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“Tough Parenting Decisions”Categories: CHILDREN, RELATIONSHIPS
I have a parenting question. My eight-year-old daughter has a friend about a year older than her who lives down the road. She and my daughter have been friends for several years, but recently, the neighbor girl berated my daughter to the point that she came home in tears. Unfortunately, this has happened before in their friendship. Also, as the neighbor girl has gotten older, she has developed a fairly bad attitude that is becoming a challenge for my daughter. The neighbor girl has a habit of doing this when she is upset about something, but she also usually comes back with an apology. This time, however, I'm leaning towards discouraging my daughter from continuing a friendship with this girl. My dilemma is: I want to teach my daughter to be forgiving, but I also don't want to put her in a situation where she will get hurt again or steer her towards a friendship with a girl who is becoming an increasingly bad influence. I also am not sure that I want to teach my daughter to continue a potentially abusive relationship simply because of an apology (I'm thinking ahead). Should I encourage my daughter to accept her friend's apology and continue the relationship on the grounds of forgiveness, which is vitally important, or should I encourage my daughter to end the friendship despite the apology because of the unhealthy nature of the relationship?
Parenting is about nurturing your children along to adulthood (Eph 6:4). Nurturing means more than just teaching one concept; it means providing them with all of the skills and strengths they will need in life. You are doing things exactly right.
It is important to teach children about forgiveness, mercy, and kindness – numerous verses teach that concept. However, that isn’t the totality of God’s teaching on relationships! If it were, Christians would be required to put up with untold abuse and accept every unhealthy influence that comes our way. Instead, God also teaches that bad relationships can corrupt us (1 Cor 15:33).
You can simultaneously teach your daughter to forgive this other girl while also teaching the benefits of setting healthy boundaries. That is a skill set she will need for the rest of her life. Forgiveness isn’t the same as trust. After all, Jesus forgave people but didn’t necessarily trust them in all circumstances (Jhn 2:24-25). You are right to seek a balance, and your daughter is blessed to have a parent that nurtures these healthy social skills in her.