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Parenting With A Purpose: Challenge Spoke

BIBLICAL BASIS – What does God say about this topic?

Proverbs 16:20, “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good:…”

 Romans 15:1, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

 Psalms 22:24, “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.”

What purpose does this concept have in the parenting wheel?

Challenges have occurred in families from the beginning. A by-product of living in a fallen world is that there are times when our children and families struggle with issues that aren’t resolved through the normal channels of proper communication, discipleship, and instruction alone. These factors are important, but sometimes not sufficient to overcome all the challenges we endure over the course of our life. Families should not feel alone in these challenges. The Bible contains a number of stories about families who struggled in both the Old Testament (e.g., rivalry between Jacob and Esau) and the New Testament (e.g., parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15).

Challenges are often draining. Unfortunately, dealing with challenges without a plan can stress the fabric of marriage and family harmony. Therefore, having a solid understanding of how to approach challenges is important. Nehemiah was presented with the challenge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah: 1-6). He faced lack of resources, resistance to change, and limited help. He didn’t just blindly run into the city with some tools. Rather, he sought the Lord and then planned ahead by receiving support, materials, and insight on those who could help.

Remember to go to the Power Source. We must rely on the working of the Holy Spirit and His power to resolve challenges. Without tapping into the power that we have as followers of Jesus Christ, all attempts to overcome will ultimately fall short.

Avoiding extremes is essential. Parents first need to be aware that their child is struggling. Neither denial nor panic is helpful when addressing challenges.

Early intervention is best. Most problems are more difficult to resolve if they have had time to become entrenched. Addressing challenges quickly and appropriately will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Keeping a proper perspective when addressing challenges is one of the keys to victory. Consider Paul’s perspective in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” God wants to draw us nearer to Him and to glorify His name through challenges, while Satan desires for them to cripple and destroy us. Consider the two passages below and how they relate to trials and God’s desired outcome of these challenges compared to Satan’s desired outcome for them.

The battle between God and Satan during times of trial.

1 Peter 5:6-11, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

God’s grace is present and sufficient during challenging times.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10, “For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

These passages of scripture clearly show that God is not absent through trial. Unfortunately, our adversary, Satan, is not absent through our trials either. Emotionally, we may feel alone, isolated, and even abandoned at times. However, the truth of the Word tells us that God is present, aware, working, and giving us grace to overcome. Remember God’s promise found in Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

APPLICATION – The act of putting something to a special use or purpose.

What does this concept look like in “real life?”

Challenges Come in Many Shapes and Sizes: Challenges can be connected to biological, social, spiritual, and/or emotional issues. These four areas of human functioning are closely connected and often influence each other. Something that falls into the physical, emotional, or relational category may be the result of a spiritual issue, but this is not necessarily the case. Most often, multiple areas are involved at the same time. However, looking closely at each area can help us develop a more specific plan to best approach each challenge. Below are examples that could fall into each area:

Physical: pain, lack of sleep, hunger, chemical imbalance
Emotional: depression, anxiety, fear, perfectionism, low self-worth
Relational: broken relationships, abusive relationships, loneliness, poor social skills
Spiritual: sin, distorted view of God, lack of knowledge or misunderstandings about God

Christian Homes Aren’t Exempt: Even the most loving Christian homes can (and do) experience the fallout from issues such as chronic health struggles, physical challenges, anxiety, learning difficulties, sexual acting out, sexual abuse, socially-inappropriate interactions, unresolved grief (e.g., from loss of a loved one, family tragedy, or family relocation), eating or body image issues, drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, rebellion and anger, distorted self-image, depression, etc. Satan often tries to use shame, confusion, and fear to isolate and keep families that are experiencing these challenges from seeking and/or receiving help from others.

Seek Counsel: Seeking wisdom and guidance from the Lord through fervent prayer and study of the Word is always an essential part of our lives. In addition to seeking God’s counsel, the Bible speaks clearly about the wisdom of seeking counsel from others. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” Also, Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” The type and intensity of the challenge and the resources available will determine whom should be sought out for counsel. Below is a suggested hierarchal list of those who could be consulted. Seven levels have been identified and each level builds on the previous level. Moving from one level to another does not mean that previous counsel should be disregarded. Instead, we should be adding another group of “helpers” to seek increasing levels of counsel. For example, parents should be collaborating at each level and not just at Level 1, and meeting with mentors/friends should continue even if they have moved to Level 7.

Level 1: Parents Collaborate and seek the Lord’s Direction
Level 2: Parents Meeting with Child
Level 3: Family Meeting
Level 4: Mentor/Friend
Level 5: Counsel with Elder/Minister
Level 6: Professional Helper who works with Identified Challenge
Level 7: Residential In-patient Treatment Facility

Problem-Solving Approach: There are many ways to solve problems that our children may encounter. As parents, we want to seek wisdom to do the best we can for our children in times of need. The following are some helpful steps to apply during a problem-solving intervention.

