Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

You Can’t Always Control Your Children

Leslie Basham: Betsy Corning says you need to trust the Lord with your children’s future.

Betsy Corning: You aren’t the control in their lives. The Lord is the control. As you relinquish this as they grow, they learn how to control their lives under the authority of God and realize He’s their authority. That’s a shift and a process.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Happy Independence Day!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One of the most precious resources that God has entrusted to us is our children. I know that many of our listeners are moms or grandmoms. You have a heart to see your children love the Lord and walk with the Lord, to see their hearts be turned toward Christ. That’s why we’re taking time this week to talk with some friends who are connected with a ministry that we love and want you to become familiar with.

And so we have here today Betsy Corning, who is the author of this study for moms called Entrusted with a Child’s Heart. Betsy, you’re joined today by Gina Cho and Stef Caterer, who are women who have been discipled through this ministry and are now involved in helping other young moms learn how to disciple their children in the ways of God.

Thank you so much for providing to the body of Christ such a really helpful resource and not just for writing it but for your commitment to live out this message in your own walk and with your own children.

Betsy: Thank you, Nancy. It’s a blessing to be here again with you.

Nancy: These resources which you have developed are so practical. They’re rich. They’re biblically based. There’s just so much content here. I know, Gina, you told me that you’ve been through this material.

Gina Cho: Four times.

Nancy: Four times. And do you have it down now?

Gina: I don’t, because my kids keep growing and changing. When I first took it ten years ago, they were younger and toddler age, and now they’re teenagers. I want to continually seeking the Lord in every season of life, to just be tender to them and to reach out to their hearts and to focus on the parenting issues that I think are important.

Nancy: And parenting issues really begin with your own heart as a parent, and with your marriage, and with living out biblical principles for your own walk with the Lord and your marriage and then applying the major implications with your children’s lives. So you cover so much of that and more in this study. It really is just full of insight.

And just so you know what we’re talking about, and if you go to our website,, we’ve got a link to Entrusted Ministries that will tell you more about this. But I’m holding in my hand this heavy workbook called Entrusted with a Child’s Heart. It goes along with a set of DVDs that you can use for a twenty-two-week curriculum, the better part of a year, or a school year. You can use it in your church, with your small group. It would be a great study to do.

Then this material is also available now as a book, same title, Entrusted with a Child’s Heart,and we’re making that book available directly through our ministry this week. We want you to have this material. It's a great gift for your grown children who are parenting their own children now. But we want you to have these tools that will help you pass on the baton of truth, the baton of faith to your own children.

One of the chapters in this study that I thought was particularly practical was a lesson on behaviors that exasperate your children. Betsy, where did that concept of exasperating your children come from? It’s rooted in the Scripture, isn’t it?

Betsy: It is. It seems so odd that God would be talking about raising your children but then say, “Don’t provoke them to anger” (Eph. 6:4). I just had to investigate that and find out, “Well, what are we doing that provokes our children to anger?” I’d have to say, with working with not just mothers of young children, but teenagers—so many teenagers are angry because they have been exasperated.

Nancy: And we’re seeing this even in homes of—Christian homes, families who have been in the church all their lives, families that have rules, that have structure, that are “doing everything right.”

Betsy: Yes. Exactly.

Nancy: But we’re seeing some of those kids really resist the Lord and reject the Lord, and it may be—we’re all sinners—but it may be that parents have in some ways they didn’t realize it, been exasperating their children, or provoking them, to anger, and the Scripture warns against that.

Betsy: Sadly, by the things that we might do ourselves. So we like to highlight that, and really have in this lesson. People do a quiz to rate themselves and their husbands, individually, on how they’re doing. Individually because the things that I might do to exasperate my children would be different from what my husband would do. So it helps us find our weaknesses as parents.

Nancy: And, of course, you don’t want to just focus on what your husband does to exasperate your kids.

Betsy: No.

Nancy: You want to focus on what you might be doing.

Betsy: Yes, exactly.

