Parenting From a Place of Love

I can do this... I’ve totally got this “Motherhood - Career Woman” thing down!

These were the (perhaps overly confident) thoughts inspired by my first child. He’s always been easygoing. Mild mannered. A rule-follower. (In other words, he makes me look GOOD!!) I’ve told others God gave him to me to instill confidence as a mother. This was His way of encouraging us to have more children!

Then came our second child.

Another boy. So close in age to our first son, I assumed he’d be similar to our firstborn. But right from the start I was struck by how different their little personalities were. Strong-willed and determined. Quick to react when he’s upset. Striving to achieve perfection in the classroom. (Well, these traits sure are familiar!) In so many ways, he is the young boy version of me. And as you can imagine, while we both reach for that position of control, we often butt heads! 

I’ve jokingly told others God gave him to me to humble me.
To bring me to my knees. 
To put me in my place. 
And recently, He showed me these words were filled with more truth than I realized ...

Friday evening we discovered that our youngest son had done something we specifically told him not to do. His actions were clearly intentional, as he went behind our backs, lied to us, and tried - unsuccessfully - to hide the evidence. In other words ... we have officially joined the ranks of so many men and women who have gone before us - daring to become Parents of Teenagers!

I groaned inwardly. It was the end of a long week. All I really wanted was to sit on the sofa while mindlessly scrolling through my phone or watching TV. Instead, I found my head swimming with thoughts of broken rules, consequences, discipline approaches, teaching moments… (These are the parts of parenting you don't think about when you decide to have a baby!)

I was irritated my husband and I now had to spend our Friday night discussing potential punishments. I was frustrated that we were now forced to have an unpleasant conversation with our son about his actions. I was angry that he'd lied to us. But if I pause to really evaluate what lay beneath those feelings of irritation, frustration and anger ... I was scared.

Parenting a teenager terrifies me. There are so many new things the boys will be exposed to during their teenage years. Things I know about. And things I don't.
Driving. Drinking. Drugs.
Rejection. Heartbreak. Peer pressure.
Raging boy hormones and the fact that so many females seem to wear such small clothing!
The seemingly necessary evil that is the Internet ... the list goes on and on!
With every fiber of my being I want to protect them from anything that will harm them. I want to control their choices and the world around them. But I can't. And that's the part that scares me.

While I quietly sat in this place of anger, frustration and fear, our son realized he'd been caught. He was clearly upset with himself. He knew he had messed up. He was sorry for breaking our trust. He feared the consequences that would come. But through what I now know had to be the grace of God, I did not react. I did not fuss or raise my voice. I did not speak with a harsh or angry tone, pointing out how wrong his choice was. I didn't do any of the things he was probably expecting - the things he has experienced from me before.

No, in my angry, frustrated state ... I did not react.
Instead, I responded ... with Love.

On that night we actually said nothing to him about the incident. We decided to postpone that conversation until we had a chance to plan our words. (And honestly, we’re slowly learning that these conversations are so much less effective when emotions are running high.) By his choice our son sat alone in his room, presumably reflecting on what he had done. And as I went to his room later that night to tell him good night, he stood in front of me … wordless … but with tears in his eyes.

I opened my arms before I opened my mouth … and provided a comforting embrace in which he crumbled.
I told him only one thing … how much I loved him.
I told him more than anything, I wanted to keep him safe and protect him. And most important, I told him there was nothing he could ever do that would make me love him less.
And then? I left the room so he could go to sleep – hopefully secure in the knowledge that he was loved.

I woke early the next morning, anxious to bring all of the previous night's events to Jesus. My husband and I still needed to have a serious talk with our son … and I was honestly hoping for some Holy Guidance! As I sat there in the still, quiet house, sipping my coffee and writing in my prayer journal, Jesus quickly took me back several years to my very first Bible study group …

We were a small group of women, most of us working mothers. All in different places in our journey with Christ, a few women there were much farther along than I. Their faith was so attractive and inspiring to me. We met every other week, and I honestly credit so much of my current prayer life and relationship with Jesus to those women. Obviously it is Jesus who changed my heart, but the women in that room helped me to see Him. To know Him. And they taught me how to talk with and hear Him. I consider myself beyond blessed and am forever grateful for the role they each played in my life and my spiritual journey. And if you don't have a small group Bible study with people who can help you to know Jesus, I highly recommend you find one!!

Anyyyywayyyyy ....

I distinctly remember sitting with that Bible study group one night as God helped me understand, in a small but real way, the depths of His love for me. He did this by revealing the parallel between the way I loved my (then) young children and the way He loves me. As a mother of young children, my love for my boys was never-ending. Unconditional. Fiercely protective. It was self-sacrificial, as all parents know young children require that we CONSTANTLY give, give, give so much of ourselves … and honestly, we get very little from them in return! My love was more than a feeling … it drove my actions, words and choices. He gradually led me to see He loves me in the same manner. But a Million. Times. More. Honestly it wasn’t until I saw this parallel that I could begin to comprehend, in a very small way, the way He loves me.

