The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

December 15, 2012

ASK DEBRA: Prodigal son

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Question: Our 19-year-old daughter has rebelled against our family and our values. She has left home and gone into a life of sin, doing things we and our church do not approve of. The last time we tried to talk to her, the conversation escalated and got angry. She stormed off and told us she wasn't coming back. My husband and I are heartbroken. We have tried to be good parents and have done the best we can. But somehow, it just wasn't good enough. What can we do to bring our daughter back home?


Answer: I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. When that son rebelled against his father's values, asked for his inheritance, and ran headlong into a lifestyle of sin, the father let him go. The father did not chase down the son or try to stop him. After the son partied until he spent all his money, he landed in a job feeding pigs. Eventually, he became so hungry, he wanted to eat the pigs' food. But never once did the father chase down the son and try to save him from the consequences of his own choices.

The father allowed his son to hit rock bottom and did not rescue him. That is when the son came to his senses and returned home. Notice that the son left home on his own terms, but he came home on his father's terms. He admitted he had been wrong and repented of his sin. The father welcomed him with opened arms.

First, any time a parent is dealing with a rebel son or daughter, the worst thing they can do is throw money or support into the pig pen.

In other words, chasing down a rebellious child and trying to coerce or support that child into coming back home is only going to entrench the child in their wrong decisions. Many people will not stop manifesting dysfunctional behavior until they hit rock bottom. Trying to stop a person from hitting rock bottom only postpones the journey to repentance.

Second, your daughter is a legal adult. While she will always be your child; in the eyes of our society, she is an adult. If she is making choices that you don't approve of, accept the fact that that is her prerogative as an adult. None of that is to say you have to agree with or support her choices; but the time for dealing with her in a corrective manner as you did when she was a child is now over.

Just as the father of the prodigal son released his child to his own choices, the healthiest thing for you to do is release your daughter to her own choices and allow her to live with the consequences of those choices.

Third, take hope that your daughter is going through what many young adults her age go through. The years from about 18 to about 25 for many young people is a time of searching and establishing themselves as individuals. Many times parents make the mistake of trying to hang on for fear of their child making wrong choices.

Unfortunately, this can escalate into a showdown and turn into all-out family warfare. During this faze, even the mildest mannered young people can make subtle decisions their parents raise their brows at while other more flamboyant souls will appear to go off the deep end. During this season of your daughter's life, she's searching for who she is and the adult she wants to grow into. Even though she is challenging the values you have raised her with, chances are high that, just like the prodigal son, she will one day come back and embrace those values anew. Your job is to wait, watch, and pray.

In this time of letting go, pray for your daughter without ceasing. Continually bring her before the Lord and ask Him to work in her life. Place her wholly in His hands and trust that He will bring about circumstances in her life that will allow her to hit rock bottom so that she will come to her senses.


The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit Got a problem? E-mail Debra at