Dear Barbara, how do I decide which new friends my child can play with?

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 thank you 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 parentYour 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!

And ps. 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.

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3 thoughts on “Dear Barbara, how do I decide which new friends my child can play with?”

  1. Brinda Friday

    Could you address handling the above situation when your husband is very determined to disagree with you regarding boundaries for your children?

  2. Brenna J Lawrence

    Marje Gillies, may The Lord bless you for your faithfulness with these young women you taught in your sunday school classes. Praise God for the influence you had in their lives. It is an encouragement that all of us have influence for righteousness, (or not), in other’s lives. I am an “intermittent” mentor to several younger women who The Lord puts in my path. I pray for God to use me mightily. Sometimes they don’t receive what I say but I pray continually to say it with Grace and Truth. Much of what I am able to say concerns their handling of God’s resources, (continual debt – not being wise with God’s money), – and dating men who are not Godly or good men. I made many unwise choices which I regret – especially with men. I pray to be able to help and God allows me to do so. God Bless you, Brenna

  3. marje gillies

    As a long time empty nested parent, I remember many times being conscious of safe guarding my kids from influences I felt were unhealthy.
    Now I am a grandmother and I respect my son and daughter-in-law for the safe guarding choices they have to make in regards to their 3 daughter’s growth and friendships.
    Rightly said, those choices may not have made us popular as a parent, but parenting is not about a popularity contest.
    I’m 83 years old now, and teach Kid’s Church grades 1-5 on a regular basis at our church, and one of the things I do is emphasise and encourage listening to and obeying your parents, even when it’s hard.
    As a teacher in former years of jr. hi girls S.S. class each semester with a new group of girls I took one month of Sundays and covered when the time came, dating boys that professed Christ, in making decisions on how to behave and handle themselves on an outing. The problems incurred when ‘falling in love’ with a non-believer and deciding where, how and what to include in a wedding ceremony. How to raise children, etc. True, a long way to look ahead for young girls, but as a Believer with an unsave husband, I felt it necessary ground to cover.
    Fast forward to running into one of these same girls, (now all in their twenties) at an event. As we talked she reminisced about those Sunday school classes and how they laughed behind my back, and thinking “what does she know?” But today, she said want you to know that each one of us and married or engaged to a born again christian young man to share our futures with.
    Made me tear up to hear that, but made me more determined that ´stick to it ness’ to Godś Word and what He wants of us is worth while, and to now be the kind of grandmother to my 3 granddaughters that be a safe guard´ for their future and being on the same page as their parents in their lives.

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