We’ve been in a series on equipping parents to disciple their kids through the Tough Stuff. We’ve addressed friends, grades, and rebellion in earlier posts. These are actual e-mails that I’ve sent to my ministry parents in recent weeks. Today, we will be talking about how you can disciple your children when they fall into immorality.

The Symptoms – When your child falls into immorality, it’s common for a parent to be in shock. Usually there is a cover up involved. You may find out that they have been experimenting with drugs and alcohol, see text messages revealing the inappropriate nature of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, or your child is caught cheating or stealing. Whatever the manifestation of immorality, your reaction is key to discipling your children well. It is normal to feel varying degrees of anger, disappointment, fear, and loss of control. Whatever you do, it’s important to remain calm. If you need some time to gain your composure, it’s totally OK to say, “We are going to address this, but I need a little bit of time to process what’s happened.” By remaining calm, you avoid the sin of your over reaction and maintain the relationship between you and your child. Remember Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger, do not sin.”

The Root Cause – We would like to explain away our child’s sin. We may deny (“Not my kid!”). We might consider their actions as a deviation from their normal behavior (“She is such a good girl, this isn’t who she really is”). We may even blame others (“It’s that group of friends he’s hanging out with”). What we really need to embrace is that every person, including your son or daughter, is at heart a sinful person. We all have a heart that is naturally inclined to seek our own pleasure and glory, rather than God’s. When you believe your child’s sin nature, you cease to become surprised when they fall short morally. It allows you to look on them with compassion and care instead of disappointment. You can then focus on bringing them the message of Jesus as the proper remedy for their sin.

The Gospel Solution – Your child’s moral failures offer a unique opportunity to focus on how gracious and forgiving our God really is. Many kids who grow up in the church develop a feeling that they are not really that bad. These kids can lose sight of the preciousness of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. In the midst of the storm, you can actually be somewhat joyful that you have the opportunity of reminding them that Jesus forgiveness completely cleanses us from our sin (1 John 1:7). The goal is that your son or daughter develops a new-found appreciation for God’s grace, which will lead to heartfelt repentance and life change. It is important as a parent that you reflect God’s grace by reminding your child that your love is not conditional. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any less and there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more.

***Remember that through Christ, God removes the stain and guilt of sin, but he doesn’t remove the consequences of our sin. So, offering grace and forgiveness DOES NOT mean that your child should be free of punishment. They need correcting and discipline to learn from their sin and rebellion.***