I am a father who, together with my wife, has worked very hard. Our nineteen-year-old son is causing us a lot of problems, and we don’t know what to do. He got a job, but fell in with unsavory friends who convinced him to steal merchandise from the store where he was working, resulting in his dismissal. Now he spends his time with those so-called friends, staying out all night. Sometimes he takes our car without our permission, and doesn’t return home till early the next morning. He doesn’t want to work or study. We have considered putting him out of the house, but it’s hard because we’re afraid we’ll lose him forever. What can we do?

Dear Friend,

I remember well the morning that we told one of our sons that he had to move out of the house. He had been doing many of the same things as your son. He had stolen, had taken our car, and was completely ignoring the house rules. We had given him several chances, but he wasn’t improving. So we told him that we would give him enough money for one month’s rent and that he would have to go.

Of course, we had the same fears that you express. Would he ever forgive us? Could we ever have a normal relationship after having thrown him out? And there were other fears also: Would he end up in jail, or overdose on drugs, or even take his own life?

Parents of adult children must recognize the point at which they are no longer helping, but rather hurting their children by continuing to support their bad choices and destructive lifestyles. If you continue to allow your son to avoid the natural consequences of his behavior, you will be crippling him for life. He will never have to learn to take care of himself, so he won’t.

There is always a risk that he will end up in jail or worse. Our son ended up being homeless for a while, but finally realized the advantages of working. He went through many years of struggle, but today he is a successful businessman and well respected in his field. Just this week he told me that he is still dealing with some of the natural consequences of his bad choices in the past, but that he is strong and confident, and will get through it.

If you have done your job during the past nineteen years, then your son has been taught what he needs in order to become a productive citizen. He may have a difficult time of it for a few years, so you will have to remind yourselves over and over that this is the best thing that you can do for his future. However, the bottom line is that he is responsible for his choices now, and you have no reason to blame yourself, no matter what the final outcome is.

I recommend that you depend on God to help you get through this. Ask Him to forgive you of any sin that you have committed, and begin a life of obedience to the Scriptures. You will find that as you cultivate a strong relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ, He will help you during the hard times that lie ahead.

We wish you well,