How to Win the Heart of a Wayward Child

A benefit of being a believer is that we have the best parenting book on the planet which is the Word of God. God is the ultimate parenting example and he provides his word to show us exactly how to do it.

Pray First

The first thing to do when trying to reach a wayward child is to pray. You may be experiencing anger, frustration and even resentment toward your child. Take those emotions to God. He is not intimidated nor afraid of them. We see the Psalmist David lay out his emotions to God all throughout the book of Psalms. You may need to wait until you are free from those negative emotions before approaching your child.

Start With Love

Love first, admonish last. There are countless examples in the Bible where Jesus, healed first, fed first, offered compassion first, before admonishing the recipient to “sin no more”.

  • John 5:14 (NKJV): Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
  • John 8:11 (NKJV): She said, “No one, Lord And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go [a]and sin no more.”

Jesus meets our needs first. All throughout the New Testament, there are examples of Jesus’ acts meeting a need. What does your wayward child need? Perhaps their need is an emotional need like love, acceptance or understanding. It’s easy to want to dive into what they are doing wrong, but it is important to meet their needs first.

We hear all the time, that those who are the hardest to love need love the most. This can be especially challenging when we live in a society that says treat people how they deserve to be treated. Or maybe you were raised in an environment where love and attention had to be earned or “deserved”. This is going to be a test of your own love relationship with God. If you are not rooted and grounded in God’s love, you are going to have a hard time giving away what you don’t have and understand. Take time to reach out to your “small group” for love, support and prayer during this time. This may be Godly friends, mentors or your church leadership.

Meet Them Where They Are

In order to meet those needs, you have to meet them right where they are at. Let’s take a look at the story of the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 starting at verse 7.  Jesus is at the well when the Samaritan woman approaches to get water. Drawing water from a well was a daily chore for women and children during this time. The important thing to note is that Jesus met her right where she was, doing ordinary chores. There was no formal meeting called, no staged intervention. No, “we need to talk”, which can lead to raised defenses. Instead, he met her where she was.

Meet your wayward child where they are at. If they are angry, depressed, or rebellious, meet them there. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, improved behavior or some other more favorable circumstance. If this child does not live with you, take what opportunities present themselves to reach them.

Offer Compassion and Understanding

When the Samaritan woman approached the well, she was not expecting to interact with a Jewish man that day and she certainly was not expecting the kindness that she received from him. Your wayward child might find it odd that you are meeting them where they are at, with love and compassion and the willingness to meet their needs. They might even reject it at first to test your sincerity. Jesus knows all about rejection, but he never let it stop him from completing his mission on earth.

Keep Praying

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing. Your prayer life is going to be crucial. It may seem like nothing you are doing is working or you may grow weary of the child’s constant rejection, but don’t lose hope. Matthew 11:28 (NKJV) says Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Revelation 3:20  (NKJV) says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” You might have to stand and knock for a while, but just like a child throwing a tantrum, they will get tired. And when they do, they will remember the person who has been constant, steady and consistent, offering unwavering love and support.

Scriptures For Wayward Children

Ask that God keeps them safe in this increasingly unsafe world. That He will protect them from harm and wickedness.

  • He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in Him I will trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 (NKJV)

Pray that they will be brave as they face the challenges that are before them.

  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

Pray that the Lord will lead them as they make decisions about their lives.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; (6) In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NJKV)

Pray that God fills them with the kind of joy that can only come from Him.

  • You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

Pray that they will grow in wisdom and understanding. That they’ll embrace what is good and right.

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (NKJV)

Pray that your children are filled with the love of God. That they will know how deeply they are loved, and that love will overflow onto others.

  • Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 2 Corinthians 13