said it, let me know that it was, indeed, a mistake.
He reacted, nodding his head very slowly up-and-down, and said, “Oh, I see how it is; you’re just like everyone else, like [insert name of past coaches, teachers, others who did not believe in him]. You’re on their side; you don’t believe in me either.” I knew then and there that he was hurt by what I said and by our doubt in him.
Here’s what I believe my son, and every son, and daughter, needs:
He needs to be wanted.
He needs to know that we believe he has everything it takes to be grown-up and on his own.
He needs to know that we believe he has what it takes to be a man of God.
He needs to know and truly believe that we trust him in his judgments and in his actions.
We have done our best to raise him within the context of being a Christ-follower. He wants us to know and trust that those values are in him and that he can be trusted to follow Christ. The harder we push when we don’t see the evidence of that as parents, the more he feels that we don’t trust he can follow Christ on his own, without the same constant guidance we gave him when he was younger.
My wife and I spent the rest of this season of our life spending a significant amount of time praying and being very patient with our older son. We made the conscious choice to show grace and love, over and over, when we really wanted to yell and confront.
After a period of several months of increased patience, prayer, grace, and avoidance of any further demonstrated doubt in our son, God began to change this season for all of us. In the space of six weeks’ time, our son found out about a new college, visited, was accepted, and transferred mid-year halfway across the country. God changed his setting and ours, and our son is thriving in the next journey of God’s plan for his life.
Belief is huge! Our belief in God; God’s belief in us. Our belief in our kids, no matter how young or old. Tell them you believe in them. Be patient with them. Show your older kids you believe in them, even after they’ve messed up. Does God believe in us after we’ve messed up? Absolutely.
If we pray to parent more like God parents us, He will guide us. If we pray to treat our older kids more like Jesus treats us, He will guide us. Pray for guidance. Pray for wisdom. Believe in God and believe in your kids!
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Brian Goslee is an author, speaker, and founder of Changed Through Faith Ministries . Their mission is to help families grow closer to God and each other, using fun and relevant faith-infused events and resources. Brian’s life has been radically changed through active faith in Christ and he has a heart for helping others experience this in their lives.