“Son,” he said to him, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." - Luke 15:31-32 HCSB

Teach your children to think critically. Do not just impart wisdom. Ask questions that lead them to wisdom. This technique used by the Master. He asked the disciples, “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?”[1] Then He encouraged the right kind of answers.

Of course, we have to realize that this method will not be universally successful. Even the Master was not able to always deter wicked people from their determination though He used the very same technique. In some cases, it simply infuriated their unrepentant hearts.[2] Yet, if there is any hope at all, this will be one of the better methods to try.

Don't get hung up on unimportant things.[3] Be selective in your battles. Don’t hit air; aim well at targets carefully chosen. Lay aside those things that will encumber your efforts. Make a list of all the things that bother you. Then rank them. Go after the top priority items and drop the bottom half of the list. Resolve not to bring up any of those issues.

Keep potential harm in mind. When dealing with a behavior, think about how important the issue is. Is it really an important enough of an issue to get into an argument? Who is it harming? It might be embarrassing, but is it really harmful? Though not immediately harmful, will it lead to harmful behavior? If on the other hand the child’s behavior is dangerous, either to themselves or others, then it may be necessary to take some sort of action, though not necessarily confrontation.

Patience and forgiveness, though difficult at times, is vital.[4] Parents need to be firm but fair. The key is to treat the prodigal as an adult but to protect them as much as possible and to be there when they finally come home.

Realize that the mechanisms used in the past no longer work.[5]That means that if you would not put up with abusive language from another adult, then don’t put up with it from them. If you would take the time to listen to another adult’s full argument then take the time to listen to them. If the behavior persists then you treat them like they would treat another adult. If this means that you wouldn't talk to an adult that talked to you that way then when the child talks to you in their tone then you walk away or ask them to. Conflict can often occur simply because the parent is slow to realize he is talking to a young adult, not a large child.

This is what “treating them like an adult” means.

[1] Matthew 16:13-17

[2] John 10:31-36; Matthew 21:23-27

[3] 1 Corinthians 9:26; Hebrews 12:1

[4] 1 Corinthians 4:10-16

[5] Ecclesiastes 3:1-5