After my recent series of Dad’s Corners called Protecting Against Deception, I received an e-mail with a very real situation that is regularly faced by families.
This is part of that e-mail.
“Oh the discussions that we have been having with the ‘fun’ articles being addressed in the Corners. Thank you for the salt!!!
“We don’t think we could have put into words what my soul was feeling, but this has been really hitting me hard. We fully agree with your words and are encouraged and challenged to consider our actions, activities, and time all the more. Our struggle in reading this is how to lovingly address our parents. Our parents confess with their mouths that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. However, they are very bothered with how our family operates—we don’t participate in sports, we have family devotions every evening, and (to them) our children go to bed way too early.
“We struggle so much with what to do with our parents. We know that we are to honor them. We have six children, and two of them are really wooed by the ways of our parents after being around them. They tell us how they sometimes feel in conflict because what Dad and Mom says is different from what Grandma and Grandpa say. Our parents want constant entertainment (and have the means to do just that), and so are constantly talking to the children about going to Disneyland, etc. They have recently retired and talk to the kids about how bad work is and how great it is to surf all day and play. Our nine-year-old says he wants to be just like that. 🙁
“How do you deal with this conflict? We feel like the souls of our children are at risk with the influence of their grandparents.” A Parent Following the Narrow Path
Isn’t that just how it is? There are always so many others who think they know best how we are to raise our children. The writer of this e-mail refers to grandparents, but it can be aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, or even those from church. Any of them might take it upon themselves to pressure us to conform to their ideas of how the Christian life should be lived and “our” children raised. Therefore, we must expect people to pressure us to conform to their way of raising children.
When the pressure comes, we need to quickly evaluate the fruit that might result from following that advice. Will the fruit be good fruit if we follow the offered counsel? “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). Will the fruit be bad fruit? “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
There are two pretty clear concerns shared in the e-mail. “Our parents want constant entertainment.” What is the likely fruit of this mindset? The fruit of an entertainment lifestyle will be those who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).
The second concern is: “They [our children] tell us how they sometimes feel in conflict because what Dad or Mom says is different from what Grandma and Grandpa say. . . . Our nine-year-old says he wants to be just like that [the grandparents].” Children will be pulled to follow their grandparents, especially when it is a fun-filled path. It becomes a very difficult thing to teach our children to respect their grandparents when the grandparents choose a worldly, entertainment, self-seeking lifestyle, while still wanting them to follow their parents down the narrow path of self-denial and serving the Lord Jesus. Jesus tells us plainly of this dichotomy: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The fruit these parents are concerned about (and should be) is that the children will be forced to rebel against either the parents or the grandparents.
How does a Christ-led family contend with such a challenge while still protecting and raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Ignoring it in the hopes it will go away will most likely not yield good fruit. This is evident by the statement in the e-mail: “They [the grandparents] are very bothered with how our family operates.” This shows that the grandparents, even though professing faith in Jesus Christ, are not willing to follow Him in practice. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). In addition, the grandparents have taken their disagreement with the parents’ choices in how they follow Jesus directly to the children. That is serious.
All families will vary to some degree in the path they are following. However, when an adult takes his disagreement directly to the children, it conveys a total disrespect for the parents’ authority, and that is guerrilla warfare. We see clearly in our world when this sort of warfare is ignored by a country, the country’s leadership is usually eventually toppled. Why should we expect different results in a family setting? Understanding the seriousness of this situation is important in establishing a plan for restoring a proper relationship.
At this point, the difficulty of honoring the grandparents while protecting the children will lead to some degree of confrontation. Honoring does not mean we ignore our God-given responsibility of bringing our children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Raising the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a responsibility the Lord has given to the parents not the grandparents. The question that must be answered is whether the grandparents will respect the parents’ responsibility before the Lord.
Therefore, one approach would be for the parents to ask to come over to the grandparent’s house to discuss something. If the grandparents tend toward anger, then a public setting might help temper their responses, so going out for dinner is a possibility. Begin the time with prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the discussions so that the Lord is glorified, allowing the family to be strong and unified in the Lord Jesus.
After prayer would be a good time to ask the grandparents if they desire to see their grandchildren raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Tell them you would like to share with them the vision God has given you for your family so that you can do just that. This is why it is important that every family has a written vision statement and the Scripture to back up each item. Explain to them your vision statement, and read the Scripture that goes with each point explaining how you are intending to arrive at each goal. Then ask them if they will give you their full support in following the Lord’s direction for your family. Hopefully, they will affirm that direction.
If they can’t agree to what you are asking of them, listen carefully to why they reject your vision and the path you are choosing. Be willing to pray about it and seek the Lord. But if they clearly have a worldly focus, then comes the tough part. In our out-of-control legal society, grandparents have been given certain rights that vary by state, and one needs to be careful not to stir up a hornet’s nest. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Scripture affirms that we are to do everything we can to avoid conflict. However, we always stop short of compromise. Be careful, though, because I’ve known some parents who seem to be looking for reasons to “cut off” grandparents who are not like-minded. Rather than that, I would encourage you to be seeking ways to make the relationship workable. We all would appreciate supportive grandparents who encourage us in the decisions we are making. However, that is often not the case, and then one must seek the praise of God more than the praise of men even if it means difficult decisions with family members.
Parents must check their hearts very carefully. Look for ways to love and honor grandparents without compromising in what God has called you to do. When grandparents are not supportive, one can still honor them by fellowshipping together as a family. That way the parents are always there. They know what is being said and whether the activities being done together are consistent with the calling for the family.
It really becomes hard if there are still comments in the family fellowship setting by the grandparents that undermine the direction of the family. If so, make a simple private request that the grandparents restrict comments only to those that are supportive of the family’s direction. If the grandparents are resistant, then the parent can plead with the grandparents for support. “Dad and Mom, you were allowed to raise us as you felt right. Will you not give us the same freedom? We love you and would be so grateful if you could do this.” Always gentle, loving dialog conveying respect is how we are to interact, but without compromise.
Situations like these can be so very difficult. However, by following Jesus’ direction for the family, He will lead us in how to work with those who disagree. The very last resort is that it may be necessary to restrict the time that the children can be with someone who will not support the family’s direction. If it comes to that point, then may the dad be willing to pray, fast, seek a softening of hearts, and wisdom for Dad and Mom. The Lord will be faithful in showing a way. May we be faithful in following Him.