I recently heard this statement by the mother of a 16 year old. “I am so glad my daughter decided to break up with her boyfriend. He was really bad news, but I wanted it to be her decision. I feel proud of myself for staying out of it and letting her decide for herself.”
Since the story ended happily, this mother was pleased with herself and her daughter. I, on the other hand, have felt concern for both of them ever since. Why? Because I wonder why that mother felt that it was best to avoid giving input to her daughter in such a serious matter.
I see this approach in many families. Parents feel that in order for their children to “grow up” they must experience decision-making for themselves. This is true. But rarely will any adult make a serious decision without getting some input or advice. So why should your child be left without your input?
Would you buy a car without asking for recommendations or looking up model reviews online? Would you move to a new area without first asking friends, co-workers or realtors in the area about it?
For that matter, don’t many of us ask for input on simply buying clothes? (“Does this make me look fat?”) How many of us look up a recipe blog online before trying a new dish?
There is no inherent value in letting your kids make serious decisions with no input from you. The Bible is full of references to the value of wise counsel, a parent’s advice in particular. God made you a counselor in your child’s life for a reason.
If you’re still hesitating about giving input, let’s look at some of the reasons why you may be holding back.
You don't think your view is valid. Our culture tells us that wisdom comes from youth, rather than adults. But that’s not a biblical view, nor is it a common sense view. Young people may know more than the older generation about how to use a smart phone, but they do not have the life experience that age brings. Your view as a parent and an older person is always helpful and valid.
You think it's more important that they express themselves than that they follow your advice. If this is true for certain situations, they can still be helped by receiving your viewpoint. For instance, “Julie, I think you look more mature in the red sweater, but I know blue is your favorite color. Choose the one you want - I want you to enjoy how you look.” Now Julie can decide if she wants to go with her favorite color or rely on her mother’s advice on how to look more mature.
However, parents should be careful to weigh whether an issue can be left totally up to the child. The color of a sweater is non-life-changing. However, the choice of a boyfriend, or a college, or a job can make a large difference in a child’s life. You can help your child create wise parameters within which he or she can safely express himself.
You want to avoid conflict with your child. Sometimes it’s tiring having to argue with your child. Sometimes it seems not worth the effort to explain – again – why they should keep their room clean, not stay out past curfew, or practice for music lessons. But then again, that’s what parenting is about: training the foolishness out of young people. Sometimes that creates conflict.
Conflict may be occurring not because you disagree with them, but because of how you disagree. Kindness and a desire to educate rather than dictate will go a long way towards helping your child see your viewpoint. However, a wise parent will not shy away from giving counsel simply because it may create dissension.
You can't figure out how to articulate your views. Sometimes you know in your gut that you are right, but can’t figure out how to explain it to your argumentative child. Your “gut” is based on years of experience. Don’t let an immature, willful child make you afraid to confront them about foolishness.
I am reminded of a friend who felt “in her gut” that her teenaged daughter’s peers were having a bad influence on her. But since she couldn’t put her finger on the exact problem, she let things slide. Her daughter eventually ran away with those peers and wound up in an emergency room. If her mother had trusted her own God-given instincts, she may have been able to prevent much heartache.
The Bible tells us that, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).” God has divinely appointed you to be the primary counselor in your child’s life. Don’t abdicate. Help him succeed in his plans – and in life – by offering godly counsel.
Written by Heather Sheen