In a society that exploits the concept of entitlement and instant gratification, there is no wonder that the concept of prodigal children is so high on everyone’s agenda.. The concept of parenting a prodigal child is not at all about the child. It has everything to do with the parents’ response to the child striving for independence, albeit, too early or in a destructive manner.
In our world today, we spoil the child and then in their teens attempt to apply the rod. The desire for entitlement and more comes from parents who either indulged a child for their [the parents] convenience or to please the child, and possiblly to establish a “friend” role in place of a parent role. Therefore we mistakenly attempt, as parents, to teach restraint much too late.
As a whole we parents do our level best, I believe, with sometimes little to no guidance. This is directly due to a lack of nurture that occurred in the last three or four decades leading to our current society. Prodigals come out of some of the best homes, just as frequently as out of the more dysfunctional homes. A prodigal child is simply reaching for his independence and inheritance too early, prior to the usual time conditions of these things. Having been indulged, their demanding ways are often a product of their raising. So what to do?
Love them. As simple and as complicated as that is, just love them. “How?” , you ask. Well, if you are seeking guidance from this article, you are already there. Anyway it would really take some awfully tragic events to not love one’s own . So we have already begun. Loving a prodigal, or demanding child can be difficult. There are many factors involved: anger, a sense of entitlement, greed, and self-centeredness, just to name a few. The reference here is for both the parent and the child, as well. Parenting in the last three to four generations has taken quite a turn for the worst. From the “Free Love” sixties to the “Material” eighties and nineties, parenting has become a burden to the parents. Much too late, do we become aware of the problem [child] we’ve created.
Luckily we find prodigals being of the late teen age range. Hopefully they have some values and morals to ground them, however many do not. They will be the tragically damaged adults we now see, the ones who do not love their children. So being young adults, the privilege we’ve showered upon our progeny is now backfiring. They want one hundred percent of what they feel they deserve, right now.
Young adults are wired to become independent. However, these young adults were permitted to have a say in how they were raised, and took advantage of it. In my great Garden State, a child of fourteen has the right to bar their parents from access to their medical records, yet the parent must provide the insurance. A child of sixteen is permitted to voluntarily leave the home and refuse to return, yet the parent is not permitted to turn the same child out until seventeen years of age. People, this has gone wrong.
In my experience, everyone has been a prodigal at some time of their lives. Just going to do what they believe will profit and prosper them, regardless of what amount of values and morals were provided. The parenting skill for this is release. Lovingly let the child test his/her wings in the world. A staggering number of them return almost immediately. In a good, average, home the child just believes they have it all together, and jumps from the nest prematurely.
As the parent, I would hope we know that the child has left too early. However at the age of accountability ( 13 years of age in some places), there is not much that can be done. I know it took me much pain, yelling and tears to come to terms with my prodigal. Things, though they went quite poorly, are quickly turning themselves around in the life of my prodigal. You see, I recently had to teach the parable of the Prodigal Son at a conference at my church. Ironic, I know, but the study revealed a whole new take on parenting my young adult children. I find that seeking God on these things, for me, is quite enlightening. Being that I was raised by parents who taught me the skills, that were currently not working, I went to my faith for guidance, it worked.
I put mine out. My prodigal demanded to live in my household, according to his choice of lifestyle. My children were raised by myself and their step-father, who by the way was here when they were babies, so step is a technicality. However, step was one of the weapons our prodigal chose to pull, I stopped that immediately. You may have heard it ” Well, he/she is my father/mother, and can not tell me how to live.” My suggestion for that one, stop it immediately, if the household is two parent, remain united. My child’s lifestyle was deadly, self-destructive and illegal. When we reasoned that he would not or could not stop, we turned him out. Let me clarify, we offered to provide medical and phsycological assistance to this boy. He was provided all of the necessitites of life within our family; love, acceptance, and understanding, as well as, food, water, and shelter. We offered physical and emotional shelter to him. My prodigal rejected all of it, for the substance lifestyle.
My prodigal left when I, myself, put him out, swearing he would show me, he would live his life as he chose and it was simply none of my business. He did not consider the fact that he was tearing his loving family apart and ripping out the heart of his own mother. The fact is niether did we when we left home, even under average conditions, we tore ourselves from our families and caused our parents heartache and worry, on the best days, for our leaving. A child realizing their independance, is a falling away within the family.
Our prodigal left for a good year the first time. My anger and resentments were aimed directly at him. Each time I saw him, I made him feel un-trusted and unwelcome in our home. I made it so he felt he couldn’t come home. This was not the act of a loving parent. I wanted him to obey me, my demands, I wanted him to step up and do what I felt he should be doing. I focused on my child, not his poor choices, making him feel as if there was something about him I did not love.Poor articulation and down right self-centeredness, on my part. Children are not the product of their poor choices, it is not who they are, it is simply what they have chose at a given time. Children are the product of their parent’s parenting.
My prodigal returned and left to return again, several times in four years. The understanding of what prodigal actually means, giving credit to having taught the parable, successful parenting techniques were learned. By no means has a expert ability been achieved. Simple consistent adherence to the values and moral of the household, without compromise, has brought a reconciliation for our prodigal into the family.
I love my son, while holding constant the moral rules of our household, allowing no deviance. Living our Christianity has truly fostered a desire in our prodigal to have the better things in his life. He has actually expressed a desire to have a marital relationship likened to the one my husband and I enjoy.
We reject his poor life choices and make it very clear that certain aspects of his past lifestyle will not be brought into our home. We diligently provide him with the obvious choices he has, when he asks for advice. It has been said advise, not asked for, is criticism. With that in mind, as long as the situation is not life threatening,and remains within the morals and values of our home, we only advise him when he asks for our input. If you’ve ever offered your “wisdome”, unsolicited, to a young adult you know, too, that that is how they feel about it. The result is that the young adult, frequently, will go in the opposite direction.
For our family, his ways of being the prodigal were the extreme. However, today young adults view the world’s practices as a choice. Substances, promiscuity and the wild life are a lifestyle, accepted and tolerated as a norm, though a low norm, in our society. Our children no longer become prodigal for financial reasons, believing that they can do better in the world then their parents did. Our children actually believe that they can live better while being unconscious or refusing to be responsible to the things and people around them. Even their inappropriate actions or reactions to the aforementioned things, appear not to be their responsibility. It is a hard, confusing world our children grow into as adults. The information is vast, the opinions and misrepresentations abundant. The morals are loose and the values are low.
Teach a child the obedience in the Lord, for it is right. Children are to honor their parents, the first commandment with a promise, and life will go well and they will live long. Parents are not to provoke their children, giving them too many choices and privileges in the parenting process, this will cause premature rising. Parents are to train their children for life as an adult, bringing correction in the areas needed. These are directives from the life handbook, The Bible. These references can be found and confirmed in the books of Exodus chapter 20 and Ephesians chapter 6, and research will gleen more on the subject. Of course one might want to see what God did in the parable of the Prodigal Son, which can be found in the book of Luke 15:11-31. Personally I tried too long to handle my prodigal alone, I then chose finally to go to the master. When faced with issues of this kind within my family, I have learned not to be the prodigal, and go right to the source of the information for my answers. Here’s to happy parenting for you and I.