4 Moms Q&A: problems with friends’ children; child-rearing criticism

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&AFrom Helen:

Hi, I’m interested in your financial goals or hopes for your kids as they enter marriage. There are a lot of variables but do you help them save towards it?

 Helen,

We’re not in a position to give our children major cash gifts (unless you count the cost of the wedding itself), but we hope we have helped by teaching them to manage money and requiring them to save a portion of their income.  For many years, we have required all of our children to first tithe, then divide their income between spending money and savings.  As they get older and their opportunities for income increase, they also begin to contribute to the household.

Savings is normally used only to fund a business endeavor or to invest, so their savings grows steadily over the years and they feel a growing sense of accomplishment as their balance grows.

We have also instilled in them a horror of consumer debt,  acting as both the good and bad examples throughout our married life.  :)

From Missy:

What do you do when your friends kids (ages 2 and 4) put EVERYTHING in their mouths — and not just in their mouths but chewing things up. when they come over books get ruined, play cars get the paint taken off of them. my son has a mickey mouse sword from disney land and one of the kids chewed the end of it up. I’ve tried saying “you don’t want to have that dirty toy in your mouth. there is so many yucky germs on it” and things like that in front of the mom, but she doesn’t seem to care about germs or the fact that her kids are ruining my kids toys.

 Missy,

We have a lot of company in our home, and when you invite families with children it’s almost inevitable that some of them will behave badly some of the time.  I have learned – and am still learning – to balance the role of a gracious hostess with that of a good friend.  I don’t want my friends to feel awkward and self-conscious about being in my home, always afraid that their children will misbehave.  But I also don’t want them to feel so relaxed that the kids think it’s OK to do gymnastics on the furniture, color on the walls and break things.

Here is what I have learned: You have to speak up.

I am finding that the approach has to vary with the parents.  Some will get the hint when you are subtle, like you tried to be.  But others need a frank approach.  The good thing is, if they don’t pick up on subtle hints they probably aren’t the sort to be offended by a more frank approach.  In your example, I would ask the mom not to let the toddler chew on the toy because it’s not designed to withstand that sort of play.  I would not offer a reason outside my primary concern, because that can send a confusing message.  If she’s not worried about germs, then she might very reasonably ignore the warning.  Worrying about germs is his mom’s business, but destruction of property is yours.

If the parents consistently don’t respond to your requests, you’ll need to step up the security a little: when they visit, put away toys that pose special concerns and verbally correct visiting children if their parents don’t do it.   “No, don’t chew on that.  You might break it or make it ugly.”  Eventually either the parents will understand and step in, or you will succeed in setting boundaries for your friend’s children without her help.

Another from Missy:

How do you deal with kids that are bad influences on your kids when they are people that you cannot separate yourself from? — we go to church with this family as well as they are mine and my husband’s best friends, but their children are very violent, misbehaved, potty mouthed kids  and it is effecting my children’s actions (my kids are 5 and 2 1/2).

I am so terribly lost right now and very saddened by the entire situation… but I am at my wits end and praying one of you ladies have some words of wisdom.

 Missy,

Here is socialization at its best!  Rather than sending your kids to school where they have unsupervised interaction with bad influences, you have complete control over how and when they interact with your friends’ less-than-perfect children.

There are a lot of potential answers here, so I’m only going to scratch the surface.

  • If you are deeply concerned about the behavior of your friends’ children, then you need to limit their contact with your own.
  • Keep your kids near you, or at least within your line of sight.  Be quick to intervene if you see or suspect trouble.
  • Express some of your concerns to your friends; these are best friends, so surely you can broach the subject?  Talk to your friends about how to deal with bad behavior that crosses family lines, being open to the possibility that it runs both ways.  In many cases, one child makes a potty joke and another takes it further.
  • Don’t be afraid to “tattle,” bringing valid concerns to the attention of your friends in a grown-up way.  It may be that your friends know there is a problem and will appreciate some extra help policing the crowds.
  • Maintain firm standards for your children’s behavior, reminding them that they are not allowed to do/say ___ even though their friend does.  This is crucial!  A 5yo can understand that he should not follow a bad example, and a 2.5 yo can understand that it’s bad to grab toys or strike out in anger, even if his friend does it.

You say these are your best friends.  That means it is important to get this problem out in the open, because it has the potential to cause a lot of offense and damage your friendship.  It’s not easy, but it is important.  You can do this.

From Kelsey:

I have a big question that I’m struggling with right now. How do you deal with criticism in child-raising practices? We believe, I think, like you – in the biblical form of discipline. And we are BY FAR in the minority. How do you deal with it when nearly everyone around you thinks that you “go too far” or “expect too much”? HELP!

