Parenting Regrets and Redemption

January 02, 2024

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Today's question says, "...I feel there are so many things I should have done when my kids were younger that I didn't realize. Is there anything specific or any encouragement you can give to parents who feel the train has passed and there's not much we can do with our teen slash young adult spiritual lives?" Listen as Elizabeth Urbanowicz offers encouragement and advice for parents who feel they missed opportunities when their children were younger.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical Worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today.

Today's question says, "My two teenage girls ages 13 and 16, both grew up in church but have been going to public schools. The church we go to encourages the teens to read Scripture regularly, and I do so at home too. However, they still don't have any interest in reading the scriptures and show little to no interest in God's truth. I found a lot of encouragement from your recent podcast responding to a child's spiritual apathy. I started to pray Scripture over them and pray for contrite hearts. However, I feel there are so many things I should have done when they were younger that I didn't realize. Is there anything specific or any encouragement you can give to parents who feel the train has passed and there's not much we can do with our teen slash young adult spiritual lives?" This is a really important question for us to think through, especially for those of us with older children, whether they're teens or young adults or adults, and even for those of us with younger children, as we just think through, we're trying to do what we can in these younger years, but we don't know what our children will be like when they're teens and when they eventually leave the home. So I'm excited to dive down deep into this question today.

Before we do that, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to I also ask that if you found the content of this podcast beneficial that you would like and subscribe. That way you don't miss any future episodes and also ask that you would invest the time writing your review or if you're watching on YouTube a comment just to help more people discover this content so we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, my heart really goes out to this parent who wrote in this question that I don't have personal experience with this as I do not have my own biological children. However, I do know a lot of parents who are in this situation and I know how heartbreaking it can be as we think that our greatest desire for our children is that they would walk in the truth and when we see them really not displaying any desire for that, that can be so overwhelming, can be even heartbreaking.

But the first word of encouragement that I have is that the train has never passed so long as our children are living. That so long as our children are alive here on this earth, it is never too late for them to have a change of heart. It's never too late for us to have an impact on their lives. So the first thing that I would recommend any parent doing in this situation is coming before the Lord and confessing your sin and confessing your shortcomings, and also asking for wisdom to discern the difference between the two because there are things that we do in our parenting that are sins against our children and sins against God, and those things are bound to come because we are fallen image bearers, and even as we've been reconciled in our relationship to God, we still wrestle with the flesh every day. We still wrestle with our sin nature. So there are ways in which we have sinned against our children and sin against God in our parenting, and those are things that we need to confess and repent, we need to ask forgiveness for.

And then there are just things that are going to be shortcomings. There's going to be things that we didn't necessarily sin against the Lord or in our children this, but there was just wise things that would've been really great for us to do that we just didn't know about at the time. And so those are things that we don't need to ask forgiveness for, but we can ask for God's grace to cover over those things. To say, "Lord, I didn't know that it was probably very unwise for me not to do this with my children or for me to do this with my children, and I just didn't know at the time, and now you've revealed this to me and I thank you for revealing this to me, but I can't go back. I can't go back and change those things. So I ask that your grace would cover my shortcomings."

And the hope that we can have in this is that God has told us that in our weakness, his strength is made perfect. And so we can confess these things and say, Lord, this was a weakness of mine in parenting. It still is a weakness of mine in parenting. Please let your power be made perfect in my weakness. So that's my first recommendation, that we just come before the Lord, that we confess the ways that we've sinned against him and our children and our parenting, that we confess our shortcomings and ask for his grace to cover those shortcomings.

Then I would really recommend that we confess both our sin and our shortcomings to our children, that as the Holy Spirit brings to mind specific ways in which we have sinned against them in our parenting, in ways that we have not yet confessed and repented of that we go to our children and that we say, as I've been praying, God's Holy Spirit has brought to mind these ways in which I've sinned against you as I've been your mom or as I've been your dad, and confessing these things.

Confession is different than admitting. Admitting is just saying, Hey, I've done this. Confessing is actually acknowledging I have done this and this is a sin against the holy God, and I'm sorry for it, and I need forgiveness for this. So that we go and we ask our children forgiveness. We confess of these things, we repent and then we ask for their forgiveness. Not that it's going to change anything in our relationship with them or in their relationship for the Lord, but that we're being faithful to what God has called us to do. And we never know how years down the road this might impact our children.

We also need to confess our shortcomings to them. Say, "as I look back over your years growing up in this house, there are some things that I wish that I did differently" and share those things with them. And if you feel like you should apologize for those things, you can.

I even think of my own life. Those of you who have listened to the Foundation Worldview podcast for a while, you knew that I am very grateful for my parents and I'm so grateful for the way that they raised me and the way that they always led me to Jesus, that there are so many things that my parents did right. And then several years ago now, it might've been close to a decade ago, I just remember my mom coming to me and saying, "oh, Elizabeth, I really wish we had made a different schooling decision for you and your siblings. I really wish that we had homeschooled you and had not sent you to public school."

And that was really helpful for me to hear because I really wish my parents had made a different educational decision that school was really, really hard for me, not from an academic standpoint, but just the school that we went to was really hard for me. I really struggled with anxiety over that. It was just a rough crop of students that I was shoved into school with every day. And I do think that the Lord has used that for good because that's the promise that God has made to us in Romans 8:28, that he works all things together for good by using those things to conform us more into the image of his son. And so I can look back on my years kindergarten through 12th grade and I can see how God has used those experiences for good, and I can see how he's used them to conform me more into the image of His Son because that's what he promised he would do. And I can still look back on those years and really wish that those years had not been that way. And I think my mom looks back on those years and wishes that something had been different. And that's okay. She can recognize that God is still going to use those things for her good and for my good and for my siblings good while still wishing that she had made a different decision when we were growing up.

