Ask a Pastor: Tough Love for Adult Children

Dear Pastor,

My adult child keeps making poor choices and asking me to bail her out at the last minute. I want to help her, but it throws my life in disarray and it means she never learns from her consequences. I’ve decided to put my foot down. I feel good about that, but guilty too. How do I tell her I’m not rescuing her this time?



Dear SuperMom,

You are a SuperMom because you’re putting what’s best for your child above what’s easy or what feels good. Ask yourself this: “What would have to be true for me to feel great about saying yes?”  For example, what if instead of calling at the last minute, she gave you at least a week’s warning?  Suppose that would make a big difference for you. Explain it to her like this, “I want to help you, but I have a job and a family and a life of my own. I love you so much that I’m willing to rearrange all of that, but I need at least a week to make it happen. As long as you call me the day before you need help, the answer will always be no.”  She probably won’t like it, especially if the first time she hears it she’s already behind the 8-ball. But she’ll like it better than, “I’m not helping you. You need to experience these consequences or you’ll never learn.” You want to help her, so tell her exactly what she needs to do to make that possible.

Happy Boundary-setting,


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2 thoughts on “Ask a Pastor: Tough Love for Adult Children

  1. Idan Melamed says:

    Hey Padre,
    It’s good to have one of my favorite blogs active again.

    • RevSmilez says:

      Thanks, Idan. I’ve been so focused on being a pastor and learning what that means that I’ve let the blog slip. Now that I’m beginning to get a handle on things, I’m hopeful that you’ll see more here. It’s strange… When I give people advice, I tell them to use what they already make, like their sermons. But my sermons have been so personal, so local, I’ve had some deep resistance to sharing them. I know that’s workable, there are ways around it, but I’m not there yet. I wonder if other pastors feel the same way.

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