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Caught in a Tug of War

Parents often feel tired from fighting the influences of the culture, but let me encourage you to hang on.
By Dennis Rainey

When you were growing up did you ever get into a real tug of war? You know, the kind with a thick, scratchy rope with a knot at both ends? Two groups pulling against each other ... and, in between, a murky mud hole the size of Lake Erie. It wasn't the mud you feared—it was the humiliation of losing the war while others jeered.

There's another tug of war taking place today. It's a tug of war between a parent and a host of worldly influences.

You know the scene. You've felt the pull. You're scurrying around fixing breakfast on a school day, trying to have a few sane moments before sending your teens off to school. Then you stop cold as you notice how your teen is dressed. You take a deep breath, utter a silent prayer, and say, "Excuse me. You're not wearing that to school!"

And so the tug of war begins. A semi-defiant teenager shoots you a look that would melt steel and replies, "But all of my Christian friends dress like this at school!"

If you stand firm, the struggle ends with the teen changing clothes. If you waffle (and your child will know this within a millisecond, because teens are equipped with special digital sensing devices that let them know when Mom or Dad is caving in) you begin to wonder, "What will it matter? I'm tired of fighting it. Besides, if I pull too hard, who knows what my kids will do ... they may run away, hate me forever, maybe even commit suicide!"

So you give in.

Like so many other parents, you probably are suffering from the affliction caused by this endless tug of war: moral exhaustion.

Have you ever felt it? Barbara and I have. I remember one evening when we went out for our weekly date night. At that time we were down to just two children (17 and 15) at home, you would think we'd be feeling like we were getting the upper hand in this parenting thing. But as we discussed the different "pulls" and "tugs" on our family I looked at Barbara and said, "I think we are wearing down in the battle for our family."

A tug of war

Many parents are growing weary of holding on to their moral beliefs, boundaries, and commitments. Little by little we drop our guard. We loosen our grip.

I think parents are wearing out in the tug of war to raise the next generation. So I want to get a megaphone out, come alongside you as a parent, encourage you, and remind you of the truth:


Hang on. Dig your heals in. Don't quit!

May I offer some quick training tips for effective "tug-of-war parenting?"

First, realize you are not holding the rope alone. Romans 8:31 tells us, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Look at that verse again. Read it slowly, deliberately, carefully.

God is for you. What does it matter who is against you? Feel the strength coming back into your arms and hands? God is holding the rope with you. He is for you! He does not grow weary.

Second, understand why you feel weary at times. Take an inventory of all the areas you are pulling against. Curfews, clothing, limits in dating, language, knowing peers, magazines, music, media, cell phones, and other cultural heavyweights. You can't eliminate all your tug-of-war opponents, but you can get rid of some.

Third, recruit some other parents and join together in the tug of war. In other words, look out for somebody else's child and not just your own. This may mean talking with other parents and agreeing to call each other if you observe inappropriate behavior in any of your children. It may mean helping a single parent mom with her prodigal child ... she may not know how to pull any longer.

As Christians we are in this tug of war together. I'll take all the help I can get.


Copyright 2004 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Meet the Author: Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey hosts FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated broadcast bringing help and hope to nearly 1000 communities in the U.S. Along with his wife, Barbara, the Raineys co-founded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Dennis and Barbara live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have six children and an impressive number of grandchildren.



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