When Children Go Wrong


Most anything regarding our children tugs at our hearts. Some things written here may be disturbing to some, but they are not said to condemn, but to encourage those who still have opportunity to rear their children properly. What is said may also be a source of consolation and comfort to those whose children have disappointed them. We do not want to add to the hurt, but to offer help. We may not, but we want to try. We shall approach this mostly from the parentís vantage point, what they might do, with some words to others.

It is not uncommon anymore to hear about a son who has become involved with drugs, a daughter who gets pregnant out of wedlock, young people who have quit the church, run away from home or ruined their marriage. It seems all the efforts parents have made to rear their children have been wasted and the children have turned against them and their training. These things are all too real and frequent. First Peter 5:8, ďBe sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.Ē

Many people are severely hurting because of such things and are carrying great burdens in the heart. They are very disappointed in their children. While they may take pride in them in some matters, such is not true in the most important matter, their loyalty to God. They tried, but are now hurt deeply with much joy being drained from life. If this be your lot, you are not alone. That brings no comfort, but it is a fact. God also knows this hurt.


Parents Burdened With Guilt


Parents burden themselves with guilt, asking, ďWhere did I go wrong?Ē Many times they did go wrong, but not always. But they have regret and do not understand why things are as they are. Proverbs 22:6 places great responsibility on the parent, as does Ephesians 6:4, and some are sure they failed somewhere. Possibly so! But the parent may not have been totally at fault every time a child goes wrong. The child must go the way he is trained.

Doing your parental duty does not deprive the child of his power of personal choice or personal responsibility. If one could not behave contrary to his rearing it would be impossible to convert a person who was reared in sin and then bring him to righteousness. While this does not minimize parental duty, it does say loudly that it is not the parent ALONE who is at fault, and possibly the parent is not at fault at all. Much depends on the child and also other influences that come in the life of a child over which the parent may have no control.


Who is at Fault?


Assigning blame may seem inappropriate, but it is well that we notice parental duties in their own behavior, examples, teaching, etc. But even God does not keep His children faithful unless the child cooperates with God. If God cannot do it, how do we expect to do it?

There are no perfect parents just as they are no perfect children. But when a parent has been at fault, he or she needs to repent and seek Godís forgiveness. It may be too late to change the direction of the child, but the parentís soul can still be saved. The consequences may always be suffered by both parent and child for parental failure, just like suffering will be caused by childrenís lack of cooperation with their training. But whoever is at fault and whatever the fault may be, it can be forgiven when God's terms are met in humble obedience.


Now What?


Assigning blame may not helpful at this point. Wrong has been done somewhere when anybody goes wrong. But where do we go from here? We cannot undo what has been done. Will things be better? Can they be better? We must start now from where we are. Let us make a few suggestions that we are sure are practical and workable. These suggestions are not to be viewed as solutions, however. Only repentance and the return of the child to the fold of God solves the problem.


Some Donítís


Donít ďburn all bridges.Ē Try to maintain some contact if it is allowed to you. How can you be an influence for good if there is a total void of communication? Harsh words, barriers and bitterness will only aggravate the situation.

This does not mean to leave the impression you condone their unfaithfulness. You should never do that. It may not be easy, seeing the keen disappointment, to keep from constantly reminding your child of his neglect. When you know so clearly right from wrong, and know your child knows right from wrong but does not live accordingly, that is not easy. The entire situation is not one that lends itself to ease. But anger, arguments and cutting words will not be productive or helpful for an eventual restoration, which is the goal.

If you as a parent have missed your opportunity by your own fault and neglect, ask God to forgive you. If you have been guilty of making matters worse since your child went astray, ask both the Lord and your child to forgive you. It is never wrong to admit our own errors.

Donít give up on your child. There may be times when you feel you are losing the battle. But you cannot afford to give up for then you have truly met defeat. To not give up may be very trying because the child may seem to have totally ruined his life and there seems to be no reconciliation between you and your child, or between your child and God. Many parents have just about lost hope that one or more of their children will ever come to Christ. Still the parent must hope, not only for his own welfare but for that of the child.

Keep in mind, your child may not act like he is disappointed in himself, but very likely he is and all spark of desire to do right is not extinguished. You may not live to see the day when your child comes to Christ, or is restored. Many people are not converted until later in life after faithful parents have gone to their reward and they with grieving hearts because their children were not saved. But if you will persist and never give up, possibly this will in time so influence your child that he will favorably respond to the Lordís call. Possibly he will not, but many have and your child may also. You cannot afford of ever give up. Your hope may be the only avenue and source of hope for the child right now.


Giving Up Some Things May Be Required


I recall a circumstance where a faithful preacherís daughter became an atheist. You can imagine the heartbreak of the preacher and his wife. (This daughter eventually was restored, however). You may have to swallow your pride for surely you are embarrassed when your child goes wrong. You wonder what others will think of the child and you. It hurts so much. What will the neighbors say? What will brethren think? It matters to you. But parents must put that aside as best they can, and keep going. Again, like the other suggestions, this one is not easily done. Your pride may be offended.

We have to learn to give our children the control of their lives. Having been their watchman for so long, this is not a trifle task. But they must know that you are no longer responsible for their soul. It is up to them whether they go to heaven or hell.

