By Ashlyn Jackson, Crosswalk.com
As a parent, you are called to be a guiding voice of wisdom during your child's life.
As the leader in your family, they look to you first on life's most trying obstacles. This is particularly true when it comes to decisions and questions about their faith, choosing friends and even sensitive topics such as relationships.
You as a parent know that one of the most important decisions a person will ever make is who they choose as a spouse. It is imperative that your child knows this as well.
But what happens with the love blinds fall over their eyes and they are unable to see the potential heartbreak lurking right in front of them? Should you speak up or keep your distance?
Let’s picture this for a moment. The dreaded day has finally arrived, and your "baby" has transformed before your eyes into a full-blown young adult. As a parent, the emotions are in full swing, a mixture of both pride and happiness with a side of worry and caution.
This is a whole new stage of life for the both of you and God has begun a new season of trials and blessings for you to walk in. Then it happens, they bring home a new "friend".
You sit back and quietly observe. Assessing the situation as a concerned parent would. Are they respectful? Are they kind? Do they have a passionate love for Christ? Do they treat my child as the Lord intended?
Maybe at first, all is well. They pass the initial parental screening and the relationship continues. Fast forward some time into the near future and the facade has fallen away. What used to stand as an ideal match, not may not be looking the way it should.
You become aware of subtle but very real traits and flaws starting to show. Controlling behavior, disrespectful attitude or possibly passive aggressiveness towards your child. Maybe you start observing your child turn away from their own personal ambitions or reposition their lives to appease their significant other.
So as a concerned parent who doesn’t like the current course of the relationship, what do you do about it?
Why You Should Speak Up If You Don't Like Your Child's Significant Other
To be clear, your advice as their parent matters and should be shared. Dating can get messy and blinding at times and the reality of the situation may go unnoticed due to their lack of perspective.
By speaking up you could be, if anything, planting a seed of caution in front of them. Not so much as a warning, but as a loving “be careful”.
For all you know they could very well be feeling some inkling in their spirit that is telling them something is not quite right too. Without your insight, they may dismiss this feeling as being “all in their head”. If this is the case, gently remind them that these feelings aren’t from God (2 Timothy 1:7).
Remember that God may have put this on your heart to aide in his ultimate mission to remove the relationship. The Bible clearly tells us that God calls us to gently confront and correct each other whenever we see our brothers or sisters falling (Galatians 1:6).
Apart from this, its key to remember that there is also a tremendous difference in God’s plan for your child’s life and your plan for your child’s life. Your opinion should be based on an unbiased assessment of your child’s significant other. God calls us to love all of his children, even when it’s hard to love them.
Having a dislike for someone over their character is a foundation you can stand on when presenting your case. Having a dislike for someone due to loose interpretations and obtuse reasoning is not.
The Positive and Negative Repercussions You May Face
You already know from their upbringing that parenting isn’t always this cozy relationship. Sometimes you do not receive the response you were expecting and it’s wise to be prepared for this going into such a deep and personal topic.
Your child may see you as overstepping and there's a possibility of being labeled as the helicopter parent. In addition, it’s also worth noting that they have seen a side to their partner that you are completely unaware of.
They have shared conversations on personal topics that give your child a much better insight to their personality. Whether this is a false perception presenting as a positive one, only time will tell. But through your child’s eyes, they are seeing the crystal clear picture and in this case, perception is reality.
Your child may feel that because of this they understand and can justify their partner’s flaws. This brings you to possibly being seen as the one who “doesn’t understand them.''
Then again, every situation is different and each parent/child relationship is different as well. Your child may respond in the totally opposite way. They may enjoy having someone they love and trust give insight to a situation. For some, relational guidance is a craving that is longed to be satisfied.
Some very much would rather know and make a choice from the viewpoint of more than one party and have the comfort of knowing they made a holistic decision.
Either way, like it or not, the response is completely out of your control. All that you can do is be intentional and gentle with your approach.
