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Prodigal Parenting: When children go wayward

By Summer Lane

The Counter Culture Mom Show recently hosted an incredible conversation with Dr. Doug Weiss, the author of the Prodigal Parent Process, a book and DVD series that provide relief and wisdom for parents with wayward children – children who reject Christ and walk away from the values that their Christian parents raised them with.

How can parents overcome the grief of losing a child’s soul to the world? Take heart, because Dr. Weiss says that most of the time, parents are not to blame for a prodigal child! Everyone has free will, and even the most perfect parent can end up with a child who rejects Christ.

Is there hope that wayward children can come back home – and come back to the Lord? Let’s explore.

It’s not your fault

Dr. Weiss strongly reminds parents that if a child becomes a prodigal – that is, they turn away from the values they were raised with and go forth into the world to live in active rebellion against God – that it is likely no fault of the parent!

God gave humans free will, he says, and this throws out all the known laws of cause and effect.

Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Humans have free will. We are commanded to use that will to serve one another and to glorify God – but in that free will, parents cannot force their adult children to respect the Lord’s commands. The burden of that decision does not rest on a parent’s shoulders.

You can pray

Prayer is a powerful thing! 1 John 5:14 reminds us that, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Dr. Weiss encourages parents to pray that Jesus will arrange circumstances for a prodigal child to meet other Godly people who will draw them back to Him – and eventually, you!

Prayer can move mountains, and a parent who faithfully prays for their child is heard by God. “Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always.” (1. Chron. 16:11)

Loving your child

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a prodigal child is to just love them! An insightful article from Focus on the Family astutely observed that there is a big difference between “helping and enabling” a child. You can love your child and provide a safe space for them while still having rules and expectations within the boundaries of your own home. For example, if your child is homeless because they have a drug problem, you can offer your child shelter, of course! But violations of drug paraphernalia inside of your home cannot be tolerated.

Love with the law, as the Bible teaches us, is impactful (1 John 5:3).

Dr. Weiss also reminds parents not to forget about other family members, as well, during a prodigal season. Sometimes having a prodigal sibling can be very difficult on children who are still living at home. Often, they need a place where they can process their own feelings of hurt or anger caused  by wayward brothers or sisters.

What is the Parent Prodigal Process?

According to Dr. Weiss’ website, the Parent Prodigal Process Series is the “unspoken story of being a parent of a prodigal.”

From the official page:

“In this Parent Prodigal Process Series, we will cover the unspoken story of being a parent of a prodigal. You are not alone; it seems that many parents have a prodigal that they have a burden for.

In this series, Dr Doug Weiss will unveil several causes for a child being a prodigal, and learn how [this] impacts being a parent of a prodigal. You will also learn how being a Parent Prodigal is impacting you and your marriage.

Gaining practical tools to help you as a prodigal parent will help you go through this process more intelligently. Regardless of where your child is in the journey, this series can help you understand your grief and feelings and help you get support as you walk through the Prodigal Parent Process.”


To learn more about the Prodigal Parent Process Series, visit HERE! 

The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team.


You can listen to the entire conversation with Dr. Doug Weiss in the video below to gain even more insight into the approach to Prodigal Parenting. 


Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies in weekly op/Eds on The Write Revolution.

Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.

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