CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Children's Emotional Health and Behavioral Problems, Part 3
Redeeming a Difficult Standoff with your Child
By Christopher Schwinger
Part 1: Causes of Rebellious Behavior
Part 2: Problems with Cohabitating
Part 3: Redeeming a Difficult Standoff
Part 4: The Importance of Proportionate Discipline
In April, I was assigned a mind-numbingly difficult question about what a parent should do if a son who has recently come of age takes overnight trips with his girlfriend. The mother who asked me the question said talking about Biblical morality hasn't made much difference with her 19-year-old son and that his girlfriend has a 3-year relationship in her past. She wondered what I thought about cutting off financial support for college and almost everything else under such circumstances, concluding with "I think we should limit our financial support and ask him to help pay for some things like car insurance since he has enough money to pay for vacation as a deterrent."If I were her son, I would want to know why my girlfriend's previous three-year-long relationship got started and ended, and whether this was making the girlfriend more desperate for a replacement. I'd also want to know whether she has her own understanding of God's grace. People often forget that the relationships of the past always define the relationships of the future, except when God intervenes in their hearts in the present. You don't need to be a psychoanalyst to have a successful relationship; you just need to find out a lot about your potential mate.
From the beginning of his break from his Christian upbringing to when he started Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner went through about five steps. First he encouraged his first wife to have premarital sex. Then, when he was away, she cheated on him, which hurt him deeply. They married anyway. But instead of working through the infidelity and finding more cohesion as a couple, Hefner joined her, having foursomes with another couple. Soon after, he started Playboy magazine. He had built his philosophy of love on secular humanist psychology college classes to fill a void from parents who wouldn't emotionally connect with him. He was emotionally repressed and searched for a replacement, which led to the belief that sex, even before marriage, would meet his emotional needs.
I wrote to this mother that I'm concerned if she tells her son he has to comply with her and her husband's rules about the circumstances of him seeing his girlfriend, threatening to make him pay for his own expenses (which will make it very hard for him to have fun with his girlfriend and other friends), that it will make him more angry and defiant. If her son doesn't properly appreciate the importance of marrying a fellow believer, the way to turn him around is not going to be to bully him into it. However, the way she framed the question emphasized the circumstances of his association with her and whether that association is a temptation to have a sexual relationship.
I believe the best way to work through that with him is to problem-solve, something I wish all the authorities I have had in my life would have done, because this would make him feel empowered to find a way to keep enjoying experiences with her but not lose his Christian testimony — assuming he somewhat cares about it — and give him a chance to get to know her.
As flawed people, our natural tendency is to assert authority through pressure instead of winning over people's devotion. I rhetorically asked:
What would you say is the most important thing to you with your son's association with his girlfriend? That it may encourage them to have a premarital sexual relationship? Or that it looks to others like they could be having premarital sex? Probably both, right? If your son understands your intent, and that you have good reasons for believing this way, he'll probably be a lot more pliable. I don't think it will be easy if you don't have a decent relationship with him already, but if he's essentially a Christian but growing more influenced by his ungodly peers, you still have a chance to redeem it. I think his response to you trying to problem-solve will help you determine whether to financially limit him. My dad and my brother have often been at loggerheads because my dad wants my brother to not spend so much on outdoorsy trips with friends when he's in debt from health expenses, but it sounds like your issue is more about the moral principles than the financial priorities.
Image Credit: kpgolfpro; untitled; Creative Commons
Next week: The Importance of Proportionate Discipline
Image Credit: Tabitha Cichy; "Time-Out"; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Family-Life | Personal-Life | Personal-Relationships | Sin-Evil
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Published on 6-7-16