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Linda Settles Zebsokey

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Family Matters
by Linda Settles Zebsokey   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, March 06, 2009
Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2008

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Parenting our adult children requires a daily search for wisdom and grace...

A  couple of nights ago I got a call from my twenty-year old daughter at about 1:00 am  "I'll be out until around 3:00, Mom," she told me.  "A lot of my friends are here and the party has just started."

Since Christiana lives at home, I insist that if she is going to be late, she gives me a call so I don't worry myself into a frenzy.  "Okay, 3:00."

Something happened that took me by surprise after that.  You don't have time for all the details, but let's just say I didn't like what she had to say in her next call, and I let her know it in no uncertain terms. She called back to say she was coming home.  Somehow I sensed that there was more to the story and I told her to stay at her friend's house.  "Don't come home tonight."  We live an hour away and crazy thoughts of car wrecks and sliding into deep ravines rushed through my mind.  "No, Chris.  Don't come home until tomorrow."

I couldn't go back to sleep. There was something I needed to know.  Something important.  I got up and went to my quiet place and sat in my favorite rocking chair. Sometimes in the early hours of the morning, I got it!  I am going to share this bit of wisdom with you. 

When a child is small, we manage his behavior by discipline appropriate to his age and understanding.  We may spank him, give him a time out, or take away a priviledge. 

When that same child reaches puberty, our methods of discipline must change to fit the development of the child.  A child in puberty should never be spanked. To do so undermines his budding sense of independence and works against the very maturity that we want him to achieve. So we take away treasured activities, limit his free time, assign him chores, or confiscate his cell phone.  In short, we give him consequences in keeping with his "crime," and he learns that every choice has a consequence and poor decisions will cost him something.

But what do we do when that child grows up?  What if he, or in this case, she, is a loving daughter who submits to many of the requirements of living in your home, but in other situations, insists on maintaining her own standards--standards that are at odds with your own?

This is the situation I found myself in early Saturday morning.  It was then that I realized that my habitual pattern of demonstrating my disappointment in my daughter's choices, and communicating my disappointment in her decision to do what she wants to do rather than what I think is right, I practically push her into deception.  I have set the price on honesty too high for her to pay, forcing her into a position of either lying or confessing to something that she knows will exact an emotional toll on her tender spirit that she is unwilling to pay.  I am not playing fair.  While she would have accepted the consequences if I had reduced my financial support for a season (something I did later do) or taken away her use of my car, the price I demanded was that she feel the full weight of my pain, of my fear for her, and of my disappointment in her choices. I learned later that she would have put herself at risk to come home in order to keep from disappointing me--though driving home (due to her choices earlier in the evening) would have endangered both herself and others.  That is when I realized that my parenting needed to change. While my children may tell me the truth most of the time if it means facing unpleasant consequences, they will rarely tell me the truth if they believe they will cause me hurt or disappointment by acknowledging what they have done.

The lesson that I learned is this:I can influence my adult children by expressing my feelings about their behaviors without overburdening them with the emotional distress induced by their choices.  The consequences of their actions belongs to them--but my emotional distress, my fears for them, and my  disappointment belong to me.  Manipulating our adult children with our emotional reaction to their choices is counterproductive and may drive them away from us and deeper into high risk or unhealthy behaviors.

"Come now and let us reason together," the Lord said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah. (l:18)

With reason and consequences the Lord sought to bring repentence to erring Israel.  Isn't that what we want? Children who have learned to work out their choices with reason and take accept the consequences of their decisions.


For More on this go to: My Articles/ A Hope To Embrace


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Reviewed by Cryssa C 12/15/2008
I agree, and yet I disagree... but I only have one adult child... hee, hee...
I think it is okay to show/state that you are disappointed with a child's ACTIONS... not the child.
Adopting older children is a totally different ball of wax... and some of my children need to be taught that their actions affect others, how to feel remorse for bad decisions and learn how to accept responsibility for their actions. For several of my children this is extremely difficult, and until they learn that their actions affect others and how to accept responsibility for those actions, they will never feel remorse and want to correct their actions.
I would much prefer that they learn those lessons while I am there to support them, then when they are out in the cold cruel world. My lessons are hopefully a little softer than the slap of the world. In the end... you are right...all I really want is children who accept responsibility for their actions.

Reviewed by Alan Busch 12/15/2008
good morning Linda at 3:00 am
some very good thoughts here. as a father of three children, i too share the weighty burden of worriment and fear that afflicts us when our kids are out in the world, and while we may trust many of their decisions, we have no control over the force of peer pressure and the misconduct of the next guy who may be drunk behind he wheel. i told my son zac years back the story unfortunately truthful that a bunch of high schoolers thought it quite funny to remove a stop sign from an intersection and keep it as a prize. within the hour there was a fatal accident at that precise intersection about which the police determined was due to the theft of the sign. so we worry and fret that we have enabled them, retain our faith that the One Above keeps them in the fold of His hand, but these matters as you know-once in His hands, are out of ours. okay i'm beginning to ramble. my hope that your daughter arrived home safely and she develops at least in part the wisdom of her mother long before she becomes one herself.

i remain,

very sincerely yours,

alan d. busch
Reviewed by Cynthia Buhain-Baello 12/14/2008
Hello Linda,

Very educational and partly true. I have experienced the pain of having discovered my daughter (aged 30) had made decisions without telling me, but on second thought, I realized she was no longer a "child" and whatever the consequences of her decision, it was her responsibility and not mine. It was her life and I had to let go.
Like the mother eagle who pushes her chicks out of the nest (to teach them how to fly) I too had to let her "fly". My son (aged 31, also single) told me maybe I was too busy living my life for others (them) I forgot to live my life for myself. Now I have other interests, like business, crafts, and writing...and found a new love (at 60) and getting married next month! They have "let me go" too!

Reviewed by Donna Hollin (Reader) 12/14/2008
I love the picture!!! I am still working on the rest. What is nice is not having to deal with the grown child living at home. I love to encourage him and pray that his consequences will not be too much for him or us to bear. I do believe that in due time he will wake up to see what he needs to do with his life. I spend more time on my needs (or talking to my sister) about my fears and concerns. The one thing I know is that no matter how old or grown our children get they always want to know that thier parents love and adore them. And no matter what they put us through they do know that we love them!!!
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