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The Way

    by Kevin Pauley

Advice to Parents of Wayward Children, Part 9
Date Posted: November 29, 2022

“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

The godly father could have been offended by his older son’s coldness. The younger son demonstrated selfishness in asking for his inheritance early. The older son demonstrated selfish pride in his “good” behavior. Instead of getting angry and bitter, the wise father entreated his son to rejoice in his brother’s restitution.

Paul enjoins us to carefully consider to whom we are speaking and to craft our approach accordingly.[1]Do not waste time speaking inappropriately. Don’t just blurt out what comes first to your mind. Don’t keep using strategies that have not worked in the past. Choose the strategy that will work.

Don’t yell. One of you needs to be the adult.[2] Someone in this situation needs to be the calm mature voice of reason. It might as well be you. Subtle lessons like these take time to work but they do work. Yelling and pleading with them doesn't because it only teaches how to get someone to yell.

Don’t simply “wait it out.”[3] True love is active. It involves constantly encouraging those things that make for righteousness and constantly trying to prune out those things which are evil. The worst advice you can give the parent of a wayward child is “He’ll grow out of it.” You might think that would be the most comforting thing you could say. But the problem with that attitude is that while you are waiting for him to grow out of it, you are doing nothing to change the situation. You are waiting for him, who is wrong, to realize that you and your values are right.

Instead, try to nip bad behavior in the bud. Discipline the behavior as soon as you realize the error.[4] Don’t waste time regretting that you didn’t do it when they were little. Just start doing what you can as soon as you can. Study, learn, read. Do what you can to be aware of early warning signs and take them seriously. Early professional intervention can alter behavior. The longer the behavior is permitted, the less likely change will occur.

Maintain the lines of communication. Like the wise father, make sure the child knows you will receive them if they will only turn from their sin. You need to be in constant communication. Don't widen the gap and make it more difficult for them to return.


[1] 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:4-5,11

[3] Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 13:6

[4] Proverbs 19:18

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Biography Information:
I make no claim of superior wisdom or originality. I am a student, just like everyone else. My goal in writing is to simply share whatever God chooses to teach me (many times by my children or parishioners) on any given day. I hope the devotionals are a blessing to you.

Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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