There is a point where something changes in the parent/ child relationship. The exact age varies but when the time is reached it is obvious. Theologians refer to “the age of accountability”; the point at which a child makes his own decisions about Christ and faith rather than to simply do what they are told. Oftentimes, this begins to happen as the young person is preparing to finish school, to move out on their own, and live their lives independent of the parents.
This is the tricky time. Instead of training and child rearing, it is now the application phase – time for the child to make his own decisions and time for the parents to step back and watch the results of their labor. Christian parents can find themselves thinking it is their duty to step in and “handle” things for their kids without realizing that with the age of accountability comes responsibility for their own actions. This is when parents of young adults who may have literally “gone wild” experience tremendous guilt. After all the church attendance, involvement with wholesome activities, and times of prayer and sharing it feels as if everything done parentally was a failure and complete waste of time.
Look at the Word of God closer. Proverbs 22:6 states: “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go …”. This isn’t a guarantee they will actually go that way. God has given us all the gift of choice. This goes for our kids as well. The words ‘train up’ mean to hedge up or hedge in, like putting up a fence around a house. A good strong fence will help protect against adverse weather, thieves, and other things that cause harm or damage. Its only when the children leave the protection of their parents (physically as well as spiritually) do we see what they are made of, rather than what their parents are made of.
A promise from the Lord to cling to is that second half: :…and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” While this alludes to physical age, it is more specifically referring to maturity. Drawing from the memories of our own youth can help us realize that some of the stupid things grown (even near grown) kids do is a direct result of immaturity or it could be a result of their own rebellion against what they were taught, in their off-handed way of discovering Jesus for themselves. Either way, the parents’ role and responsibility is totally changed.
If we did as the Bible said, and the Bible said to train up our kids in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and the knowledge and training would be with them when they are mature, then we have to put our faith in God and get out of His way as He begins the same work in our kids that He began with us. He won’t be able to work with rebellion, questioning, immorality, and all the rest if we, the parents, continue to get in His way and try to handle those things that aren’t ours to handle. To do so may be a worse form of rebellion!