Balancing Hospitality and High Standards in Your Home

February 15, 2024

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Today's question says, "I've been trying to implement your advice in previous podcasts about making my home an inviting place for my children to bring their friends. However, I worry that my standards for behavior are off-putting. How can I maintain high behavioral and moral standards without creating a hostile atmosphere?"


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "I've been trying to implement your advice in previous podcasts about making my home an inviting place for my children to bring their friends. However, I worry that my standards for behavior are off-putting. How can I maintain high behavioral and moral standards without creating a hostile atmosphere?" This is a really important question for us to think through as we think about our children getting older and developing more friends and wanting to make our homes a place where our kids' friends want to be.

Now, the first thing I want to say is just commending this mom or dad who wrote in this question. It's just so wonderful that you're thinking about this, about how can you make your home an inviting place for your kids' friends, but then also think through, okay, how do we deal with the fact that our kids' friends are going to be coming into our house with different behavioral expectations from their parents with different moral standards? It's really important to think through this.

Now, my first piece of advice would be that if you are married, to talk through this with your spouse to come up with a game plan together and whether you are married or single parenting that you bring other trusted believers into your life and just ask them to be thinking through this with you and praying through this with you, that we live in a culture that often likes to just seek advice from people with platforms. Even though I am not very well known in the broader world, this is a platform that I'm using right now and I'm grateful that God has given me the privilege of answering questions like this.

However, because I don't know you personally and because I don't know the ins and outs of your situation, the kind of advice that I can give you is going to be somewhat limited compared to the advice that a trusted brother or sister in your local church can give you because they're going to be able to ask you follow-up questions. They're going to be in the trenches with you doing daily life. So really just encourage you, if you're married, sit down, talk through this with your spouse and whether you are married or single parenting, that you bring others within your local church into this conversation so that they can encourage you, they can ask you good questions, they can support you, they can hold you accountable throughout this process. Now, I think that no matter the situation you're in, there are just some general principles that we can think through as we're thinking through inviting our children's friends into our home.

And the first thing that I think we can think through is just who are we actually having over? Who are our children's friends? Who are the friends that we really want to encourage our children to continue developing relationship with? Now, there may be certain friends who you want to limit your children's time with. Now, obviously, this is much easier when your children are young and you have a greater amount of authority in their life. As we're raising teenagers, we still have authority in their life. We are still required to make them submit to the rules in our household. However, we are gradually releasing responsibility to them as we are seeking to develop them into fully functioning adults. So in the younger years, it's much easier to control who we have over into our house, who we are encouraging our children to be friends with and who we are not.

And I know that even when I was growing up, my parents always made our home a very inviting place to our friends, but also to our neighbors, to our church family. But I know that my parents were intentional in encouraging us to invite certain friends over and then also making sure that they were putting boundaries around the time that we were spending with other friends. We were always encouraged to invite people over our house, but I know that when it came to people from church, we were encouraged much more so than people just from our public school. Not that our public school friends were never invited over, but our parents were intentional about helping us cultivate friendships within the body of Christ. So that's the first thing we need to think through. Who are we having over? And this is a time when you can be really intentional at planning family get togethers with other like-minded families in your church.

Now, this doesn't mean that we isolate ourselves and we never have families or friends over who think differently than us or who have different standards, but we can be really intentional about thinking, okay, who are other families in our church or in just the greater community who have similar goals for their children who we want to make sure that we're fostering relationships with? I know that as a teacher in a Christian school, this was sometimes something that parents would come and ask me if there were parents who were very serious about discipleship, they knew that they had certain goals for their children, and while it would've been the hope that all families in our Christian school had the same goal goals, the truth of the matter was not every single family that sent their children to our Christian school had those same discipleship goals. So frequently I would have parents who would come and say, who are the other kids in this class where the moms and dads are really serious about discipleship?

I want to set up play dates with those families. I want to build relationships with these families. And so that's something we can be intentional about actually having families over practicing biblical hospitality as a family to get to know like-minded families. Then we can also have conversations with our kids about what qualities should they look for in a friend that we want to help our kids think through What makes a good friend? It's going to be someone who is going to be encouraging us in our relationship with Jesus. It's going to be someone who is not gossiping about other people because if that person is gossiping about other people when they're around us, they're going to be gossiping about us when they're around other people. And so just talking through what are some of these qualities of a good friend? Now that doesn't mean that our children should never have any relationships outside of people who make good solid biblical friends, but it does mean that we want to help encourage them toward those relationships.

And this is something, especially when our children are 10 and under that, if we see that they're drawn to a certain type of person who is not really the type of person who is seeking to honor the Lord with their life or we're just concerned, we can be really honest with our children about, Hey, what is it that draws you to this person? Why do you want to be friends with them? Not that we want to cut down that friendship, but that we can say, I don't really think that this person should be your best friend. I even think their children who were in my third grade classroom who I saw that their parents wanted to be intentional about discipleship, yet their child was drawn to the kids in the class who were very prideful or who were always seeking to have attention drawn to themselves or who had very negative attitudes towards others.