Kelsey, first make sure you are surrounding yourself with Christians who take God’s Word seriously.

Now for the hard part: If those are the people that are criticizing you, stop and prayerfully ask yourself a difficult question: are they right?  Do they object to your form of discipline or just the way you do it?  It could be that they see a harshness in the way you deal with your children.  Please don’t be offended at the suggestion; I don’t know you or your family, and I don’t know those who criticize you.  This is a question you and your husband need to answer for yourselves.

Now, if you are confident that you are disciplining in a loving and Biblical way, you can engage your Christian brothers and sisters in a Biblical debate about child-raising.  Ask them to state their criticism within a Biblical context, and be sure you can answer within the same framework.  Be open-minded and willing to learn within this context, especially if you are dealing with parents of adult Christian children.

If you are receiving criticism from non-Christians or nominal Christians who don’t look to the Bible as their standard for life, then just remember that Christ warned us the world would hate us.  Oh – and it’s not a bad idea to join Heritage Defense.

From Diana:

For those of you who have had home births, how did you come to that decision? Were any of them VBACs? How did you deal with any health fears for you and baby? With well meaning but openly skeptical family members? We are exploring this option for the first time, it is my second baby but our first culminated in an unplanned C-section and we are hoping for a VBAC this time. After our first C-section and feeling like control was simply taken away in the hospital I’m honestly afraid to try that setting again, but I also want to be sure both Baby and I are healthy.
Diana,
Having children at home was an easy decision for us because my parents had already taken that jump many years earlier.  I had seen 9 of my siblings born at home already and felt far more comfortable with the idea of birthing at home than in a hospital.  Perry was reassured to learn that CDC statistics at the time showed it to be a safer option for both mother and child than a hospital birth, and he happily consented to my wishes.
First, pray for wisdom and God’s help in making a good decision and finding the right caregiver.
Second, you have the power of the internet to research birth options.  You can use it to reassure skeptical family members and to assure yourself and your husband that you are making a wise and responsible decision.  Stay away from anecdotal scare stories (“The doctor said my baby would have DIED if we had decided to have him at home!”) because many times a serious problem is the culmination of the domino-effect of unnecessary interventions.  Instead, try to learn about the relative risks of both choices.  Look at overall statistics for similar groups.
I also recommend seeking out a midwife that both you and your husband like and trust.  The extent of their medical training, experience, and background can vary, so schedule consultations with more than one candidate and go armed with a list of questions.
Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

See what questions the other moms are answering today:

Comments

  1. Diana, I’ll try to answer your questions.

    My husband and I had our first in a hospital, naturally. I loved the birth part and being able to fully engage with the process, but didn’t like having to fight every step of the way to achieve a natural birth. And then having to fight for basic things like freedom to move and eat during labor, immediate skin-to-skin contact, etc, was exhausting and unnecessary. When I got pregnant with our second healthy baby, I met a friend who was planning her fourth home birth. I grilled her endlessly about my fears, such as whether the midwife is actually trained, what happens with the mess, and what happens if something goes wrong. Prior to meeting this friend, I thought home birth was something only crunchy weird hippies did. Even after talking to her I was skeptical, so I started reading and researching. “Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth” was fantastic, and I found golden nuggets in other books as well. The more knowledge I gained about the birth process, the more I was able to work through my own fears. I also talked about my fears with my husband, which solidified my determination to plan a homebirth.

    My husband talked to the midwives we interviewed, and he got comfortable with it. Actually, I think he ended up being more certain about home birth than I was. His thought was that, there are risks either way, but in the end, home birth is just as safe or safer, and has no risk of side effects from unnecessary intervention (I bled a lot after the birth of our first because they pulled on my placenta, even after I asked them to stop because it hurt. My husband knew it shouldn’t have happened, and wouldn’t have if we were at home). If he had not been fully on board, I never would have been able to withstand the pressure and criticism from my family and friends.

    I was the first in my family to even think about home birth, and so we received tons of well-meaning, but unhelpful criticism. One close family member told me that having a home birth was the most selfish thing I could do. Others claimed I would kill my baby by having her at home. And numerous friends simply said they were worried about the whole situation. What got me through the family/friend minefield was to arm myself with information. When they asked me about it, I took the time to explain the medical and logical reasons why we chose home birth. I emphasized that the midwife we chose was trained in neonatal resuscitation and sutures, carried drugs and oxygen to all births, and that she would not hesitate to transfer us to the hospital if she had any concerns about our safety. I explained the biological process of birth (my family is very scientifically-minded), and why having freedom to do what my body tells me would help with the birth. I even talked about how birthing in a hospital, on my back, with doctors pushing drugs, would actually increase the danger to my baby on myself.

