Ask Amy – Play Dates and Parties

How to Handle Bad Influences | RaisingArrows.netToday’s Ask Amy comes from a reader who asks:

How do you say no to a play date with a child whom you’d consider a bad influence? And what do you when you are at a birthday party where the theme is in opposition to your beliefs?  Can you avoid appearing self-righteous or snobby?

First, let’s get the last part of this question out of the way…

Any time you stand up for what you believe when it directly opposes those around you, you will appear self-righteous to someone.  Sorry, just the way it is.  And always remember…

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
John 15:18

These situations are tough.  You wonder how “in the world, but not of it” are you supposed to be.  You wonder if you can be a good influence in the other child’s life without sacrificing your own child.  You wonder what God expects of you when it comes to ministering to others.

In the matter of play dates, there are a couple of things you can do.

1.  Always say no until they eventually stop asking.

2.  Occasionally say yes, but on your terms.

What I mean by #2, is to be the one in control of the play date.  Don’t create an environment where your child will be off alone with the other child.  Make it a play date that is family-oriented.  Make it a trip to a museum or zoo with the children near you at all times rather than a playground or home where the children run off and play outside your direct supervision.

If you do encounter something during a play date or party, you again have a couple of choices:

1.  Address it right then and there either publicly or privately.

2.  Address it later.

You first need to decide if it is bad enough that something needs to be said right then and there to the host or to your children.  Often, the matter is not so dire it needs to be publicly called out and you can get by with explaining quietly to your children why the other child’s behavior is unacceptable or why they won’t be participating in the current activity.  Sometimes you might need to explain to the other family why you feel the way you do, but the fewer words you use, the better.  Remember:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Proverbs 10:19

Before you publicly say anything, be sure you are clear why you believe what you believe, and it is not merely a matter of personal preference that is better off addressed later with your children or the other family.  Be discreet and be kind.

And please, please, please…be humble.

No family is perfect.  Not even yours.

Your turn!  How do you deal with bad influences when it concerns your children?

Got a question?
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17 thoughts on “Ask Amy – Play Dates and Parties

  1. I’m dealing with this right now….well….something similar to the party thing. My son (7) likes Star Wars, but only b/c his friends do. He’s not allowed to see the movies so anything he’s learned about Star Wars has been from his two buddies. I personally don’t like it. I’d rather not have it in our home. However, I also don’t want to be too nit picky. I don’t like it for many reasons, but one is b/c all the boys around here who like it are obsessed with it!!! To the point where its NOT healthy. Now, my son isn’t that way. So, do I let him “like” this just so he can fit in (which is not always easy for him) or do I tell him no? Do I trust that he can “like” something so that he can relate to his buddies and trust that he can keep it from becoming an obsession? Yes. But I still don’t like it. I’m torn. Just the other night I told him I was rethinking this whole star wars thing in our house. I started rethinking it when he said he now likes angry birds. I’m telling you, he knows NOTHING about angry birds. Its just that his 2 friends and a cousin like it and he wants to bond with them and keep up with them. Anyways, I told him I needed to pray about this all. He used to love Narnia. I LOVED that!!! Obviously, it could be linked to so many Biblical topics and the good vs. evil seems so much more “pure” than the good vs. evil in star wars, though I don’t know how to explain that and justify that to a 7 year old. Anyways….curious to hear others’ thoughts. I’m still working through this one.

    • I have a 7 year old too, whose influence comes from 2 boys at church. I try to explain that we want things different for our family and that we want to please the Lord in all we do. We try to examine our hearts and see if we love the things of the world more than we love the things of God. Our little boy is saved, so we don’t have to say much befor the Holy Spirit begins dealing with him. Kids get obsessed about one thing or another from time to time try to remember…these things don’t last too long…they will be on to something else. Of course you can be leading all the while, so the next obsession is more of your choosing!

    • I think it’s better to let him try Star Wars (he might not even end up liking it!) than to make it a big forbidden thing, which only makes it more cool to him. If you don’t have any other problems with his friends, I’d encourage you to let him share their interests so he isn’t the odd kid out. Also, speaking from personal experience, kids who are too restricted when they’re little are often the ones who end up getting into things they shouldn’t when they’re older and finally have a little freedom. Not saying that will happen to you or that I know your whole situation, just trying to give some insight!

  2. A friend of mine was once going through a rough time, and we offered to take care of her son for a week. She and I have very different world views and opposing religious beliefs.

    Obviously, the circumstances were such that DH and I were in control of the encounter. However, I made a point of having a frank conversation with my friend in which I detailed how we live, with special attention given to the parts where we differ most. It was only after that conversation that I was willing to finalize any plans.

    If another family’s way of life or child rearing philosophy differs significantly from our own, it stands to reason that they may find our perspective equally objectionable. Being open about where those differences lie gives the other parent the opportunity to nix interaction without things getting unpleasant. It also gives both sets of parents the opportunity to discuss how those differences can be handled without either party being offended or harmed.

    • Excellent response.

      Being transparent and initiating the conversation regarding the structure of your household will help in regards to do all that you can to be at peace with your neighbor.