Nancy: There are sixteen things in this chapter, behaviors that can exasperate your children, and I want to just open up some discussion here because you all have been real honest in sharing out of your own lives. As you have parented, and I’ll open it up, Stef, Betsy, Gina, any of the three of you, which of these behaviors have you found is the way you tend to exasperate your children? Something, an area where you had to let God change you, or maybe something that you’ve seen in many other marriages and moms that you’ve ministered to. So let me start with you, Stef. What comes to your mind?

Stef Caterer: I would say numbers one through sixteen. I do tend to exasperate my kids with them all.

Nancy: Like, all of them every day?

Stef: Every day, all of them. No, I look through this list, and I’m so convicted. It really does move me to tears. I would say one of them truly is strict or excessive involvement with my kids. I tend to have a combination of one and two—unrealistic expectations and strict or excessive involvement.

Nancy: Tell what you mean by that.

Stef: I tend to micro-manage and be ultra-controlling. 

Nancy: Oh, I don’t think there are any other mothers listening to this who can relate.

Stef: Oh yes, Elliott, if you’re listening, I’m sorry, honey. The Lord is working on me. But, yes, I tend to be controlling, and I’m a home school mom. I couldn’t even send my kids to school. I’m that controlling. But, again, the Lord is working on me. I need to have grace with my children just as the Lord has grace with me. So I think that’s a big one in my life.

And, if we’re going through confession right now—can we do that?—another is modeling anger. I used to be very, very angry, and the Lord has slowly been bringing me out of it. Praise Him that He can change us from the inside out and change our hearts. So I’m working on that, working on that.

I even slipped yesterday, God forgive me, but more and more I can just come humbly before my kids and ask their forgiveness, and they can give me grace. We have that biblical relationship where they have to forgive Mommy, too.

So I love re-looking at these and saying, “Oh, I need to work on this, this, and this”—different ones at different times, definitely.

Nancy: And for each of these that we need to put off, there’s something to put on in its place. So as the Lord has been rooting anger out of your heart, what is He putting in its place?

Stef: The opposite of anger would be forbearance or patience, and that’s really the opposite of being controlling. I mean, I’m angry because I’m being controlling. They’re not doing exactly what I tell them to do. “You’re not doing it exactly the way that I think you should do it.”

Gina: Oh, boy. I still feel this, and my kids are grown.

Betsy: Yes, it’s hard.

Stef: I know. So if I have patience and forbearance and allow them to find their way and allow them to do what the Lord is growing them, then I’m going to be less angry with my strict or excessive involvement, just giving them grace and saying, “Okay, go ahead. I’ll let you go ahead and make your own choices and do it your own way. Let’s see what happens. Maybe you’ll make a mess. Let’s all clean it up together.”

Nancy: And yet we’re not talking about, especially with young children, giving your children freedom to go and do something dangerous or sinful. There is a sense in which you are, as a mother, responsible to provide boundaries.

Stef: Yes.

Nancy: How do you find that balance?

Stef: Well, in Entrusted is another great teaching that we use. Betsy tries to have the kids at some point be able to self-regulate. I don’t know if you’ve ever used that term. So I can say to Elliott who threw a baseball through the window, but he was inside. He threw a baseball through the window, and I said . . . You have three questions in Entrusted. Share the questions with us, Betsy.

Betsy: Does this have your mom’s full permission and approval, and could anybody get hurt. Is that the one you’re talking about?

Stef: That’s the one I’m talking about. So my words are: “Would Mommy say that’s okay?”


“Could anybody get hurt doing that?”


If he has those questions in his brain, then he’ll be able to self-regulate, have self-control in his life.

So, yes, there are boundaries. Mommy sets up boundaries, and then we teach our kids how to set up the boundaries for themselves within biblical ideas.

Nancy: It really takes the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit to know how to establish those guidelines and those boundaries without being excessive and without provoking your children to wrath because some parents are just so permissive, the kids are doing anything. Their kids are running the world.

Betsy: Yes.

