Over the past five weeks, we have explored biblical parenting in-depth. It is critical that we consciously receive our children as a gift from God. This is the first step in the parenting process. Next, we must raise our children using a strategic parenting plan based upon biblical principles, being more intentional and less haphazard. The third step in the parenting process is releasing your child. Releasing your child involves an act of the will by which you launch your child toward the predetermined target of dependence upon God and interdependence with others. As your children are released, they will feel a sense of responsibility for their own life. Your children should also feel a freedom from parental rules and demands. As parents, you no longer circumscribe your children’s lives; however, the hope is that your influence remains strong. In addition to a sense of personal responsibility and freedom from parental rules/demands, children should feel parental affirmation and love. Verbally affirm your love for and confidence in your children.
The parenting process involves slowly and incrementally unplugging our kids from ourselves, and plugging them into God. As our children get older, we want their dependence, identity and purpose to increasingly be tied to God, rather than to us. We want our God to become their God. As we release our children, we feel mixed emotions: a sense of loss and a sense of gain; accomplishment and relief; a decisive relinquishment to God to guide His child; and a continued burden to pray. As we release our children, we no longer tell them what to do. We allow them to make their own decisions. When they ask for it, we offer our advice. But we let them know they have to make their own decisions and they have to take responsibility for the outcomes. This will result in a very special friendship. They will always be your son or daughter, but they will no longer be “your little boy or little girl.” It right and natural that our relationship with our children change as they mature. Releasing our children means not rescuing them from consequences. You can’t keep parenting your adult children. If you keep rescuing them, you will cripple their development, and may well interfere with the consequences God may want to bring their way to help them grow up. At some point, you have to hand your children over to God. We must release our children financially; we can’t keep paying their way. We may help out every now and then, but our goal is that they become financially independent.
What barriers keep us from properly releasing our children? For some of us, it is the fact that we were never really released by our own parents. Some of you who have been out on your own now for years have parents who are still trying to control you by using guilt or money, or some other form of emotional manipulation. A second barrier that keeps us from properly releasing our children is the fear that we will lose our influence and our relationship if we let them go. Most of us will have 18 to 21 years to influence your children. If they haven’t responded to your influence in that time frame, a few more years isn’t going to make a difference. A third barrier to properly releasing your adult children is an empty marriage. Too often, moms and dads spend the child rearing years so investing in their children that they forget to invest in their marriage. And they become strangers to one another. And because of that relational void, they begin to look to their children to provide the love and companionship they should find in one another.
As parents, there is one thing that we all need to recognize: one day, your children will leave, whether you release them or not. But they will get along much better, and so will you, if you release them in a healthy and decisive way.
Application / Challenge
- Receive your children as a gift from God.
- Point them toward the appropriate target and raise them accordingly.
- And then prayerfully release them to live dependently upon God and interdependently with others.