October 17, 2017

They’re Not Your Kids

One of the many troubling side effects of “social media culture” is our propensity to believe we have a right to an opinion about everything.

Of course, we must deal with that on social media itself. If I choose, for example, to post on Facebook or Twitter, I must be prepared to receive “feedback” from whoever sees my words, including the inevitable negative responses. If I don’t want pushback, I should keep my thoughts to myself...and my fingers away from my keyboard. Like it or not, that’s the nature of social media.

However, the social media mindset seems, unfortunately, to have bled into real life. And coupled with what I see as a disturbing trend toward “collectivizing” every experience – i.e., the misguided notion that an individual’s decisions must be made or validated by “the group” – it seems that more and more people believe they have a right to opine about others’ personal lives even without being asked. And this misconception seems to run especially rampant when it comes to parenting.

Don’t get me wrong. If I consciously ask for others’ thoughts in regards to a parenting decision – whether online or in real life – it’s appropriate for them to express their views. And, while I remain free to take or leave what they say, I can’t get bent out of shape if someone expresses ideas with which I disagree. If I asked, I must be willing to at least give a hearing to all responses.

The problem arises when we don’t ask but are subjected to others’ unsolicited feedback anyway.

Simply put, it’s grossly inappropriate to muscle in on anyone else’s parenting decisions. The Lord gives to parents alone the right and responsibility to raise up the children with whom He’s blessed them. Family, friends, and those in one’s faith community might help. But, absent a direct request or a case of clear, imminent danger, we need to respect that boundary. We value the opportunity to parent according to our convictions, and we must grant that same respect to others. 

Thus, if my friend is led to homeschool but I argue against it, I’m wrong. Or if my cousin chooses to send her kids to the local public school but I lobby against her, I’m wrong.

If I’ve decided against vaccination but my mother badgers me about it, she’s wrong. Or if I’m convinced to follow my doctor’s vaccination schedule but my neighbor dumps anti-vax literature on my doorstep, she’s wrong.

If I co-sleep and decide on an all-organic diet but my father-in-law makes snide comments, he’s wrong. Or if I’ve decided my kids can have some Cheetos and a Coke now and then but my pastor pulls me aside to “talk about it,” he’s wrong.

As you can imagine, I could give countless examples. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we should all admit that we’ve inappropriately crossed the line with other parents. But that doesn’t make it right. And it needs to stop.

I have many dear friends and family members who have chosen different parenting paths than my husband and I. Sometimes I’m tempted to lob an unsolicited opinion – and I know I’ve occasionally failed to bite my lip. But I know the truth – that only a child’s parents are ultimately accountable to the Lord for their choices – and so I’ve learned to stay mum unless I’m asked...and I apologize when I cross the line. I make myself remember the bottom line – they’re not my kids – and I decide to grant to my loved ones the same grace I hope they’ll grant to me.

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Froment

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