What Do You Do When Your Adult Child Makes Poor Choices?

When our adult child violates our values, makes poor choices or gets in deep trouble, we often question who we are as a parent. Our self-doubt shout at us:

  • Was it something I did or didn’t do?
  • Would this have happened if I had been a better parent?
  • Would this have happened if I had been more spiritual, or if we had spent more time having Bible Study as family?

The what-ifs can be damaging to our lives.

One of the most hurtful heartbreaks is for a parent to watch their child waste their life, potential or opportunities with poor choices. When your young adult has a huge adult size problem, the kind that can derail a productive life, your heart may break, but your child’s choices don’t have to break you. Your child’s decisions do not make you a bad parent. Even the parents who have a Christian home have children who make poor choices. It may be too late for you to train them, but it’s never too late for redemption. Transformation does happen. Sometimes it happens suddenly, but most times it’s a process. Our children’s mistakes can be used by God to push them towards His purpose and destiny that He has for them.

Give your child tough love

Tough love is necessary to promote responsible behavior and change. You provide tough love when you set firm boundaries and enforce consequences. Tough love might mean not allowing your drug addict child back into your home without first getting help. Tough love is standing your ground and not bailing your child out, even if it cost them dearly. The purpose of tough lough is to stop the negative behavior and encourage positive growth as well as responsibility. Don’t confuse tough love with meanness. The purpose of meanness is to be hurtful, which is not what tough love is about.

Stop bailing them out

If you take on the consequences your child should be experiencing you are enabling them and hindering their growth and change. Their problem doesn’t need to be your problem. Don’t allow your adult child to make their crisis become your crisis.

Relinquish your child into God’s Hands

Releasing your child into God’s Hands is a daily act of the will. God loves our children even more than we do. The act of releasing them is not easy but is of utmost importance. I encourage you to pray this prayer everyday:

God, I release my child into your Hands and into your tender mercies.

It’s that simple. Every time you pray that, it will help you be reminded that God is in control and you are not.

Whatever the issues causing your heart to break, remember ultimately your child needs to know that you still love them. Although we feel hurt and disappointed, we can demonstrate our love to our child even when they wander off the path we had hoped for them.


  1. Kim this is a great posting! It really is hard to do that tough love. I did that with my daughter. And it was doing those times I wanted to step in and help but I knew I could not. Now that she is married and have her own family things are much different now.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m currently going through this with my son. He’s out there making decisions like he never grew up in a Christian home. I’m learning to just pray, trust God and allow him to go through his process….

      1. It is a process. I know what your are feeling. It is hard. Especially when it comes to those we love.

        You praying is the best thing you can do for the both of you. God will see you through this and God will take care of your son.

        I will keep you both in prayer.

  2. Great advice!! Teen Challenge spoke at our church this past Sunday. They are a ministry that helps those with addictions surrender to God and heal. When asked what people could have done to help them get help sooner, their #1 answer was “Don’t enable.” Tough love can be hard, but it’s necessary.

  3. True advice and wise advice. My previous daughter in law has an addiction problem. She refused rehab that was offered. That was 9 years ago. Now she is in terrible shape. She has been in the hospital, has sores all over hear and blood clots. I went to see her to remind her she is loved regardless of what she has done but her Mother could not let her come home as she keeps our granddaughter some and also her baby brother. She lives with a friend but understands, Her mother said it is torture to watch her daughter go through this. Thanks for your encouraging words.96

    1. As a mother I can imagine the pain she must feel. My mom is going through something similar with my brother, she’s been forced to get a restraining order. It hurts her but prayerfully this helps him to confront his issues and gets the help that he needs. Sometimes as parents we have to allow our children to hit rock bottom for their own good, and so that they come to know that God is the ROCK at the bottom.

      I pray that the power of the Holy Spirit touches your daughter in-law and that God gives her mother strength during this process… 🙏🏾

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