Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With

Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With


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How will you respond when your child makes a decision you don't agree with?

Parents and kids will never agree on everything but what can mom and dad do when that decision—whether a matter of preference, spirituality, or morality—is something they think is totally wrong? Author and speaker Brenda Garrison knows all too well that how parents respond will either build a wall or a bridge between them and their child.

Brenda and her husband were forced to answer this question when their oldest daughter Katie abruptly moved out of the house with no means of support. It was not an illegal or immoral decision, but it was one that wasn't good for her. Their determination to keep an open door of communication is documented not only by their story, but by comments from Katie in each chapter as she offers insights from her own perspective.

Also included are other family scenarios—everything from matters of preference to foolish, immoral, and even illegal decisions—as well as insights into different styles of parenting such as servant, checked-out, gotcha, scared, and controlling parents.

With practical tips and relatable stories, Brenda shares how to model God's parenting style and explains the difference between the parent's responsibilities and the child's, then helps mom and dad discover ways to develop and nurture a relationship with their child that will last a lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780849947414
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/11/2013
Pages: 203
Sales rank: 933,906
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Brenda Garrison is an enthusiastic and authentic speaker and author. She ministers to women in all stages of life but especially to moms—encouraging them by keeping it real and based on God's Word. Brenda speaks at retreats, workshops, professional groups, and government agencies that work with families. She has appeared on FamilyLife Today, Moody Radio, and The Harvest Show as well as other media outlets. Brenda and her husband, Gene, have three daughters.

Read an Excerpt


When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Brenda Garrison
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-4741-4

Chapter One

Who Are You, and What Have You Done with My Child?

The Decisions Parents Don't Want to Make

"HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD GO HOME AND YOUR parents wouldn't say, 'I told you so'?" I asked my dear, thirtyish friend. My friend had been the proverbial wild child during her graduate school years. Her relationship with her parents during that time was almost nonexistent due to her anger toward them.

"I just knew," she answered confidently.

I just knew. Her statement stuck in my heart. Little did I know then that it would become the mantra for my parenting.

* * *

Several years later our eighteen-year-old daughter, Katie, called an impromptu meeting with Gene and me.

"Mom, Dad," she announced, "I'm moving out next weekend." Her words shocked me to the point of numbness.

The past couple of years had been a struggle with Katie. Every day brought on one form of rebellion or another, all against our authority as parents, with her becoming upset about something. Rarely did she do as she was asked without a bad attitude. I used to say, "If Katie's in the house, it's rockin'" because she thrived on stirring up everyone. She clung to her friends—not unusual behavior for a child her age—but these were friends who were bad for her. Tensions escalated after high school. She went through life with a storm cloud over her.

Her rebellion finally caused her to feel she could live under our roof no longer. She told us she had been looking for apartments for a while and had found one. But this was not a wise time for her to leave. Katie was not even a year out of high school. She made only minimum wage at a part-time job while she attended community college. She obviously did not make enough to support herself, let alone pay for college, so why move ten minutes away to live on her own without enough money to pay her bills? Though she was old enough to be on her own, she was not in a good financial or even emotional state. Her choice to move out was a decision we did not agree with.

She continued to surprise us. "Mark and his friends will move me out on Saturday," she declared. Mark was her boyfriend at the time. He implied that he was a Christian, but his life said otherwise. He was a push-it-to-the-limit-and-then-some troubled kid. Many were the stories of his adventures. Other people warned us of his past actions and the consequences he faced. Katie didn't say they would be living together, but we didn't trust Mark not to take advantage of the situation.

Katie had made decisions in high school that Gene and I didn't agree with, so while this move was not the beginning of her parade of them, none of the others seemed as life-changing as this one. Katie then asked for the money we had set aside for her to attend a four-year college. She wanted to use the savings to pay her living expenses until she was promoted to a full-time position. Close to finishing community college and taking that next step in her education, she wanted instead to gamble away the money on the chance of receiving a full-time position. While we could have withheld the funds, Gene and I realized it would have been a moot point. It was time for Katie to learn some hard lessons and for us to let her go—college money included.

Our angst was not because our daughter was moving out and pursuing her independent life (we wanted that!). Our angst was grounded in the reality that she was moving out in anger, without a means of supporting herself, and for the reason of instant gratification. And on top of that, she was not moving out to go to college, to start a career, or to get married. We would have been supportive and excited for any of these situations. She was moving out in a huff without considering the consequences. She was in total rebellion, and because of anger and immaturity, she was derailing her plan for college and a career she loved. Mark would now be her new ally, and we certainly did not trust him.

