Christian Parenting: Telling Your Christian Friends to Shut Up (Politely)
From the Christian Parenting Corner
Telling Your Christian Friends to Shut Up (Politely)
Become a parent, and you will be surprised to find that parenting advice is forthcoming from the oddest places. There is the old lady in the grocery store arguing with the clerk about canned mandarin oranges who has a bit of advice on the nutrition your toddler needs (yeah, she saw the cheese doodles in your shopping cart); there is the new member of the church who is compelled to point out your child’s shyness when she is hiding behind you rather than give a big hug to the person she has never met, and then there are your friends – your spiritual friends – who will point out that your latest attempt at reigning in your rebellious third grader is not the way to go.
As a Christian parent, you know that there is a way that seems right, but in the end it leads to destruction or worse (Proverbs 16:25) and this is the reason that you seek a lot of input which the Bible guarantees will lead to success (Proverbs 15:22). Unfortunately, there is a somewhat overlooked Scripture that put parents in charge of teaching their children about God, and in so doing apply any and all means necessary to get through to their kids and help them to understand the Lord’s tenets and find ways to personally obey them (Deuteronomy 11:19).
What makes this Scripture overlooked is the fact that many a parent has abdicated her or his responsibility of persistent and consistent interaction with a child, and has relegated the idea of teaching and training to neatly pigeonholed opportunities that may or may not be penciled into the calendar. All but gone are the spontaneous learning opportunities parents do have the chance to make the most of – in favor of the dogged persistence on having it at the family table over dinner, when something else may crop up and nix this plan.
If you are wondering what has caused parents to let go of their gut level instinct when it comes to parenting their children you quite frequently do not have to look any further than to your local congregation. Do not misunderstand – the vast majority of Christian parenting advice that is based on sound Biblical doctrine and understanding is worth its weight in gold! Yet when it turns from parenting advice into parenting dogma, the dangerous shift happens.
Avoiding Christian Parenting Dogma
Parents, when it comes to dealing with your child, it is between you and God. You cannot, must not, and should not hand off this task to a third party. Yes, the Bible does teach you to obey your leaders and to seek advice from godly men and women (Proverbs 10:13). Yet the Bible also teaches you to ask God for discernment and pray to Him for His guidance and wisdom (James 1:5) and this applies not only to the wisdom of knowing right from wrong in your daily life, but also to the wisdom of applying the advice you have received from others to your own parenting efforts.
Do not sacrifice your parenting success and your godly parenting opportunities at the altar of a misguided and incomplete understanding of obedience!
As it pertains to parenting, there are times when you need to tell your Christian friends to shut up (politely).
- When a certain bit of advice has been offered, but even after persistent prayer there is that insistent nagging in the pit of your stomach that this is not right. Those who are rebellious will not have that nagging; it will be a reflex reaction of not obeying. Thus, do not fear that you are rebellious (well, unless you are) when you question advice offered and instead realize that when you take it to God, He might not agree with what has been offered to you. Thus, if your Christian friends are telling you to spank your rebellious child, but answers to your prayer and supplication are urging you to find a new or additional avenue of disciplining, it could just be from God!
- If you notice patterns in your child’s behavior that you believe require the intervention or at least observation of a trained professional, this matter should be taken to God in prayer. Unless you find the hand of God staying you, it might be a worthwhile endeavor. Sadly, many congregants have developed a certain level of hostility toward child psychologists and will warn away parents by saying that they will only need the Bible for sound parenting. While the latter is true, it does not preclude the former. In some cases parents need help applying Christian principles with the help of a psychologist in such a way that they will trickle down to the child’s level of understanding.
- Should a physician suggest that a child see a specialist for physiological or behavioral issues, many Christian friends are quick to point out that a prayer chain might be organized. A most certainly worthwhile idea, it does not negate the necessity of following the physician’s advice. One of the greatest disservices a parent can do to a child is to not offer the child the medical care needed.
Yet how do you walk on with your child when you feel like you are in island unto yourself? How do you continue to seek advice in your parenting from Christian friends who might be upset that you did not implement to a letter the past advice you have sought from them? Conversely, when you disagree with advice offered and measures suggested, how can you tell your friends that you are choosing a different route?
The answer is simple: tell them to take it to the Lord. If (and only if) you have wrestled with God in prayer about a certain bit of advice offered by a third party and you are certain that God is not nudging you in that direction, you may state honestly and openly that while you took it to God in persistent prayer, you were not able to discern His approval for that course of action. Hence, you are back for more prayer, advice, and help.
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