When our children are young, we can do a pretty good job of monitoring who they can play with and who they need to stay away from.
But as they get older and make choices of their own, they may choose friends (or someone may choose them) that you don’t approve of. I’ve learned from experience that you can grow in a situation in which your children are hanging out with people you personally don't prefer.
Chances are those kids you don't approve of have their own sets of wounds that have caused them to be the kind of person you don't want your child around.
Who raised that kid? you might have wondered at one point or another. Well, it's a good question. It's possible he wasn't raised by a dad who showed him how to act like a young man or how to treat a young woman. It's possible she wasn't raised by parents who showed her she was significant and loved and that she didn't have to dress a certain way to get attention. It's possible his rambunctiousness (if he's a young boy) or her rebellion (if she’s older) is out of pain that you and I know nothing about.
We can pray that our children will be leaders and influence all they associate with. But in reality, there may be situations in which your child is following or being negatively influenced by another. Whether it's a dating relationship that has you worried or a rough group of friends your child is hanging out with, God can handle the situation. And He can teach us a lot about ourselves – and His love for others – in the process.
When my daughter started accepting the friendships of other kids who wanted to be around her, this is how I went from worrying about her negative influences to standing back and watching God work. And, this is also what I saw confirmed as I talked to other moms – of both girls and boys – who had concerns about their kids’ friends but then peace when they gave it to God:
1. Pray for the person you don’t approve of.
Our first instinct is to pray for our own child's influence and protection. But it's very possible no one is praying for the child or young adult you want to protect your child from. And God may very well have teamed up that child with your child because someone in your household would begin praying for him. As you begin to pray for that person, God will change your heart toward them. I guarantee it. This is always my first line of advice when moms come to me, in a panic, that their daughters – or sons – are beginning to date unbelievers. You can fight it with your child – and very possibly damage your relationship with him or her. Or you can fight it in the heavenly realm through prayer, making yourself available to God in any way that He wants to work in the situation. Choose to be a prayer warrior, instead of panicked worrier.
2. Picture their hurts.
Inappropriate behavior on the part of other children – younger or older – often comes from wounds, inappropriate parenting, or neglect. Consider that this person who is a negative or unhealthy influence on your child has been exposed to something negative or unhealthy, too. As you begin to ponder their heart and picture their hurt, God will give you a compassion for them and possibly show you how to pray for them further.
3. Pray Scripture over your child.
As you pray Scripture verses for your child, you are praying not according to your wisdom or your desires, but God’s. If you're like me, you can sometimes slip into the mode of instructing God on how to best handle the situation when you're praying. But I have to remember God doesn't need my suggestions. In fact, my measly suggestions to the all-knowing, all-capable God are an insult to Him. He knows far better than me how to work all things for good in my child's life. As we pray God's Word over our children, we are praying His will and His wisdom over them, too.
My friend, Judy, learned this while her two sons and step-daughter were growing up and experienced such peace in doing so. Some of her favorite verses to pray over her kids were:
- "Create in (Jason) a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within (him)" (Psalm 51:10).
- "May (Steve) listen to the way of wisdom and be led in the paths of uprightness" (Proverbs 4:11).
- "My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (Proverbs 1:10).
- "Give (Sherry) a great desire to accept Your word, God, and store up Your commands within (her) so (her) ears will turn to Your wisdom" (Proverbs 2:1-2).
Judy said, "Just speaking their names into the verses makes it more real and meaningful to me."
4. Prepare for God's work in you.
As you pray for those who are near your children, ponder their hearts, and pray God’s protection over your own children as well, God may transform you from a mom who worries about your children’s negative influences to a mom who prays for your children’s circle of friends. I know it would be easier if God just pulled certain individuals out of our children’s sphere of influence and we could pray for people whom we’d like to pray for. But God often doesn't work that way. He works on us, refining and smoothing those rough corners of our hearts so we truly know what Calvary love looks like. Jesus prayed, while on the cross, for those who were mocking Him, spitting at Him, and cursing His name. With that in mind, the least we can do for the One who died for us is pray for those whose hearts He still wants to reach.
As you pray for God to soften the hearts of those around your children, you may even find that the heart He softens the most is yours.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women’s conference speaker and author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone, (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, and her most recent, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. For more on her ministry, books, and resources to strengthen your walk with God , your parenting, and your relationships, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: April 14, 2016