Nancy: Or their world, and those children are turning out to be hellions. And so we’re not advocating that. But some other parents have watched in conservative, Christian homes, these parents get so fearful that their child is going to be a hellion that they do hover and micro-manage and control. And to get that balance of the right kinds of guidelines with the right kind of freedom really takes you, as a mom, being under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Betsy: That’s right.

Nancy: Being prayerful, listening to the Lord, being sensitive to your individual child and his season of life, and letting the Lord fill you with His wisdom and His Spirit so you know when to step in and when to step back.

Stef: Right. It’s so great. I’m realizing more and more as just a Christian women that so many of my problems—I want to say, all of my problems—in my family life that come from me stem from my lack of prayer in that area and a lack of allowing the Lord to fill me and being intentional about praying for my kids and praying for my relationship with my kids and how I’m growing them. The lack of prayer is the main problem in that area.

Nancy: And prayer is what demonstrates dependence on the Lord. “Lord, I need You. I cannot parent these children apart from You.”

Stef: Yes. That’s right.

Nancy: Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” And prayer says, “Lord, I can’t do this without You.”

Betsy: Every one of our lessons is a lesson in godliness—to be a godly mother—but we say to the Lord that godly has nothing to do with us. It’s just our declaring our dependence upon the Lord, to have the strength and the ability to do these things, to raise these children that He entrusted to us. And the point here is that it is a process. You are teaching your children particular boundaries when they’re young, and then as they’re getting older, you’re leading them more by influence.

And so, yes, we are delineating a little bit here, with different ages, but the idea is that you aren’t the control in their lives. The Lord is the control. As you relinquish this as they grow, they become what Stef says, self-regulated, but really, the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Nancy: Yes.

Betsy: So they learn how to control their lives under the authority of God in realizing He’s their authority. And that’s a shift and a process. If we can do any of these things, weed these out in the process, so that we’re not exasperating them, then we can have great connections with our kids when they’re older. And really, those lifelong relationships are what we all just want to have. And really, it’s the heartbeat of our souls.

Nancy: Okay, while we’re on true confessions here, Gina, it’s your turn.

Stef: Go Gina.

Nancy: You’ve got six children.

Gina: I do.

Nancy: Have you found there are some things that can exasperate your children that you see the Lord dealing with in your own life?

Gina: Well, I’m with Stef. When I first heard this lesson, I was just embarrassed that I was guilty of all sixteen at different levels with different children, even because the dynamics in every home is different—they’re unique. And in our situation, we have six children, and the oldest is Emily. Then we have five boys.

So I would have to say, number one, unrealistic expectations. Because our life was so fast paced, and I was working outside of the home, it forced me to rely on my kids to be more independent, and maybe a little earlier than they should have been.

So the culture says, “Be independent. Get straight A's. Strive and pick your destiny and what you’re good at.”

Nancy: And you were an overachiever yourself as a young woman.

Gina: I was. At the time I just wanted to glorify God with my gifts and everything, and just seeking His will in my life. But I feel there’s such a fine line between that and then over time, you get so driven and focused on what you can do, and you don’t have that brokenness in front of the Lord and fully depending on Him.

Nancy: So have you found yourself then making your children a prison to some realistic expectations?

Gina: Yes, and from an early age. Just because Emily’s the oldest, she has that mothering instinct, which I love about her. But she’s a teenager now, and I want her to have the fun of the teenage life within God’s boundaries and making friends and even making mistakes from time to time.

I have to confess that it’s hard for me because I realize my kids are not me, and I cannot make them out to be these straight-A students just because I love to study. They’re athletes, and they’re so gifted differently. They love animals and pets, and I’m just not wired that way, and it’s hard. So He has really humbled me.

One story . . . it just happened a couple of months ago. Micah is my youngest, and when he was two, we were rushing to get to Bible study. We were a little bit late, and he had tipped over his milk. I know right away, ten years ago, if it had been Emily, Peter, or Tyler, I would have scolded them, gotten frustrated, and just like Stef said, been very angry, because they put me behind schedule, and now I have to clean up this mess, and it’s so inefficient.

Nancy: Parenting is inefficient.

