Letting your child grow upWritten by Dr. Tim Kimmel
What's inside this article
Please allow me to be a bit vulnerable. There have only been a handful of times in my adult life when I have had to fight a battle with uncontrollable tears. One was when my mother died. Another was the day I watched our son, Cody, drive down our street, turn the corner and head off for his future. He wasn’t leaving for another semester of college or for some temporary adventure; he was leaving for good.
Most of my sadness was for me. I was going to miss the relationship that I had enjoyed with him up to that point in his life. I had been his provider and protector. But those roles had come to an abrupt halt when I hugged him goodbye and watched him drive away. From that moment on, he was assuming complete responsibility for his life. It was what he was born to do.
I knew from my own experience that there were some tough lessons waiting for him; lessons that he would have to face on his own. He could call for advice, but I wouldn’t be able to direct his actions or come to his rescue when he failed. Oh, I could . . . if I wanted to keep him weak and co-dependent. But if I was going to operate in his best interest, it was crucial that I let him go. It’s one of the toughest parts of parenting.
The mantra of parenting used to go something like this: "Be in by twelve and out by eighteen." A child brought up in this kind of environment knew that he or she had better get up to speed quickly because once they turned 18, it was "Ready or not, here I am." And the parent knew that they’d better be deliberate in that brief corridor of time because once that child left the launch pad, there would be little that they could add to their child’s journey into adulthood.
Today, however, four years of college are now considered part of a minimal education for the future. But launching kids to independence is not as simple as adding four or five years to that original plan before they make a clean break. The lines between dependence and independence have been radically blurred by two huge factors: insecure, over-controlling parents and technology.
There have always been insecure and over-controlling parents. But, in the past, all a child had to do to solve that problem was move outside the range of their parents’ sphere of control. Distance and time usually weaned Mom and Dad of their overbearing ways.
That’s much harder to do now that technology has turned Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the "global village" into a reality. Cell phones, text messaging, emails and video conferencing have virtually erased any distance between parents and their children. If a parent wants to continue to wield daily influence in their adult children’s lives, it’s just a speed-dial away.
Moving to the background
Proverbs 22:6 reminds us that we are to: "Train up a child in the way that they should go, and when they are older they will not depart from it." There needs to be a point on the calendar when our role as parents moves from being a resource in our children’s lives to a reference point. We can be a sounding board for their dreams and their disappointments. But we must resist the toxic urge to continue to manage their day-to-day schedules or try to write the script for their future.
Most of all, we must let them succeed or fail financially on their own. To do otherwise is to create a noxious alliance between parents and grown children that keeps those children weak, pollutes their marriages and ultimately stunts their potential.
All I’m talking about is that day when we hand our children completely over to God’s "24/7/365" watch-care. Our job was to raise them in an environment of grace; meet their inner needs for security, significance and strength; put character into their hearts; and aim them at a great future of loving God and serving others.
When our children are young, we are to be God’s assistant. But, ultimately, there comes a time when we must move to the background so that He can occupy our place in the foreground of their lives. On that day, we may shed some tears, but we can be certain that "He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6). That’s our daily prayer for Cody and for your children, too.
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