And this is something that I would actually directly address with my students and I would directly address with their parents like, Hey, I'm worried about the type of person that your daughter or your son is drawn to. Not that we want to cut down these friendships, but I don't think this should be the primary friendship that they're seeking. And this is actually a mistake that I made in many of my first years of teaching that I often was not direct with my students about this, and I tried to steer them towards friendships with other students, but I wasn't actually direct in what I was concerned about where my last few years of teaching, I was more direct and things went much better. But that's something we can be direct with our kids about. Why is it that you're always drawn to the type of person that is rolling their eyes at others or that is seeking to be the boss of everything?

What is it that's drawing you to that person? I don't think that person makes the best friend. Then we can also pray with our children regarding friendships. We can pray with them and we can pray for them that God would give them one or two friends who really love him and are seeking him and are going to be strong friends for our children. And then we can pray through the other relationships that our children have where it's not someone maybe who you want your child to be best friends with, but that you can pray that your child would influence that person and that person would not have as strong an influence on your child. So that's the first thing we need to intentionally think about who we are inviting over now. Then we also need to think of what are we going to do when we have children in our home who come from homes with vastly different rules?

It might be that our home has the most strict rules of all. I know growing up that was the case with my home. I don't think I had any friends who had stricter rules in their household about what they could or could not watch on TV or how much time they could spend watching TV or the language that they could use or even the type of food that was allowed that growing up my home, the home I grew up in was always had the most strict rules, even though my parents sought to make our home a very inviting place. And so especially when we're talking about children who are younger than teenagers, we need to be sure that we are explaining the rules upfront when we have our kids' friends over that we're saying, Hey, we just have a few rules in this household. We are not allowed to run or yell in the house.

If you want to go outside in the backyard and run and yell, you can do that to your heart's content. When we have friends over, we are not going to have any friends playing in the bedroom. If you want to play in the living room or the dining room or the kitchen, that's great, but we're not going to have any friends playing in the bedroom. And then even just rules about eating, maybe your kids are allowed one snack after school while their friends are allowed three or more snacks to say, we're going to have one snack. So just explaining the rules upfront. If you have older kids where maybe they're going to be playing ping pong or basketball outside, just say, just the only type of music that we're going to be allowed to listen to is this type of music, or we are not going to have any music playing with cursing or swear words or you know what?

Our kids, they have to leave their, if you have teenagers and they have phones, hopefully they don't have their phones with them all the time. So saying, in our house, we put the phones on the kitchen table, you can keep your phone with you to communicate with your parents, but you should not, we don't allow any videos watched on the phones. Please don't be talking or texting the whole time that you're here. So just to make sure that we have those rules upfront. And then a conversation to have with your spouse or if you're single parenting with someone else in the body of Christ is determine which rules in your house are simply for the convenience of how things run. And maybe those rules every once in a while could be bent versus rules in your home, which are moral rules. And the person who wrote in this question actually distinguished these things.

They said, how can I maintain high behavioral standards and moral standards? So we need to think through, okay, what are some of the things that we're going to want our kids and their friends? Well, we require our kids to follow and we're going to want their friends to mainly follow them when they're here. But every once in a while, if we have to bend this rule, that's okay versus what are the moral standards that we have in our household that we are not willing to compromise on? For example, maybe one of the behavioral expectations is that your kids are not going to be using outside voices inside. So saying, we're not going to yell, we're not going to scream. And for the most part, you want to keep up that behavioral expectation. However, if your kids are playing a board game and their friend gets really excited about it, if they've just shouted out loud while they're playing a board game, that's not really a moral thing.

That's just they haven't adhered to the behavioral expectation. So that's one. Maybe you can say, we're not going to do this when we're together as a family, but we're going to let this slide versus the rule that we only use clean language. We don't use any sexual humor or potty talk. We don't use any swear words. That's a moral issue. So if you have one of your kids' friends coming over and is using language that you do not allow in the household, that's something that then you're going to say you might be allowed to use that language in your household, but we don't use that word or we don't use words like that in our house. So that's different than we keep inside voices inside and outside, voices outside versus clean language. Or you might have a rule that your kids are allowed no more than 30 minutes of media time each day, and maybe a friend comes over and you've decided, well, it might be fun for them to watch a G-rated movie when they're together, and that might mean they're going to be watching that for an hour and 10 minutes.