Stef: Exactly.

Gina: What happened was the Lord just stopped me for a second. Here’s this little Micah; he didn’t mean to do it. It’s not like he said, “I’m going to make a mess for Mom.”

Nancy: This wasn’t rebellion or defiance.

Gina: No, no. It was just a complete, honest accident. I just sweetly said, “Micah, it’s okay. It’s just an accident. We’ll clean it up.” And so we got on our hands and knees, and he’s trying to mop it up, and it became even more of a mess, but I just loved his heart in wanting to help.

What was interesting that morning was we were getting in the car and out the door, and I had a stack full of markers. I was just trying to pack my bag, and I had dropped the markers in my rush. Of all of my kids that were home that morning, Micah came over, and I was just shocked when he said, “Mommy, that’s okay; it’s just an accident.” And he stooped down and helped me pick up each marker.

And it was the Holy Spirit saying to me, “You think you’re parenting these children, but you’re teaching them how they’re going to end up treating you when you’re older in the seeds that you’re sowing of love and grace.”

It was just a real way of not exasperating my children and putting them and their needs before what I wanted and trying to control every situation. So it was just a blessing to be able to depend on the Lord and seek Him.

I’ve just been humbled in so many ways in our life recently. I’ve been forced to depend on Him in every aspect of our lives, and it’s just been hard, but it’s been a sweet journey of full dependence on the Lord and just to see how He will lead and provide for our family.

Nancy: Parenting may not be as much about shaping your children as it is about God shaping you. Am I right?

All: Yes.

Gina: That’s so true. And one interesting dynamic we have is . . . I never thought I would be in this situation, but our kids don’t have normal lives because they have to help out so much more when they have younger siblings. I’m currently in a season of being a single mom, and it’s been very stressful and very challenging. So I’m just trying to cut them grace and understanding and being realistic with what they can and can’t do.

Nancy: So unrealistic expectations and other ways to exasperate your children, Betsy, you wrote this material.

Betsy: Yes.

Nancy: You taught it many times, but as you look at the list of sixteen, is there something that stands out that, if you could rewind and go back and parent your children again, that you’d catch this time through?

Betsy: Well, I think being excessively controlling and just being more gracious is a huge lesson. And, of course, I came up with this list, so I was thinking of all of these things that could be a part of my life and how they are.

Nancy: So it’s kind of autobiographical?

Betsy: Yes, unfortunately. I really put myself out there, didn’t I?

Nancy: But you’re not alone there.

Betsy: Yes.

Gina: You’re so not alone.

Betsy: Well, talking with thousands of women and just realizing, I think there’s one particular one, there’s actually two, but one particular one is just mothers struggling with how they talk and just modeling anger. Because they get themselves frustrated and not really realizing how to properly discipline children biblically. They let things build up, and then they unlash in anger.

So that is really an important one, just how we speak to our children and the tone that we use. But the number one thing that I want women to know is to be tender with their children.

Nancy: You wouldn’t think that would be a struggle because don’t moms just naturally love their children?

Betsy: You wouldn’t. It’s so easy to show that tenderness when your child is really little. But the point here is that you demonstrate it and model it and teach it to them so that you have this tenderness that continues and abides through your relationship.

Nancy: Even when they’re not being so loveable.

Betsy: Well, sometimes five-year-olds or ten-year-olds will be embarrassed of their mom, and they’ll say, “I don’t want to be hugged here.” So my rule is that you show affection, but you teach your children to show affection back to you. And when they’re fifteen years old and they hug you in public, you will be blessed. Because it’s so easy for moms to do that, but when we teach our children that they need to be tender to us because we model it to them, that is a huge, wonderful blessing to a mother’s heart that she can live off of for a long time.

Gina: Yes.

Betsy: Because, as Jeanna said, it comes back to you, and if you teach that to your children, then they will, in an unexpected moment, give you that needed hug or that blessing—the kiss on the forehead—and it will minister to you like you can’t believe.

Gina: Yes.

