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How to Help Your Parents Be Parents

You know that one parent?

The dad with the misplaced priorities?

The family that doesn’t really value youth ministry?

The mom who complains that her son doesn’t like church, even though she’s the one who sets that tone at home?

Yeah, you probably know plenty of those parents.

Maybe you’ve even imagined what you’d like to say to them, and here’s how you can say it without coming across as a massive jerk:

Strategy and tact will help you say things that you NEVER thought you could say before.

Of course, there’s always the option of just speaking bluntly and unfiltered. Just say what’s on your mind and hope for the best, right?

Here’s the WRONG way to do it:

Check out this question from Jay. As soon as I saw it, I just knew that I had to share it with you, Brilliant Reader. You’ll love it.

“Am I a jerk for calling a mom to tell her to medicate her hyperactive son and then inadvertently criticizing her dietary choices? She was not happy.”

Normally, I don’t like to answer questions like this without knowing the whole story, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

Yes, Jay. It sounds like you might have been a jerk.

According to the Bible, Truth is Truth and it’s always the right thing to say.

But if you’re looking to avoid a pile of angry parents along the way, then you need to know that there’s also a right way to say the right thing. There’s a wrong way too.

Hey, that sounds tweetable:

There’s a right way to say the right things.

There’s also a wrong way. Do you know the difference?

Thanks for sharing that for me, and I’m sure your youth ministry friends are thanking you too.

Now if you’re still with us, I’m assuming that you have truth you want to share with parents and that you want to do it better than Jay.

Here’s your roadmap:

If you don’t have kids, wait before speaking.

As a nonparent, it’s extremely easy to imagine what you would do if you had kids, but once parenting becomes a real thing instead of a hypothetical thing, everything changes.

If you don’t have kids, this doesn’t mean that you have no right to speak familial truth into the lives of parents.

It does mean that you should press pause and consult the wisdom of a mentor who is a parent before you continue.

Engage the voices of other parents.

People will be naturally resentful if you roll into a situation acting as the person who has all of the answers. You would be too.

So instead of telling a parent what you think they should do with their kid, say something like this:

I know the Carson family went through a similar thing. Here are some of the ways they were able to help improve their situation …

(Just make sure that the Carsons aren’t expecting you to be keeping that information confidential and are willing to talk to other families.)

Using this strategy is also the beginning process to building a parental support system that you don’t have to be in the middle of. That’s important.

Give parents the chance to ASK.

Unsolicited advice is just about the worst.

It’s also not a very effective way of introducing behavior change. Unsolicited advice almost always puts people into a state of defensiveness.

But when people ASK for advice, they come with a posture of attentiveness. That’s helpful.

So, give parents opportunities to ask questions. Have conversations. Ask THEM questions about their child.

If you absolutely have to offer blunt and unsolicited feedback, then do it. But first, give parents every opportunity to ask you for it.

Speak from love, and not from anger.

If you’re offering parenting advice because you’re upset or frustrated, you’re doing it wrong.

We minister because we love people, we love their families, we hate to see their families hurting and we believe we can help.

If you’re not advising from a posture and attitude of love, you need to take a step back, cool your head and ask God to soften you before you say much of anything at all.

Here’s what I want you to do RIGHT NOW:

Without telling me the NAME of the parent, tell me all about one parent that you wish you could have a tough conversation with. All you need to do is leave a comment.