|When visiting gets a little out of hand- Source|
Several days ago a mom contacted me asking what to do about a difficult situation in her home. Although her family makes it their goal to be hospitable to those within the church, she finds that more often than not when the dust settles after a get together her home is completely torn apart and takes several days to repair.
Because her children's toys often suffer damage, they have learned to hide their most special things away in their closets. Even so- unmonitored children often go into their closets and break the toys they have tucked away.
Experience has taught this mom that while she is hosting she must try to balance visiting with her guests, preparing food and keeping an eye on visiting children. Even so, she usually finds that in the end she is left with messy rooms, broken toys and stories of unkind acts from her children in the wake of company.
Her children have begun to dread the idea of having people visit them and the parents too are beginning to feel at their wits end.
This is a difficult situation. And one that more than one mom has talked to me about recently. Can we strike a balance between creating a relaxed atmosphere for our company and ensuring a safe environment for our own children as well? I believe we can.
WHEN YOU ARE THE HOSTESS
1. Cover a loss
"He who covers a transgression seeks love."
I love the spirit of Joseph who, although believing to have been greatly wronged by Mary, was willing to put her away privately.
God calls him a righteous man: "And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly." -Matthew 1:19
What about Noah's sons, Shem and Japheth, who ignored Ham's gossip when Noah had too much to drink and went out of their way to cover their father instead of expose him. I'm afraid I can relate to Ham more times than I wish to consider. The Scripture says that Shem and Japheth:
"took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness." (Genesis 9:20-23).
They were so careful to cover their father's shame that they chose not to even witness it.
What does that have to do with unwatched children and broken toys? Only this.
It is easy to expose others when we have been (or we think we have been) wronged.
First, as a true friend, my encouragement would be to extend mercy. We will certainly have regrets from time to time, but we never regret being merciful. As we lead the children in a spirit of mercy, our children will learn to be merciful. And someday we may be thankful to have Shem and Japheths recounting their childhoods in our home rather than Hams. :)
Part of extending mercy is realizing that some behavior issues only really become issues when we're in a different setting. As parents many of our eye opening moments happen in public. It can be good to have these eye opening experiences, but you can't always prepare for them.
If unsupervised children and broken toys are a pattern for your friend, then you may have just gotten a peek into her hectic life. She may very well be at her wits end and your grace and mercy may be just the thing the Lord uses to build a relationship in which you can be a hearable voice of reason.
You may be the one the Lord uses to help your sister learn about child training- if you can extend her some grace today.
2. Set friendly boundaries
"The earth is the Lord's
and everything in it."
While I have personally struggled with the idea of setting boundaries in the past (always leaning toward the idea of giving up my rights instead) the reality is that we must also seek to be a good steward of the Lord's resources. The earth- and everything else- are His.
While we desire to be gracious when accidents happen, if we find that we are continually needing to replace things because they are being misused and broken, then it may be time for a new strategy in managing God's stuff.
Boundaries are like fences. They let others know the extent of someones property so it does not accidentally become trampled. Fences are friendly and keep neighbors from needing to build a full scale cement walls. I like to think of personal boundaries as those friendly picket fences that help us to stay on good terms with others so that we don't build relational walls.
How can you build a friendly fence in this case? Keep it simple.
As you are warmly welcoming guests let them know you have been looking forward to their visit. Show them the toys and activities you have set out for their children and direct them to the play area right away.
You are establishing a kid zone. A place of "yes" answers. Yes, you can color there. Yes, you can play with those Legos. Yes, you can build a train track.
Since you are in charge of this area, just be sure it is within ear shot of the adults so that your friends can easily monitor their child's play.
Lock the other rooms if you need to. It's ok to say no if you have already said yes.
By dealing with your friendly expectations up front you will not be left with the chance that your friend's family will accidentally trample areas they shouldn't which keeps the visit fun for all (including your children).
3. Don't parent for your friend
"Each one shall bear his own load."
