How to Parent a Child Who Pushes Away the Things of God
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The nighttime routine with one sister had been sweet: We had shared highs and lows from the day, said our nightly rote prayers—one of which we wrote together—and then talked and prayed about friends, school, and teachers. I kissed her on her forehead and wished her a good night’s sleep.
Now to the second sister.
I stood outside her bedroom door, wondering what tonight would hold. I entered too timidly, I suppose and asked if she had anything she wanted to pray about. She pushed her palm toward me in mid-air, and I heard the words, “Go away.” There was probably an eye roll, too, but it was too dark to see.
I sat on the very edge of her bed and said a short prayer, all the while her body turned emphatically away from me. “I love you,” I said. “I hope you sleep well.”
Another night in the books. Another night of my heart hurting over what this child is missing.
How had this come to be? My prayers for both children were the same, their environment was the same, but while one child belts out praise songs, the other one seems to deliberately keep her distance from God.
I know some of you relate. We all want to excel at raising godly girls. You hear other moms talk about their meaningful devotion time with their children or see what looks like perfect mother-daughter relationships on Facebook or Instagram, and you wonder, Where did I go wrong?
Let me say some things we all know but hate to admit: Each child must come to know Jesus for herself, and, try as we may, we cannot force her into a relationship with her Savior. We know this, right? Yet we long for our sons and daughters to know the abundance of life with Jesus and know it now!
Have you, like me, known people who came to know the Lord in their 30s and 40s? As much as it hurts my heart, could it be that the child who pushes away the things of God will come to the Lord much later in life?
In the meantime, how in the world are we to raise these children who exhibit no evidence that we are raising godly girls?
Notice the Good
As we are raising these children who snub their noses at quiet time and could care less about pretty printables and devotionals, it will help our heart to notice the good.
For me, the good looks like this:
The same child who pushes away prayer at night takes off her seatbelt at the stoplight and leaps across seats to grab the bag from the trunk for the homeless man.
The child who rolls her eyes at me for just about everything bravely told a school counselor about the abuse a friend faced at home. A child advocate in the making?
She might not say prayers for herself yet, but when she was accused of something at school, she listened intently as I prayed for the truth to come to light.
Make your own list. What good do you notice in your child who pushes away the things of God? I will admit it: It took me a long time to come up with that list of three. So if you only spot one good spiritual thing, well, there it is. Grab onto that one thing!
What’s the Right Balance?
I fear that by now you have already judged some of what I have written. How awful that I allow occasional eye rolls or that a child will even dare to put a palm up at me. I haven’t taken the space to write about the times when I do impose discipline or the tremendous conversations that occur during windshield time or while bumping a volleyball in the driveway.
If you are raising a child who is closed off to spiritual things, you know the daily challenge of finding balance: You walk a precarious tightrope between executing godly discipline and pushing the child further away from God’s love.
I cling to the true meaning of Proverbs 22:6, which is deciphered so well in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition:
Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 AMPC)
I am convinced that lording my faith with an iron hand over this child will only serve to push her away. Instead, it is as if she is sitting, agitated, in my loosely cupped hand, pecking at my fingers, which hurts beyond belief. Even so, there she sits, still under my roof, with every opportunity to leap from my hand and blaze a destructive path.
Let me share with you a few decisions I have made in finding that balance, in helping her experience the truth while she still lives within the safety of my cupped hand.
Even as I type these, I cringe at most of them, and yet, above all, my goal is to surround her with a godly environment—one in which she has every opportunity to become a godly girl.
We have stopped doing nightly devotions together, but she still hears them in the other room and sees other adults spending time in the Word. One of the biggest impressions on my faith growing up was hearing my parents do their nightly devotions together.
It took several months before she joined her middle school Sunday school class. She hung out in the church office or on the couches in the lobby. So, yeah, not ideal, but it was a process, and now she attends her Sunday school class without argument.
She absolutely loves being productive and working with children. So on some Sundays, she works in the nursery and does not come into the church service. Does it just about kill me when she’s not in church? Yes.
But she’s in a healthy environment, interacting with godly moms and dads, and I’ll take it.
This child is a chatterbox, so when she does sit in church with me, I will occasionally let her chat with me during the service. Sometimes we interact about parts of the sermon. Sometimes she makes lists of chores she can do to earn money. Are you dying that I allow this? I am so glad she’s actually in church that my perspective on this is different than I would ever expect! If it makes you feel any better, I don’t allow chit-chat while we are singing, praying, or confessing.
I don’t allow her to be on her phone during church, and she must stand and sit when the rest of us do. Every once in a while, I’ll look out of the corner of my eye and notice her singing. And every once in a while, she sees me tearing up at the movement of the Holy Spirit in my worship. She cocks her head and notices.
Pray, Pray, and Pray Some More
I have seen God work in our household in ways I would never have expected. He has answered prayers I wondered if I could even pray. From early on, He purposed a plan for these girls. So there is no reason to think He is not listening and already responding, already making paths for these girls to walk with Him.
This school year, I adopted John 10:27 as the verse I prayed for both children:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.(John 10:28 ESV)
Dear Lord, help our children to hear your voice and follow you! Help us to understand the bent of our children and to figure out how to guide them toward relationship with you. Give us wisdom beyond our human capabilities, and lead us and our children in the way everlasting. In your strong and faithful name, we pray, Amen.
Would you like some prayer cards to support you in raising godly girls or boys?
You can download them here! They are yours to cut apart, laminate, and post around the house or carry with you.
You are not alone. Let’s walk this journey together!
ARE YOU A BOY MOM?
Do you ever struggle with how you are going to raise godly boys in a world where sexual purity is not a priority? Cathy Walters of Simple Life Happy Living shares 4 steps to take to instill sexual purity while raising your son because Purity Matters in Raising Godly Boys
∞ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ∞
By day, Christine Drews edits exercise science manuscripts. By night, she blogs over at Digging Deeper with God, where she offers a platform where you can Meet with God and Grow in Faith. She loves bicycling, gardening, leading adult Bible classes, and mentoring the children in her life.
She is convinced that the middle school years might do her in: If the science projects don’t turn her hair gray, the raging preteen hormones will. More than anything, Christine loves noticing God at work. She readily admits that she is an imperfect person redeemed by a holy God and invites you to join her in drawing closer to Jesus. You can find her on Facebook and on Pinterest!