So that's a rule where most of the time the behavioral expectation is no more than 30 minutes of screen time, and you want to keep that the same where when their friends are over, maybe every once in a while you can say, okay, today's going to be a special thing. You're going to be allowed to watch a movie. Versus a moral rule would be like, we don't allow any media that has sexual innuendos or jokes in it in our household. And so that would be something that that's a moral rule, so you're going to stick with that. Another example of a behavioral expectation versus something that's moral is maybe you have a rule that there's no eating, no food in the living room, and for the most part, you're going to want to keep that up because that's just a rule that you have in your household.

But again, maybe your kids are watching a movie with you with their friends, and you're going to have some popcorn. That's a behavioral expectation that you can bend for that day versus I think it's a really wise idea to just say that no guests are ever in the bedroom because you can't see what's going on in that. I think it's a wise idea to make sure that when you're having people over that people are always in public spaces. So that would be a moral thing to make sure that nothing wrong is going on. So you might bend the behavioral expectation of not eating in the living room, but saying, no, we're not going to have any visitors in the bedroom. So just, there's many more examples that you could go through, but just parse through what are behavioral expectations that every once in a while it's okay to bend those versus moral standards where you're like, no, this is what God has called us to and we are not bending this moral expectation.

And just recognize this is going to need to be an ongoing conversation in your household because as your children grow and develop and change, and as they develop different relationships, you're going to have to think through like, okay, what is appropriate in this stage? Because how you handle having friends over when your child is four looks vastly different than how you handle having friends over when they are 14. And it's just important to always be thinking, okay, what is best for our children and their friends? What has God called us to in this season? You don't want to let the children who your children are having over change the rules in your house. Think, okay, what needs to stay the same? And what are things just behavioral expectations that maybe we'll bend when we have some friends over? I think my parents are not perfect, and they did not do everything perfectly when my brother and sister and I were growing up.

But I think they did a good job of just wading through this, of having our home be a place that was open and inviting for others while still maintaining high expectations. And so when we were growing up as we, my brother and sister and I aged, my parents got a ping pong table for our basement. They got a basketball hoop outside downstairs in. We didn't have a huge tv, but my parents did get surround sound so that if we were going to watch a movie, our friends wanted to have it at our house because we had surround sound there. And so those are things my parents just tried to do to make our home an inviting place. They didn't always have the latest thing. We didn't really have video games. We weren't allowed to watch a lot of media if we were going to watch a movie.

It had to be okayed by my parents ahead of time. It wasn't something that we could have friends over. And then we'd just be like, Hey, can we watch this movie? We had to ask our parents before our friends came over. But those are things that they did just to make our house inviting. But I also saw my parents adhere to high standards. And part of what made this easy is my parents actually directed the senior high youth group at church. So they had a relationship with most of the people that we were having over, and they knew them pretty well. But even as kids, my mom, she stuck to most of the behavioral expectations that we had. For example, my mom was, she didn't make us eat perfectly. We were allowed junk food now and then, but my mom was really careful at making sure that we weren't developing an unhealthy appetite or affection for unhealthy foods.

So when we had Oreos, we were allowed to have three Oreos and no more. When we had ice cream, my mom would give us two small scoops of ice cream and no more. And sometimes our friends just rolled their eyes or huffed their breath at this. I remember having a friend over and just opening, she opened up a sleeve of Oreos and kept eating, and my mom was like, Amy here we're allowed to have three Oreos. And my friend rolled her eyes and looked at me like, you have got to be kidding me. But my mom didn't care. She was like, this is what we're going to do. Or my sister had a friend over one night when we were watching a movie and my mom gave two scoops of ice cream, and the friend rolled her eyes and my mom was like, is something wrong with this?

So she just up those expectations. My brother had a friend over who he had the habit of just opening up the door and walking in the house without knocking. And every time he did that, my mom was like, we do not go into other people's houses without knocking. And so she would have him walk outside and knock on the door, and he was like, are you kidding me? And he kind of laughed it off and would roll his eyes, but my mom was like, no, I'm serious. It's important to knock when you go over someone else's house. And so these were all behavioral expectations, not necessarily really moral things, but my parents stuck to their guns in that, and our house was still the place that friends wanted to come over Sometimes. I know for myself growing up, sometimes I was embarrassed by my parents' rules, but now as an adult, I'm so grateful that my parents had those rules that they did.

So that would just be my encouragement to you first talk to trusted believers in your local church because they're going to be able to give you wisdom that I can't regarding your specific situation. Then specific things to think through is who your kids are having over how you can help foster positive relationships. Then when you're having children over who come from houses with different rules, make sure you explain the rules upfront. Think through what are just behavioral expectations that maybe every once in a while you can bend versus moral standards that you're not going to bend. And just make sure that this is an ongoing conversation with you and your spouse or you and those in your local church as you're thinking through making your home an inviting place, but also a place that holds to high standards.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave our time together is that no matter the situation you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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