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…So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Luke 15:19-20

Love involves more than expressing the affection parents naturally feel toward their children.  Love is also expressed by protecting, teaching, managing and providing for them.   For the first 12-13 years of a child’s life, the success of a parent’s love is measured by the child’s behavior – typically defined by obedience, success in school and extracurricular activities, as well as their social skills and manners.  During these years a child’s identity is very tied to the parents’ identity.

However, during the adolescent years, teens begin the quest to find their own identity.   This is natural but frightening to parents.  Without notice teens begin making decisions and choices independent of their parents’ oversight and protection.  Moreover, teenage decisions and choices are often fraught with risk to their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.

As parents, it can be very difficult to sit back and watch our kids make choices that we are certain will hurt them. It’s equally difficult to embrace that they have adult desires (sinful), much less imagine them acting on those desires.   Navigating the balance between protecting our teens and helping them mature demands courage. To build a truly loving home, there are times a parent must allow his or her teen to experience the consequences of decisions and choices, even if it means allowing them to fall.

Our teens will fall, regardless of how hard we try to protect them.  When they do, parents must have the courage not to overreact.  Fear will drive parents to attempt to manage their teen’s behavior, similar to when they were young.  Instead, parents must demonstrate faith, learning to inspire and influence these young adults by continuing to love, teach and train them.

The Power of a Loving Home

The parable of the prodigal son is a great illustration of a caring father who watched his son fall. The father never stopped loving his son even when his decisions and choices hurt the father.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
Luke 15:21-23

As parents, the choices that our teens make can make it very difficult to still love them. In fact, their choices can tempt us to really hate them at times, if we are not careful. The prodigal son took his share of the estate and set out for a distant country, then wasted his life. But he knew that he had a loving home he could still come back to. Our love for our teenagers helps them know they can always come home.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

When love is overcome by fear and anxiety, parents overreact. When parents overreact, teens grow to dread and despise openness.  The opportunity for closeness through openness in the home is replaced by hiddenness and distance. This makes God unattractive. Love, on the other hand, convinces teens that relationship trumps behavior or performance.

Unconditional love makes God attractive and inspires and influences teens to pursue relationship over performance.  When our teens fall, it is our opportunity to teach them the value of grace, and grace will teach them when to say “no.”

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,…
Titus 2:11-12

Written by

Stone Eleazer

Stone Eleazer is the director of operations at the Bay Area Christian Church, and is an editor for BACC Inspire.