How to Help Your Spiritually Oppressed Child

by Neil Anderson

Children need us to be strong and confident in the Lord. We cannot impart what we don’t possess. If the parents are not experiencing freedom in Christ, they will have a difficult, if not impossible time helping their children experience freedom from Satan’s oppression in their young lives.


Let’s examine from a parental perspective the most definitive passage in the New Testament for helping others find their freedom in Christ:


And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” 2 Tim. 2:24-26 NIV


As you can see this is a kind, gentle, able to teach, patient when wronged model that requires the presence of God in order to set a captive free. The passage also teaches that freedom comes from knowing the truth, because people are in bondage to the lies they believe. The battle is shown to be in the mind, because when they come to their senses they escape from the snare of the devil. It also establishes the fact that the one who is going to help your child must be completely surrendered to the Lord.


Jesus is the wonderful counselor and only He can grant repentance and set a captive free.


·      Have you been patient when wronged by your child?

·      Have you been kind or harsh?

·      Have you corrected them with gentleness?

·      Do you know the truth well enough to teach them what to do when they are under attack?


You may need to start by asking your child to forgive you for the times that you have not disciplined in love, or understood the true nature of their problem. If a parent has severely disciplined (punished) a child, without knowing what is going on inside, the relationship may be damaged. The same problem is true for any other authority figure that has tried to shape only their behavior without knowing about the battle that may be going on for their minds.


Can you imagine the frustration of hearing voices or experiencing a presence in your room that frightened you, and not have anyone to talk to who understands? The problem is compounded when they share what they are experiencing with another person who won’t believe them.


Being told that there is a spiritual battle going on for your mind and that the problem is resolvable brings immediate relief!


Hopefully you will have resolved your own personal and spiritual conflicts as a mature Christian, and you will be personally familiar with the process of helping your child fight their spiritual battles. It will also make you an example to follow rather than one who is judging or condemning them. The joy of knowing your own identity and freedom in Christ will be something your children will recognize and want to have for themselves.


Be careful to use terms that a child can understand. In order for children to cooperate they must know that they are not the problem, but they must be proactive.


If your attitude is wrong and you say something like: “What’s wrong with you anyway?” they will probably get defensive. I asked one young boy if he had thoughts in his head telling him what to do. He said he did, and I asked what the thoughts were. He said, “I’m no good!” The frustrated parents of this adopted child had all but thrown in the towel trying to control his behavior.


The message that he was getting internally and externally was that he is incorrigible, no good, hopeless, and helpless.


The goal is to resolve their personal and spiritual conflicts in Christ and find the peace of God that passes all understanding. For the duration of their life they need to know that they have to be responsible for what they think and do. In order for this process to work, you must have their cooperation to share with you any mental thoughts they are having which are in direct opposition to what you are attempting to do.


The power of Satan is in the lie. As soon as the lie is exposed, the perceived power is broken. The control center is the mind, and if Satan can get them to believe a lie he can control their lives. Thoughts like, “This isn’t going to work,” or “God doesn’t love you,” etc., can interfere only if they believe the lies.


I usually tell people that it doesn’t make any difference if the thoughts they are hearing are coming from a loud speaker on the wall or in their head. It is just a thought or voice and it can’t have any power over you unless you believe it. In either case don’t pay attention to it.


There are two reasons why most people, including our children, don’t share what is going on inside.


Firstly, if they even remotely suspect that we won’t receive the information appropriately, they won’t share it. Patronizing responses like, “You’re just having a bad day,” or “It will go away,” or “You have an over-active imagination,” or judgmental statements like, “You need to see a doctor!” will keep a person from revealing what they are thinking. The last response is what many fear the most.


They already fear they are going crazy, and anything you do to suggest that possibility will drive them away. I have assured many people that nothing they could share about their thoughts would surprise me. Sometimes thoughts are threatening or vulgar. Once they know that you understand that those thoughts aren’t their thoughts, they are more free to share what is going on inside.


Secondly, they may be threatened by voices they think they hear in their head. Usually it is a threat to harm them when they get home or back in their bedroom. The threat can be towards someone else such as their father or baby sister. They believe they have to obey the voices in order to save someone else. Much of the intimidation is threatening them not to share what is really going on inside.


Satan’s attacks are like cockroaches. They only come out in the safety of darkness. They fear being exposed. When you turn on the light they scurry for the shadows. All this intimidation is to keep the child from sharing what must be shared in order to be free in Christ.


The problem isn’t at home or in their room, it’s in their mind. So if they resolve it in your office, it will be resolved at home. And if the problem is resolved in the parent’s bedroom it will be resolved in the child’s bedroom. One person called hours later and said with a great deal of joy, “They’re not here either!” They never were “there.” What is going to set your child free is what they do, not what you do.


Since Satan is under no obligation to obey our thoughts, a child who is deeply struggling spiritually should pray their prayers out loud, and assume their responsibility to resolve the issues that are standing between them and God.


For a child who is deeply disturbed, it is not what we do that sets them free; it is what they choose to renounce, confess, forgive, etc. Watch them closely as they pray, especially their eyes. If they start to drift away mentally, ask them what they are hearing. In some cases they may be seeing something. The moment they share it, the lie is exposed, and the power is broken.


We must help them focus their minds and to ensure them that they do have control if they would only choose to exercise it.


It is common for children under spiritual attack to have headaches or feel like they are getting sick. Usually the physical symptoms stop when they share it. If they say, “I have to leave here.” Remind them that is only a thought.


The weapons of warfare are not of the flesh (2 Cor. 10:3-5).


Prayer is our weapon when we calmly take our place in Christ. Trust is an essential prerequisite. If a child trusts you they will believe what you say.  For them to trust you they have to feel accepted, safe, and secure. The more you calmly explain what is happening in the spiritual realm and the more reassurance you give them, the more they will believe and trust you. The safer they feel, the better chances they have of finding freedom from the lies they have believed.


The authority we have in Christ does not increase with shouting or coercion. Don’t respond in the flesh. God does everything decently and in order.


Teach your child to pray victorious prayers from God’s Word. Listen carefully. Make them feel safe. Guide them gently. The Holy Spirit is the One who transforms their lives. Used by permission.

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