Being a parent is never easy. It’s draining. It’s exhausting. It requires you to be a guide, mentor, coach, and friend all in one. You’re responsible for building habits, values, and disciplines that your children will take with them for the rest of their lives. The book of Hebrews says as much:
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11
So, what do you do when it doesn’t seem to be paying off with your child?
You did the work. You raised your kid, teaching them and preparing them for what’s ahead in life. Now, they've moved out, and it’s as if everything you instilled in them went out the window. Maybe you’re watching them struggle with poor financial decisions, risky sexual behaviors, or substance abuse. Does that mean you did a bad job as a parent? Does your kid simply not care about all the effort you put in as they grew up?
What to do when you don’t agree with your adult child’s decisions
Before you start spiraling and questioning your own parenting decisions, let’s pause and remember a few things that will help you support your kids when they’re making choices you disagree with:
You’re not the only parent struggling with this
It’s easy to fall into the trap that you’re only parent to teach their kid all the right things but get none of them to stick. In reality, we have an entire Old Testament filled with people who were raised in godly homes that ended up making some regrettable decisions:
Jacob, for example, lied and stole an inheritance as a young adult. He went on to have sons that faked the death of their brother so they could sell him into slavery. As bad as your situation is, your adult kids have probably not sold one of your children into slavery and lied about it!
Parenting doesn’t have an 18-year expiration date
Your kids don't magically become fully independent, functioning adults when their 18th birthday strikes. There’s still so much growing that takes place in early adulthood, and your kids are still learning how to navigate life and make wise decisions. It’s normal – even helpful – to still try and teach your kids even after they’re technically adults.
Walk through the consequences with them
Proverbs 13:24 says that parents who love their children discipline them. This is still true with adult children, but you won’t always be the one administering the consequences. It’s much more cut-and-dry to teach a kid the consequences of their actions – like spending time alone in their room for hitting their sibling. As they get older though, it’s not as simple as taking away video game privileges when your kid gets cited for drinking underage.
Adulthood is much more about learning from mistakes, and sometimes – instead of getting grounded – the repercussions of a mistake can teach a valuable lesson. As hard as it is, it can be helpful to allow your kid to feel the result of their behavior.
This means it may be time to stop trying to fix everything. Fixing their problem is bad parenting – helping them through it is what your role becomes as they get older.
You take on a new role in their adult lives
No parent wants to see their child struggle. But as your kids grow and become more independent, you as the parent need to discover the balance between offering love and support without removing consequences.
Remind your kids that you’re there for them while they’re in them in the middle of their struggle, but they are ultimately the ones responsible for handling it. Make sure that they know they can always come to you for love, advice, or support, but not for a get out of jail free card.
In the end, your children are actual people – not just your children. They have independent wills and inclinations – as we all do. Don’t believe the Instagram lore of the “perfect” families around you. No family is perfect, and no amount of good parenting can keep your kids from making mistakes or bad decisions. They belong to God – not to you.
In fact, one of the best things you can do as a parent is pray for your children. In all stages of life, tell God that you want the best for your kids. He does, too, and he can be trusted with their future and the results of your parenting.
Parenting is rewarding, but it’s undeniably challenging at any stage. We’d love to share more resources that can guide and support you through the parenting journey:
5 Pieces of Advice for Parents After Graduation Day
What to Do When Parenthood Isn’t What You Expected
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