I sat there for several minutes, picturing myself in my friend’s living room and allowing that wonderful feeling – the one I first had when I started to really grasp His love for me – to wash over me again. Suddenly a new thought entered my mind. It seemed to come from nowhere (which I’ve come to learn means it was likely planted by the Holy Spirit). Obviously the “issues” we will face as parents of teenagers are quite different from those we faced during our children’s younger years. But shouldn’t my love for them as teenagers still parallel His love for me? And shouldn’t it still drive my actions, just as it did in years past?

Let's be real ... I MESS UP ALL THE TIME! And I’m apparently a very slow learner because so often it feels as if I keep "failing" in the same way! Over and over and over … (I’m pretty sure we can just ask my husband and he’ll concur!) When I go to confession I'm typically confessing THE EXACT SAME THINGS that I previously confessed. Now, yes, I've gotten better at hearing His gentle convicting whisper … but all too often I hear it AFTER I've already done or said whatever He's asked me not to!

But God has never responded to me with a raised voice. Or a harsh and angry tone. Or by angrily holding my “failure” over my head. And he never pushes me away. In fact, every time I mess up, His response is the same ... IT IS ALWAYS FILLED WITH LOVE. With open arms, He always welcomes me into His loving embrace, regardless of what I've done.

Jen, He whispered, I want you to parent your children from a place of Love. Not from a place of fear.
Parent them, as I've parented you.
Parenting from a place of Love is instructive – while being patient and forgiving.
Parenting from a place of Love instills a desire to do better – it doesn’t bring about shame.
Parenting from a place of Love is inviting and welcoming – even, and especially when, your child has messed up.

I know you have many fears about their teenage years. But by parenting from this place of fear, you will be controlling. Oppressive. And they'll turn AWAY from you.
Bring your fears to me. Let me remind you who I am. AND who they are.
Yes, YOU are parenting them now. But do not forget - they are MY children.
As much as you love them - I love them more.
As much as you want what's best for them - I do even more.

I designed the road on which they're traveling. I know every bump that lies ahead.
I know the lessons – both easy and hard – they need to learn.
And I know the ways their hearts will need to break for them to one day turn to Me and let Me in.

When your fears come, BRING THOSE FEARS TO ME, so you can then parent them from a place of Love.
TRUST ME with them. And allow me to parent them with you.

As I reflected on the words He whispered into my heart, it became clear …

He did give me my youngest son to humble me – because my prideful self very often needs the reminder that I am not in control.

He does want my youngest son to bring me to my knees – in prayer, sharing my fears with Him so He can in return be the source of Love that I offer to my son.

And he absolutely wants my youngest son to put me in my place – a place that is by His side as a “co-parent,” and a place situated on the unique path he has designed for ME to travel as I journey towards my own salvation and ever-lasting life with Him.

I am definitely not a parenting expert. I do not pretend to have this “Parent of Teenager” thing figured out. Although, with God’s grace, I think my husband and I handled this particular situation with our son well, I am certain we will mess up in the future. But I am so very happy to know that when I mess up, I can turn towards my Father, bringing that mistake TO HIM with a repentant heart. And because His love for me is perfect, I know He will be there. I am confident He will be waiting for me with open arms, as He offers me His forgiveness. And as he takes me by the hand and guides me back onto the right path He has designed for me, his never-ending love and patience will continue to inspire me to be better.

And even though the love I offer is imperfect and flawed, I pray that each time my son messes up, I can do the same for him.

Whether you last held your baby decades ago, or are holding your baby right now,
Whether you’re still dreaming of the moment your baby will be placed in your arms, or if you’re blessed with a role that allows you to help parent those born to another …

My prayer for us all is that we will each come to experience the Father’s love for us.
A love that, like a parent’s, is never-ending. Unconditional. Fiercely protective. And self-sacrificial.
One that always uplifts and never tears down.

A love that, unlike ours, IS perfect.

And as always, I pray God breathes life into these words.


(blessed by these words? feel free to share, so you can bless others.)


  1. Jen, This was a great read. I'm walking the teenage boy road myself, we have 4. Thankfully one is an adult. It is so hard to let go of your fears. This has been one of my biggest goals in life, to not parent out of fear. I have seen the damage that can do. Thank you for sharing your journey, you are not alone in it.

    1. Oh, it's so good to remember we're not alone on this journey!! We have His guidance, AND thanks to Him, the blessing of other parents traveling beside us. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing!


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