I’m writing this letter in the first person even though we have not experienced everything in it personally, but everything here is a response to our experiences or those of our friends. By “adult friends of my kids” I am referring to family friends, teachers, youth pastors, coaches, relatives–anyone with a voice in my child’s life.
Dear Adult Friends of My Kids,
We need to talk.
I appreciate the godly men and women God has placed in our lives and in our kids’ lives. We are richer, wiser, and better with you than without you, when you partner in God’s vision for our family (Prov 11:14). Not everything has been positive, however. So we need to talk about how you give advice to my kids, because some of you are really messing things up for our family. Even if you think you are helping or supporting my children, you often are not.
I have now been a father for twenty years, I have six children, have had teens for seven years, will continue to have teenagers of my own in my home for another 13 years. So I write with some degree of experience, if not authority on the subject. I read and listen to a lot of Christians who have successfully launched their own children into the world.
A first big point needs to be made, on which hinges everything else: My sons and daughters are not YOUR sons and daughters.
WE HAVE A PLAN we’ve been working since God revealed to us HIS vision for our family nearly 15 years ago.
YOU have not invested years into their lives, hearts, and spirits the way I and their mother have. We have spent thousands of hours trying to prayerfully and successfully weather seasons of emotions, inconsistency, hypersensitivity and immaturity in our young person (and sometimes in ourselves), as we disciple him or her to become more Christ-like in character as an adult (Prov 1:8; Col 3:20-21; Eph 6:1-4).
God has not given you ANY authority over their life, nor any accountability for the result; all of that authority and accountability is on our shoulders, and biblically speaking, on MY shoulders as Dad (Gen 18:19; Deut 6; Eph 5:23, 6:1-4). As Hebrews 13:17 puts it, as their leader I “keep watch over their souls as [one] who will give an account.” That is, I—not you—will have to give an account to God for my children’s souls. I take that responsibility very seriously.
So here is some advice to you, from the one man ordained by God to raise my children.
- DO get on board with OUR vision for their lives. If you are not willing to support our vision, STOP giving advice to my kids. NOW. If you think you know better than us, or don’t understand why we do what we do, STOP advising my kids, and come talk with me.
- DO make the most common phrases in your side of conversations with my children, “Have you prayed about this?”; “What do your parents think (or say)?”; and “You should talk with your parents about this.” If you are not willing, in every meaningful conversation, to point our kids back to us, DON’T start the conversation.
- DON’T encourage our kids to break the fifth commandment (“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Ex 20:12). This means…
- DON’T tell our kids that you think we don’t understand them, that we’re being unreasonable, or that we don’t remember what it’s like to be that age. Because chances are they already think those things, and you are throwing gas onto the fire and undermining the health of our relationships.
- DON’T tell our kids that it’s time for me to cut the apron strings. I first heard this from a well-meaning older friend when my oldest was SIX years old. Seriously, you have no authority to tell them I’m being overprotective. It is not your call to decide whether I’m overprotective; if you think this, talk to me about it.
If you can’t resist the urge to share your wisdom and discernment with someone, share it with ME. When you share these gems of your wisdom with my kids, you actually are driving wedges between the members of our family. As you do you act as a tool of Satan, the Enemy who wants to destroy our family and eviscerate God’s vision. By participating in their breaking the fifth commandment, you are actually taking away blessings from their lives (they don’t get the reward in the second half of Exodus 20:12).
- If you are an adult male and you see that my teenage daughter is struggling with stuff, and you want to reach out and help her…DON’T. It is inappropriate for adult males to be counseling and getting emotionally involved with teen young women, not to mention that it’s just plain creepy. If you don’t know why, you don’t watch the news enough. (Plus, Titus 2:3-5 teaches that older women–not men–should be discipling younger women.) If you’ve observed something concerning, bring it to me or my wife’s attention.
- DO…Ask me or my wife for permission to mentor or talk serious stuff with our teen. I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but this is still our young person, not yours. If our child/teen/young adult initiates the conversation with you that’s great—it means he or she trusts you. But keep us in the loop. DON’T make any promises about confidentiality and so on, because if they’re in trouble WE need to know, and how to handle it is OUR call, not yours.
- DO keep in mind that, if my child shares something with you about us, you’re getting only one side of what may be an emotionally-charged situation. STOP acting like my kid must be right and that I’m the unreasonable one, and follow up with me or Mom. (You may be surprised to learn that sometimes young adults and teens tell you only what they want you to hear.)
- DO…Pray for us! We need intercession before the Father more than we need you giving advice to my kids.
- DO…Tell us that you are praying for our family. Encourage us. Listen to us. If you’ve walked this path of launching youth out into the world, then offer to be there for us as a sounding board.
We appreciate the godly men and women God has placed in our lives. We are richer, wiser, and better with you than without you. That said, it is your responsibility to partner cooperatively with parents, not to undermine and counteract our decisions. If you are not consistently redirecting our kids’ hearts back to us and to the Lord, you actively undermine God’s design for the family, making our jobs much harder than they already are.
My children’s father
What pieces of advice do you have for people with a voice in your children’s lives? Leave a comment below!