When Your Child Makes Parenting Tough
It’s normal to worry about the young people in your life. But with God’s help, you can be a good example. Here are seven answers from Billy Graham on raising godly children that can apply to parents, grandparents and mentors alike.
Why didn’t someone tell me how hard it is being a parent? We have three children, and it seems like all I do all day long is try to keep them from fighting. Will it ever get any better?
I’m sure almost every parent could echo your frustration, for it’s hard being a parent—very hard. It’s not just exhausting physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. In fact, parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
But it also can be one of the most satisfying, if we learn to look beyond the immediate problems and heartaches and begin to see it from God’s point of view. After all, God gave your children to you, and He did it because He knows they need the love and wisdom only you can give them. The Bible says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
In other words, God has given you one of the greatest privileges imaginable: the privilege of helping shape the future of another human being. Someday your children will no longer live with you—but what will their memories be? Will they only be of bickering or conflict—or will they also be of love and joy and happiness? Don’t let your frustrations or weariness crowd out your love.
Almost every parent goes through what you are experiencing, and you’re right: It isn’t easy. But pray for your children, and ask God to help you be the kind of parents they need at this stage of life. Most of all, point them to Jesus, and urge them to give their lives to Him. God not only wants us to help our children develop physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well.
Our son has been living with his girlfriend for over a year, and now they’re going to have a baby. He wasn’t brought up this way, and as Christians we don’t know how to deal with it. My husband says we ought to just cut them off until they get married (which may never happen), but I hate the idea of never knowing my grandchild. What should we do?
Our children don’t always make the choices we wish they would; they may even go in radically different directions from what we tried to teach them. But as they grow older, we usually lose our control over them, and a wise parent will accept this reality. The best we can do is to try to influence them and encourage them to do what is right.
Your son knows you disagree with what he has done. But he is still your son – and this child will still be your grandchild. Is it best for your grandchild to grow up without knowing you? Is it best for your grandchild to grow up without seeing your example as husband and wife, or learning from you about Christ’s love for him or her? No, of course not. The Bible says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12).
Remember too that in time your son may realize the seriousness of his new responsibilities as a parent – and this may lead him to marriage. Pray that God will use this little child to show your son and his girlfriend their need to take that step of commitment.
Pray most of all that your son will realize his need of Christ. Yes, he needs Christ’s forgiveness, but he also needs a solid foundation for his life – a foundation that can only come from a living faith in Christ.
I know teenagers often rebel against their parents, but I admit I went overboard and have been a rebel ever since. I don’t know why I’m writing, but we have two children now, and I’m scared because I realize I don’t have any idea how to be a good father.
The most important thing I want you to know is that God wants you to be a good father — and with His help you can be. After all, He gave your children to you, and He wants you to see them as a gift, as well as a responsibility. The Bible says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
Our children learn from us in two ways: by looking at our lives, and by listening to our words. This is why the first step we need to take to become good parents is to look at ourselves, and ask what kind of example we’re setting for them. You mention you’ve been rebellious much of your life; do you still insist on going your own way, no matter the consequences? Are you still alienated from your parents, who are also your children’s grandparents?
In other words, what will your children learn about life as they watch you in the years ahead? Face this honestly, and then turn to Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into your life to forgive you and help you do what is right.
Our children also learn from our words, and from the lessons we try to teach them. Get a Bible storybook and read it to your children and pray with them every night. Make the Bible your own source of wisdom, also; Proverbs would be an excellent place for you to start.
How do you explain God to a 6-year-old? Our son keeps asking questions about God, but most of them are questions I’m not sure anyone could answer. But I don’t want to leave it at that, of course.
Yes, children do have a way of asking profound questions about God – without even realizing it! But don’t let that keep you from answering the ones you can, while also teaching him about the wonder and mystery of God’s greatness.
How do you talk about God to a 6-year-old? First, talk with him simply – in other words, in ways he can understand. For example, it’s important for him to realize that God created everything – including him. But your son isn’t interested in complicated scientific theories or deep theological debates about how God did it, nor could he understand them if you told him. But he can come to realize that God is greater than we are – and because of that, we can put our lives into His hands.