How to Approach the Topic:
1. Be unbiased, fair and justified vs being opinionated.
Much emphasis needs to be placed here. You are a Christian before anything. You are a Christian before you are a spouse, before you are a parent, before you are a friend--you are God’s Child.
And as such, our first responsibility is to love God and love his children. This may just be a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your love for another one of God’s lost children.
When you choose to dislike someone, you need to do some reflection to double-check your reasoning. Why don’t you see this being a good match? Have you been behaving in a way that is welcoming? Have you taken the time to get to know them?
Don’t be too quick to judge. However, when you do come to a well-rounded decision make sure, even if you don’t like them that you are still loving them as God intended.
2. Use your own relationship as an example to show what a relationship founded in Christ needs to look like.
Sometimes the best approach is to lead with an example. When presenting your observation use your child's relationship against other marriages or relationships to show where the line is becoming skewed. Don’t give these examples of traits their partner is lacking in a negative light, such as, “Well if this is a problem now it will always be a problem.”
This only puts you back into the helicopter category and that is incredibly hard to rid yourself of once you've arrived.
A few places you could pull from are your own marriage or family, a couple from your church home or better still, the Bible itself. All throughout the Gospel we are taught what a Godly marriage should look like. (2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:25 & 5:33).
3. Don't make the decision for them but pointing out important traits.
When the time does come to approach your child, understand that you are approaching another adult. Just like any other adult, many do not enjoy being told what to do. Don’t go in and make the decision for them, instead introduce your observations about their partner.
Let them know that you’ve been watching and this is what you’re seeing. Don’t force the conversation. Just like when you are introducing the gospel to a nonbeliever, or when you're rebuking a fellow brother, not everyone is ready to hear the truth.
Their hearts have to also be open to others' perceptions of the situation.
What If My Child Blocks My Protests?
This leads into stepping aside to let your child see the results for themselves. There is a very good chance that your child could block your protests. They could immediately go on the defense and feel insulted by your comments, or feel as if their decision making isn’t up to your standards.
The last thing you want in this situation is to sever the line of communication you currently have with your child. Now there may be the time you have to love from a distance. We are called as Christians to plant the seed.
If you have planted the seed, you can’t force growth where there is no nutrients. If your child doesn't want the input then you have to stand aside and let them as adults see for themselves.
This goes two ways. You aren’t just standing aside as a courtesy. You are allowing them to stand or fall on their own. But by continuously trying to pry your way in, it will only make them draw away more.
When your opinion is asked, then give it. When it’s not, then pray for them and love them from a distance.
Also, seek guidance from your Christian community. Sometimes advice from others can yield much more weight because they approach the topic differently. Ask another trusted couple to watch the relationship.
Ask them what they are seeing or not seeing. Your child may be more receptive to a family friend than to you with that particular topic.
Lastly, offer subtle resources to enlighten your child. If your child is dating, it is likely that they have thought of marriage, at least once or twice. That being the end goal. This would be the perfect time to suggest a marriage resource to give as a road map to marriage.
Knowing where you are going before you get there only helps you to better prepare.
A wonderful and enriching book for young adults in their dating years would be The Sacred Search, by Gary Thomas. Not only does it give insight into Christian dating, but much more it gives you the very raw and real truths to the struggles that marriage will hold.
If you knew you were about to climb Mount Everest you wouldn’t take tools that were weak and not fit for the journey. You need to be well equipped and well researched in your preparation. This is how it should be when choosing your partner. This is exactly what the book points out, how to choose your spouse and what you want to look for.
At the end of the day as Christians, we can rest easy with peace knowing our one true God is in control. His plans for you and your child reach farther than you can imagine.
Go to him with every one of your worries and trust that he will provide the best opportunities and tools to assist you on your parenting journey.
Ashlyn Jackson is a civil engineer and an active blogger. You can read more on faith, personal finance and career advice from Ashlyn at Dear Young Professional.com.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages Jack F