Betsy: But as Stef says, you’ve got to push through the time that they’re resistant to that, and just teach them, “No, you do have to hug mom every single day.”

Gina: Right. And it’s hard because the dynamics change as each child gets older, in their teen years, and the natural pulling away from boys, from their moms, just all those things, just seeking the Lord in each of your relationships with each child, what it looks like.

Betsy: It doesn’t matter if your child tends to be that one that pulls away from you. That’s the one that most of all needs to really learn this lesson, that you are tender with them. You tell them that you love them, and by you modeling that, you will hear the words blessing yourself.

Stef: They need to learn how to give Mama some sugar.

Gina: Yes.

Stef: Come on! Mama needs a snuggle!

Nancy: We’ve talked about several of the things. There are many more on this list, things that can exasperate children. And what I love in this study is you not only talk about what exasperates, but what it needs to be replaced with, and that’s the qualities of the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ within us.

Overly harsh in discipline, replace that with self-control.

Discipline without explanation, replace that with biblical admonition, and you talk about what that means.

Lack of boundaries.

Marital discord. If you and your husband aren’t getting along, then that’s going to affect the harmony in your home.

Not admitting your own faults—that will exasperate children, and we can probably all remember times with authorities in our lives when we thought, “We know you’re wrong, but you won’t admit it.” Children know when you’re wrong, and if you can humble yourself and seek forgiveness when you’re at fault, that goes such a long way.

Not listening to your children. 

Not doing what you said you would; hypocrisy.

Physical or verbal abuse—these are things that can exasperate.

I think some women would hear a list like this and would think, “Ugh, I am such a failure. I have blown all of those,” and would just want to despair and give up.

What we want to do in a study like this is to point people to the gospel, which is for failures.

Betsy: Yes.

Nancy: It’s for sinners. It’s for those who have blown it.  I love the honesty and the humility that I see in you women. You are not saying, “We have parented. We don’t exasperate our children.” You’re saying, “We have exasperated our children, but by God’s grace, we can humble ourselves, we can repent, we can let the Holy Spirit fill us with a different Spirit.” And you’ve talked about the process of growth that you’re in.

I say that because I know that some of our listeners would hear a program like today and would think, “I am so hopeless. There is no hope for me.” There is no hope for you apart from Christ.

All: Amen.

Nancy: But through Christ there is all the hope in the world for you who have been entrusted with your child’s heart to parent those children after the heart of God.

Betsy: Yes. We say we give tangible hope because we’ve plotted out in such a way that they can see. Don’t get caught on what’s the negative or what’s happened, but root it out, and by God’s grace, repent of it, and then you’re on a new path.

We’ve delineated out what the steps are. And by God’s grace, He is weeding these things. I sign my name, “Still in the garden,” because aren’t we all weeding out in our lives even at my age as a grandmother?

Nancy: This is a resource that would be so helpful for every mom whose children are at whatever season of life, and the book, Entrusted with a Child’s Heart, is available at our resource center. We’ll be glad to send it to you for your donation to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

When you make that donation, not only are you getting a rich resource here, a hardcover book, 500 pages, lots and lots of biblical insight, but you’re also making it possible for this ministry to continue reaching the hearts of moms and grandmoms and kids from one generation to the next. So you’re partnering with us in this ministry and as a way of saying, “Thank you for your donation,” we want to send you a copy of this book.

If you’d like to know more about the resources that Betsy and her team have developed, if you will go to our website, there’s a link to the Entrusted Ministries website. You can learn about the workbook, the DVDs, the Scripture memory cards, lots of resources available for you and your church as you seek to shepherd these children that God has entrusted to you.

Leslie: You can make your donation at, or ask for the book Entrusted with a Child’s Heart when you call 1-800-569-5959.

Well, tomorrow our guests will return to continue describing how to invest in your children for eternity. Find out why delaying correction is such a problem when you need to correct a child. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Support the Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Women around the world wake up hopeless every day. You can play a part in bringing them freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness instead. Your gift ensures that we can continue to spread gospel hope! Donate now.

Donate Now

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

Read More