Parents, let me liberate you from the guilt you sometimes feel.
Your daughter comes home from school and asks to play at Suzie’s house. Instantly, your parental alarm goes off. You have done all you can to not have your daughter play there because you don’t quite trust that the parents are always around, even though they say they are. So you hedge a little and make up an excuse. You tell your daughter, she understands, and life goes on.
That’s the easy situation.
The harder one is when you have a good friend that asks if your teenage son could come over and hang out with her son. “My son is struggling and I know your son would be such a great influence on him.” Although you want to help them out because you love this family, including their son, what her boy is struggling with is something you do not want your son introduced to.
So how do you respond? If you say yes, you put your son in a situation that may be harmful. If you say no, you risk offending your friend.
Let me take about 50% of the social pressure of being a parent off of your hands with one principle.
It is perfectly acceptable to say no and not give an excuse. Will it be uncomfortable? Most likely, yes.
Too often we parents make up excuses – we lie – and feel horrible for doing it, but at the same time we feel justified. Of course, it isn’t a great example for the children (lest they try the same tactic on you).
So either way it seems to be a no-win situation.
But there is another option. Let’s obliterate the myth that you need to give an excuse for uncomfortable situations.
Modern parental culture says that you need to try to make each situation comfortable. But it is wrong: you don’t. You certainly want to be as kind and gentle as possible, but when there isn’t an excuse that will play out well any way you try, don’t give one.
When you practice this you will find freedom in a way most others do not enjoy.
Sometimes your decisions will not be based on anything you can discuss with anyone else except for your spouse. Or your solution is only based on Parental Intuition. Or you know that the situation your child is going into won’t turn out well. Sometimes you just don’t want to hurt another’s feelings.
In times like these, you don’t need to give an excuse why your child can’t play with theirs, can’t spend the night, or why you won’t let your 14 year old go on a date.
You don’t need to give an excuse.
But if you can, great. It is best to teach and to explain. Don’t be afraid to be bold (just be careful not to be overbearing). The goal is not to make enemies by being curt and heartless. It is always best to give a reason for your actions if appropriate.
But sometimes you can’t. And it’s OK.
There is nothing wrong with saying, “Because our family doesn’t do that,” or even, “Not today,” (with the thought, “or ever,” in the back of your mind).
It may make some parents mad. It may make your child mad. Sometimes it is most appropriate for you to stay quiet rather than let that parent know that there is no way on earth your child will be spending the night at their house because you have don’t have a good feeling about it and don’t trust that their psychotic teenaged drama won’t rub off on your child.
But those are things you can’t tell someone else without being offensive. And in those times, smile, be as polite as you can, but DO NOT feel pressured to give an excuse.
The parents may try to demand one of you and push you again and again for a reason . They may become defensive and offended. Sometimes it is better to be offended in that way than to explain to them your real feelings – rational or irrational at the moment.
Now, turn the tables.
Someone says no to you without giving an excuse. Rather than looking for a good explanation or being offended, what can your reaction be?
“Well, they are the parent. They are not obligated to give me an excuse. I will trust they are doing what is best for their family. Good for them for standing strong. We need more parents like that.”
If another parent tells you that, no, their son or daughter won’t be joining your family for an outing, and they don’t give you a good excuse, smile and know that no excuse is their right as a parent.
You don’t need to answer to anyone except to your spouse.
Choose what is best for your family, even if you need to be bolder than you are comfortable with.