You are at a family gathering and your three-year-old is dawdling over her plate. Grandma assumes she doesn’t like what she’s being served and offers to get her some cheese and bread instead. You want your child to learn to eat what is in front of her. What do you do?
The public school your 5th grader attends shows a movie with repeated curse words in it and horrible values. What do you do?
The lady in front of you at church turns around when the children are dismissed for children’s church and asks you why you won’t let your kids go. What do you do?
Your extended family is visiting in your home for the holidays. They don’t keep an eye on their toddler and he gets into everything, digging in the plants and taking the books off the shelf. What do you do?
How should you respond when others don’t agree with your parenting?
Step one is to PRAY. You shouldn’t try to handle things on your own – instead you should pray to your heavenly Father.
- Wisdom: Ask the Lord to give you wisdom about how to handle the situation. (see James 1:5) Seek the Lord regarding the timing of your conversation and the right words to say. Ask God to show you a strategy to bring about compromise, if that is appropriate. Ask God to give you understanding in seeing things from another person’s viewpoint.
- Discernment: Ask God to give you clarity of thought. (see Psalm 139:23-24) Is your bad attitude affecting how you are perceiving other people’s comments or actions? Are you being judgmental and defensive? Are you being legalistic in your parenting – elevating ‘rules’ over principle? Are you putting your faith in a program, like GKGW, rather than in God, the author of biblical parenting? Are you being prideful? Are your priorities wrong?
You need to be praying for God’s wisdom and discernment in every situation. Don’t do anything until you have prayed – and listened – for God’s guidance.
Step two is MAY. You may need to let the issue slide. Consider what your parenting decision is based on. Is there a Scriptural precept or principle that you are standing on? Or is this a matter of preference? Consider the context of the situation when deciding how you’ll respond. Ask God to help you discern what’s really important in each new battle.
Let’s revisit one of the opening scenarios. You are at a family gathering and your three-year-old is dawdling over her plate. Grandma assumes she doesn’t like what she’s being served and offers to get her some cheese and bread instead. You want your child to learn to eat what is in front of her. What do you do?
When considering the questions in step two (MAY) – we decided that this was not a parenting hill to die on. While we felt it was important for our girls to learn to eat what is in front of them – based on the biblical principles of stewardship (not wasting food), gratitude (being thankful to have something to eat) and otherness (honoring the one who put time and effort into serving us) – we realized that the context of the situation needed to be considered. How many times will she be eating at Grandma’s house? In our case, it was about once a month. Was being able to eat whatever she wanted once a month going to undo all the work we were doing in training her to eat what she was given? No, it wasn’t. What was truly important here? Our relationships with our family were much more important than a clean plate. If we confronted our family, we risked causing a rift in our relationship. We decided to say nothing and let her eat whatever she wanted when Grandma was hosting a family meal. The end result? We were able to maintain a good relationship with our extended family and our daughter still learned to clean her plate because of the work we did with her at home. Interestingly, it was only during her preschool years that she even took advantage of that freedom – once she started to mature some, eating what was on her plate with a grateful heart became part of her character and the whole issue disappeared.
Step three is STAY. Most of the time, your parenting decisions will (and should be) based on biblical principle. When they are, you need to stay firm in your convictions and not be swayed by what others say.
The public school your 5th grader attends shows a movie with repeated curse words in it and horrible values. What do you do? What we did was go to the teachers and express our disappointment. We explained why it was wrong for children to be exposed to bad language and values. We encouraged them to be more proactive in previewing movies they show and gave them the tools (in this case, a website) to accomplish that. The end result? The school changed its policy and sent home permission slips before showing movies so parents could decide whether or not their child would participate.
We need to be aware of the differences between law, principle, and freedom. In areas of freedom, even when we feel strongly about something, we need to allow other families the freedom to seek God in that area and make choices for their own families.
The lady in front of you at church turns around when the children are dismissed for children’s church and asks you why you won’t let your kids go. What do you do? In this case, our reason for not having our children participate in children’s church was because we felt it was important for our family to worship God together as a family. Does that mean that children’s church is wrong for everyone? No. The end result? We shared with this lady our reason behind keeping our kids with us and then were OK with the fact that she didn’t see things the same way we did. We are also OK with the fact that some choose to put their kids in children’s church – this is a freedom issue and each family has the freedom to decide what is best for their family.
In the final scenario your extended family is visiting in your home for the holidays. They don’t keep an eye on their toddler and he gets into everything, digging in the plants and taking the books off the shelf. What do you do? After praying and talking about this as a couple, we decided that in our home, we had the responsibility to be good stewards of the things God had blessed us with. On the other hand, we didn’t want to harm the relationship with our family. Since it wasn’t our child, we did not have the freedom to correct him. So we decided to set up the playpen and whenever we saw the toddler getting into something, we put him in the playpen. The end result? Our relationship with our family remained intact, and although there were a few messes we needed to clean up because his parents kept taking him out of the playpen, we felt we were not counteracting our instructions to our own children by just standing by and allowing another child to be outside his funnel.
As you interact with others who don’t agree with your parenting, we want to encourage you to PRAY, and then decide whether you MAY let the issue go, or if you need to STAY with your convictions.
Luona Nightingale is a Contact Mom for Christian Family Heritage. She loves to help other moms by answering their questions and helping them implement the principles from Babywise and other Growing Families curricula. She and her husband Luke reside in upstate New York. They are the parents of four adult daughters.