He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
    and the father of a fool has no joy. – Proverbs 17:21

A foolish son is a grief to his father
    and bitterness to her who bore him. – Proverbs 17:25

A fool despises his father’s instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. – Proverbs 15:5

It is hard for a parent to acknowledge that they have a fool for a child. If you’re offended by that statement, take a look at my earlier post where the concept of a fool is defined. The temptation for a parent is to view the foolish child as a blight on the parent’s reputation instead of a concern for the well being of their child.

The Proverbs quoted above outline some of the difficulty and complexity in this situation. First, parents are deeply pained by the foolish behavior of the foolish child. Then, when a father attempts to teach his child, he discovers that the foolish child despises his Dad’s instruction. He gets responses like, “Don’t tell me what to do.” So, what is a parent to do?

Foolishness is a spiritual problem and can only be solved in the heart. The Lord’s call to the fool is,

If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you. – Proverbs 1:23

Turn at my reproof describes repentance. When a fool does repent God’s promise is that he will pour out his Spirit and make his word’s of wisdom known to the recovering fool so that the fool may become a man or woman of wisdom.

A parent must not forget the teaching of wisdom themselves.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:3-8

Steadfast love and faithfulness in the Old Testament is the equivalent to grace and truth in the New Testament.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:14-17

Grace and truth (steadfast love and faithfulness) came through Jesus Christ. God’s answer to our foolish children is first of all grace and truth. Note that grace comes first in this formula. We generally want to beat them over the head with the truth, but God approaches us first with grace.

We must recognize that this is a spiritual battle that is won by faith and love. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. We want to have all the answers for how to straighten out our wayward kids. We don’t have them, but God does. Some of those answers will be hard to take since the Lord will show us our own foolishness and call for us to repent. Maybe even repent to our wayward children. Now that is humiliating. But it makes God happy and may be the key that unlocks the door to your child’s heart. This trust in the Lord will enable your own path of training up your wayward child to be made straight. He will teach us how to love our children into the path of wisdom which begins with the fear of the Lord.

Our own walk of faith will be refreshing to our own spirits. A foolish child will produce weariness in the heart of a loving and caring parent. We need the refreshing that faith brings.

The battle is a spiritual battle. If we haven’t learned to fight hard in prayer, then it is time to learn.

Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle
    along with crushed grain,
    yet his folly will not depart from him. – Proverbs 27:22

We can’t beat foolishness out of our children, so don’t try. We have to pray it out and love it out. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance and we parents have to submit to the love of God that enables us to love our children as never before.

If you are facing this battle in your family, I recommend a book that I know you will find very helpful, Come Back Barbara by Jack Miller and Barbara Juliani. It is the story of Jack and Rose Marie Miller and their foolish daughter, Barbara and how the hound of heaven chased them all down. Jack was a seminary professor and pastor while all this took place. He almost left the ministry over this battle. You will find brilliant insights into the spiritual warfare that brought Barbara home again. She and her husband are now serving in ministry and have been for many years now.