Of course I did not want strange boys coming into my home and taking my daughter's possessions to who-knows-where. But I'm grateful that right then God alerted me to be quiet and reminded me that the wrong words spoken in the heat of the moment would seriously cripple any influence I had left in her life. I sat silently as Gene calmly asked for more information about her plans. The reality that our lives would never be the same sank into my heart. Our daughter was walking out, and she didn't care how loudly the door slammed behind her. She was not asking for our blessing or even our advice about her plan. She was telling us what was happening—with or without our help. Her plans were not up for discussion, even though we tried to reason with her.

Gene and I needed a response to our daughter that would not build walls but a bridge. Our response needed to be about her and what was truly best for her, not about our hurt feelings, anger, or disappointment. We told her we would help. Gene began to plan how many pickup loads it would take to move her few belongings. In the next couple of days I went through the house finding extra household items—casserole dishes, towels, pans, linens. At one time we owned a small motor home camper. I had kept the items from the kitchen and the bed and bath linens, so I had most of the basics she needed to stock her apartment.

Katie has always been a strong-willed girl. Throughout her childhood I often struggled to know how to be the mom she needed. She has a tender heart, loves to laugh, and is an incredibly talented artist. She loves to make and give thoughtful, creative gifts (including the wrappings). She is the best friend anyone could ask for. She is an absolute delight to me.

I have a vivid memory of her kindergarten picture: Katie is wearing a pastel pink dress with an opaque white ruffled collar. Her curly red hair is in a French-braided ponytail with flyaway strands everywhere, as it was a hot and humid day when the picture was taken. In my mind's eye, that little girl still is and has always been my Katie.

Katie is an artist. Her creative personality makes her even more sensitive to her surroundings, others' interactions with her, and her own physical feelings. She recently shared with me that all this, coupled with the frustration of not knowing how to express her creativity, often triggered her anger, frustration, and bad moods. My natural way of responding did not help Katie. I wanted to fix her, but she didn't need fixing. She needed to be heard and understood and then guided and encouraged in the unique journey God created her to fulfill.

[ Katie's Thoughts ]

When I began elementary school, I struggled with finding my own creative voice. I have always been an introvert, and since my mother is the textbook definition of an extrovert, we had trouble communicating. If I had a bad day at school, I would go to my room, cry, or lash out. Obviously those are not ideal, but I was young. My mother wanted to talk everything out. And then we fought. As time passed, my mom and I began to understand that neither of us would change our specific communication technique, so we had to compromise to strengthen our relationship.

Junior high was even more difficult for Katie because, as all moms know, junior high girls can be mean. A couple of years ago Amber, one of Katie's friends, shared a story with her from their junior high days. Two of the most popular girls asked Amber to walk with them past the edge of the school playground, where no one was around. She went with them because she was eager to be accepted by the girls. Once out of earshot of the other kids and the teacher on duty, the girls told Amber, "No one likes you. You have no friends." Amber was crushed and too embarrassed to share it with anyone until she and Katie were twenty-three.

Katie was shocked—the girls did the same exact thing to her. She, too, had told no one (not even me). But the poison of this lie had eaten at both girls' self-esteem for over a decade, during some of their most formative years. No wonder Katie came home from school in a huff and a thundercloud covered the house once she walked in! School was a jungle for her, and she didn't know how to express it to us.

In senior high Katie decided she would no longer be the victim. She made friends who were not good for her and who encouraged her to challenge Gene's and my boundaries and rules. Oh boy, high school was hard on all of us. One boy who befriended her, Austin, also secretly spread mean rumors about her. Then when she was hurt, she went running back to him for comfort. It was his vicious cycle to keep Katie's attention at her own costly expense. Gene and I knew this boy was not good for her, but the more we tried to warn her and put up boundaries, the harder she worked to be with him.

Can you relate? I bet you can. It's hard, isn't it? It's hard to believe that our kids and our relationships with them could ever change. We think ...

• we will always know our kids better than anyone.

• we will always enjoy the same closeness as when we rocked them in our laps.

• they will always run to us with their hurts like they did when they were little.

• they will always trust what we say over what anyone else says.

• the child in the kindergarten picture will seamlessly mature into an adult version of herself, and we will live happily ever after as one big family.

Screech! Stop. Why do we believe that? Why do we think our family will be the first to mature without any bumps or bruises along the way? Likely most of us can think of one family where it appears everyone is living emotionally and spiritually healthy lives. And maybe they are. If so, I am extremely happy for them. Really, I am. But for the rest of us, why do we believe the fairy tale of happily ever after?

I believe it is because, in part, and without directly saying so, the modern American Christian community made an unrealistic promise to parents. It goes something like this: if you raise your kids exactly how we say, applying all you learn in sermons, Sunday school, Christian radio, podcasts—and don't forget all those Christian books (like this one!)—then your child will turn out just as you had hoped—loving God, making a good living, and making mostly good decisions. If, however, you make one mistake, the promise is null and void. You will have failed as a parent.

I know that sounds harsh. And I know that is not what the Christian community meant to say. But it is what many of us Christian parents heard. I know. I'm one of them. I tried to do all I could, but I couldn't do it all. My kids aren't perfect. (And neither am I.)

Let's do a reality check here. We'll start with the Bible. Go ahead and open your Bible to page 2 (or maybe page 3). Start where it says, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it" (Gen. 3:6 NIV). The woman is Eve. Her Father is the Creator of everything—God almighty. We don't know exactly how old Eve is when this happens, but it is early in God's parenting. In only a short amount of time since being created as God's child, Eve does the one thing He told her not to do. In doing so she brings into play sin and its consequences for the entire human race.

Many in today's Christian community might imply that if only God had parented better He would have known what Eve was up to and could have prevented it. You know, God did know what Eve was up to, yet He allowed it. Eve listened to the serpent, believed his lies, disbelieved God's promise, gave in to the lust of her eyes, and ate the fruit. Does that make God a bad parent? We all know this one—no, of course not! Did Eve's disobedience catch God off guard? Again—no, of course not. So why are we surprised when our kids (or other people's kids) make decisions we don't agree with? Why are we so hard on our kids and ourselves? Kids have been making decisions their parents don't agree with since the original First Family.

Go back to Genesis 3 in your Bible and read a little farther down the page. See the part about the brothers, Cain and Abel, in chapter 4? These two were the second generation from the hand of God, and they couldn't get along—so much so that Cain killed his brother. And so the rhythm of man's relationship to God is passed from parent to child—constantly disobeying our Creator and heavenly Father. Yet God never hides His face in embarrassment. He understands who we are and loves us in a way that keeps the door open to a relationship with Him, while neither approving of nor winking at our sin.

We love our kids so much, but for whatever reason they won't listen to us. They move headlong into doing life their way, and their decisions don't make sense to us.

* * *

Jan and George's son, David, also made decisions they didn't agree with. Junior high was difficult for David. He was eventually diagnosed with ADD and put on medication, but his attitude didn't improve. He became more defiant. When he was a freshman in high school, Jan received a call from the mom of one of David's friends. David was smoking marijuana with her son. And so began David's parade of decisions Jan and George didn't understand. His grades continued to decline. After David admitted he was depressed, Jan took him to a Christian counselor. He was put on medication for depression, but his behavior became more bizarre and angry.

A few weeks later David snuck out at night to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana with friends. He came back to the house and took his parents' van—even though he did not yet have a driver's license—to drive friends to get something to eat. He crashed the van. No one was seriously hurt, but it was a major turning point for everyone. Jan said, "David said the accident made him worse—he sank deeper in shame and guilt."

Jan and George were clueless as to why David was behaving this way. They had done their best to raise him in a caring Christian home. They had modeled love, respect, and faithfulness in their marriage. Their younger daughter was doing well academically, socially, and spiritually. Why was David struggling? Had they done something wrong?

* * *

Gene and I have felt that way about Katie too. She seemed to have lost her way. Dealing with mean kids, making college and career decisions, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to find God in all of the chaos—together it was almost too much for her to process.

When our kids bounce from one poor decision to the next, often they are not ready or able to deal with all the stimuli coming into their brains. While our kids may look like adults, their brains still have much developing to do before they are mature enough to make well-informed decisions. According to literature from the US Department of Health and Human Services, "The prefrontal cortex takes in information from all of the senses and orchestrates thoughts and actions to achieve specific goals." The literature goes on to say that this part of the brain is "one of the last regions of the brain to reach maturation." The prefrontal cortex's jobs include "focusing attention," "organizing thoughts and problem solving," "foreseeing and weighing possible consequences of behavior," and "modulation of intense emotions." This part of the brain is not completely developed until about the age of twenty-five.

Even if our kids are taller than we are, many times they reason more like the kindergarteners in the pictures in our scrapbooks. And this is the challenge for parents. As our kids grow older, they are given more freedom and privileges by the law and by school; even churches often assign more responsibilities and leadership roles to teens who appear to be mature Christian kids. However, on the inside they are teetering between childhood and adulthood. We have no warning to know when they're operating from their childlike brains or their adult brains.

Add to all this the messiness of their peers and the possibility that some of their coaches, teachers, or other adults in their lives are not emotionally and spiritually mature—is it any wonder our kids sometimes make decisions we don't agree with?

