I posted a picture with Briana and me on Facebook.
Someone told me that I shouldn’t allow my children to use the peace sign. I also has someone say that I shouldn’t encourage Briana to make a poochie face, and I definitely shouldn’t be doing it with her. Then, they said that we could take the picture for our fun, but we shouldn’t post it to Facebook because my husband is in ministry, and it would reflect poorly on him and the Lord.
I have been reading blog posts, and it seems that a lot of folks had issues with acquaintances, friends, and family (and sometimes, strangers) that didn’t agree with how they raise their children.
There’s the homeschool mom whose extended family felt that they were sheltering their children too much with their educational choices and were vocal about the dangers of this “extreme” option over the turkey dinner, even calling them names in front of their children.
There’s the parents who allow their children to listen to certain types of music or watch certain movies that another member of their church does not feel is acceptable. The children overheard someone criticizing their family over their entertainment, and now, they don’t even want to go to church.
There’s the family who is vegetarian, and every person who meets them that finds out about their diet feels the need to tell them the dangers of not eating meat (or gives them “helpful” Bible verses). That one’s for you, C.O.
Maybe you have seen some of the same posts I have.
Maybe you have even experienced critical attitudes from others.
It’s pretty hard to deal with when it is happening to you.
We’ve had our moments. I have bitten my tongue. I have also neglected to bite my tongue, and later, wished I had. When people don’t agree with how I raise my children and feel the need to tell me, I struggle with extending them grace, but that’s exactly what I need to do.
Extending someone grace isn’t simply a matter of biting your tongue, though. It is also a matter of the heart. It means not thinking ill of them. It means letting hard comments pass by without even inflicting pain. It means compassion and understanding on your part.
I should have two goals when dealing with people who don’t agree with how I raise my children. I want them to leave the conversation feeling as though they were able to effectively communicate with me, and I want to leave the conversation with feelings of love toward the other person.
So, here are a few ways we try to handle it when people don’t agree with how we raise our children. Maybe it will help you to extend some grace when you need to do so.
1. Say Thank You
Thank the person for their concern. Thank them for giving their advice. Thank them for loving you enough to speak to you honestly. You can do all of these things even if the advice or opinion given isn’t something that you agree with or is helpful. Essentially, you are thanking them for taking their time and energy to attempt to be loving to you and your children. Most folks that speak to you genuinely care about you and your family, they are simply misguided, uninformed, or disagree with you. This doesn’t negate the fact that they care. You should recognize the spirit in which the advice was given, thank them, and move on.
2. Find Something Helpful
Some folks can give a heaping helping of advice. You can find one good thing in all that they have to say, and focus on that. So, they think your homeschool children are not socialized enough, and they share with you lots of activities you need to get your children involved in. There is one activity they mentioned that you actually think your children would enjoy, and you were not aware of it. Ask the speaker to tell you more. Again, most folks who speak are genuinely trying to help. If their advice is coming from a place of love, really listen. There is usually something good that will come from it.
3. Laugh At Your Own Self
Sometimes, folks coming to you with criticism may hit on something that you are critical of on your own. Go ahead. Laugh at your own self. We all have faults, and stress may be averted if you are willing to admit it. Aunt Jane feels that you were far too lenient in your punishments. It’s true that you should have your children a bit more disciplined. After all, Suzie ran down the cereal isle the last time you were grocery shopping with her arm out and knocked down 12 boxes before you could put her in the cart. Laugh, and share the story. Tell Aunt Jane that you know that you need to work on discipline. Tell her that you will be sure to call if you get stuck, but for right now, you and your husband are working on a game plan.
4. Just Listen
Let’s be honest. Most of the folks who give advice are women. Am I right? These are mothers whose children are most likely grown up, and they can’t stop mothering everyone. They just want to be useful, and they feel like they can help you by giving their advice. They may even have a little social anxiety and feel uncomfortable speaking unless they feel they have something they think is helpful to say. Just listen. You don’t have to take their advice. Just listening will open up the lines of communication so you can talk about something else.
5. Don’t Jump to the Defense
Remember, these are your children. You don’t have to defend your right to parent them the way you feel is correct. If someone is critical about your parenting, jumping to the defense will do the one thing that you do not want- make the conversation go on longer. When Aunt Jane says that you are too lenient in your punishments, you don’t have to go into a long defense about how you handle discipline in your home. If you do, Aunt Jane is bound to mention the time that she saw your child knocking over the boxes in the cereal isle, and the conversation will only escalate until others hear the noise of your conversation, get involved, take sides, and cause ugliness. No one wants that. Don’t jump to defend yourself. Change the subject as quickly as possible, and move on.
6. Don’t Jump to the Offense.
When someone at church tells you that they can’t believe you let your child listen to Toby Mac, resist the urge to point out that you couldn’t believe they let their child watch Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. When Aunt Jane speaks about the lack of discipline in your home, don’t point out the issues of her adult children. Again, we don’t want this to escalate. We want to be gracious and move on. Being offensive will, no doubt, bring this thing to a place that no one wants to go. Also, be sure you aren’t jumping to the offense in your head. The battle will continue to rage, but you will be the only one feeling the blows. Let it go.
I have to give the credit for this post to my years living in the South. I have discovered the art of conversation, especially when it comes to conversations like this. Although, sometimes discussions here look a bit like this one from “The Happiest Millionaire.” This is an example of what NOT to do, but it may amuse you and show you how ridiculous this kind of banter can look, even when it is done in a “dignified” way.
Listen. No two people are alike.
Have you ever met “identical” twins? They have the exact same DNA. Technically, they are the exact same person. Technically. Yet, have you ever met “identical” twins who were completely identical? Like, they agree on everything, all the time.
So every single person in the world is different, and then some have children, and all of those children are different from every other child in the world- even the twins. All of those families (made up of different people) live in different places. Some live in the desert. Some live in the forests. Some live in the city. Some live in the country. Some live on tropical islands. Some live in tribes in the South American rain forests. They have different incomes, came from different upbringings, have different cultures, religions, and a multitude of personal beliefs that may differ from their culture and religion.
Yet, in spite of all those things, there are those in this world who think there is only one right way to raise children. There is not, at least not by humans, anyway.
Like I said, all of these will take compassion and understanding on your part to deal with people who don’t agree with how you raise your children. Extend a little to those who don’t agree with you. I think you will find that they will begin to extend it right back.
Oh, and think twice before offering advice yourself. Rick has always told me that advice is not helpful unless you were asked for your opinion. I have found that he was right 🙂