    When my family saw that I had actually taken the time to research, and that I had thought through all the risks, they backed off, although they didn’t fully approve until after the birth.

    I think the most important thing when dealing with your family’s fears, is to realize that they are surrounded by sources that tell them that birth is not safe. That every birth will probably go horribly wrong if a doctor is not right there. This is simply not true, but it is what our culture has told us. So, if you keep that in mind, you can emphasize the safety measures your midwife will take, that you do have an emergency plan and a hospital to transfer to, etc. Honestly, though, they will probably still worry all the way up until the baby is born. The best way to convince them is to show them.

    For your own fears, read Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth. Interview prospective midwives, and ask them questions about their training, experience, and philosophy of birth. Example: will they transfer you to a hospital if they think you or your baby is in danger? Also, not trying to push my website, but this short post links to a couple different studies on relating to home birth, with summaries of the findings:

    http://naturalbirthblog.com/2012/05/16/lets-talk-about-homebirth/

    By the way, I am planning my third homebirth, and still have to work through fears, though not as many, and probably less than I would have with a hospital birth. And I have to deal with people’s comments, especially from those in the medical community. But, I have to do what I believe is best for my baby and my family, and having her at home is the best I can do.

    ~Beth

  2. Julie Tysh says:

    For Diana,
    We had our firstborn “at home” sort of, we had to rent an apartment for ten days just for the purpose, and this was in the Ukraine. Parents in that country are legally allowed to have a homebirth, but for a midwife to attend is illegal (for her). Thankfully there are a growing number of midwives (with expired licenses) who are committed to helping parents. I think people simply don’t know the facts–that hospital births can be MORE dangerous than a homebirth; that many complications can be resolved with certain precautions or adjustments. That giving birth is not an illness requiring meds, ivs, and a whole staff of hospital personnel and machinery. Above all else though, besides researching a whole lot about this, we prayed. That God would guide us. And He did in His grace! It is hard to describe just how beautiful it is to welcome your precious baby into the world with ONLY the people you desire present (in my case just hubby and midwife). To have the freedom to do whatever you want afterward, to hold your baby for 24 hours straight if you want, to just savor the moment with no distractions. I think it’s the way God designed it to be. I pray that His wisdom will empower you and your husband to make the right decision for your family. Remember that criticism often stems from a sincere desire to help, but that doesn’t mean those people are right. Explain kindly your reasons and don’t feel like you have to justify yourself. In the end YOU’RE the one going through labor, so do what you know is best! Many blessings!

  3. Melanie E says:

    Dianna, You might find great encouragement from a free magazine called Above Rubies. There are many testimonies published in there of successful VBACs. You can subscribe on their website: http://www.aboverubies.org and also check out their facebook page for daily encouragement in the journey of motherhood.

  4. “many times a serious problem is the culmination of the domino-effect of unnecessary interventions.”

    I love how you put this. I call it the “slippery slope of intervention”. Induction leads to more painful contractions which leads to labor meds which leads to sleepy babies and contractions slowing which leads to C-section which leads to breastfeeding difficulties.

    I recommend any book by Ina Mae Gaskin to Diana.

  5. For Missy, I understand what you’re struggling with. In our situation, it is two little neighbor girls who are very naughty and sometimes downright mean when they come over. At first my approach was to severely limit my children’s contact with these girls. However after a few months I began to feel The Lord convicting my heart that this was not what he had in mind when he said “love your neighbor.” I knew that I couldn’t just let the kids play as freely as they might when other friends came over. I’ve had to prayerfully make changes in order to welcome these girls into our home and love on them. For one thing, I spend nearly the whole play date interacting with the kids, instead of having them play on their own in the play room or outside. I also try to make it a priority to spend time praying before they come over – I ask for wisdom, protection, and Jesus’ eyes to understand the struggles that cause their behavior. I’ve also talked to my kids about issues that have come up. I find that it’s important for me to remind both my kids and myself to forgive them and pray for them, rather than to dismiss them because of rough behavior. This hasn’t been easy, and sometimes I admit I don’t have the energy to host a play date that takes this much emotional and spiritual preparation. However, recently then girls’ mom stopped by (a rare occurrence). She told me that her girls always love coming to our house because they feel safe. My prayer is that the feeling of safety is the work of Jesus in their lives, drawing them with the transforming power of his love. I hope that offers some encouragement to you. Jesus is at work! You don’t need to worry about changing their behavior or the parenting issues. Your prayers for their family and your sacrificial love as you invite them into your home time and again will open the door for the work God is doing!

  6. It was an easy decision for us to decide to have a homebirth. I felt more comfortable with the thought of having a baby at home than in the hospital.

