Topic: Is is it OK for an parent of an adult to step into their problem?

Happy Tuesday sweet friends,

Monday got away from me. It’s actually late Monday night when I’m starting to write this blog. I want to tell you, I love, love LOVE living in the reality of the Lord’s Presence. It has made all the difference in my mood as well as how I handle the day’s interruptions. I’ll tell you about something I’ve been doing for a while called Welcoming Prayer next week. I’ll post on Sunday as I’m headed to Houston on Saturday for my annual girlfriends gathering. I do this once a year where friends who do what I do (speak and write) gather together for friendship, encouragement, exercise and pressing into God. I won’t have internet connection Monday through Friday.

I speak in Dallas that following Friday night and Saturday at the Cowgirls of Faith Conference (January 21 and 22). I’d appreciate your prayers.

This week’s question: My married daughter is in an emotionally draining relationship. She will be married 2 years this May. Her husband will not go to counseling even though they have met with their pastor and his wife and nothing has changed in the marriage. He is an elder in the church and leads a youth bible study about once a month. He still wants to hang out with his friends, more than he should as a married man, takes a biblical class and works part-time. She works full-time, takes on-line classes for her degree and basically does 80% of the housework. They are now having money issues, etc.

When as a parent can I step in and either talk to him, one-on-one or call his parents so they are aware of what is going on? He is a perfectionist and has difficulty making any decision, no matter how small for fear of it being the wrong decision.

Answer: My personal opinion is that I think your ability to take charge of this situation is zero. As the observer and parent adult children, your role is to pray for their maturity, to ask God to give them an awareness of what they need to work on and let God do what He is going to do.

If your daughter is unhappy in her marriage or the imbalance of work/play responsibilities, it is not for you to speak up on her behalf, but for her to gain the strength and courage to speak up for herself and/or set the appropriate boundaries.

If her husband has trouble making decisions because of his idolatry of perfectionism his parents cannot fix that for him. Only he can address and/or repent of these issues.

Believe me. I know how hard it is to let go and let our children be adults and make their own choices – right or wrong. But what real control do we have? Of course we can try to manipulate, force them to feel guilty and try to control them but does that ever lead to significant heart change or does that just further alienate us from them and maybe from our Lord?

If your daughter is complaining to you and that’s how you know all of these things, I think the wisest thing you could do is to say to her, “Honey, it must be really hard. I’ll pray that you have the wisdom to know how to handle this situation in a godly way.” Or, you could say, “Perhaps you need to tell him (her husband) that you don’t like that, or that is not acceptable to you.” In other words, you can influence your adult children IF you have a good relationship with them, but ultimately change is up to them and God.

Let go of your desire to control this marriage and get on your knees. That is the best thing you can do right now to help them.


  1. Jane Cole on January 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I have two grown children. My family and my husbands family did not know how to let go of us. Lots unhealthy control, manipulation and guilt messages. I learned from first hand experience that is not healthy on adult children. I have a magnet sign on my fridge that says….."Give your childlren roots, then give them Wings". I cut all the apron strings and what my children do or don't do, is their business. They will learn life like the rest of us or not. It is their choices. I continue to pray for them, but other than that… hands are off. God is in control. There are lots of books on parenting when our children are young. The rules change when they become adults. Love the advice in this article. If we don't cut the apron strings, our children will get all tangled up in them and not be able to fly.

  2. Anonymous on January 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I think there is a time when a parent could encourage and point out some things to their adult children. Not with intent to control or manipulate. Choice is left with the adult children. I've had my in-laws speak what they thought we should do and had the chance to explain our choices and had their continuing love though they disagreed. (Home-education and breastfeeding were very foreign to them.) I have also been in and seen others in a situation where a wife expressing what is "unacceptable" to her in the marriage relationship is considered by her husband to be un-submissive, controlling, unforgiving. Perhaps a parent in this case could skillfully aid adult children in recognizing behavior. Gentle respectful encouragement. Not name calling and blame. Not taking responsibility for their children's difficulties. Just being one of many resources available. Aren't parents of adult children usually part of the family community, accountable in some basic ways to each other? I hate someone telling me that they know me better than I know myself and I hate someone judging me and my relationship with God. But I also don't like feeling un-cared for. I think I could not see my children or their spouses in a situation where my experience could at least give them a small degree of insight and then not say anything. I don't think this has to mean that the apron strings are still intact and getting tangled! I hope I've been clear enough for any reader to understand me. Sincerely.

  3. Anonymous on January 12, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Not sure I completely agree with Leslie's approach here.
    I'd love to hear some other perspectives.

  4. a friend in Christ on January 20, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Leslie is correct in her advice. It is absolutely up to the daughter to address her concerns. The parent(s) can offer her advice on how to do this, but learning to speak up (in love) is essential to her growth in the relationship. As Leslie has counseled before, if he is not willing to listen, the daughter can enlist the help of another to speak also, but I think it's in the best interest of everyone if it is a neutral party, whether it be a pastor or a counselor. We do have to support and encourage our children, but we must teach them to stand on their own as well. I don't say this judgmentally, but experientially. I am praying for you all.

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