A Motherly Dilemma

Here’s a nice motherly dilemma: your daughter is friends with some nice Christian girls who are starting to make poor choices. In other words, when your daughter spends time with them, she ends up being influenced negatively more than she is influencing them positively. And then say that their mothers are your good friends.  I don’t know how many times moms have asked me what to do in a situation like this. So here are a few thoughts.

One important thing to note is that the older your children grow, the more this matters. Someone who was a nice little friend in third grade may be an entirely different kind of friend by eighth grade. Why? Because lifestyle choices will become more important as each year goes by. In third grade the girls still want to ride bikes and climb trees and play house. But by junior-high they may be listening to the kind of music or watching the kind of movies that your family wants to avoid. And by early high-school it will most likely also include choices involving language, facebook, boys, and modesty issues.

So it is not uncommon for long-time friends to drift apart. But sometimes it is more of a tearing than a drifting, and then it can become an issue that needs to be handled with care. Parents should have a very keen interest in the kind of friends their children have. This is what parents are supposed to do; this is what parents are for.

Let’s say your daughter is wanting to move on and away from some of her long-term friends and she has good reason to do so. There are a couple of possibilities. If your daughter wants to move on because she fits right in with those girls, but she has realized that she doesn’t want to anymore, then she needs to own up to her own responsibilities for any ungodly behavior. She should be the one to “take the hit,” not her long-time friends. In other words, she should seek her friends’ forgiveness for any outstanding sin (say, gossiping with them, talking crudely, speaking dishonorably about her parents, lying, cheating, etc.).  This is far better than suddenly announcing that she doesn’t want to be friends anymore because they are the ones with the problem.

The other possibility is she has not participated with them in the lying, gossiping, and crude talk, but she has condoned it by refusing to stand up to them. In this case she should still seek their forgiveness for being a wimpy friend, and she should tell them that she is going to cease being the innocent bystander when they act foolishly. This will then open the door for her to have more of a back bone.

Let’s say she has this little talk with her friends, and then the next day they come to pick her up to go to the mall, and a couple of them are wearing inappropriate clothes. This is a perfect opportunity for your daughter to speak up. She should simply say something like, “You are not seriously thinking I want to go out in public with you dressed like that?” This will no doubt lead to some interesting conversations, but her friends will either appreciate it that she is speaking up, or they will make it very easy for her to press on to find new friends.

On a side note, one of the important things parents need to do is teach their kids to speak up for their own principles along the way, elementary school and on. Peer pressure is as old as dirt, and parents have an obligation to teach their kids to think for themselves. We tried to teach our children why we did not want them to do certain things, not just the fact of it. The thing we wanted was for our children to internalize the standards, not just hold to them because we said so. At some point they have to become their own. I remember one time when my daughter was annoyed because in some kind of lively discussion at school she was the only person defending her point while some of the kids whom she knew agreed with her wouldn’t say a word. Rather than feeling sorry for her, I remember telling her I was proud of her for standing up for what she believed and sticking to it! That’s not an easy thing to do, and I was glad she got a little practice.

But say you are on the other end of this proceeding. Let’s say you get a call from a mother who tells you that her daughter cannot play at your house anymore because of the movies you watch or the music you play. I would encourage you to pray on the spot for a tender heart that is willing to receive criticism. Listen to what she is saying. Ask clarifying questions. Maybe she knows about some things going on at your house that you were unaware of. Tell her you appreciate her call and that you will certainly think about what she has said. Thank her. It was probably not easy for her to make that call. (But if she is the kind who loves to make that kind of call, you can still thank her.) Be grateful for the interaction. This may be a very good wake-up call for you, and it may lead to some good discussion with your kids. Don’t always assume you are in the right. Perhaps you have been drifting along without giving serious thought to some of the stuff your kids are doing. On the other hand, if you decide that your friend is just too uptight about your kids playing monopoly, you have a choice to make. You can either defer to her when her kids are at your house and put the monopoly board away; or you can quit having her kids over.