    I did have my share of skeptical friends though. As kindly as possible (and if they were open to discuss the issue), I would share some of the information about why homebirth is safer for low-risk pregnancies. Beyond that, I just kept reminding myself that we had made an informed decision and were choosing to do what was safest for myself and our baby.

    Since then though, we moved to Nebraska, one of the two states where it is illegal for midwives to attend homebirths. I’m not pregnant yet, but my options regarding where I will give birth will be limited next time around.

    • Julie Tysh says:

      Melinda, I didn’t know Nebraska doesn’t allow midwives to attend home births (how sad). I wonder if there are experienced midwives there with expired licenses willing to attend? That’s how it works in the Ukraine. My midwife had been an OBGYN & midwife at a birthing center for nearly 20 years; when she began helping with the home birth movement her colleagues suggested to her that she resign from her job before somebody pursued legal action against her. So she did and her license expired, but she has since delivered hundreds of babies at home, with not a single one resulting in a death or even a C-section (although a handful of mothers were transferred to hospitals). Since she is not an official midwife anymore, she can attend anyone’s birth as a “friend.” I hope you’re able to work out something similar, or travel to another state for your future births.

    • Melinda,
      We ran into the same problem when we lived in Ohio. In that case, we used lay midwives who took hefty donations for prenatal care and attending births – not as a medical attendant, but as a friend. Many had extensive medical training, but were unlicensed and often even underground. Of course they weren’t covered by our health insurance, but it was worth the cost to us – and lay midwives do tend to cost less, so it wasn’t quite as much as you might think.
      Maybe you can find someone to refer you to some local lay midwives? They often serve Amish and Mennonite communities.

  7. To Diana, I just want to reiterate what Kim already said – if you are having a low-risk pregnancy, then a homebirth is likely to be one of the safest options for you and the baby.

    This is especially true if you are within close transfer range of a hospital (but may still be true even if you are not). The closeness to the hospital factor can go either way, because if you are far from the hospital then attempting to get there in time for the birth can be risky in itself, especially if it is not your first child. If you are close to the hospital, then you have the reassurance that if a transfer is necessary, it can be done expeditiously. Either one of these arguments may be compelling to well-meaning but skeptical friends or family members.

    My husband and I are planning our second home birth for this summer, and have been surprised at how many skeptical comments we have received from new friends and colleagues. We’ll be living near a major university hospital, so people are surprised we aren’t choosing to deliver there. But the first person we talked to who had her baby in that setting described a birth in which she was induced at 41 weeks due to a “small baby” (???), the induction was not successful, and the experience ended in a C-section. So, THAT is why we aren’t choosing to deliver there!

    A homebirth midwife won’t agree to be your provider if she doesn’t assess you to be a good candidate for homebirth, so the decision is not entirely in your hands. The only reason I would give for a person with a low-risk pregnancy NOT to pursue a homebirth is if that setting causes you extra anxiety. Stress hormones are bad for labor and you don’t want to increase them! But if the idea of giving birth at home relaxes you compared to the hospital option, then it sounds like something you should definitely pursue.

  8. For Helen,
    I’m wondering if you were looking for anything more specific. Perhaps you have marrying aged children and you are concerned about the details…Our two oldest daughters are married and we were specific about how the young man was financially prepared. One of our sons-in-law was in debt (not a mortgage). We required him to be out of debt before they became engaged. We were confident they had work ethics and skills necessary to support a family. We did not require a certain amount of money to be saved, although that would make starting out easier. We have two sons of marrying age right now and encourage them to save, invest, develop skills and work hard. We do not train our daughters to work outside the home, so their preparation consists of learning to be a good homemaker. This includes being thrifty and content with whatever the Lord provides. Hope this also helps you, Helen.
    Blessings,
    Heidi

  9. Thanks for answering my question about criticism! I really appreciate it. I looked at Heritage Defense – we’re in Canada though, so I think I’d have to find something similar here in our own country. I appreciate the answer though, and the honesty! My husband and I feel very comfortable and confidant that what we are doing is what God has ordained and we have several families around us who concur. The criticism comes from family, go figure. I suppose we will just toughen up, and reaffirm the scriptures we hold fast to. Thank you for the response! I appreciate it!

    • Heather says:

      Kelsey,

      As a little encouragement for you. . . My husband and I were criticized by some family members for being tough and expecting too much from our kids in the beginning. In our case, they were probably a little right and we did tone it down over the years but we are now (15 years later) in a position of hearing the opposite from the exact family members. Now they pick on another member of the family for not disciplining their kids and would much rather visit our kids than theirs. You can’t please everyone and there are some who won’t be pleased no matter what. So give honor where honor is due and continue to raise your children biblically. When your kids are awesome teenagers they might come back and apologize (but probably not) :)

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