QUESTION: Our 15-year-old daughter was recently caught shoplifting and I was called to the store where she was arrested. My heart sunk when I got the call because, although we’re not wealthy, our family is privileged to have income that takes very good care of us.
We have three children. The other two are 12 and 17. We give them each an allowance of $25 a week, have them tithe 10% to our church, and put 10% away in their savings accounts, which leaves them spendable income of $20 a week. We do the same with our income and we’ve always done this because we want them to learn to be good stewards of their money. We also pay for their lunches, cellphones and activities like movies.
My husband and I were devastated that our child felt so deprived she had to steal. The consequences we’ve agreed upon are no outings with her friends for two weeks and we also took away her cellphone for a month. We want her to know we love her and, at the same time, we want to handle this in such a way that she feels nurtured, well taken care of and understands this behavior is not acceptable.
Please help us with a spiritual solution.
~ Sad Parents
Dear Sad Parents,
Thank you for your heartfelt letter. It is hard being a parent; we often find ourselves dealing with challenges we never thought possible. It sounds like you have a healthy financial strategy and you are doing the best you can to teach your children the importance of money management.
So that said, you have asked for spiritual guidance. Being a teenager is also a very hard role to be in, and there are many reasons for why she acted in this way. So I would encourage you to pray for discernment and direction. You may want to pray with your daughter, so she hears the concern you have. I would pray for guidance on what you can do to help her make better decisions. Or maybe this is a call to for help so pray for discernment on how to approach and talk with her.
Second, it sounds like you are attached to a church, and so you might want to call upon the pastor who will keep the conversation confidential and can counsel you as a family. Or, if that is uncomfortable, a consultation with a therapist might be appropriate.
I can imagine you have a wide range of emotions so it is important to understand what you are feeling and what thoughts are going through your head. Take a step back and make sure you are listening for what is the issue in her life. I know as a parent I get lost sometimes in what I did wrong, what could I have done differently. But really this is about her and what choices she is making.
The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 can be changed to the parable of the Prodigal Daughter and can be a helpful meditation of parent-child relationships and what is needed to mend them.
Our children do challenge us to grow spiritually and so I see this as an opportunity to grow closer to God and to one another. Who you choose to accompany you on this journey is up to you, but do find someone to help give you perspective and direction.
I encourage you to take action after prayerful contemplation, and I pray that you find your way through this crisis.
Pastor Steve Marshall
Dear Sad Parents,
I can imagine your devastation after having set appropriate boundaries and modeling good financial stewardship. The teen years, however, are a tough time of development through which parents are required to maneuver. This observation has been true throughout the ages. It is particularly challenging as today our young people are forced to navigate through the mixed messages society sends them. They receive pressure from their peers to defy authority, are challenged to push themselves academically, athletically and in service to others and are expected to act like adults when they are cognitively underdeveloped for the tasks.
It sounds like you’ve done an excellent job of creating a structure that is firm, equitable and realistic. I wonder if the episode was peer-driven or a response to some misguided attempt at autonomy. Sometimes our children are tempted in ways that seem incredulous to us. I encourage you to look below the surface to discover what her motivation was and begin to intercede on her behalf.
Consider approaching your daughter with love and mercy according to 1 Peter 4:7, which reads: “. . . be serious and watchful in your prayers and above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (NKJV). As you continue modeling Christ-like behavior, your daughter will have the opportunity to see the benefits of your faith, and you will allow her to begin to make better choices as the love of God surrounds her.
Proverbs 22:6 reminds us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV). I hope you can take solace in this verse and continue walking with strength and confidence. Our Heavenly Father’s promises are true and irrevocable, regardless of how desperate the situation may appear. I pray your family is surrounded by His love and that your hearts are captured by His grace and mercy.
Chaplain Lucinda Guarino
QUESTION: I’m privileged to have had a wonderful marriage for the past 35 years. I’m the envy of the men in a group that I golf with. Most of them complain that after being married for many years, the fire seems to have gone out of their marriage. One man said when he gets home from work and tries to hug his wife she pushes him away because she’s too busy cooking dinner. Not one of these guys wants a divorce. I told them about Spiritually Speaking and they agreed to have me send this in. They also want you to know they remember special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries and often do nice things like bringing home flowers to their wives.
Would you please offer some suggestions about not taking each other for granted in a marriage?
~ Happily Married Guy
Dear Happily Married Guy & Friends,
I think of people being married and my mind wanders to the “Princess Bride” movie when the priest says “maairwage.” I smile every time. Or to those beautiful people who have been married for 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years and when asked what is the secret to their successful marriage the answers are often one word answers like “trust,” “forgiveness,” “humor” or “alcohol.” If you ask one married couple what they think is important in a marriage you will most likely get a different answer than when you ask the other.
Marriage and being married has as many varied different descriptions of how it is successful as it does of how it is a failure. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Actually when you start out comparing marriages you usually will find out quickly that someone either has or doesn’t have what you want or don’t want in your marriage. There are hundreds upon hundreds of teachings, trainings, seminars, conferences, counselors, books, videos and recordings that give advice. Keeping this in mind I will dare to share advice that was once shared with me.
“If you want romance in your marriage you are simply going to have to put in whatever time it takes with patience, effort, sacrifice, creativity, kindness, tenderness, sincerity, love, forgiveness and more important than anything watching, observing and listening what is romantic to them. After this don’t forget timing, comfort and mood are essential for reciprocation.”
Finding that spark, those words, that touch will need one specific thing from each husband for success. Ask your wife. Ask her sincerely, attentively, seriously, lovingly and truthfully. You may find there are a few other things that need to be worked out in order for that romance to be rekindled. Be genuine and being willing to learn and do what is required of you.
Best wishes and blessings upon each of you!
Pastor Mark Yeager
Dear Happily Married Guy,
You are blessed to have the marriage that you do. I am sure a good portion of that success is contributed to the fact that, like your friends, you give to your wife. The difference most likely lies in the fact that your wife also gives back to you.
You are right; marriage should not be taken for granted. And after being married many years it is true that some couples forget to show love through their words and actions. Another factor in this type of behavior is that oftentimes there have been slights or grievances a partner has toward another. They may forgive at first, but if certain slights turn into “habits” (for example, a husband constantly ignoring a wife while he is watching televised sports, spending more time with his buddies than with his wife, not telling her she looks nice) bitterness sets in. This is where long term changes in the relationship occur. An entirely new dynamic takes place between partners, one that is resentful, not complimentary, disrespectful, and bitter.
Once a couple has reached this point, professional help is usually needed. Marital therapy is not a sign of being crazy or weak. Marital therapy is probably the best invest you can make in a marriage. Rather than me writing “10 Things to Do to Have a Better Marriage” therapy realizes those tips will not work where there is hidden resentment and unhealed pain. Therapy helps a couple discover “why” their partner doesn’t respond in a loving way. It brings that fact to light, addresses it, and heals it. Then once old hurts are identified and cleaned up, new habits that bring joy and new memories can be integrated.
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian