Good morning friends,
I’m in sunny California celebrating my granddaughter’s third birthday. She is such a joy to watch growing up. She wanted to be a princess, so here are some pictures of her in her princess dress as well as pictures of her two sisters enjoying her birthday party.
In light of the tragic incident in Steubenville, Ohio, and because much of this blog answers questions from women who are married to abusive and destructive men, today I want to answer a question about raising sons.
Today’s Question: I am happily married, and we have one son who is in his first year at college about 35 minutes from home. He is living on campus. Our original plans were for him to live at home, so that has been a big adjustment for me. He lied to me the other day which I realized immediately. After a heated discussion, he said he is afraid to talk to me because I always overreact.
I am very protective of him. He has been a very good boy growing up. For some reason, I am so worried/afraid that he will make a mistake, get involved with the wrong crowd, fall away from his relationship with God, etc. I have been working on my fears/anxiety but now that he is living away at college, it is even harder.
I have basically tried to let his dad do most of the serious communicating with him to avoid any issues. I love him so much, and I want our relationship to be good. I was a stay at home mom, and he has always been my top priority. I wish you were here to help us with our communication issues and help me learn to let go! I know that I need to trust God and let him make his own decisions…I am working on it!!
Any advice is truly appreciated!
Answer: Raising godly men is indeed a challenge in today’s culture. In light of the high school incident in Steubenville, Ohio, I’m sure your fears have escalated. Yet, your son is becoming an adult. Hopefully, you and your husband have instilled in him the values and character qualities that will help him grow into a godly man and make good (not perfect) choices even under peer pressure.
Sadly, I fear as a culture we’ve pushed our young people to perform and achieve, to aspire to greatness and success, but have not instilled critical and core values that are essential for a godly life. Today more than ever, there are many temptations that young people encounter that can be difficult to resist even with a strong spiritual base. That said, what is a parent to do? What is your role now with your collage aged son?
You have a tremendous opportunity right now to be of great influence to your son. However, you are wise to be aware that you are in dangerous territory. Your son is striving for independence from you (as he should be), and if you continue to cling and hover, you give him the message that you don’t believe he has what it takes to make good decisions without you. This could create an unhealthy dependence on you and, in the long run, breed self-hatred for himself as a man and contempt for you. It’s a lose/lose situation for the both of you.
You are wise to recognize that the problem is you and your fears. It’s good that you realize you can’t deal with your fear by controlling your son. And yes, you must release him to God and pray that the values you have instilled in him throughout his life, as well as the Holy Spirit, will help him find his way through the maze and temptations of college and future life choices.
That said, that doesn’t mean you sit back and do or say nothing. First, every time you feel fearful, pray for your son (Philippians 4:6-8). Pray not only for his protection, but for him to desire wisdom and to desire to know and love God above all else. You don’t just want to see him become a good man but a godly one, and that is more likely when he has a mom who stands in the gap with prayer. When we love God, he promises that everything, even our bad choices, will work out for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28-29).
Second, you asked for help in communicating more effectively with your son. Here are a few things you might want to say. Confess your problem with anxiety and overreacting. Say something like this. “I am aware that I’m having trouble letting you go. I agree I’m overreacting to things and it stems from fear. It’s a scary world out there, and I don’t want you to do things that will hurt you or you’ll regret. I wanted to spare you that pain, but I can’t protect you from everything, and some things you’ll only learn from failure and suffering. I have confidence that you know God loves you and you understand he only wants your good. I am going to trust that you and he will talk together about the decisions you make and the paths you choose.
Third, when the time is right, you may also want to say to your son, “I am not the only one who reacts out of fear. Recently you lied to me because you feared my reaction if you told me the truth. I am totally responsible for my overreaction, but you are totally responsible for lying. Son, this won’t be the first time you’ll be tempted to lie in order to avoid someone’s reaction or to keep the peace or escape negative consequences. I have learned a lesson from this experience, and I hope you have too. I don’t want you to be afraid to tell the truth, even if there is a painful outcome. All your future relationships will depend on people’s ability to trust you. If you lie about the little things, people won’t trust you in the more critical things.”
Fourth, you and your husband shouldn’t be timid about discussing current events with him to get his thoughts and opinions as well as to communicate yours. A few years ago, my entire extended family (four generations) took a cruise to Alaska to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. It was fascinating to hear the different perspectives from generation to generation, and, I must admit, I learned quite a bit from the wisdom of some of my nieces and nephews, and I trust they gleaned a few things from me as well. Talk with your son about what happened in Steubenville as I’m sure there are temptations to drink at college as well as misuse women and treat them as sexual objects. Don’t lecture. Discuss. Invite his perspective. Listen to what he’s picking up on campus. Pay attention to his heart and his core values. Affirm all the good you can.
Lastly, when your son asks your opinion or you’re discussing something where you get fearful, instead of telling him what to do or how to think say something like this, “I trust that you have what it takes to figure out what you need to do to make a good decision here.” This communicates to your son that you see the grounding in him that you’ve instilled and you are trusting God and him to work together on his life journey.
Your son was your number one priority. It’s time you shift him to number three. God is first and your husband is second. Putting your son in his proper place does not mean loving him less, but it frees you from taking responsibility for his life.
Friends, those of you who have raised sons, how have you learned to let go?