How to forgive a child for the heartache caused by rebelliousness

As parents of six children we discovered a few things that helped us deal with and ultimately forgive a child for the heartache caused by rebelliousness.

Do not take the rebellious actions personally. We have learned not to feel like failures because our children go through rebellious stages. When our first child hit those rebellious years we sat around and worried about where we had gone wrong and dwelled on "Why didn't we do more?" This only caused more stress.- Accept rebellion as a part of life that many children go through. Even the best of our kids have had their turn at rebellion; some as young teens, some as older teens and some in their 20s.

Recognize that every child has to build his or her own testimony and relationship with Heavenly Father. Your children's mistakes may break your heart, but they have to answer to Heavenly Father for themselves.

Memorize the words to a hymn. I memorized "Help Me Dear Father To Freely Forgive." It became my theme song, and any time anger or discouragement set in I would sing it. This helped me find peace, comfort and direction.

Never stop praying and fasting for your rebellious child. Invite your family members to join in a special fast and prayer. When the rebellious child starts returning, family members will be more willing to accept and forgive that person because they took part in the fast and prayer.

Be willing to physically go to the child when he is ready for your help. It is hard for him to admit his mistakes and this assures him you still care. - Ramona and Randy Dutton, Salt Lake City, Utah

What we did:

Pray for forgiveness

Don't let the judgments of others make you feel inadequate as a parent.

Know that the child most likely is hurting inside and is not rebelling to punish you.

Study the scriptures daily, and look for specific scriptures that you can apply to yourself or your child. The scriptures are filled with hope.

Pray for the spirit of forgiveness daily and mightily.

Look for the good traits of your child. Mention the good to him or her often.

Be patient and long-suffering.

Never, never give up hope. - Linda Wanlass, Fairfield, Calif.

Follow supreme example

As we read the scriptures and pray to our Father in Heaven, we realize how many times our Heavenly Father has forgiven us, His children, of our own rebelliousness and sin. This is the supreme example.

To forgive does not mean to condone. There will still be consequences for sin. To truly love a child, no matter how rebellious, is to follow the Savior's example and to forgive.

Our example and action will speak louder than any words we may say to a child. - Michael W. Fritchen, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Understand child

Forgiving a rebellious child becomes easy when you understand why the child rebels. There are significant reasons for a child's rebellion, reasons which often reflect family problems. These may be feelings of anger, fear, grief or distrust.

Parents who are dealing with a rebellious child should seek to understand their role in the child's problem and then take steps to make changes in their behavior.

Remember, a rebellious child is a child who is hurting inside. It is easy to forgive when you realize and understand the hurt and the reasons for the rebellion. - Barbara R. Owens, Sandy, Utah

Try to trust

I asked my early-morning seminary class how they would help their parents overcome the heartache caused by rebelliousness.

The main thing my students said is that rebelliousness was not their parents' fault, but a result of moral agency. They wanted their parents to still love them and to be understanding. They were also concerned that their parents not be judgmental.

Even though they may have done something once, they want their parents to trust that they will not repeat the transgression. - Janet Richardson, Animas, N.M.

Let go of guilt

When our son rebelled and left home, I learned through many prayers and priesthood blessings:

I needed to love him. I didn't need to accept or approve of his choices, but I did need to love him as a son of Heavenly Father.

I wasn't the "perfect mom," but that I had done my best and that Heavenly Father accepted my stewardship with this special spirit.

"Joy in my posterity" may not be in the way of life my son chooses, but in the spiritual growth, answers to prayers and strengthened testimony I have received because of this experience. - Marilyn Boren, Kaysville, Utah

Express love

Seek and follow counsel from your bishop. When we are in the middle of a trial, we often lose our eternal perspective.

Pray for your child, yourself and other family members.

Always leave the door open to him. Keep the communication lines open.

The pure love of Christ can give us hope and peace as we continue to endeavor to reach out to our lost one. - Marsha Ault, Silsbee, Texas

Don't give up

One of our daughters became very rebellious during her teenage years, running with an undesirable crowd, skipping school, breaking the Word of Wisdom, dressing immodestly, running away from home and ultimately becoming pregnant at 17 years old. The true and pure love of a parent must be pattered after the "pure love of Christ."

I took advantage of opportunities to have close one-on-one talks with her, and expressed my love for her often.

I spent many hours talking with a small support group that included two other mothers who were experiencing many of the same problems with their girls.

Our daughter has grown into a beautiful young mother. She tells me how thankful she is that I stuck by her through the hard times and didn't give up on her.- Martha McNeil, Colorado Springs, Colo.

How to checklist:

Never stop praying, fasting for your rebellious child.

Always keep the lines of communication open; never give up on your child.

Study the scriptures daily; they will give comfort.

Continually express your love in word and action; look for your child's good traits.


Oct. 14 "How to benefit from stake conference as an individual and/or as a family."

Oct. 21 "How to overcome discouragement while serving a full-time mission."

Oct. 28 "How to teach children to forgive."

Nov. 4 "How to protect yourself and loved ones from pornography."

Nov. 11 "How to safeguard your family from crime."

Nov. 18 "How to develop the gift of discernment."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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