How do I honor my mother yet protect my children?

My daughter had her baby yesterday, Amaya Love, 6.5 pounds and 19 inches long. She is beautiful and I can’t wait to meet her. I am so happy to be a grandma. Today’s question poses a struggle how do I honor a parent that is destructive and potentially dangerous?

Question: I’m struggling with what is the best way to honor my parents (mother) but protect my children. My mother had a lot of issues and because of those has dated and married a lot of unsavory men. This exposed my brother and I to a lot of dangerous situations. I have lived in an abused women’s shelter and one of her common-law husbands sexually abused me. When confronted with this by me and the police she would either say she wasn’t aware or blame me. There wasn’t enough evidence to put him in jail so he lived with us for another 6 years.

I could go on and on but my question is this: My mom is now married to a new man and he wants to be called grandpa. I put my foot down and said no for many reasons, one being that my mom does not have a long track record with men and I don’t want my children to become attached. I’m also very wary of one of them hurting my children like they hurt me. My mom wants my children to come and spend the summer with her without supervision and when I tell her “no” she talks to them about it behind my back.

Finally, a therapist told me to cut off ties with her since she is not respecting my boundaries and cutting me down in front of my kids, friends, and in-laws. I just want to know, am I sinning? If God wants her in my life because He commands me to honor my mother then I want to honor God by doing that, but I’m scared that my children could be hurt. What is right? Where in the bible can I stand on this truth?

Answer: Let’s start by looking at what the Bible means “honor” your parents. The word “honor” in the Greek means to value, it doesn’t mean that you must do whatever he or she wants you to do. I believe you can honor (or value) your mother and still say, “No, I can’t allow my children to come to your home for the summer because I’m not comfortable with it.”

If your mother was physically handicapped and incapable of providing a safe environment for the care of your children because of her disability you would understandably have to put some boundaries around their visits. In the same way, your mother’s immaturity, sinfulness, brokenness, whatever you want to call it, hinders her ability to be a safe caregiver for your children. Her judgment is impaired and her ability to take responsibility is limited.

It sounds as if you’re comfortable with your choices, but fear God somehow wants you to honor your mother by letting her have her own way. God gave you your children as sacred gifts and he expects you to be responsible for their care and safety. If that means that you cannot leave them alone with your mother, then that is what you need to do. God knows that. However, you can still honor your mother by spending time with her when you can or in ways that limit her opportunity to be undermining or destructive. You can honor her by not talking disrespectfully to her or about her with others. That does not mean that you shouldn’t speak truthfully, but always with a humble attitude which shows honor for her. You might say something like this.

“Mom I know you’re disappointed that I am not allowing the children to come to your home for the summer, or allowing my kids to call your husband grandpa, but that is my decision and I’m asking that you respect me as their mother, even if you disagree. I want the children to have a relationship with you but I cannot allow you to continue to undermine my decisions by talking with them about it. If you don’t stop I will have to further limit their contact with you. That is your choice but that is not what I would want.”

If she doesn’t stop, you can honor your mother by praying for her, by doing her good when she has a need – either driving her somewhere, paying a bill she needs help with, or helping her with a chore she can’t do herself. When Jesus tells us to “Love our enemy” he knows that sometimes our enemies may come from members of our own families. In the same way, honoring means giving preference, care and respect for this particular person’s needs as you are able. It doesn’t mean doing everything he or she wants.

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