  1. Seeking God Together. When facing challenges, parents have the opportunity to model seeking God’s guidance through prayer and reading the Word. Depending on the issue, parents may want to make the issues a matter of specific prayer time in the family. Seeking the Lord does not ensure that the conflict will go away, but it does ensure that we will be given the power and grace to overcome regardless of the outcome.
  2. Being aware. We need to be aware of what is going on within ourselves and the environment around us. We also need to be aware of what is going on within our children’s world. Look and listen to their actions, thoughts, eating/sleeping, socializing, hygiene, learning, Internet use, etc. Sometimes getting feedback on the situation from a close friend can help us do a “reality check” to see if our perceptions are accurate.
  3. Defining the problem. Define the problem concretely enough that it could be understood by an outside observer. It may be helpful to think about how the identified problem may be rooted in each of the following areas: Spiritual, Physical, Relational, and Emotional. If the problem cannot be defined or is confusing as to what the contributing factors are, it is often a signal that it would be good to seek counsel from someone outside of the situation to help clarify the situation.
  4. Identifying roles. We engage in various roles throughout the week (work, family, church, etc). Once a challenge in the family has been defined, we can work to identify the individuals who will be involved in the problem-solving process and what each of their roles will be. Define what part of the problem and solution belongs to each parent, the child, possibly siblings, other helpers (counselor, mentor, teacher, etc.), and what each person is responsible for doing about it.
  5. Looking at alternatives. Begin to identify ways to address the problem. These usually aren’t broad and general concepts, but more specific actions to try. For example:

I will call _____.

I will sit down with my spouse and develop a list of family rules and consequences when those rules are broken.

o     I will take 20 minutes every day to do something I enjoy so I will be better prepared and more relaxed to cope with the challenges that arise.

o     I will faithfully bring my burden to the Lord in prayer with the desire to accept the Lord’s will and solicit His help and guidance.

  1. Giving up on the “silver bullet.” When problems occur in our lives, we usually want quick solutions. Indeed, when the problems are simple, then the solutions are often simple too. However, it can be tempting to try to find simplistic solutions to complex problems. When they are frustrated, overwhelmed parents sometimes have the tendency to jump from solution to solution, chasing from one supposed “cure” to the next. However, in the middle of a stressful situation, we should do our best to avoid giving up too quickly on the plan of action, avoid fad cures, and realize that the solution to the situation is not going to work exactly like someone else’s solution.
  2. Planning. Develop a plan of action. It can be helpful to write down the plan and date it.
  3. Doing. Carry out the decided action. Remember that most challenges didn’t develop “overnight” so don’t expect “overnight” success either. Parents need to help each other stick with the plan to maintain consistency.
  4. Studying. Look at the results of how the plan is going and determine if adjustments need to be made. It is helpful to keep a journal during this time and record successes, set-backs, “ah-ha” moments, drastic changes, or big swings in behavior, etc.
  5. Taking Additional Action. If what we are doing has not brought some relief to the situation or things have gotten worse, it is time to use what has been learned and begin a different intervention. Remember that some interventions require patience for the change to begin to take form (depending on the problem, sometimes weeks and months), while others need immediate attention and follow up (self-injurious behavior, etc.). If we feel confused and struggling with what to try next, it is often helpful to seek counsel at this time.

Some Challenges Persist Despite Taking Action: Taking the right steps and following wise counsel does not guarantee that we will get the results we are hoping for. We live in a fallen world and some parents will have to grow towards worshipping and giving God glory in situations that cannot be fully understood or changed. In these situations, consider these principles from the Word:

It is ok to hurt. Matthew 26:37-39, John 11:35
Cry out to God. Psalm 13, 1 Samuel 1:9-18
Acceptance. Philippians 4:11, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Thankfulness. Hebrews 13:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:18-20 |
Encouraging others in similar circumstances. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  

Hindrances to Getting Help: Parents sometimes resort to hiding, ignoring, or minimizing the challenges they face in their families. While these reactions are understandable, they are not helpful or biblical. Unfortunately, fear, pride, and embarrassment can keep parents from taking necessary action toward identifying and working through challenges. Take a moment to consider what keeps us as parents from seeking help for challenges we experience with our children. Ask God for the strength to move past fear by moving forward in faith.

How does this concept benefit children?

Teaching Them Problem Solving Skills: Working through challenges in the family is a way that parents can (and should) teach children how to apply biblical principles in their everyday lives. Remember, most children lack the life experiences and sufficient brain development in the areas of logic, reasoning, and discernment to make all the right problem solving choices during childhood. Therefore, parents have a great opportunity to teach, model and mentor their children through challenging times in a manner that is appropriate for the children’s developmental level.