  3. My husband and I have had to talk about this frequently since we moved to the very small town where his extended family lives. As much as we love them all and appreciate visits we have our own way of doing things. In particular his teenage cousin, who is a good girl, likes to spend lots of time in our home. However, after the first summer of “babysitting” her it was very obvious that her influence on our children is much stronger than we want especially because it’s the bad stuff that stands out. She’s top notch above her peers but from a worldly perspective. Our struggle comes down to virtues. We spend countless hours teaching obedience only to have it undermined quickly by her example with her own folks. She also struggles a bit with laziness and her influence on our oldest was scary. So we’ve decided that she can come and visit but we won’t be having her over every day.

    I know that was long but my point is that even in our families these situations can really rock the boat but we have to stand firm.

  4. I’m so glad to see this topic addressed! I am struggling with this issue right now. It has to do with neighbor kids. It’s really tough to know what to do sometimes.

  5. This subject hits home for almost all parents I would think. We all want what’s best for our children and for them to have friends. This is a very tough situation for both the parents and children involved. We are always clear about what’s expected of our children and if their “friends” behavior doesn’t coincide they have to make a decision whether they want to not be friends anymore or ask them to not behave that way. Of course this isn’t for the young ones but when they are old enough for that responsibility. For example, my son(then 10 years old) started hanging out with a neighborhood boy that would say some curse words trying to be funny or showing off and my son told him that he didn’t like it and could he please stop. The boy never said another curse word. I did know the mother and knew that she wouldn’t have approved of his behavior, so I was okay with it. For some of my kids friends they are allowed over but my children are not allowed at their house for various reasons and my kids know why(when they are of an age) so they aren’t left wondering what’s wrong.

  6. Many of the parents in our friends group are not saved and some are not even married although they have children. I try to be very open with the children about the things that they see and hear and I also don’t allow playdates without me with those friends. Our children have been told from early on that the world is broken because of sin, so when questions arise about the lifestyles of our friends they are able to see how their sinful choices reflect the brokenness of the world.

    I am somewhat concerned about how well the children will do as they grow older and are the only ones memorizing Scripture etc. but know that as this point in their lives we are where the Lord wants us and am trusting him to provide the peers that they need as they grow…K

  7. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

    I have to live by the verse above and it is a difficult situation because of the emotions involved but the mandate from GOD is clear. Influence is powerful and none of us want our children influenced for evil purposes.

    I am up front and direct about what is expected in my house and in the households I send my children to. Indeed, Amy anytime you make a stand for what is right you will be tagged with different titles.

    Ultimately you have to be consistent in what you say and do and have a biblical foundation for why you do it!

  8. I struggle with this too. Unfortunately it is much harder to keep this family at arms length. It is my husband’s best friend of about 15 yrs. They attend our church, our lifegroup, and they like to get together for game nights. My issue lies mainly with their 10 yr old son, my 5yr old son looks up to him. My son, in just ONE encounter, went from being himself to this other child. I find him (other child) disrespectful to others as well as his parents A LOT. His actions are less than pleasing and even after we have had time away from eachother and I finally get my son “back” all it takes is five minutes and its seems I no longer have “my son” again. :(

    We have brought it up to the parents but they don’t see him doing anything wrong so they disreguard it.

    Now we just feel as if we are nitpicking our son, saying “Adam are you acting like yourself or someone else?” “God made you unique so lets act like Adam, ok?” “You know that behaviour isn’t appropriate, so lets act the way God wants us to.”

    And of course I try to focus on on the good he does. Cheering when I notice him acting himself.

    Any other advise would be greatly appreciated.

    • While I’m now 28 and have children of my own, I was raised in an extremely sheltered home. My siblings and I were homeschooled, and our interaction with other people was limited to those that would be “good influences”. That was alright for the first 17 years of my life, but then I got a job as a lifeguard and went away to college. I had no idea how to fight for truth in my life because I never had learned how to! There is a huge difference between living Christ-like while surrounded by Christians vs. living Christ-like while surrounded by those who don’t know Christ. I know your son is young, but you can still use this as a way to teach him how to resist the temptation to act and speak carnally, even when someone he looks up to is doing it. When Christ prayed for his disciples in John 17:15 he prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Christ wants us in the world, he doesn’t want us to remove ourselves or our children. We need to teach our children how to be around “bad influences” and still remain spiritual, and I don’t think that any age is too young for that. So think of this as a good teaching experience, as well as a gage to how well he’s actually believing the Scripture that you’re teaching him.

  9. Amy I love what you said at the end of this post. No family is perfect. We all have our faults and I think that we need to pray for those circumstances and extend grace where needed. I am sure most of us are not intentionally raising heathens and we are all trying to do the right things.

  10. I have a similar issue, but it’s a bit more complicated. I have a friend who has a child the same age as my oldest. I would love to get together with her, but I do NOT like the influence her daughter has on my son. There is NO censorship in their household….it goes so far that her 8-year-old watches horror movies! To make things just a bit tougher……we live next door to each other. In the summer when we are invited to go swimming, I don’t like my son being exposed to this girl and her (14-year-old) friends in skimpy bikinis, singing popular songs about things that make me blush.

  11. We don’t have kids yet…talking about trying soon. However, this is something I really do worry about. There are some great people in our Sunday School class, but, I’m not sure that I would want our kids hanging around their kids (especially the way they talk about their own kids…bad language, bullying, etc). Fortunately, by the time we have kids, their kids will be much older, but I doubt the predicament will be any different no matter where we live or who we hang around with (no to mention family).

    Your article was great. It isn’t easy but not much that we are called to do in this life ever is. We weren’t promised an easy life here, especially as Christians. Just makes Heaven more desirable/exciting. :)