Out in the Garden (why we plan to stop “sheltering” our children)

*This was originally written about a month ago, but I never got around to posting it.  Lately, a circumstance with a good friend brought these issues to mind again and I felt it would be good to publish this article, along with what I hope will become a series of additional articles on this subject.  It is not our desire to convict others, only to share our beliefs regarding these subjects.

I have a great family. Thanksgiving this year had the potential to be an incredibly stressful experience. When my brother informed me that the family would be watching the football game on television, I instructed my children to get up and leave the room during commercials. I won’t say that I expected unsupportive or argumentative comments from my family members, but I was certainly prepared for questions. They never came. When another family member suggested that we watch “Home Alone” during the commercial breaks so the kids wouldn’t have to leave the room, I expected a response of indignation when I said no. It didn’t happen. Instead, when a cousin mentioned that it would be safe to watch because it was edited for TV my brother answered: “not edited enough” and dutifully turned the television… to basketball. I’m not going to say that my family understands why we don’t allow our children to watch commercials (or TV in general, for that matter – occasional football and basketball games notwithstanding. ;)) But they’ve shown incredible tolerance and support for our convictions, nonetheless. There is only one objection that I commonly hear from my supportive-but-not-quite-understanding friends and family and that’s: “Aren’t you sheltering them TOO much? What’s going to happen when they get out into the real world?” It’s a valid argument. In an article entitled “Insulate Your Children from Within,” Michael Pearl writes:

“Many parents do a careful job of quarantining their children from the world, but fail to inoculate them against eventual and inevitable exposure to evil. Parents somehow think that if they can just keep their children isolated until they get to be older teenagers then the danger will have passed. If we protect our children until they are old enough to leave home, but fail to prepare them within to triumph over the world’s alluring environment, we have not protected them at all; we have actually made them vulnerable. An unused character can grow as weak as an unused limb. Worldliness is not a condition of the world; it is a condition of the soul.” He further writes: “You can police your small children for a while, striking down opportunity when it tries to slither into your family circle, but as children get older they develop a curiosity to meet with opportunity, to listen to its pitch, as did Eve” (1).

The world understands this problem. We’ve all heard of good kids “going bad” as soon as the apron strings are untied. Family members who are worried that we are “sheltering” our children have legitimate concerns. They don’t want to see our children someday wake up to all the world has to offer and be lured by the temptation of the unknown.

And therein lies the key, I believe, to raising children who will reject what the world has to offer. If we expect to raise our children to reject sin, we must prepare them to reject it not because they have never been exposed to it, but because we as parents have instilled in them a character that will choose to reject it. But in order to have a choice, children must understand what they are being asked to choose between.

While my children are young, I have a responsibility to “shelter” them from the things they are not yet ready for.  (See the article entitled “The Greenhouse Effect” for more information on this.) As they get older, however, my job moves from “sheltering” from sin to teaching about sin.  I must use this time to teach them the difference between what the world has to offer and what God has to offer.

It is not, and never will be, our intention to keep our children from the knowledge of sin. This is “sheltering” gone wrong. Extended past the time of its usefulness, it only serves to increase a child’s natural curiosity and carnality. Instead of giving them a false sense of security that only serves to keep them ignorant, we intend to teach our children about sin and it’s destructiveness so that they can choose, of their own accord, not to participate in it. The older they are, the more we will teach.  But they must be taught according to our terms, not according to the world’s. A young man’s first exposure with sexual temptation should not be on the television screen. It should be in the home, where he is taught about the allure of the female body, his God-given reaction, the joys of Godly sex and the rewards of maintaining his sexual purity. Our tools are the books of Song of Solomon and Proverbs, not Penthouse magazine.

Does this negate our responsibility to keep our children away from ungodly influences? Not at all. We won’t willfully put our children in a situation where we know someone might offer them drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. We will, however, teach them about these things so that they are prepared when, inevitably, they are exposed to them. Will we keep them away from Wal-Mart, where scantily clad women abound? No. We will, however, teach them why it is important to look away from these women.

The world must not catch our children unprepared. They must know what they are going to face, so that they are capable of rejecting it on their own. We have no intention of “sheltering” our children forever. On the contrary, we will prepare them fully for the sinful world they face, and give them the tools they need to overcome it.

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live…Let not your heart turn aside to [the harlot’s] ways, do not stray into her paths; for many a victim has she laid low; yea, all her slain are a mighty host. Her house is the way to the grave, going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:1-27)

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1.) Insulate Your Children From Within, Michael Pearl

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Related Articles:

The Greenhouse Effect

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3 Responses to Out in the Garden (why we plan to stop “sheltering” our children)

  1. Mrs. Parunak says:

    Oh, this is a great one, Rina! What an encouragement! This is exactly what we are trying to do, and it’s such a blessing to know others who are striving to do the same.

  2. Tracy says:

    Rina,
    This is Brian. I’ve never seen anyone live life to the fullest like your kids have. They’re more alive than anyone I know. I’ll take that sheltering anytime if means I could act like they do.
    Brian

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