There is nothing more delightful to Christian parents than to see their children serving God, no matter what their age.

On the other hand, there is nothing more grievous for Christian parents than to see their children stray from their heritage of faith. Proverbs 17:25 aptly states, "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him."

The devil knows this. His mission has always been to kill, steal, and destroy. When it comes to fulfilling his mission, he is merciless and unrelenting. In order to inflict the most damage, he attacks us where we are most sensitive or vulnerable.

Often that place is our children. But because most young children eagerly accept the teaching of their parents with open hearts, they are not easily influenced. From an early age, children have a God-given desire to please their parents.

But with the transition into adolescence, this changes somewhat. In this stage, children develop a God-given longing to become their own person.

Parents of teenagers have most likely observed their intense desire to manage their lives by making decisions for themselves.

This time of transformation is a critical phase of teenagers' lives. And when they don't feel that they are given the freedom to make choices for themselves, quite often they will demand it all the more. This longing to grow into his or her own person can cause a great deal of stress for the entire family.

At this point in their children's lives, it is the parents' responsibility to gently ease them into adulthood with a great deal of tender loving care. Parents should begin to gradually release more and more decision-making power to their teenagers depending, of course, upon their maturity.

They should start by allowing them to make decisions regarding insignificant matters. As the teenagers handle the small issues successfully, parents should then gradually allow them to make more important decisions.

Not only will this allow them to experience the freedom they crave, but it will also permit them to experience the consequences of their decisions while under the watchful eye of someone with more wisdom.

If their decisions turn out to be less than desirable, the parents can be there to pick them up while the risks are still rather minor. This gradual releasing of authority will allow them to explore in a safe environment.

If they are never allowed to make decisions while under the watchful care of their parents, then they will learn to do so only after they leave home, when not only are the risks much greater but so also are the consequences of their wrong decisions.

The Scripture explicitly gives parents the responsibility for bringing their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Additionally, it assigns children the responsibility to obey their parents in the Lord.

Both parents and children have individual responsibilities from the Lord. Each has the opportunity to choose to fulfill his or her responsibility or rebel against it.

The door is opened to shame when one party takes on a false sense of responsibility —a responsibility given to someone else. Because no one can control the choices of others, believers who assume responsibility for their failures allow the devil to harass them for something they are not responsible for.

When we learn to disengage from the responsibility and choices of others, the shame for their failure will depart. Knowing that each of us is only responsible for our own choices not only frees us from shame that is associated with the failure of our children, but also enables us to pray effectively for them.

"And there is hope for your future," declares the Lord, "And your children shall return to their own territory" (Jer. 31:17).

Source: Aim Your Child Like An Arrow by Vikki Burke.
Excerpt permission granted by Dennis Burke Publications