Giving our children greater freedom to make their own choices can be one of the hardest tasks a parent must face. As parents, we want to protect our children from poor decisions. Yet we know that as children grow into their late teens and early twenties they must learn to make and live with decisions for themselves. Letting them do this is a part of the process of growing up.
Parents find this task more perplexing when a blossoming adult child begins to make extreme lifestyle choices that are clearly rebellious and destructive. All young adults will make some poor choices. Many will have moments of rebellion. But loving parents may need to consider withdrawing financial support when the rebellion is extreme and out of control. No parent would enjoy doing this, but a mom and dad can offer tough love by cutting off financial assistance to a son or daughter who is abusing drugs or living with and engaging in sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend or refusing to work.
Parents facing this situation will struggle with their own frustration and anger, but these feelings shouldn’t be what motivates them to pull the plug on financial support. What should motivate them is the realization that it’s not loving to support someone’s sin. It is the realization that their children won’t grow up if they don’t learn to take responsibility for themselves.
For example, enabling a 20-year-old daughter to live with her boyfriend by paying for some of her bills is not in her best interest. Therefore, it’s not love. At the same time, a loving response also says,Even though we won’t support your sin, we will not pull away from you. We will continue to care about you, see you, and long for you to come to home and submit yourself to our rules. And we will be open to discuss anything we’ve done wrong that has hurt you.
Parents can go a long way in helping their adult child by attempting to understand any way in which they may have contributed to the problems in the relationship. Sometimes a part of the reason a young adult child chooses to rebel is to make a parent pay for hurting or disappointing him or her. The sin of parents never excuses the choice of a young adult child, but parents would do well by remaining open to how they may have knowingly or unknowingly provoked their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).
Parents who aren’t willing to see if there is a log in their own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) are in danger of pushing their late teenager or an early twenty year old farther away from them and God. Those, however, who unite tough love with a willingness to take responsibility for any wrongs they committed can begin to know the sweet taste of reconciliation when both sides own up to their sin and forgive one another.