H. Norman Wright has written more than 65 books on everything from parenting to pets. But his book, Loving a Prodigal (Chariot Victor) is perhaps his most personal. At the age of 20, Wright's daughter, Sheryl, rejected her family's faith and became involved with alcohol, drugs, and abusive relationships. Over the next several years, Wright and his wife, Joyce, prayed, cried, and struggled to bring their daughter back from a dangerous life. Finally, Sheryl turned her life back over to God.
We talked with Norm Wright to find out why some children turn from their faith and their families and what parents can do to help their children avoid the traps of rebellion.
What do you mean by the term prodigal?
The word is used to describe someone who is extremely wasteful. In the biblical story of the prodigal son, the son wastes his inheritance and so much more. Prodigal children waste the values their parents have worked to instill in them. They waste their potential, their abilities, their health, their future. In some cases, they waste their lives. For the sake of our discussion, I consider a child who has rejected the values of his family to be a prodigal, even if that child still lives at home, even if that child is 12 years old.
Why do some children become prodigals while other children in the same family don't?
I believe rebellion comes from a combination of personality, environment, genetics, and the basic sinfulness we all have. Parents might say, "We raised all of our children the same way. Why is John in trouble and Jane a model child?" But in reality, every child is different. Every child is born into a different family. The family dynamics change as more children come into the family. Parents react differently to their different children. Maybe you move or change jobs or someone gets sick. All of those changes affect the atmosphere of the family.1