This next point is likely the most critical component in seeing behavior change. The mom who contacted me explained she has made it her habit to parent for others. She follows her guest's children around, correcting poor behavior and all the while never saying anything to her friend about it.
In her mind, she was doing this so her friends can take a break and relax. But friends, unless you hire a babysitter, there is no time off when it comes to parenting. :) You can't really parent for your friend.
Do set your boundaries, then if your friend's little ones is in an off limits area or doing something that could cause them or others to be hurt-- do say something.
A simple, "Oops- Johnny is in Sue's closet. I'm sorry, but we aren't going to play in there today." Let your friend know what is happening. Be kind, but let her correct the situation.
Don't be upset. But don't shield your friend from what is happening.
When you shield a parent from what is happening, you are not truly helping to your friend or your relationship.
4. Don't grow weary
"Let us not become weary in doing good
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up."
if we do not give up."
The Lord tells us not to grow weary in well doing because I imagine that He knows we will be tempted to both grow weary and give up!
If your children are struggling with this weariness, be sure to help them. You will need to both set kind and reasonable boundaries for your family while also giving them godly vision.
Walk through applicable verses that will help them to see that their friend Johnny is more important than Legos- or anything else that is perishing.
And remind them that we earn a great reward when we bless those who (even accidentally) mistreat us. Help him to see that each day- as he is merciful- he is more like his Father and storing up reward in heaven.
Some verses that may be helpful:
Our things really belong to God and not us: "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." -Psalm 24:1
It is a glory to overlook an offense: The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression." -Proverbs 19:11
Good comes from trial: Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. -James 1:12
Our reward is great when we bless those who mistreat us: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you..."If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them... love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." -Luke 6:27-36
WHEN YOU ARE A GUEST
We have been blessed by hosting some amazing guests over the years. Some of our dearest friends, who had come to stay the weekend, wrapped up their time by zipping our house clean; stripping their sheets; tidying the family room and leaving us a bag of delicious chocolate candies and a lovely book.
After they drove away we all just looked around amazed! Since there were no real chores to speak of, we spent the next hour eating our delicious chocolates and reading our new book, just pausing from time to time to look around and say how we wished they could come again the following weekend.
We felt refreshed by their fellowship and loved by their care (and have begged them to visit us again many more times since then). Don't you want to leave your friends feeling like that? Me too. This family was a real example to us in teamwork and how to visit friends.
Here are a few steps we can take to ensure that we are the kind of guests that people will want to invite again and again.
1. Be sensitive to the property of others
Train your children to ask before they use things you are unsure about and take the initiative to ask your hostess what her boundaries are. If the item your little one desires is off limits, teach your child how to respond: "That's ok. We can play with this instead."
2. Keep an eye on your own children
If for some reason, the play area is in another room, keep checking in every few minutes. Make sure everyone is playing sweetly by asking if all is well, what they are playing etc. Make sure that the games are fun for all- and not just fun for one.
3. Try to plan ahead
Talk to your children ahead of time about different games they can play, things that would be fun to do with their friends. Also tell them what things would not be good to do or talk about. Maybe they accidentally saw something yucky on TV while you were out shopping. That might not be edifying to share with their friends- guide them in this area so they understand what is appropriate. Ask them to give you ideas of what things would be good to share (Phil. 4:8). Teach them to visit in wisdom.
4. Remember to do a quick clean before you go
To show your thankfulness to your hostess, be sure to have all hands pitch in and tidy things up before you leave. Many hands make light work and it will be a lot easier if everyone helps then if it is left for your hosting family.
5. Be willing to take a rain check
And finally, if you know you are in the midst of training and your little one is having a hard time listening to you or getting along with siblings, feel free to take a rain check on the invite. Let your friend know you have some things you are working on at home and put something on the calendar for a few weeks out to give yourself some training time. Your friend will understand and appreciate your thoughtfulness.