Dear Barbara, We recently met a family at our library who has since that day been asking our son to come play. I don’t feel comfortable with my children spending a lot of time with a family I barely know, so I invited the family to a 4th of July party we were going to. They came. I think the parents love their children and are doing the best they know how, but I have noticed from our interactions, that the children are not very obedient and the older son (9) is sneaky in his defiance. I know there is a verse that says, “do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.” So I don’t really want my son going over to their house to play without me there. I am growing weary though, because they keep inviting him and it’s hard to keep making excuses or coming up with counter invitations. We have a fairly big family and already have a lot going on. How can I deal with this graciously? Thanks for your input!
Great question that at one time or another most parents will face. We did too.
The bottom line is go with your instincts. I believe a parent’s instincts are often the whisper of the Holy Spirit. If you feel uncomfortable about him playing at this family’s house without being present then that’s your choice and you go with your gut.
God has given you your children to train, influence and shepherd and part of that is wisely discerning who else can influence your child besides you parents, their siblings, and extended family. I remember feeling like not only policewoman, lawyer, jury, and judge for solving sibling squabbles, but also the gatekeeper for all that my children were exposed to. Parenting is a big responsibility and you do play these roles for them because they don’t have the maturity to monitor and discern what they see, hear and experience from other people, devices and experiences like school, church, birthday parties, etc.
As to being gracious, it sounds like you already are by suggesting alternatives, but there may come a time you need to say something like this, ‘at this season of our family we are already so busy with so many responsibilities, activities and friends that we simply cannot add more into the mix. Thank you for your interest in our son as a playmate for your son.’ Something like this in your own words will be better.
When our youngest was about 14 she was invited to a party by a friend I didn’t know. Right away we were reluctant to let her attend, but to let our daughter know we had an open mind I said I’d call this mother. I did and asked about the plans for the party; how many adults would be present, what activities were planned, how long they expected it to last, etc. I remember clearly standing in the hallway downstairs in our house listening on my phone to this mom respond while a sense of unease grew in my heart.
Finally, after she had cheerily “sold” me on the fabulous party they’d planned I nervously replied that I didn’t feel right about Laura attending but thanked her for inviting her. The mom was not prepared to be declined and she let me know she was not happy with me. It wasn’t pleasant to hear her frustration with me but it did confirm my decision.
I learned from that situation that my goal was not to please other people but to please God with how we parented our children. Kids will put a lot of pressure on moms and dads to do all kinds of activities with lots of children you don’t know. You are the gatekeeper to your kids’ hearts. Monitor those heart influences well. I have no idea what we protected our daughter from by telling her she couldn’t go to this party, but I know it was the right decision.
My dear friend Susan said in a recent post, “Remember you aren’t running for most popular parent. Your kids will think you are unfair and the strictest parent ever. However, it’s not nearly as important what your child thinks of you now as it is what he or she will think of you 20 years from now. Our kids will often make us feel like we’ve ruined their lives, and sometimes we will wonder if we have, but our ability to ruin our child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him (or her.)”
God will guide you if you pray about everything to do with your kids and then walk by faith. He loves them more than you do!
P.S. If you haven’t heard about our new book, The Art of Parenting, you might want to get a copy for yourself or consider leading a small group with friends or even with parents you don’t know well like this couple. For more info click here.