Today’s post is from author and speaker Brenda Garrison.  She is a workshop speaker at this year’s 2012 Hearts at Home Conferences.  Her wisdom is very valuable…especially in the grade school, junior high, high school, and college years.

When Our Kids Make Decisions We Don’t Agree With
Giving Your Child Room to Grow 

Last year we went to see our oldest daughter, Katie, in her studio apartment at college. She knew we were coming and was excited for our visit. She answered the door and the four of us came in and stood. And stood. Then we started to shuffle around a bit. There was no place to sit.

Every piece of furniture including the kitchen chairs displayed Katie’s artwork or art supplies. We made our way through the one-room apartment as if touring a real-life artist’s studio where he lived and worked. And that’s exactly what it was. Katie lived her art work.

She couldn’t have been happier or more proud for us to make our way through the maze and comment on her accomplishments for the semester. That day I realized that all the neatness I tried to inflict on her (at least in her bedroom) was like a siphon stealing oxygen from her world. Her “messiness” was where she created and thrived as the person God made her.

However, other times in Katie’s life haven’t been such a pretty mess. My husband and I have learned what’s important and what’s not as we pursue relationship with her when she makes decisions we don’t agree with.

Just as Katie needed space to flourish in the person and artist God made her to be, all of our kids need space to grow, make mistakes, and hopefully one day hear the voice of God calling their names. It would be nice if they would do their growing in a neat Petri dish, but that’s not going to happen.

Here are a few practical helps to help your child and your relationship with her thrive:

~It’s a process and every mistake doesn’t need our full arsenal unleashed. Take it from the Queen of Over-reaction. Once I figured out why I over-reacted, I dialed back my response to a more appropriate one. Decide your non-negotiables and everything can’t be non-negotiable.

~Give biblical advice, but not chapter and verse. If your child is veering away, the one thing that won’t draw him back is a mini-sermon from you. Last summer Katie worked in a store full of women and one passive man. As you can imagine, drama reigned supreme. Many times Katie came to me for advice on navigating the unhealthy work environment. My advice was always, “Speak the truth kindly and clearly.” That wisdom was from Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29,31-32. Guess what? It worked. Katie avoided the mess and earned an excellent recommendation from her boss. She also learned a life skill that serves her well.

~Be patient with God and your child. God is working in this mess for your kid’s good and God’s glory. Grace, a thirty-something mom and former “messy kid,” shared with me about her journey to God. “God kept doing His thing with me. Parents are always looking for the big experience—the retreat, the counselor. It’s not going to happen that way. It’s a slow gradual process.” Grace and her family are currently in full-time ministry.

~Love and accept them where they are. It’s hard to do this when our kids are making choices we don’t agree with. But think of a time when someone loved and accepted you even though you didn’t deserve it. Didn’t you want to spend more time with that person and get to know them? Our love and acceptance of our child in the midst of her messiness is one thing that may draw them back to God. Take your daughter for coffee and talk about her passion. Send your son a gift card with a note of encouragement. Text her and tell her how glad you are that she’s your girl. Any of these are a refreshing breeze through a tense relationship.

Moms, we’re all messy. Jesus gives us space to work it out with Him. Let’s do the same for our kids.

What about you?  What’s one way you’ve given your messy kid room to grow?

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