How to Love Your Kids Unconditionally
- Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Brenda Garrison's new book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With (Thomas Nelson, 2013).
No matter how hard you work to be the best parent you can be, there’s no guarantee that your kids will make good choices. Your children may end up making many choices with which you disagree. Some of those choices may break your heart, because you know they’re contrary to God’s will for their lives.
But the good news is that nothing – not even the worst mistakes – can ever separate your kids from God’s love. God loves your children unconditionally. Unconditional love is the key to cooperating with God’s work in your kids’ lives. If you trust God to teach you how to love your children as He does – no matter what – you can maintain healthy relationships with your kids in any circumstances and support the work God is doing in their lives.
Here’s how to love your kids unconditionally:
Don’t expect your kids to think like adults. Keep in mind that your kids simply aren’t able to make wise decisions as well as adults are because they’re still immature. The area of the brain that regulates decision-making skills, the prefrontal cortex, doesn’t fully develop until people reach 25 years of age. So expect that your children and teens will make more mistakes than you do as an adult, since they’re still maturing. Give them grace.
Base your response on what’s best for your kids, not yourself. Even though you may be suffering greatly because of your child's poor choices, it’s crucial to remember that the crisis you’re going through isn’t about you – it’s about your kids. Your response needs to focus on what’s best for your kids, not on your own hurt feelings. If you base your response on your own needs, you’ll only distance yourself from your kids. But if you respond consistently with your child's best interest in mind, you can cooperate with God’s work in the lives of your children. So grieve your losses, pray for healing, and shift your focus off of yourself and onto your kids. Ask God to help you keep your heart open toward your kids no matter what.
Distinguish the differences between personal preferences and moral choices. Recognize that some decisions your kids make aren’t either right or wrong or good or bad, even though they may be different from what you would have chosen yourself. So choose your battles wisely, focusing only on decisions that truly have moral implications. Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to discern which decisions those are. Then establish a list of nonnegotiable ground rules for living in your home (such as rules that relate to lying, respecting family members, alcohol and other drugs, and premarital sex) and clearly communicate those rules to your kids. Give your kids the freedom to exercise their personal preferences, and pray for the self-control you need to refrain from arguing with your kids about their personal preferences.
Look at the choices you’re modeling for your kids. Before judging your kids for the sinful choices they’re making, take an honest look at the choices you’re making in your own life that may reveal sin that you need to confess to God and from which you need to repent in order to serve as a good role model. Ask God to show you any kind of sin your life – from how you conduct your relationships to how you manage your money. Turn away from your sin and toward God so you can set a good example of faith in action for your children.
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