You might have to consider canceling financial help if such you are providing. You, as a child of God, cannot afford to finance the works of the devil, even if they are being done by your own flesh and blood. But constantly shaming them will likely repel them. Once they know of your strong disapproval of their waywardness, then you have to let it be as it is, whatever that may be.


Protect Yourself


It is most difficult to accept, but it may well be that in dealing with your wayward child you are dealing with one who is very insensitive to your feelings or your convictions. While you care so much for them, they may not care in return as they ought. It is not selfish under those conditions to protect yourself from having your feelings walked on. Your child may play on your emotions and even promise many things in order to get from you whatever he wants, whether it be money, approval, commendation, acceptance, whatever. Then, before you know it, your emotions are crushed once again. Donít let it happen. Donít allow yourself to be his doormat and be used by him, keeping you ever upset, and imposing his ways, which your deplore, upon you.

You do not have the obligation to provide him a place to sin, whether it be for drinking, adultery, or any other sin. Let him know sinful behavior will not be permitted at your house, and he either conforms to that or must find another residence. The Lordís will must come first with you before the whims of a rebellious child. You are concerned about them, but they should not be permitted to crush your every waking moment and times of joy because of his conduct and attitude. You have to pull away enough to let him fall into the hands of Godís providence whichever way he goes.


Continue In Prayer


You should never cease to pray for a wayward child. Donít you know the father of the prodigal was ever looking down the road, longing for that day when the son would return home? But you are Godís child and have the right to pray. The fruition of your prayer may not come in your lifetime, however.
Love Your Child


This is probably a superfluous reminder because your concern is evidence of your continuing love. But love the child in the sense of always seeking his highest good. You will not seek his good if you ever compromise with his sinfulness. But always be ready to meet him more than halfway if ever he decides to come back. Let him know that is your attitude, but the decision rests with him because you cannot do it for him.

Be ready to receive him back if he comes back. If he repents and returns, let the past die. It was so hard to see him go away because you knew he going the wrong direction, but leave the door ajar and let him know it awaits his return. Again, it is his move.


Keep God First


Above all else, keep God first in your own life or else both you and your child shall suffer condemnation. God is the source of our strength, our hope, the anchor of our souls. We dare not let anyone, even those so close as children, come between us and God. Our loyalty is to God before our loyalty to our children.


The Attitude of Others Toward Parents of Children

Who Have Gone Wrong


Let me address those who have seen the wayward ways of children of other people. Surely, if we be of the Christlike spirit we grieve for them as well as the child. This may not be our own burden in life, and it may not be because we have been so much better parents. Conditions and circumstances may have been so different. Under like conditions, we may not have done as well. But be thankful if your home has not been victimized by children who have gone wrong. But be sympathetic and kind toward those who have been hurt.

Donít avoid them. Be friends. Usually we are so afraid we will say or do something that will be wrong and make matters worse. It is that way when you speak with orphaned children, a widow, someone terminally ill, or a divorcee. You may not do just exactly the best in every instance. But being aloof as if you no longer care can be far worse than a thoughtless or ignorant blunder. We can correct those things. They need our presence. Be ready to listen if they ever wish to discuss it, but let them introduce the subject lest you reintroduce more pain. It is already so painful for them. Show your interest in their welfare.

When a child goes wrong it is not the time to offer unsolicited advice, or to give rebukes. Have respect for their privacy. Do not pry for details. If they speak with you in confidence, respect that confidence to the utmost. Do not talk about the situation to others unless it is a proper effort to give genuine assistance. The less said under conditions of departure from God may be the better course to follow. Look for opportune times to assist in recovering the fallen. Remember the admonition, Galatians 6:1, ďBrethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault. ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Ē

Help the suffering parents to know their own worth. Having experienced this tragedy in life, they may now be equipped to help others more than ever before who are also beset with such things. Help them see their usefulness. They are not total failures. Their loved ones have hurt them, so do not hurt them further.


Suggestions, Not Solutions


As stated earlier, these are suggestions, but not the real solution. The solution is for a child who has gone wrong to repent and return to God and be received again. It will try the limits of your patience, no doubt. It may take some time, maybe longer than your life. Be aware that it may never happen. But what has passed, has passed, and you have to do your best from this point forward. You have to forget, to some extent, the past, and press on, or else your own soul may be lost. What else can you do?


To Children


Let me say a closing word addressed to children. Be careful what you do, what you say, where you go, how you treat your parents. If you put God first in life you will deal with your parents properly. That is a part of being a Christian. Like the loyalty of your parent must be toward God before you, your loyalty must be toward God before them. But avoid causing pain and grief.

I wish there was something more constructive I could pass to you who have suffered with children who have gone wrong. I only pray that God will bless you as you deal with it. May it be that all will be well with your soul. Above all, stay with God!




1. Are parents always the blame for children going wrong?

2. How do parents usually consider themselves when their children go wrong?

3. Discuss: The past is past and we must start from here.

4. How do you feel about the suggestions listed what NOT to do?

5. How much does pride affect the way we react?

6. Why do some give up on God when their children go wrong?

7. What should be our attitude and action toward those whose children

    have gone wrong?

8. What is the value of not giving up on the child who has gone wrong?


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