Pointing Them to Christ Through Trials: God provided a bridge for our sin (a challenge we couldn’t overcome on our own) through Jesus Christ. It is imperative that parents model Christ-likeness and become a bridge for helping their children deal with their challenges.

Experiencing Parental Advocacy: When going through trials and challenges, children need to know that their parents clearly love and desire the best for them. What a blessing it is for children to grow up knowing that their parents are supporting them no matter what. This doesn’t mean that we will always be pleased with our children’s behavior. In fact, many times during challenges children will not appreciate the parents’ role and will even become angry and defiant against the parents for trying to help. In this way, parents model God’s love for us in drawing us closer to Him, even when we sometimes resist. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 provides us with counsel about how to handle a wide assortment of problems, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

PERSONAL REFLECTION – How am I doing in this area?

What is a challenge that I am currently experiencing? Begin to lay out a plan for walking through this challenge.

Seeking God Together: When facing challenges, parents have the opportunity to model seeking God’s guidance through prayer and reading the Word.

Being aware: We need to be aware of what is going on within ourselves and the environment around us, including our children’s world.

What emotions is my child experiencing (or seem to be displaying)?
What emotions am I experiencing?
At first glance, or on the surface, what do I see happening?
Are there patterns I can identify?
How are others being affected?
Is there someone I should talk to to help me get perspective?
What happened (family, community, church, etc.) before the challenge arose?

Defining the problem: Define what the problem is concretely enough that it could be understood by an outside observer.

What is happening that I believe needs to change?
When does the challenge occur?
How long has the challenge been present and how long does it last (if applicable)?
Are there times, events, situations, or people that seem to make the challenge greater or less?
What are the Spiritual Issues involved in the Challenge?
What are the Physical Issues involved in the Challenge?
What are the Relational Issues involved in the Challenge?
What are the Emotional Issues involved in the Challenge?

Identifying roles: Once a challenge in the family has been defined, we can work to identify the individuals who will be involved in the problem-solving process and what each of their roles will be.

What can I as a parent do about the identified challenge?
What can the child do about the identified challenge?
Do either of the parents need to increase or decrease their role in dealing with this issue?
Who are some possible support people that we can counsel with?
Is it time to add another perspective by counseling with an additional person(s)? If not yet, at what point should we add someone?

Looking at alternatives: Begin to identify ways to address the problem. These usually aren’t broad and general concepts, but more specific actions to try.

Of the interventions that we have tried to use in overcoming this challenge, which ones have been helpful? Which ones have not helped?
Additional ideas on what else can be done:|
Ideas from those we are/will counsel with:
What perspective does the Scripture give on the identified challenge?

Giving up on the “silver bullet:” It can be tempting to try to find simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Planning: Develop a plan of action. It can be helpful to write down the plan and date it. Identify your action steps in tackling this challenge:

First I will…
Then I will…
Finally, I will…
Extra steps include…

Doing: Carry out the decided action. Remember that most challenges didn’t develop “overnight” so don’t expect “overnight” success either. Parents need to help each other stick with the plan to maintain consistency.

Studying: Look at the results of how the plan is going and determine if adjustments need to be made. It is helpful to keep a journal during this time and record successes, set-backs, “ah-ha” moments, drastic changes, or big swings in behavior, etc.

Set a date for evaluating progress and the plan:
Are there any actions that we had difficulty doing or finding success with?
Are there any actions that the child had difficulty doing or finding success with?
Are there any actions we did well with or went better than expected?
Is this a challenge that can be fixed or one that must be managed/accepted?
What perspective does the Scripture give on the identified challenge?
Is it time to try something else?

Taking Additional Action: If what we are doing has not brought some relief to the situation or things have gotten worse, it is time to use what has been learned and begin a different intervention. Remember that some interventions require patience for the change to begin to take form (depending on the problem, sometimes weeks and months), while others need immediate attention and follow up (self-injurious behavior, etc.). If we feel confused and struggling with what to try next, it is often helpful to seek counsel at this time.

Go back through steps 1-2.
Consider moving to a different level on the list of helpers below.
Go back through steps 4-7.

Seeking wisdom and guidance from the Lord through fervent prayer is essential at each of the following levels.

Level 1: Parents Collaborate and seek the Lord’s Direction
Level 2: Parents meeting with Child
Level 3: Family Meeting
Level 4: Mentor/Friend
Level 5: Counsel with Elder/Minister
Level 6: Professional Helper who works with Identified Challenge
Level 7: Residential In-patient Treatment Facility


For Further Information:

Family Technology Plan
This resource can be used by families to assist in the development of a Family Technology Plan.  It provides important questions to consider when developing a plan and includes practical goals, skills/engagement areas, and boundaries for different age levels of children.  It also includes sample plans for reference. [ACCFS]

Children’s Mental Health

Teen’s Mental Health