Focus on the Family

Ministering to the Prodigal Son (or Daughter)

How do you parent in the face of some interesting (and possibly foolish) decisions on the part of your child?

by Erin Prater

During the early years, you changed a lot of dirty diapers, picked up a lot of messes and sacrificially stomached mashed peas in an attempt to set a good example. Seemingly overnight, job duties evolved from potty training and bandaging boo-boo's, to helping with homework, baking cupcakes for the class party and giving driving lessons. While you certainly struggled with how to parent in some situations, at least your child was nearby while the task was at hand.

Now, she's left home, and the term "parenting" may seem more abstract. How do you parent a child who's largely grown? How do you parent from afar? And most dauntingly, how do you parent in the face of some interesting (and possibly foolish) decisions on the part of your child?

In Luke 15, we find a father facing the same dilemma. He had two sons, both old enough to go-it on their own, or at least old enough to believe they could. The younger demanded his inheritance pre-mortem (talk about a slap in the face!) and, soon after, "set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living" (v. 13).

Maybe this is a story you can relate to, at least in part. While you might not have given your child his inheritance, considering the college bills you're footing, you may feel like you have. Maybe you preferred that your child attend an in-state college, only to have him announce at dinner that he will be attending the furthest institution away from home. Or maybe you were pleased with your child's choice of educational institutions, but later disappointed to learn that he had squandered your wealth, his wealth or the borrowed-wealth of a major credit card company. Maybe this story is your worst fears put to paper.

Most of us know the ending to Christ's parable. The son realizes the error of his ways, returns home expecting slavery but is greeted by an elated, gracious, generous father who welcomes him home with favor and open arms.

What did this father do right, and how can you continue to parent your almost-grown kid who has ventured out on his own?


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