Seek wisdom as you navigate through these years. Have an eye to what kinds of friends you want your children to have. If your daughter is invited to someone’s house to play, and you are not comfortable with the idea, you should not feel guilty about saying no thanks. You are responsible for this. If you are the one sending out the invitations, and you keep receiving negative responses, perhaps it’s time to think about what kind of friend your child is being. And though I have used daughters as examples here, it is not because I don’t think this can happen with sons. But it doesn’t happen nearly as often. Why? Because boys don’t tend to take things as personally as girls, and boys are not as friend-dependent as girls can be.

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14 thoughts on “A Motherly Dilemma

  1. thanks, nancy! this is very insightful. i’m not there yet, but have often thought about what is to come and how i will handle certain situations. i find that even now, with little ones, there are lots of opportunities to encourage the kiddos to do the right thing, even if everyone else is doing something else, and even when (especially when!)mommy isn’t watching.

  2. I have 4 little boys and I have been thinking about how to help them “make the standard their own”. I want that to be the goal. I don’t want them to do something because mom said so, but because it is right. I want to help them think for themselves. Thanks for taking the time to keep up with this blog.

  3. I guess I have a bit of a different way of thinking about some of these situations. We have had a very similar situation with my now 18yo daughter and a couple of her friends. I think that when a teen feels the need to break from friends, especially when it is due to sin on the friends’ part and a desire for increased Godliness/improved behavior on our teen’s part, we should do whatever we can do to make it easy for them. Sure *ideally* the teen should stand up and confront the friend’s about their wrong behavior and attitudes, and it would be wonderful for them to be able to, as you suggest, admit their own part in the sinful behavior. But this is a very very difficult thing even for a seasoned adult to do. When my daughter wanted to make a break from friends that weren’t a good influence I made it clear to her that she could always use me as the heavy.

    If I had required of my daughter that she “stand up” to her friends it would have been a a very painful process for everyone concerned. I don’t know if she could have brought herself to hurt their feelings (as she would have seen it) in this way. My goal was to assist my daughter to grow in Godliness, maturity and self control. My daughter felt this need to create this distance several years ago, and I happily took the brunt of the responsibility for the changes. I am an adult and I can handle the difficult interactions better than she could have at that time.

    The positive out come to all of this is that my daughter still has positive relations with these girls. The space we put in the relationships has given her the time and independence to become firm in her own convictions. Her standards of modesty and purity have influenced them and although she rarely sees them, they still call her for advice and counsel often.

    Just a slightly different viewpoint☺

  4. Diane,
    Actually I think we agree. I would never “require” a daughter to stand up to friends if she wasn’t up to it, and not in every circumstance would it even be helpful. And I’m with you when it comes to parents being the bad guys. As my example with the mom calling, sometimes mom has to do that. Other times it may not be necessary or even advised.

  5. Nancy.. it does indeed sound like we agree, which makes me happy. It’s always nice to agree, especially with nice people;)

  6. Wow! I was just thinking yesterday, “Maybe I could ask Nancy Wilson for some advice on my girls’ friendships….” and providentially, here it is! Thank you!

  7. Great post, Nancy!

    I’d love to copy and paste it on a seperate paper to give to all the ladies in our church if that’s okay with you.

    So many of us can relate to this in more than one occasion and if we let it, it is amazing how the Lord can use these kind of circumstances to bring us and our daughters closer to Him. Loss of friends can be such a painful thing, but I have tried to remind my daughters that living out Christianity in today’s world will cost much. But we have One, our priceless Jesus, who has gone before us and He understands the loss of friends.

