Honoring Your Parents as an Adult Child
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. " Honour your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."
Yall. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve been in the last year like this:
“I know I’m old enough to be married, and my parents are still technically my authority, but they haven’t lived in the same city as me or paid any of my bills for 5 years.”
“My parents want to make every decision for me and, I have a masters degree. When do I age out of them second guessing me and trusting me?”
“What are some healthy expectations and boundaries we should have because I’m not 15, but they are still my parents?”
I point my friends (and myself!) back to the Gospel. We must remember that our parents are people made in the image of God and we are to apply Romans 12:18- “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” What areas are you mad or feel bitter about? Have you asked your parents for a cup of coffee and talked reasonably about it? Are you bottling up unmet and unvoiced expectations? Have you talked to a counselor or mentor? Are you praying for them? These are good, healthy questions to think through to allow us to live peaceably.
First we need to look at what “honor” does and doesn’t mean. The Gospel Project is ah-mazing giving this explanation: “…Honor comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to be heavy” or “to give weight.” It involves taking someone seriously into account, offering profound respect and a place of importance. The opposite of honoring someone is trivializing him, treating him as if he didn’t matter.” The full article is Here and we highly recommend it!
When I graduated from college, I did what every GOOD graduate does and moved back in with my parents, was blessed with a 9-5 I did not deserve, and wondered what I was doing with my life. I loved that semester, because I think my parents and I both knew it would be the last time we would all live together..so there were lots of home-cooked meals and Lifetime movies (don’t judge). I moved to Texas and began going to grad school and working. They would give advice about my job or dating, but it was up to me if I was going to be dismissive or pray through their suggestions. I am blessed with wonderful parents, but knowing how to honor them when I’m living a life they know nothing about 9 hours away takes effort and wisdom.
If your parents are trying to make decisions for you, I love my friend Susie’s advice: “Recently I was in a conversation on this same topic and one of our women made a great suggestion: when broaching the subject, the child should express gratitude for not only the way he/she was raised but also "thank you for raising me to be a responsible adult." I love this. When our identity is in Jesus, we welcome suggestions with gratitude and turn them into a conversation not an argument. (Friends, work on this now! You will need this discipline in every season!)
If your parents feel left out of your “new” life, have a cup of coffee with them and hear them out. Facetime isn’t as great as face-to-face, but do not just call. When dealing with feelings of any kind, the offended and hurt person needs to see your facial expressions. Mom, I need your help on this. What are some things that you would like for me to do so you can be a part? Dad, I need your input. With my job and everything else I’m balancing what are some expectations you have that aren’t being met? You’ve been in a bedroom or on the couch for 18 years, it may be as simple as...we want you to come over for dinner once a week and don’t go more than a few days without texting us.
If your parents are unhealthy (calling you every hour at work, criticizing, controlling, etc), sit at the feet of Jesus. This daughter shares: “…here’s the ugly truth: I do not want to honor my parents. So here, as in so many other areas, I find the law continues to drive me to Christ.” You are not alone, and He’s a Good, Good Father. Also, find a mentor you can share with.
If your parents lack normal boundaries, remember your relationship is shifting and has shifted. There aren’t major rules, because relationships vary DAILY-give them and yourself a little grace. Again, I love this advice from Susie: “The young adult needs to take the initiative to discuss this with the parent, and should have the maturity to help them understand the boundaries between them. If the parent resists, it might take some time and lots of grace to help the parent understand. If this is a serious problem in the relationship, the child should see a counselor to help him/her understand how to best communicate with the parents. These might be really hard conversations, but it's only fair to tell the parent how he/she feels, they aren't mind readers. Also, if the child has made mistakes and the parent throws that up to them, the child needs to stand his/her ground and remind them that "experience is the best teacher"! A good counselor can help one come up with strong talking points.”
We know that we are called to not simply be hearers, but doers of the Word. We do not age out of obeying Ephesians 6, but obeying this verse does look different for a 5 year old than it does a 28 year old who hasn’t lived at home in 10 years. For many of us, we just need some practical ways to honor and “give weight to” our parents. This begins with being present, listening, and trying. These are some practical ways to honor a parent by simply making time to love them well like: “Perhaps, it could mean something as simple as a memo in your smartphone reminding you to “Call mom.” Love it!
From looking at the definition of honor, reading all these articles and advice I’m encouraged to pray and love my parents by giving weight and importance to our relationship. What can you do today to honor your parents? Maybe you could call and say hi this week and remind them of a funny childhood memory and laugh together. While on the phone, be fully present (not looking on pinterest or not listening), listen and engage to give your parents honor. - Amy