Sadly, church was not a safe place for Katie to process all this. (I'm not beating up on the church in general; it was just the reality of our specific situation.) She had one good friend in her youth group. After that friend moved out of the area, she was left with girls in our church's youth group who were not kind to her.


Excerpted from LOVE NO MATTER WHAT by BRENDA GARRISON Copyright © 2013 by Brenda Garrison. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

1 Who Are You, and What Have You Done with My Child?: The Decisions Parents Don't Want to Make 1

2 What Exactly Are We Talking About?: Types of Decisions We Disagree With 17

3 It Is Not All About You: Getting Your Sorry Self Out of the Way 35

4 What in the World Am I Doing Wrong?: Common Mistakes Parents Make 49

5 What Is Yours and What Is Not: The Truth About Parental Guilt and the Enemy's Lies 69

6 They Think You Are God (Not Really, but Pretty Close!): Showing the Real God to Your Child 87

7 Oh, So That's How to Be a Cool Parent: Practical Ways to Build Lifelong Relationships with Your Kids 105

8 The Learning Curve: Giving Your Child Room to Grow 127

9 Everybody Is Talking: Knowing with Whom to Share What 145

10 Happy Ending: Writing the Rest of the Story and Liking It 161

Appendix: The Rest of Their Stories How the Kids and their Parents are Today 175

Questions for Reflection and Discussion 181

Resources 199

Notes 201

About the Authors 204

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Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
NMcC More than 1 year ago
Are your children making decisions that you don't agree with? Are you struggling to find a way to grow your relationship with them while not condoning their poor choices? Are you just not sure where to turn in your struggle to love your child unconditionally? Brenda Garrison tackles the issue of children making decisions that their parents don't agree with. It is unavoidable and refreshing to read someone's thoughts on the topic. Garrison, along with her daughter Katie, explore different facets of this topic, including: decisions parents don't want to make, types of decisions we disagree with, getting yourself out of the way, common mistakes parents make, lies that parents believe about their parenting, showing the real God to your child, practical ways to build lifelong relationships with your kids, giving your child room to grow and more. Throughout the book, Garrison has included words from her daughter, Katie, who is the child the book is sort of centered around. It is helpful to hear thoughts from the child who is making the decisions. At the end of the book are questions for reflection and discussion on each chapter. I would recommend this book especially to parents of youth/young adults, whether or not your child is making decisions that you don't agree with. There are helpful suggestions for any parent of children who are learning what it means to be their own person and make their own decisions. It could also be a good read for parents of children who are nearing adolescence, but not yet making many of their own decisions. I received this book from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze blog reviewers program. I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.
bookreviewer1977 More than 1 year ago
This is a terrifying, but really valuable book. I'm grateful to have read it before my kids reach the age where they have the ability to do things that I really disagree with (I'm a bit of a control freak) This isn't a book about fixing your kids, but about examining your own attitude, being aware of your own sins and problems and of being aware that your child is not going to grow up to be exactly the person you think they should be (and that's okay). It's also a book about being strong in your own convictions and being able to stand up for those, but in a loving and manner that doesn't turn your child away from a relationship with you and possibly even a relationship with God. The author has a nice, conversational writing style, and she shares openly from her own life and experiences, both the struggles and the successes. All in all, an excellent parenting book with a message all parents need to hear. Disclosure: I received this book from Booksneeze to review for myself. All opinions posted here are mine and mine alone.
samcivy More than 1 year ago
Love No Matter What WhenYour Kids Make Decisions You DON’T Agree With Brenda Garrison ©2013 (with her daughter, Katie) Thomas Nelson Publishers ISBN 978-0-8499-4741-4 (trade paper) 177 pp. plus appendices (Discussion and reading questions, resources, notes) An author and busy speaker, Garrison writes of the types of decisions parents and their offspring disagree about, rightly or not. She discusses common mistakes parents make, the enemy’s lies to parents, practical ways to build relationships with your kids, and various other topics. She includes her daughter’s viewpoints on issues they disagreed on, as well as stories from other parents whose children made unhealthy decisions. The writer helps parents set important Godly boundaries while still showing love. Garrison knows that parents can do everything right and their children still go astray. Some of the battleground decisions included moving out of the home with no means of support, quitting college, dating and living with or marrying the wrong person, drug and alcohol abuse, illegal behaviors, and choosing a gay lifestyle. In an appendix, Garrison relates the long-term results of the situations other parents and their children shared with her for this book. She gives clear, reasonable, biblical advice. A well-written, sensible volume that can help many families.