And so this is something again, with your children, you can go and just share like, I wish I had done this differently. And you can ask for their insight. You can ask them, are there things that I'm doing right now that you wish were different? Then you have to have the discernment to be able to tell when are they just wishing for things that are not good, that are not true, that are not what is best for them? And when are they actually sharing with you something that they wish that you would do differently, that would actually be beneficial, that it would be honoring to God and it would be beneficial in your relationship with them.

And so if you've never done this before, if you've been more of an authoritarian figure in your household, if you haven't really asked for your kid's insight, if you have, obviously as a parent, you are the leader, God has put you in a position of authority. But part of what a loving leader does is actually asks how the people below them in their position of leadership are doing. So if you've done this before, your girls or for others who are listening who have boys or have girls and boys, your children might be really shocked and they might not say anything right away, but if you continue this conversation, hopefully it will be something that over the days and weeks and months, eventually they'll be honest with you about where they stand in their relationship with you.

And then obviously we've already talked about praying, but praying is so foundational in this. A lot of times we think of prayer as our last resort where prayer really should be our first resort. We're told in Scripture that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, and that without him we can do nothing. And so do we really believe that this is accurate, that without Jesus sustaining us, without him sustaining the universe and the very oxygen in our atmosphere and our lungs, we would not be able to take our very next breath. And so we need to view prayer as our first resource.

So for this parent who wrote in, I would encourage you to continue praying Scripture over your children to continue finding passages that you're just consistently praying over your children. Now, we often want to see immediate results, and sometimes God's grace manifests itself by providing immediate prayer results. Other times God's grace manifests itself by not seeing answers to those prayers for years. But we can still trust that God is being faithful in hearing our prayers and that as we pray, he is conforming us more into the image of His Son.

I also would encourage you pray specific prayers for your children's hearts and for their spiritual growth. Pray very specific things. Lord, I pray that they would have a desire to seek you every day through your word and pray that every single day, God, I pray that you would convict them of their sin quickly so that they would turn from that sin and repent of it. Pray for wisdom for things that you can do within your home to foster the affections of their heart and turn them towards God. What are things that you can start doing in your home? It's never too late to start new routines and traditions in your home.

Now, you can't do a 180 overnight if you've never read Scripture together, it's really unwise to go from never reading Scripture together, to carving out an hour and a half every evening where you're straight reading Scripture together. That's probably not the wisest thing to do, but you can start off with 10 minutes an evening. You know what? Every night after dinner, we're going to spend 10 minutes. We're going to read through a chapter of Scripture. We're going to talk about what this passage reveals about who God is, what it reveals about who we are and what we should do now that we know this. And for those of you listening who have children who praise God, have soft hearts toward the Lord and who it appears that they have been reconciled in their relationship to God, that the affections of their heart are stirred towards him, praise God for that. But no matter the phase of life your children are in that we should continue praying for them because our children are always in a spiritual battle. There is always a spiritual battle for their hearts and their minds, and we never know what decisions are they going to make tomorrow or the next day or the next week.

For those of you who have been part of the Evangelical Christian community for a while, I'm sure that you're familiar with the story of Joshua Harris, that he was a homeschool child in the nineties, and he wrote the book I Kiss Dating Goodbye. And it sold more than a million copies. He was wildly popular, was touring around the country, speaking and teaching. Then he got a pastoral position at a very large church in the East. He was part of the Gospel Coalition for a while. He was doing what anybody would consider these amazing things for the Lord. And then several years ago, he came out with an announcement first that he and his wife were separating and then that they were divorcing. And then he came out with an announcement that he believed that all the things he had taught in the past were harmful and destructive, and that he was deconstructing his faith. And now instead of selling Christian books, he sells starter kits for deconstruction and so that he can walk other people through the deconstruction or deconversion movement.

And I just think of Joshua Harris' parents, his mom passed away a number of years ago, went home to be with the Lord, but I'm sure that his parents thought he's made it. We've faithfully raised this child. He loves the Lord. He's good. And I'm sure that they still pray that his parents have still prayed for him, and I'm sure that his dad and his stepmom are continuing to lift him up before the throne of God. But I use this as an example just to say, no matter the condition of our children's hearts or the apparent condition of our children's hearts, we should never stop praying for them because they are always in an intense spiritual battle because the enemy of their souls does not want them to be reconciled in their relationship with the God does not want them to abide in Him, and his Word does not want them to bear fruit.

Just another encouragement as we pray for our children, that in Romans 8, we are told that we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself helps us in our weakness that he intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and he's always interceding for us according to the will of God. So this means that we're not always going to know what to pray for our children. Are we commanded to be faithful and consistent in praying for them? Yes. But even when we don't know the right things to pray for them, that the Holy Spirit is interceding on our behalf and on their behalf, and we can rest in that promise of God.

Before we wrap up our time together, another resource that I would recommend is a parenting series put out by Dr. Rob and Amy Reno, and it's called Never Too Late: Fostering Faith in Your Adult Child. So just highly recommend that you check out The Never Too Late Series by Dr. Rob and Amy Reno. They run a ministry called Visionary Family Ministries, and that is a several session DVD teaching that will just walk you through what are things that you can do as parents of young adult or adult children who are not walking with Jesus to foster the affections of their heart towards the Lord.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as we leave our time together, as always, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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