Parenting is one of the most fulfilling and challenging roles in life, and it doesn’t stop when our children reach adulthood. In fact, parenting adult children can be just as difficult, if not more so, as we navigate the changing dynamics of our relationship with them. In this post, Mary DeMuth explores some of the key themes from her book, Love, Pray, Listen, and how they can help us find joy and purpose in parenting our adult kids.
This week on the Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast, Mary shared more encouragement on how to parent adult children when they choose a different path. If you missed that podcast, you can listen here: Adult Children: How To Parent When They Choose a Different Path – Episode 213
Be sure to read to the end for a book giveaway!
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
Love, Pray, Listen: Finding Joy and Purpose in Parenting Adult Kids
By Mary DeMuth
When you lament the choices your adult kids are making, it helps to remember the story of the first humans, Adam and Eve. We continue to experience the aftermath of their rebellion, but God’s reaction is noteworthy and frames the hopeful message of this book. Adam and Eve rebelled, but . . .
God loved them still.
He interceded for their nakedness by covering them with animal skins.
He asked them, “Where are you?” then listened.
Love, pray, listen.
This is how our God parented wayward adult children.
Still, the human race gave rise to violent behavior that culminated in a worldwide flood of judgment, then a chosen people who rebelled far more often than they obeyed. This willful rebellion took eons to atone for in the form a Perfect Son who self-sacrificed for the sake of us all who daily fight back stubbornness and pride like an ever-multiplying cancer.
The truth: God’s children rebelled. Ours will too. We do too.
We are all in need of the grace of Jesus Christ. There is no hierarchy in the kingdom. Parents aren’t better than children or closer in line to the mountaintop. In fact, when I finally realized that parenting isn’t about me, but about my deepening relationship with Jesus, I found that level place.
When my children played under our roof, it was often them who taught me about the kindness and compassion of God. When I failed them (and I often did), I had the beautiful opportunity to exercise my humble muscle and ask for forgiveness—which brought us close together and further revealed my need for Jesus. We moved from high control (the baby and toddler years), to working our way out of a job (low control), slowly releasing our grip, teaching responsibility, then moving from hovering to emancipating.
Parenting, then, is an excruciating exercise in letting go.
Our children were never ours.
They were and are God’s.
We had the holy privilege of stewarding them for eighteen years, and now we have the joy of watching them fly on their own. Yes, some sputter and fall. Yes, some flit from nest to nest. Yes, some settle into deep pits. We cannot fix them, grow for them, restore what their decisions have broken, or intervene in their learning process.
What can we do?
We can welcome change for ourselves—by loving, praying, and listening.
We can find joy in Jesus today, despite whether or not our ducks waddle into the rows we pre-assigned to them.
Several years ago, I faced a difficult confrontation with a friend. I worried about our upcoming conversation and played it all out in my head. A hyper-vigilant sort, I imagined every wrong thing that could result from our interaction, secretly hoping none of that would happen and we’d end with a hug and sweet reconciliation.
My worst fears came true—and more. I processed the whole scenario with a wise mentor, sure that God had asked me to talk to my friend for her sake. It was her sin, after all, that I was confronting. My mentor looked at me and asked a simple question: “What if this isn’t about her but about what God wants to do in your life?”
In the moment I had no response. Internally, I disbelieved the premise of her question. This wasn’t about me; it was certainly about my friend. But my mentor’s words had a redemptive, winsome way about them. Her question kept circling back in my mind, waking me up at night. What if this was about what God wanted to do in my life? Something shifted in me then, a pause then a knowing recognition that God’s purposes and plans loomed far bigger than my black-and-white mind had imagined them. His was a nuanced plan that involved everyone—both my friend and me.
That question is one we parents must ask ourselves as our adult kids make their way in the world. What if their behavior and decisions are not about them, per se, but part of God’s refining of us? Could their actions be the impetus for our knees hitting the floor? Could their distance usher in the closeness of Jesus?
I believe that to be true.
Love, Pray, Listen isn’t a book about parenting. It’s a book about joyful living.
It’s about exploring the way of Jesus, watching how he loved and trained his disciples, and then set them on their feet to reach a dying world. He poured into them then let them go, while he ardently pursued the mission entrusted to him.
Sadly, once children leave home, many parents feel the drift of missionlessness, as if their job is completed, and they have lost direction and purpose. Yet Jesus fulfilled his most important purpose after his high priestly prayer (where he commissioned his followers). Friend, our lives are not over after discipling and training our children; they are only beginning. There is joy, purpose and adventure when we make it our aim to love, pray, and listen to our adult children.
What has helped you in parenting your adult children? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
Excerpt from Love, Pray, Listen: Parenting Your Wayward Adult Kids with Joy by Mary DeMuth; (© 2022), used with permission from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. (http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com)
Above Mary DeMuth
Mary DeMuth is an international speaker, a podcaster, and the author of over forty books, fiction and nonfiction, including The Day I Met Jesus. Through God’s healing, Mary has overcome a difficult past to become an authentic example of what it means to live a brand-new story. She loves to help others “re-story” their lives through the books she writes. Mary lives in Texas with her husband of 30 years and is Mom to three adult children.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Mary is giving away a free copy of her book Love, Pray, Listen: Parenting Your Wayward Adult Kids with Joy.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about parenting adult kids and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, May 22, 2023. Continental United States only.