8 ideas for parenting the wayward child

Our babies grow up to be teenagers who are trying to find their own identities. Sometimes that search takes them away from our family's values. Here are 8 ideas for parenting the wayward child.

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  • Parenting is one of the greatest joys in this life. However, there comes a point when parenting can also be full of heartache. It is difficult to watch your teenager reject your family's values as she tries to find her own identity. However, there are some things you can do to help her through this time.

  • Remember, you didn't fail

  • On the contrary, you have done an excellent job. Your teenager feels safe enough in your love to upset and disappoint you.

  • Safety first

  • Even though it may be uncomfortable for you, it is important to talk to your teenager about the risks of his behavior. If you suspect your son may be doing drugs, then you have an obligation to intervene. Consider taking the steps in this article. If he is experimenting with sexuality, then he needs to be aware of the consequences of teen pregnancy. Emphasize that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but discuss other options, as well. Talk about the devastating impact drunk driving can have on his life and the lives of possible victims. Discuss ways you can be certain he never drives drunk.

  • Set consistent rules with consequences

  • Your teen may be participating in behavior of which you don't approve. Although you cannot stop her, you don't have to make it easy on her. Set specific rules with consequences, then be sure to consistently follow through.

  • My son fiercely wanted to be independent. When he broke our family rules, he fought against the consequences. Enforcing them was difficult and emotionally draining, but my husband and I stood our ground. He may not have enjoyed our parenting methods at the time, but he voiced his respect for us as parents and recognized that we were acting out of love for him.

  • Choose your battles

  • Although you need to have consistent rules, you also don't want to have every interaction with your child be a negative experience. You do not want to be constantly nagging and correcting. Consider which rules you may be able to ease up. Maybe you can let him get away with having a messy room or watching TV shows or movies that you might not like. Remember the big picture. Ask yourself, “Will breaking this rule harm my son (physically or spiritually) or just cause me inconvenience and annoyance?”

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  • Set an example of happiness

  • Your teen is not acting out simply to “get back” at you. She is trying to find happiness. The media sends out a very strong message that happiness is found in promiscuity and substance abuse. Your example needs to send a stronger message. Let her see that you find joy in your marriage, family, your work and your service to others.

  • Show unconditional love

  • Separate the behavior from the child. Take an objective look at your teenager's life. He might be doing a few things that you do not like, but there is still a lot of good in that boy. Notice it. Praise him. Tell him that you love him. Let him know that while you do not approve of some of his actions, your love will never waver. That knowledge will be a lifeline to him when he chooses to change.

  • Help her transition to adulthood

  • Once your teenager becomes of age and has graduated high school, you have some tough decisions to make. Will you let her continue to stay at home, or is it time for her to move out?

  • If you choose to allow her to stay home, you need to give her responsibilities. Encourage her to get a job, and agree upon an amount for her to pay for rent and board. Stop paying for expenses that she would be required to pay if she were on her own. Let her pay for her own cell phone, gas and transportation.

  • If you decide it is time for your daughter to move out, do not simply throw her out on the street. You can help her find a place to stay and employment. Set her up for success, then allow her to experience the natural consequences of her actions.

  • A friend of mine helped her son move out of the house. She and her husband helped him find an apartment, paid for his first month's rent and helped him find a good job. He did well for a few months. Then, within a short period of time, he was evicted from his apartment and lost his job. His parents did not come to his aid, and it was very scary for him. However, he was able to find a new place to live, and he was also able to find a new job. The new job paid less and required harder work, but he was able to support himself. It was a humbling and learning experience for him. But it also built his confidence as he learned he was capable of taking care of himself.

  • Trust God

  • When you are in the thick of it, when your heart is breaking, and you fear that your teenager's situation may be hopeless — turn to God. Get on your knees and pour your heart out in prayer. Let him know how much you love your child. Ask for his help. Then, let go. Your child was his first and will always be his. He loves your son dearly. God knows him, his personal pain, his strengths and weaknesses. He knows his ultimate destiny. God will send angels, people who will bless your son in ways that you cannot. Trust God that he will make sure your child is not lost forever.

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  • Have patience. You may have many difficult, sleepless, tearful nights ahead of you. Don't give up, and have faith in God. With time, he will bring your wayward child home to you.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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