Christian Devotionals

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother...’ Genesis 2:24

You’ll know you’ve succeeded as a parent when your children are able to leave you and go out and build a successful life on their own. You will never cut them off, but there comes a time when you must ‘cut the apron strings’ and let them stand on their own two feet. Remember, the children you are raising right now belonged to God before they belonged to you. ‘The earth is the Lord’s…and all who live in it’ (Psalms 24:1 NIV). You are a teacher, not an owner, and your opportunity to teach them is amazingly brief. Your children were born to ‘leave,’ not stay. You can’t control their ticking biological clock. Your job is to prepare them for leaving. For the next few days, let’s talk about giving your child roots and wings. ‘Roots.’ Before fruit develops, roots must thrive. And healthy roots require healthy soil with the right elements for feeding and protecting plants. Roots also depend on attachment to the soil. There are two kinds of families. The first offers ‘insecure attachment.’ Their parent-child connection is ambiguous, ambivalent, indifferent or even neglectful, making kids feel emotionally unprotected, uncertain they’re wanted and loved, though they desperately need both these things. Their children lack confidence, self-worth, emotional strength, and the courage to take risks. The second offers ‘secure attachment.’ The parent-child connection is expressed and consistently reinforced. Even during necessary absences their children feel safe and securely attached. Such children become spiritually, socially and emotionally capable, with the self-worth and courage required to face the challenges life puts in their path.

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother...’ Genesis 2:24

On the journey from adolescence to adulthood, your children will experience insecurity, contradictions and mood swings. They will send you conflicting signals: needing closeness, yet distance; connection, yet independence, all at the same time. They will pull you in with one hand and push you away with the other. You must understand that your children still need to feel securely attached, even while they’re distancing from you. When they push you away you must show maturity, remembering that it’s not personal; it’s just how they test their ability to become independent adults. Minutes, hours, or days later they are your child again, wanting to be up close. It’s the ‘tug-o’-war’ of parenting youngsters, and it will resolve itself the right way if you handle it with understanding. Above all, contain your hurt and anger. ‘Fathers [mothers], do not…provoke [engage in contention, debate and strife] your children to anger [irritation, exasperation, embitterment]’ (Ephesians 6:4 AMP). The worst outcome of frequent run-ins with your children is that it produces long-term discouragement in them. Long after the ‘mop-up,’ your child can ‘lose heart’ (Colossians 3:21 NAS), and have a ‘crushed spirit’ (TM). In some cases they give up trying altogether. In western cultures, girls hold onto the parent-child ‘rope’ longer than boys, generally distancing later and with less finality. Boys tend toward earlier, longer-lasting distancing. When you deny your son or daughter the God-given need for gradual latitude, they’ll disconnect farther and faster. Use wisdom, ‘let out the rope’ gradually and they’ll learn adult skills and stay more closely connected.

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother...’ Genesis 2:24

The second gift you must give your child is ‘wings.’ They are born to fly, not stay in the nest. By becoming overly protective and stifling them in the name of responsible parenting, you’ll end up losing them. Jesus said children are designed to leave and go out and build a home of their own. Their drive for freedom is God-given, not a sign of ingratitude, disrespect or rebellion. A good carpenter works with the grain, not against it. So what should you do? Before your child demands outright independence, teach them how to handle it wisely. Give them opportunities to prove their readiness, and as they demonstrate trustworthiness, increase their autonomy—and vice versa. Let them know that in life you don’t inherit happiness, you earn it. Be flexible, but take charge. Let your child know they can’t demand privileges like driving, dating and spending money—they have to prove themselves worthy. Help them see how they can earn increased autonomy, or lose it, and how they can earn it back. Make them responsible for their own freedom by letting them know that it’s not a right or a gift, but a reward for showing maturity. A mother bird doesn’t push her baby out of the nest until she knows it’s ready to start flying. The gift of freedom to an unprepared child isn’t ‘wings,’ it’s an invitation to catastrophe! Don’t agree to autonomy until they’ve proven they can handle their agreed-upon responsibility.

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother...’ Genesis 2:24

You can’t always prevent your child from getting hurt. ‘…In this world you will have trouble…’ (John 16:33 NIV). Either they’ll get hurt and learn to deal with reality, or suffocate in your cocoon, never becoming mature—a hurt much sadder and much more painful and debilitating. What’s involved in giving your child wings? 1) Realise that without autonomy they’ll never become healthy adults. This involves learning things like clear thinking, being responsible for their own decisions, learning from bad choices how to make better ones, being free to make mistakes and pay the price of learning, and experiencing what it means to grow up. 2) Don’t treat their need for autonomy as evidence you’re failing as a parent. Indeed, if they fail to distance, you should question your parenting style! Making them independent is biblical and effective parenting. 3) Don’t mistake their distancing as a rejection of you. It’s not abandonment of you, it’s advancement for them. It’s not proof of ingratitude or selfishness and rebellion; it’s their real-world opportunity to demonstrate your success as a parent. When they don’t want to attend Uncle Bert’s family reunion, don’t tighten your grip to ‘save the family from disintegrating.’ The family is meant to disengage, like cells splitting off and multiplying. The Bible says we are to ‘…Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1 NIV). They can’t stay in the nest and fulfill their destiny. Release them, and then get a life of your own! That’s your responsibility—not endless parenting. Let out the rope, trust God, and they’ll be back to see their ‘very cool’ parents.

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother...’ Genesis 2:24

Healthy parenting calls for finding the right mix of autonomy with each of your children. Some children distance sooner, some later; some take small tentative steps, some leap confidently into the gap. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ children when it comes to this, just more or less challenging ones. As a parent you discover by trial and error what works for you and your children. Criticising, controlling, threatening incarceration, preaching, shaming, etc., are futile, counterproductive, and a sign you have lost your grip. It will only increase their flight instinct, or make them feel insecure, as though no one is really at the helm. Pretending you have ‘got it together’ as a parent is a well-intentioned but costly game. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of being honest and transparent with your children. It’s less stressful for you both, and it’s much more effective. Children know that they are imperfect—and they know you are too. So don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m learning to parent growing children, like you’re learning to be one. I need your help to be good at it, to discover what works for us both, and to help you be good at it too. Are you willing to be on the team and learn together?’ That kind of honesty draws a positive response. It’s also good role-modelling, teaching them humility and cooperation. As coach and players united, focus on winning together and learning to improve, not on competing or dominating. Succeeding or failing as a family is all about learning and growing! 


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