When Fledglings Flop: What to Do when your Teenager is Out of Control

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Every day this week I’m focusing on raising teenagers, and today I’m delighted to have fellow author Gail Gritts join us. Gail is a mum of 5 – now all grown-up – and has a powerful testimony of how two of her children hit rock-bottom. Read on…

When the mother bird pushes her fledglings out of the nest, she takes a terrible risk. They might not fly! They might fall to their death! She has no assurance. She just knows it is time for them to leave.

Human mothers take a similar risk. We might not push our children from a height to see if they hit the bottom alive, but we let them go outside the safe walls of home and into the cold, hard world while we pray we have instilled in them the strength and wisdom they need to navigate.

Sometimes they fly, sometimes they flop. I’ve not found a sure-fire way to determine the outcome.

What to do when your teenager is out of control, off the rails, rebellious? Author Gail Gritts shares from experience.

My five fledglings have flown from home. Some of them landed safely, but not without a few bumps and scrapes. Two bombed out big time. As I watched their struggle, I kept them before the Lord in prayer, spoke words of comfort, assurance, and mild instruction. I felt my heart sinking with each story, and yet, I knew they were in the hands of a good, good Father, a parent much better than I, so I entrusted them to Him.

Did I lose hope?

Yes, sometimes, but the heavenly Parent was there by my side as well. He kept introducing me to others who gave testimony of running away from the Lord only to be called back, of making poor life decisions and seeing God heal. Their stories restored my faith, helping me to hand my worry back to God.

What kept me sane?

Well, I made myself a few boundaries.

  1. When I worried, I moved instantly into prayer. They had come to my mind for a purpose; a spiritual prompt, if you will. I needed to be faithful and obedient in prayer, not worry.
  2. I gave them to the Lord when they were small, and I considered them to be His. I believed He was at work in their lives, even if they didn’t.
  3. I resolved not to say, or do things I would regret or that would injure their spirits or push them away. I held my tongue and extended grace.
  4. I kept the home fires burning and the door open. They knew I did not approve of their decisions, but they knew home was waiting for them. Let me add here that this is the reason we need to be so attentive in how we raise our children and the atmosphere of our homes. Children grow up to go away from home, that is the nature of things, but a child that is struggling has a harder time returning if their childhood memories and experiences were negative.
  5. I loved them anyway. We are all sinners. My worry, anger, and frustration were just as much a sin as their life choices. I knew God would forgive me; I had to believe God would forgive them as well, so love was the choice I made.
  6. When I had to speak directly about a situation, I bathed my words in prayer and controlled my emotions. At the same time, I spoke directly and scripturally, not necessarily quoting Scripture at them, but pointing them to principles from God’s word and planting hope in their hearts.

How did that work?

Well, before I tell you the end of the story, let me say that these two young adults experienced some hard stuff. One was sleeping rough, one experienced abortion and divorce, both of them ran from the Lord, life was difficult and full of disappointments.

I cried with them because I knew the way of the transgressor is hard, as we read in Proverbs 13:15 – Good judgment wins favour, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.” Rebellion never leads to happiness. I knew their path, and I knew they knew they were wrong. I didn’t have to tell them; I needed to love them and wait for the Lord to work in their hearts.

One of the most precious days in any parent’s life is when kids return and say thank you for their upbringing. Gratefully, I can say that both of these little birds made their way back to the Lord and expressed their thankfulness for the patience and wisdom of their parents. Today, all of my children are leaders with solid Christian homes.

What to do when your teenager is out of control?

If your young one is struggling and you are panicking, have a gentle, open talk. Assure them of your love, and calmly point them to principles that would help them guide their lives, but ultimately, show them your confidence in the Lord’s ability.

Stop looking for a shortcut. There are no promises and no methods that will pull them back. They must make that decision. You need to give them that much respect.

They will reap what they sow. That is an unchangeable fact of life. Do not take their consequences upon yourself. You are only answerable to God for your life. Above all, show them your love of the Lord, make your home a safe and welcoming place with good memories. Don’t nag, just love.

Then, stand faithfully looking, as did the father of the prodigal son, and be prepared for their return.

P.S. Your current situation may be very hard. Please don’t think, “Well, if I do what she has written, it will all work out.” There is no such promise. When you stand before the Lord, He will not ask you about your child’s decisions. He will ask you about yours. Choose faith. Choose love. Let the rest be in the hands of the Greatest Parent of all, and may you find peace within His arms.

You can read more by Gail on her weekly devotional blog, Beside the Well.

Gail is also a children’s author with three stories about two little girls named Reba and Katherine available on Amazon and other online booksellers. Check them out!


Don’t forget to check back here every day this week to catch the other posts in my ‘Teen Week’!

I blog about all aspects of Christian parenting and adoption. Sound good? Sign up to never miss another blog post again!

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What to do when your teenager is out of control, off the rails, rebellious? Author Gail Gritts shares from experience.

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