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The tensions are at an all-time high when a child you love dearly is ruining his life and wants to return home because he has no place to go. It is one thing to watch him do this from afar, but a different ballgame when he wants to bring his chaos into your home.
Here are a few ideas that I want you to consider. They won’t fit every situation perfectly, and I doubt all of them will apply to you. But you will see that several of them will be relevant and applicable to your lives. They aren’t in order of priority.
1 – Decide – You and your spouse must know how to make a biblical decision. This article will clearly lay that out for you. Become familiar with it and make sure you’re doing all the things that I suggest, including getting outside help from those who know you well and can provide trustworthy biblical care.
2 – Your Reputation – There will be a temptation to hide the truth about your lives from others. Resist this desire immediately. The more you try to “save face” in front of others, the more you will hinder the favor of God. He resists the proud but provides empowering favor to the humble (James 4:6). It’s illogical to go to your doctor and withhold what is happening to you. Do not be illogical; you can’t control this, and the Lord does not want you to.
3 – Communication – I’m not suggesting that you blab your problems to everyone. What I’m saying is that discretion is vital, but that does not mean keeping the truth of your lives from the appropriate people. Gossip will never go away in the church or anywhere else. But if your fear of what others may think is stronger than what God thinks about you, then you have a worship disorder. Fight to be God-centered, not reputation-centered.
4 – Marriage – You and your husband must be on the same page, so whatever current disagreements that you have, you must work to resolve them. Perhaps seeing your pastor or talking to a “trustworthy friend” will help. There is only one option for your marriage, and that is unity. Your son will bring his chaos to your home because that is the nature of a chaotic life, and if your marriage is not stable, he will divide you both. If your marriage cannot take that kind of burden now, then it would be unwise for you to let him into your home. Your number one priority, outside of your relationship to God, is your marriage.
5 – Your Child – Your son is living out who he is. As hard as it is to accept, the fruit in his life is showing you what is in his heart (Luke 6:45). The “good news” in this dark time is that you know him now, as observed by his behaviors. Sometimes individuals mask who they are, and you can’t help them because you don’t know them. In this case, you’re getting a clear view of your son. Though what you’re seeing is discouraging, learn to thank God that the “mask is off,” and you know what you got. No counselor, discipler, or friend can help anyone if they do not see the truth about them.
6 – Ground Rules – You want to begin talking through what your ground rules should be. All ground rules must center around the idea of shalom; if something disrupts the peace in the home, you must make changes. If anything that he does displaces the shalom, you have to address. What are some things you can live with, and what are things that won’t work for you and your spouse? You could think about it like your personal peace. If something is disrupting your soul (home), you must resist and remove it.
7 – Mini-Messiah – You are not the Savior, but merely God’s waterboy (or girl). Your job is to cooperate with the Lord in the redemption of souls. It’s never right for you to cross that line to where it becomes your job to change him. If you attempt to oversteer the car, (1) peace will flee, (2) frustration will mount, and (3) your relationships will splinter. Know your place, which is watering and planting, and nothing more (1 Corinthians 3:6).
8 – Regret – One reason parents put on the “mini-messiah cape” is that they feel responsible for the child’s problems. You have made mistakes, like all parents. Nobody parents perfectly. But nobody gets to play the victim. Your child has the chance to change, and whatever the dynamics were in the home, they are not excuses for him not to do the right thing. If he tries to manipulate you for “being a bad parent,” do not submit to that voice. If you condemn yourself, you must reorient your mind immediately because it’s arrogance to think you can make a person be this or that. Just like you can’t change anyone to be good, you cannot make them bad people either.
9 – Repent – If there were mistakes in your parenting past, ask God and your child to forgive you. This opportunity not only removes the sin, but it models to your child what the power of Christ can be like for him. Do not become overly introspective, but if there are legitimate sins out there, do the right thing by trusting God as He walks you through the repentance process.
10 – Responsibility – If his life is chaotic, you want to help reorder it. Chaos is the opposite of being “put together.” Think about how you can help to put him back together again. One of the ways to do that is not to give him a free ride with no responsibility. By creating structure in his life, you will prepare him for the future. Currently, he’s all over the map, no self-control, and doing whatever he wants to do. You do not want to enable him.
11 – Other Children – If you have other children in the home, your foremost responsibility is to them. They are at various formative stages of physical and spiritual development. Just as you would protect them from other evil influences, you may have to guard them against the potential evil shenanigans from your wayward child. You don’t want to become “wayward-child-centered.”
12 – Escalation – Ultimately, your child is rejecting God, not you primarily (1 Samuel 8:7). Keep this truth in view all the time. At the heart of your son’s problems is his non-existent or broken relationship with God. Rather than choosing to follow Christ, he is seeking human-centered means to feel better, i.e., sex, alcohol, weed, etc. As he continues to do this, expect things to worsen because of his resistance to the Lord. If you don’t factor in an uptick in chaotic escalation, your disappointment will surprise you, as well as your sinful reactions to whatever the “drama of the day” will be.
13 – Deception – Being deceitful comes with the “dysfunctional package.” And lying comes in different shades; read this on that. He may not tell big lies, but he will be deceptive because being transparent, honest, humble, and moral is not his current lifestyle. While you don’t want to be suspicious of everything that comes out of his mouth, you want to be discerning. In one ditch, there is gullibleness, and in the other is cynicism. Practical wisdom sits between those two.
14 – Stealing – If he does not get a job, you want to think about theft as part of the “deception paradigm.” There could be a temptation to steal things like your credit cards, cash, or other items. Depending on where his depravity is will determine how you want to think about this. Some wayward kids just need a break to get a leg up on life. Others are deeper into sin, and they may be willing to burn relational bridges.
15 – Counseling – Perhaps one of your ground rules for him living with you is counseling. Insist that he meets for weekly or bi-weekly counseling for an indefinite period. Perhaps, he meets with a biblical individual in your church. Also, make church attendance as part of the conditions for staying with you all. Maybe there are other ways to connect him to sound help. Make sure he’s associating with appropriate biblical helpers.
16 – Community – You want a close community of friends who are willing to walk with you through this. This kind of problem is a recipe for relational disaster, which could include your marriage, son, other children, extended family, and the church. I’ve seen it adversely impact all those areas, which is a call to “build your team.” If you attempt to go at this alone, you’re begging for more trouble than what it has to be.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).