Painful Parenting {When Your Child Makes Bad Choices}

Closeup of beautiful young business woman exhausted at workSometimes being a parent is pure pleasure.

Holding a newborn baby and marveling at the life in your hand; the picture of the love between you and your spouse. Watching your toddler discover the world; to learn to take those first wobbly steps. Seeing your child master a skill; to ride a bike; to play the piano; to knock a baseball clear out of the park. Or witnessing them develop good character; raking leaves for the neighborhood widow; returning to a store after they discover they were given too much change.

Such discoveries make a mother’s heart proud.

But other times, being a parent is pure pain.

Those times when you watch your child make a wrong move; choose a wrong path or hold a wrong view. How much easier it is when they are young and you can simply make them “do the right thing”. How painful it is when they are older, to let them begin to make their own mistakes and then, learn the painful lessons that those choices often bring.

A friend just asked me last week what is the best parenting advice I’d been given. I answered,

“To pray that God will allow your kids to experience whatever they need to (mistakes and all) in order to become totally and completely sold out and living for Him. And that they will know that we love them unconditionally no matter what.”

Frightening prayer.

We moms would rather control, shelter, make decision for our kids. And there is a place for that sometime when they are young.

My greatest fear as a parent has not been having a wild child, but having one who is playing “good church kid” and obedient on the outside, but who does not have a real relationship with Christ and later, chucks all things Christian as a young adult (seen it happen DOZENS of times)!!

I’d rather have one who is honest, wrestles with real faith and then, in God’s perfect timing, makes it their own. Of course we attempt to train them in the ways of the Lord. We try to let them experience His work in our lives. We look for opportunities to point them to God. We certainly are not perfect in this, but it is our heart’s desire. But we remember that how we finish is more important than how we start. But we moms are fearful and freak out because we equate a “perfect-yes-ma’am-no-sir-quiet-outwardly-obedient-envy-of-the-moms-at-church” child with success as a parent.

One who is a pistol means we are a “bad mom”; However…..fast forward many years. Sometimes (of course not always) the “perfect” ones are living life on the wild and sinful side and the “pistols”?  Well..they are totally sold out to Jesus.

Don’t try to shove your child in the perfect box. They don’t always fit. And some kick the box open and run for the unholy hills.

Oh yes….along with this prayer…ask for patience too!!! :-)

Yes, sometimes parenting is painful. But seeing a child make a wrong choice and then, when confronted, exhibit honest remorse, a real change in behaviour and a renewed committment to Christ…..well…..in a strange way, that can be a pure pleasure too.

Hang in there moms.

Parenting is always a mixture of pain and pleasure.


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  1. Currently, I am reading Keep it Shut and am enjoying the advice, scripture, and antidotes. However, I have not yet read the book on parenting when children make hard choices (which will as soon as I am finished) and hoping there is advise on being a parent of a 29 year old. Regardless of the age of your child, you never stop being a parent. Advice on the words I can use with an adult who has made extremely poor life choices for several years…and the cycle is continuing. Every time I talk with him, an argument pursues. He of course is always on edge, and I am obviously hurt, sickened, and really angry. Advice on HOW I can lovingly talk with him and tell him what he needs to hear WITHOUT inciting a RIOT! Any advise please. It was much easier when your children are younger!

  2. I’m in good company :-) I have 3 kids (15, 13 and 11) They live with their atheist dad. My daughter believes, but my boys are like their dad. Incidently, my ex is a good man. He’s really a lapsed Catholic who is very angry at God. I pray for each and know God is looking out for them. I sometimes really worry about them not being saved…but I’ve learnt not to but in unless Holy Spirit hints something. It’s hard….but God is good.

  3. I soooo needed this! I have two teens, one 19 and one 14. Please pray for them, me, and my husband as we figure out this teenage life together. Thank you!

  4. My husband & I have taken on raising our 3 granddaughters this past year. Their ages are 16, 12, & 10. It has been a challenge for sure. I needed to hear your message today. That has put alot into perspective for me. Since we haven’t had them since they were babies, I get lost in what is right & wrong sometimes. I learned today to keep my spirit strong by going to the Word for answers when I start questioning my parenting skills. I know God is available & I need to look to Him for answers. Thank you for your imput on this subject today.

  5. I really needed this today. My sweet sanguine little kindergarten boy had to leave school early the last day of school before Easter because he got irritated with another student who has boundaries issues–he punched her in the face. :(

    As we scaled back many of the activities we do to celebrate Easter, I prayed that prayer you showed us. I do want him to have his own strong faith and trust in Jesus. I am far from perfect. I just keep trusting the plans the Lord has told me He has for us.

    Thanks for listening to the Lord and blessing me today.

    Carissa in eastern Iowa

  6. Can I just say although I needed to hear most of this today, this part “Of course we train them in the ways of the Lord. We let them experience His work in our lives. We take every opportunity to point them to God” does not always happen in my parenting. Without excuses, I fail and sin every day. I for one am tired of shoving myself into the “perfect parenting box”. Words like “of course” and “take every opportunity” for me only add to the “painful parenting” (failure)

    1. Karen–
      Thank you for your comment. My heart’s intent in posting those sentences is to say that we TRY to do those things, not that we are perfect at doing them. Not by a long shot. After reading your comment, I tweaked that section and added this sentence so others don’t mistakenly read into it what you did: “We certainly are not perfect in this, but it is our heart’s desire.” I certainly don’t want to add to your parenting pain in any way! I hope you have a great rest of the day. :-)

  7. Karen, enjoyed this post today about painful parenting. We have a fifteen year old who is a freshman in high school. We have, at least, I have felt we need to let him fall a little. But also there are times when I need to rescue since he is my only one. He was baptized a couple of summers ago and is not living up to being a Christian. He has a 4.0 grade point average and the idea of Christianity and God seems to have escaped him. I wished it would not have, but has. I keep praying that God would “zap” him back into reality, but I also know that he needs to be the one to cry out to Jesus. Thanks for posting.

  8. I throw my hands up in the air. My daughter has been managed moved, then returned to her old school she was managed moved from (new school within 4 weeks had had enough) and has been excluded from her present school 4 times. She is a A star pupil subject wise but its her behaviour disregard for rules and regulations. And no she is not following her peers its her thats the problem i have decided. At home she is not too bad. If she gets out of hand at home i tell her straight and leave her to think about what i have said. I dont use physical punnishment (althiugh i was brought up this way – Holy Spirit has said no physical punnishment).

    I do agree with your blog and thats the tactic i use at present. I just keep praying and have handed her to our Father.

  9. I admit I do have those moments where I wish my boys would be like the unrealistic kid who is perfect. I need to learn not to take their mistakes as my failure as a mother. I try my best to raise them the way God wants them to be….yet it is their choice or shall I say free will to make the decision how to act, how to speak, etc.

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