Then teach him from the Bible. Your local Christian bookstore can recommend a children’s Bible storybook that retells some of the Bible’s main stories in ways he can understand. Teach him especially about Jesus, who loves him and came to open heaven’s door for us. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
In addition, be certain of your own commitment to Christ, and ask Him to help you be an example of His love and truth to your son. Our lives often speak louder than our words – and this is especially true as we are with our children.
My husband and I don’t think we ought to force our religious beliefs on our children. We believe they should be free to choose their own beliefs when they get older. Even if we did force our ideas on them now, they’d probably just rebel against them later.
Let me ask you a question: Do you plan to do this with any other area of your children’s lives? For example, do you plan to let them decide if they can play in the traffic, or eat whatever they want, or brush their teeth?
I seriously doubt it. As parents, you know you have a responsibility to keep your children from harm, and to teach them to take care of themselves. You also know you have a responsibility to teach them the difference between right and wrong; if you don’t, they may end up in prison. You love your children, and because you do, you want to do what’s best for them. Jesus said, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” (Luke 11:11).
Why, then, would you refuse to help them discover the greatest truth anyone can ever know—the truth that God loves them and wants to show them His will for their lives? The reason, I suspect, is because you haven’t made this discovery yourselves. To put it another way, God isn’t important to you, so you see no reason to teach your children about Him.
My prayer is that you will examine honestly your own need of God—and then open your hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. Not only will He change your lives, but He’ll help you become the parents God wants you to be, as you teach your children about His love—both by your words and your example.
We tried to raise our daughter to do what’s right, but she’s gone off the deep end and is living in exactly the opposite way. The strange thing is that she still wants to be close to our family. Should we just overlook the way she’s living and pretend it doesn’t matter?
Our children don’t always make wise decisions or live the way we know they should, but they’re still our children, and if possible we should do all we can to maintain a relationship with them. Jesus urged us to “be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).
Does this mean you ignore what your daughter is doing or keep quiet about your concerns? No, it doesn’t, and the reason is because you love her, and you know from your experience (and from God’s Word) that eventually her sin and rebellion will catch up with her. Right now, she thinks she’s found the road to happiness, but in reality, she hasn’t. Ignoring God’s moral laws and choosing to live only for the pleasures of this life eventually lead to instability and heartache and unhappiness. The Bible’s warning is true: “‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:21).
Be thankful your daughter still wants to share in your family’s life. Far too many in her situation become alienated from their families, and when troubles come, they have nowhere to turn. At the same time, don’t give her the impression that you aren’t concerned about the road she’s traveling—because you are.
You may feel helpless right now, but remember: God is able to do what we parents can’t do. Pray for your daughter, that she’ll see the error of her ways, and most of all, that she’ll turn to Christ and commit her life to Him.
People talk about how hard it is to be a single parent, and believe me, it is. Most of them are mothers, but I’m a single dad and I think that’s even harder. I don’t know why I’m writing you, but maybe you can encourage me somehow.
Yes, it’s hard being a single parent, whatever the cause might have been. And I’m sure you’re right; it must be even more difficult being a single father. One reason I wanted to reprint your letter is because I hope it will make us more sensitive to the difficulties single parents face.
The greatest encouragement I can give you is to assure you that God knows all about your situation, and He loves you and wants to help you. Some Bible scholars have even suggested that Mary, the mother of Jesus, might have become a single parent at some stage, since Joseph is not mentioned later in the Gospels. Although this isn’t certain, you can be sure that God has a special place in His heart for parents who must face life alone.
I often think of the heartache and sorrow that engulfed ancient Judah when Jerusalem was destroyed and countless parents lost their spouses. Jeremiah lamented, “We have become orphans and fatherless, our mothers like widows” (Lamentations 5:3). Yet he also could say, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22).
May you turn to God for the strength and wisdom you need every day. If you have never done so, ask Christ to come into your heart, and begin building your life on Him. Then seek practical help; many churches today have special programs for single parents, both to encourage them and provide practical help for the issues they face.