When Your Child Makes a Bad Choice
"For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." Romans 14:11-12 (HCSB)
It was a gray and gloomy day when my ordinary routine of laundry and dishes was interrupted. With no time to spruce up, I soon found myself seated in the vice principal’s office wearing my sweatpants and my shame.
My son had gotten himself in a heap of trouble, the result of a bad choice he’d made in order to please a peer.
My son confessed, and the school issued consequences. My child seemed genuinely sorry for his behavior. The administrator was kind and compassionate. The meeting ended with both of them seeming fine. I, however, was a maternal mess. I just couldn’t shake the stigma of being the mom of a teen who broke the rules and broke my heart.
Ever since my children were little, I have formed mothering equations in my mind. A crying baby in church = a bad mom. A toddler throwing a temper tantrum in public = a bad mom. A teen who broke the rules or the law = a bad mom.
Then, whenever a child of mine misbehaved or made a bad choice, I made the worst choice of all. I scribbled on my tender mama heart yet another untrue equation, wrongly surmising that I was a failure as a mom. And over the years as my child added more wrong choices, my sorrow as a mom multiplied.
There is a family in the Bible that has always fascinated me when it comes to trying to pin the bad behavior of a child on the shoulders of a parent. That family is Adam and Eve and their sons, Cain and Abel.
Cain was the very first man born into the world. His brother Abel was the very first one to die. And how did he die? At the hands of his brother.
The book of Genesis tells us Cain tended to the crops. His kid brother was a sheepherder. A jealous drama ensued between the brothers over the fact that the Lord accepted Abel’s offering yet rejected Cain’s. As a result, Cain was mad. So, one day, he lured his unsuspecting brother out into the field and promptly murdered him.
In this biblical story we see two sons. Each with different likes and passions. Different personalities. Extremely different character qualities.
One was innocent. One committed murder. Yet both had the same parents. If you can draw the conclusion that how a child turns out is the parents’ direct responsibility, then how do you account for these two mismatched brothers? How did one grow up to be a mind-your-own-business, likeable sort, while the other became the first criminal to have his mug shot nailed to the local post office wall?
Were Adam and Eve responsible for these boys’ actions? No. Their choices were their own.
Today’s key verse tells us, "each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12). We each are responsible for our own behaviors. We will answer someday for what we did while on earth. Notice we are not told we will answer for others’ behavior — not even our children’s.
So when we are tempted to painfully pin on the badge of "Bad Mom of the Year" because our child makes a bad choice, let’s remember that each of us will answer for our own conduct. Sure we need to teach and model good behavior, but we cannot force our kids to obey. Our role is to pray they develop and grow a personal relationship with God. So when they give an account of their choices, they will not be ashamed.
We must know our place as a praying parent and tether our identity only to Christ.
Father, please help me to do my best to raise my child to make good choices. Help me to find my identity in Christ alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way." (HCSB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What one or two truths can you remember when your child makes a wrong choice?