My son’s little legs raced across the field as his kite bounced along on the ground behind him. A gust of wind caught the kite’s corner and lifted it above the grass. “Let out the string!” I called. As he released a few feet of twine, the kite caught the breeze and soared into the air. “Keep letting it out!” I urged him. While the string extended, the kite rose higher and higher. We both exulted at the sight of the colorful kite dancing in the summer sky.
As a mom, it’s even more exhilarating to see my children soaring into the future God has planned for each of them. Yet for them to rise up and claim their independence, I have to let out the “string” so they can fly. It takes faith to relax my grip and allow them to go where God takes them.
Parenting five kids has required a lot of letting go. Our son grew from pedaling his bike down the driveway to driving off in a moving van with his bride by his side. Our little curly-headed daughter learned to cross the street, and now she’s crossed oceans to serve Jesus. Every milestone presents a choice as we raise our five kids: will we hold on more tightly or trust and let go?
How do we exercise faith while we let out the string of our kids’ independence year by year? We remember these six truths along the way:
Know your purpose.
Our goal as moms and dads is to put ourselves out of a job! The skills and habits we teach, the material needs we provide, and the encouragement we offer is designed to equip our kids for adulthood.
God sets the example through his desire to see his children mature: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) We, too, are called to persevere in training so our kids are given the tools to build a complete, abundant life.
Pave a two-way street.
Our sweet infants were on the receiving end of generous attention and care. In love, we met their needs without expecting anything in return. Yet as our children grow in maturity and strength, we begin to stand shoulder to shoulder. Our relationship with our kids goes both ways. They become capable of helping as they’ve been helped and giving as they’ve received. It’s good and right to invite our kids to share the load at home.
As parents, we can also take off our “teacher hat” and learn from our kids. Their unique perceptions of current events and human behavior can expand our worldview. Kids’ use of technology can show us new ways to connect with others. Their interests and experiences allow us to try new things. For example, our daughter has challenged us to give up plastic in favor of zero-waste alternatives. We adopted a greyhound after our middle child researched and introduced us to the stand-out qualities of the breed. Some of our best family conversations involve unpacking scripture as they bring fresh perspectives to the table. Our kids let us see the world with new eyes as we invite their input.
Use wisdom with your wallet.
Our oldest daughter lived at home for a few months after completing her last mission assignment. She recently thanked us for requiring a modest amount of rent during this time of preparing for her next move. Our request for rent said, “We view you as an adult. We recognize your hard work and independence. You’re capable and contribute to our lives.” The money we both give to and require from our kids makes a real impact.
When it comes to money, our dollars can hinder our kids. It can be an ugly tool to keep control if our funds come with strings attached. We can prolong our kids’ immaturity as we shelter them from the realities of life. Giving too much for the wrong reasons holds our kids back from moving forward.
Helping our kids financially can also be a great blessing. It provides tangible support of their goals for school, ministry, career, or their wedding day. A timely gift can be a stepping stone to our sons and daughters fulfilling their potential. The key is in the giving. We must ask ourselves a few questions whenever we take out our wallet:
Am I giving to buy my child’s loyalty or favor, or am I trying to appease their emotions?
Will this gift keep my son or daughter in a state of childlike dependency?
Am I meeting a true need or just a temporary desire?
Do I sacrifice my own financial security for my child’s gain?
Am I using my money to keep control or influence over my child’s life?
Has my child explored other means of meeting their financial needs?
As we consider how to support our kids financially, we can pray and ask God for wisdom. He’ll teach us to apply his Word that says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Make room for failure.
I recently asked my daughter what “support” means to her. She expressed how she needed room to make mistakes. Rather than giving the play-by-play for every life decision, she needs freedom to put herself to the test. Our daughter craves the chance to exercise trial and error on her own.
As a parent, it’s hard to see a child sailing into uncharted waters. What if they sink? What if life’s storms blow them off course? Will they follow a reliable map and the compass of faith they’ve been raised with? It takes courage to release our kids, knowing the challenges they’re sure to face. Yet failure is a powerful teacher God can use to fully grow our kids.
Failure also opens the door to grace. When our kids know love and compassion will stand firm no matter how they stumble, our relationship endures.
Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
As much as our kids act tough and self-sufficient, they want to know we value their thoughts. They call us out if our phones keep us from giving them full attention. They crave eye contact. Time. Full engagement. Attentive listening says their words and emotions have value. Listening ears will boost their confidence and self-worth in the tough work of growing up.
It’s been a slow lesson to learn as a parent, but it’s clear kids need to process life out loud. In those priceless moments when they feel like talking, they need a sounding board. The lines of communication stay open when I’m quiet instead of reacting to what they say.
Before jumping in with my opinions, I can dig a little deeper with questions like, “What kind of outcome are you hoping for? How might that choice affect your relationships? Would you go back and do things differently if you could? What barriers are keeping you from moving forward?” Inviting kids to talk lets them consider their options and know their own minds. And, they’ll feel respected and more likely to value our input in the future.
Pray and wait.
Our kids’ road to adulthood is rarely straight or smooth. As parents, we worry and wonder if they’ll arrive in one piece. One moment it feels they’re moving ahead too fast, and the next we fear they’ll never stand on their own two feet. Sins and foolish choices lead to painful consequences, and we suffer along with them. Parenting is a huge test of faith as we carry both fear and hope for our children.
In God’s kindness, he invites us to pray. Temptation to nag and complain melts away as frustrations are placed in God’s hands. Fear and stress are relieved as we call on God’s power and strength. Pain and disappointment find comfort in his loving arms. By entrusting our kids to an all-knowing, perfect heavenly Father, our crushing burden is lifted. We don’t have to hold all the answers. We no longer try to act as our kids’ conscience or guide at all times. His Spirit gives the kindness and patience we need to bear with our kids through it all.
Moms and dads, let’s “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” for our children. (Ephesians 6:18) Our great God will prove himself faithful.
As you let out the string to trust the Lord with your kids, you’re able to celebrate each new season of their lives. You can savor the shift from your role of authority to one of influence. You celebrate the friendship you’re cultivating as they grow. As the daily demands of parenting diminish, you’re set free to explore new callings that give you joy. The Spirit can rekindle the passions and interests you’ve set aside to serve your family. Rather than remaining stuck in grieving the end of one life season, God will stir hope for what’s still to come.
(Originally posted at the kind invitation of Crosswalk.com.)