children, faith, parenthood

Dealing With a Wayward Child

Most people think that a rebellious child starts their revolt when they’re 13 or 14 years old.

Having grown up in the church observing other kids, it was quite clear to me that children began picking their path –either for or against their parents’ faith– by the time they were 8 or 9 years old. I have told my children as much: that even in grade school, they are already setting themselves down a path that will be hard to detour from.

My life is a prime example that it’s not impossible to alter course as you get older, but it’s much harder that if you simply chose to follow Jesus from the start. See my testimony here.

Additionally, many parents assume that if they raise the child the right way he or she will automatically make the choice to follow God. Often, this is based on misinterpreting a verse in Proverbs as a promise. Proverbs are sayings that are generally held to be true, but they are not promises from God.

I actually know people who have walked away from the faith after their child strayed because they believed God had broken His promises to preserve their children when their child didn’t choose to follow Jesus.

The parent serving God is not a guarantee that the child will serve God.

Knowing the difference between a promise, a command, and a proverb can help avoid a lot of confusion about scripture.

God gave us free will –all of us, even our children. The prime example of free will –and the first people to exercise their free will– was Adam and Eve. They had the best parent: they had God Himself, and they still rebelled. This shows us that even the most perfect parent can have children rebel.

It’s not simply an issue of bad parenting.

If your child rebels against your faith or authority, it isn’t a rebellion against you. It’s a rebellion against God.

We can look to scripture to see how we should respond to a wayward child. Of course, everyone thinks of the prodigal son, but there are other verses that I think of.

If your child is a believer, there are instructions in scripture for dealing with a brother who is in sin. See this chart.

If your child isn’t a believer, you should continue to treat him with kindness and love in an effort to win him to Christ and show him Jesus’ love. We are to be kind to everyone: believers and unbelievers. See this chart

I watched my parents be Jesus to my sister who walked away from the faith. For a decade, I watched them love her even when I doubted that it would work.

They loved and prayed her back to Jesus.

I have seen teens who walked away from the faith return back to the faith 10 or 15 years later. They may have done drugs or gone to jail along the way, but God’s grace is greater than any of that.

Don’t give up hope. With God all things are possible.


Sarah Forbes


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