    In 20 years of being in the ministry, we have unfortunately seen sweet adorable children grow up and take little interest in the Lord. Some of them have even gone down that broad road that leads to destruction by making sinful choices. It is really a sad thing to see. Thus far, we are blessed to have teen daughters who have chosen to part with friends going down the wrong path. Or, they have been rejected after trying to lovingly confront. I am so proud of them! I know it hasn’t been easy. As mothers, it is so important that we are in prayer for our children during this time.

    If our children’s hearts are turned toward the Lord we will see the fruit of Proverbs 13:20 in their lives – “The wise walk with the wise, but the companions of fools leads to destruction.”

    I am so thankful to the Lord for His grace in our lives. We are thankful too for His faithful Word! Though we have made our share of mistakes along the way and have had many sins to repent of, we have chosen to honor His Word in our lives. And I have yet to see Him not bring blessing when His Word is honored! Seeing your children honor God and His Word is a double blessing! The older my children become, the more I love this verse: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” 3John 4. I’m sure that’s how God must feel about those belonging to Him too.

  8. I think I may have been one of the ones to ask you this in the past. Thank you for this answer. My daughter is starting to face this very thing. She sked me the other day why girls hit puberty and turn into other people than what they were before. And I have to say that puberty is wearing me out!

  9. Great post! I’d like to add one more suggestion for the mom with the daughter who is on the good side of the problem – pray for the other mom. This probably goes without saying, but if the other mom is a friend, chances are she’s not blind to her own daughter’s negative changes. We’ve been in that position – for a season dealing with a daughter that I wouldn’t have wanted my children to hang out with! It was a painful and lonely time. Mere polite avoidance or cold shouldering doesn’t minister grace, but your prayerful friendship can be a blessing even as you encourage your own daughter to (rightfully) move away from the negative group or individual.

  10. Okay so I’ve read this and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days. I would like to make one suggestion:

    If you are struggling with a teen daughter that has not internalized the standards but you have other children in the home who have indeed internalized your standards, (they love them, they obey them, they have adopted them as their own) as heart wrenching and difficult as it can be, you MUST protect those children from the one who is making foolish decisions. I’m not suggestion you kick that child out by any means. I am saying that your love and God-given responsibility for ALL your children dictates that you protect the “good” ones from the “foolish” ones. This may need to happen in a number of ways for different households. You might decide that you should not leave the children alone with the “foolish” one. When the kids all play together you might have to do more supervision (and snoopervision 😉 ), whatever it takes to minimize the influence that the older “foolish” child is having on the other children that do love your standards and are walking in step with them. In the meantime continue to pray, love and guide that “foolish” child, and do it all to God’s glory out of faith, not fear.

    As a corollary to the above: have the same kind of fervent love and protection of other people’s kids. If a mom brings something to you about your daughter, be humble to help her protect her girl (girls) from some foolish things (talk, dress, behavior etc.) that your daughter is exhibiting in front of her kids. That’s part of being in covenant community with one another. You love each other enough to help build up each others kids. The only thing is, be careful that your daughter doesn’t think you’re ganging up on her with other people. She needs to know that she was being foolish and that is what you are addressing. Hope that makes sense.

  11. Thank you so much for this post. My oldest (a daughter) is only 7, but I certainly see this situation beginning to happen already – all these situations, actually – and I really appreciate these suggestions.
    God Bless you!

  12. This is a nice start up post. I think that a lot of folks would benefit from discussions on what to do when the inappropriate kid is a pagan relative. I believe that you grew up in a Christian family. What would you say to the first generation Christian woman whose unbeliever sister is living with someone who may or may not be the father of her children and they live in the same town and her kids are the same age as yours? What if the relatives are Mormons and they are trying to witness to your kids? How do you deal with the ardent relative who is the hard core premillenialist and their kids are repeating what their parents think of how you are raising your family? These can’t be ignored at grandma and grandpas, especially if they are livnig in sin, too. I see this kind of thing all of the time. I’m not married so it isn’t a problem for me, but I bet that if your readers aren’t in these situations, they know a Christian who is and they could use the help. My.02.

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