Someone asked me this week how she could tell her good friend to stop giving her advice about her parenting without ruining their friendship. She said, “My friend constantly tells me I’m too lenient with my kids. I’m getting tired of hearing it.”
A good girlfriend is a wonderful gift. And a healthy relationship includes freedom to share honest feelings and disagreements.
But I encouraged her that before she initiated a heart-to-heart discussion with her friend, she should stop and ask herself if her friends concerns have any merit to them.
I remember my friend, Barb, shared with me that she thought my life was too busy and I needed to slow down. Inside I thought to myself, “Why is she telling me this?” and immediately I felt myself getting defensive. But after I thought about it, I knew she was right.
The Bible encourages us to consider constructive criticism. Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it” (nlt). Could God be using your friend to show you areas needing improvement in your parenting?
No one can improve any skill without constructive feedback from the outside. Whether in reading a book on parenting, watching a friend discipline in a way that’s different than you, or seeing a terrified look in your child’s eyes when you’re screaming at her, we all need to receive feedback if we want to learn new things, grow or improve something.
On the other hand, your parenting style might just be different from your friend, not better or worse. Not everyone does things the same way. You may be a more lenient parent than your friend, and still be a wise, loving, godly mother.
If you want to address this with your friend, prayerfully think through what you want to say. I usually write it down, to really figure out the right words. We can cause real damage to a good friendship by reckless words (Proverbs 12:18). Then I practice and practice and practice. This builds my courage (no one likes to speak hard words), and gets me used to saying it the way I planned.
This is important so that you don’t just blurt out your negative feelings during an intense moment and potentially ruin your friendship. Plan the time to talk. Ask her if she’d be willing to set aside a specific time to talk together, uninterrupted by children. Then affirm your friend before sharing your concerns.
For example, you might say something like, “I love you and value our friendship. You’re a great mom and a wise woman. I’ve prayerfully considered your comments about being too lenient with my kids, but I don’t think I am. Although my parenting may be different from yours, mine’s not wrong as a result. I’d really appreciate if you wouldn’t comment anymore on how I raise my kids. I know you mean well, but your remarks upset me.”
Such candor might surprise your friend. But if your friendship is healthy, she’ll be thankful for your honesty and your friendship will be stronger.