Have you ever grabbed the ears of a stray dog? I hope not. It would not be the wise thing to do. Solomon says that people, who meddle in the affairs of others, are like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears. (Proverbs 26:17) Today we are going to look at how this may apply in the case of parents and their grown children.
Proverbs 26:17 NASB Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
For months a bride and groom plan and prepare to have the perfect wedding. The cake, the flowers, the caterer, the church, and the reception hall are just a few of the minor details that need to be tended to. The parents of the bride and the parents of the groom can usually be found doing their part. It takes a team of people to pull off the perfect wedding. Parents can be instrumental in not only paying for the wedding, but also in helping to insure the bride and groom’s wishes are adhered to.
From the time their son or daughter came home from the hospital, until the day of the wedding, they were an integral part of their child’s life and rightfully so. They cared for them, provided for them, and even if it wasn’t wanted, they offered their advice. This is all a part of being responsible parents. However, for some parents, this is a pattern that is not easily broken. Once a parent, always a parent some may say. And while it is true parents are forever, their influence in a grown child’s life can become troublesome when it interferes with the integrity of the marriage union. That is the marriage union of their grown child.
As you can see from the scripture, the man is to leave his father and mother. He and she are to be joined together as one flesh. There is no room in that one flesh for the father or mother. The two become one. Not the four or six of them. There is no room in the marriage bed for others, and parents would be wise to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves unless asked. Even then it is best to tread lightly, for to meddle in another’s affairs can be a dangerous thing. Whatever advice a parent may offer, it should never undermine the authority of the head of the house or his bride for that matter.
A wise parent will reinforce the marriage vows of their child and encourage them to rely upon each other and God. While at times a parent’s advice may be helpful, it should never be offered unless asked for and even then it should never interfere in the marital relationship. The only exception may be in the case of abuse. That is another matter, and not one that we are discussing here.
While we are to be examples to those who are younger, that does not necessarily mean we need to speak. Far more is taught through one’s life and action than through mere words alone. The apostle Paul wrote,
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:1-5
So, the wedding is over. The bride and groom have said their vows, and they are off for their honeymoon. Once the honeymoon is over, how should parents involve themselves in their children’s lives, and eventually in their grandchildren’s lives? First of all, with respect! Respect for the fact that they are now adults and capable of making their own choices and decisions. That is not to say that they will always make the right choices, but they have earned the right to make their own wrong choices as well.
If and when the parent is asked for advice, be careful of what you say. Do not go overboard with your own opinion but offer sound advice when asked. Once again, this should never undermine the relationship of the couple. It should always reinforce their relationship and their reliance on each other and God.
In the case of a grown child that finds the parents meddling in their personal affairs, it is best to walk lightly and with love. Showing respect to the parents, honoring the parents, but not sacrificing the relationship of your spouse in exchange for an amiable relationship with parents. It is here that we must remember that the scripture says we are to leave the mother and father, and embrace the wife, and become one. So when a parent does not adhere to that relationship, it is best to respectfully ask that they keep their thoughts on your private affairs to themselves unless asked. It is also wise to insist they maintain a healthy respect for your mate.
Above all else, the spouse is to be respected and honored even as you would expect to be honored and respected yourself. Healthy boundaries are a must if grown children and their parents are to have a God honoring relationship. It is best to establish those healthy boundaries early in the marriage. This can prevent unwanted emotional strain and pain later down the road.
Peter also offers some words of counsel regarding meddling, he said in 1 Peter 4:15:
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
This sums up the opinion of Peter regarding meddling in another’s affairs. Once the child has spoken his or her vows, they are no longer the responsibility of the parent. That is where the line should be drawn, and the advice left unsaid, unless asked for. Even then, proceed with caution, and that brings me back to the very beginning. Who wants to grab a stray dog by the ears? Not I and hopefully not you. Don’t they say, let sleeping dogs lie? I think that is very wise advice indeed.
Kathy wrote this article which appears in the February 2015 issue of Faith Filled Family Magazine along with an interview of Darlene Zschech of Australia that appears in the same issue of FFFM.