By BRENNA WEAVER
How do I get my parents to back off?
Question: I’m a teenager, and my overly religious parents are pushing me away from the church with their restrictive ways. How do I respectfully get them to back off, so they don’t ruin my faith?
Answer: It is wonderful that you want to respectfully engage your parents on the topic of faith. I imagine they will be proud to know your faith is important to you, and that you want to maintain it. You are at the developmentally appropriate place of differentiating your faith from your parents’ faith, and it could complicate the parent-child relationship.
You say your parents are overly religious and super restrictive. How have you responded to their rules? Do you balk and react negatively? Are you initially agreeing to the rules, only to secretly undermine them later? If so, they may be less likely to hear you out when you approach them about loosening the reins.
Proverbs 15:4 says, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” One definition Webster has for perverseness is “obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable, and accepted.” Unfortunately, “perverse” is a label often misapplied to teenagers who are trying to individuate from their parents.
Kindly and gently acknowledging your parents’ concern for your spiritual wellbeing, and highlighting ways their influence has helped shaped you, may allow them to soften a bit. If they seem overzealous and prohibitive, it might be difficult for you to see any good in their measures. Take some time to make a list of things they have done which have been beneficial for your spiritual growth.
Also, it is important to realize your parents ultimately cannot ruin your faith, because they did not give you your faith. Yes, your parents can play an active part in shaping your religious views — for good or bad. Bad parenting, bad theology and bad worldviews do real spiritual damage; there is no denying it. However, true faith in Jesus comes from God alone.
Romans 10:17 tells us, “so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Your parents’ actions can point to Christ, but they do not save you in Christ. You have a responsibility to own your part and not blame your parents if you choose to be pushed away from the church. That may be hard to hear.
Nonetheless, 2 Corinthians 13:5 states clearly, “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…” This is where it may be tricky with the parents if they are not open to you having religious freedom.
Is there a trusted church member you could speak with about this? He or she may be able to provide additional insight and may also be able to advocate for you with your parents. Lastly, pray. Pray that your heart and your parents’ hearts will be softened toward each other, so truth may be spoken in love, so you may be able to honor your parents, and so your parents may not exasperate you.
Brenna Weaver is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Ridgeland working with clients 18 years and older. She has experience as a secondary education teacher and children’s therapist. When not working, she enjoys reading, eating good food, and traveling.