I read a brief article today about sheltering our children. You may read it here if you are interested as this blog post deals mostly with my personal beliefs on this same topic and is mostly in reponse to having read the article. A friend of mine wrote to me today asking me what I thought about the article, and when I started to write back to her, I realized that I had a lot to say about this very hot topic in Christian circles, especially where homeschooling is concerned. Homeschooling aside, I think that more Christians need to be working harder to shelter their children. I believe that it is what God calls us to do. The following is a more detailed description of why I believe this.
I do agree with what this article is saying, although I don't think that I totally disagree with my friend's opinion on the topic. I don't think that in today's world it is even possible to over-shelter a child unless you lock them in your house and have no media and are as perfect as God himself. In our household, my children are automatically exposed to the "real world." I don't know how most kids aren't regardless of their schooling choice. Since we live in a very multi-cultural city, my kids are exposed to other religions and cultures regularly. There is a huge Islamic culture here in Columbus, and I think that about 1/3 of Eric's clients are Buddhists. Just a trip to the grocery store usually involves encountering someone who is noticably Hindu or Islamic because of the way they are dressed. We have not taken the time to educate them about other religions yet because I don't think they would get it beyond the basic, "Not everyone believes in God the way the Bible says." We will when we believe they are old enough to fully grasp this concept, but, at this point, this is something that we believe requires a certain amount of sheltering. Plus, there is the fact that we are imperfect people who are from an extended family of imperfect people who teach our children daily that we need the grace of God. My children know the non-Christian world.
Add to this well-meaning friends and relatives who feel the need to expose our children to things when we are not around, and they get a pretty good taste of what the world is like. I don't intend for my kids to live in a bubble, but there is a very age-appropriate amount of sheltering that is a high priority in our household. I can't imagine how different my children would be if they were public schooled. Sheltering helps them to hold onto their childhood and their innocense, which I think is so extremely important. It is one of the biggest reasons we have chosen to homeschool. My child does not need to know what a condom is at the age of 9, which is something we have discovered some of the children in our church already know, and I'm talking about children who come from Christian households and attend church every week. Please don't take this as a judgemental comment towards those parents, because it definitely is not. I have no idea how this child came about knowing this information. I just know that it is not necessary information for a child to know.
My child also does not need to think about dating at the age of 12 as many children are doing these days. Honestly, I think that philosophy is completely ridiculous. If a parent does not believe their child is old enough or mature enough to choose a mate and marry, then what purpose does dating serve? It merely puts their child into situations which they are not yet equipped to handle because they shouldn't have to. It is our job as parents to shelter our children from things they are not yet ready for.
I think there is a very dangerous theme in a lot of churches and Christian households today. For example, I have heard of someone who has decided that allowing her children to be exposed to whatever they want on t.v. is okay because she wants them to understand that when she tells them no about something, it is very important. In other words, her "no" is too serious for something like a bad choice on t.v. because some day her kids might want to use drugs. So, instead of sheltering them from the many, MANY poor t.v. shows there are and educating them about making Godly choices, better choices, when they choose t.v. programs, her household is, for the most part, a t.v. free-for-all. That is where the danger lies, in my opinion at least. I don't believe that we should ever purposely expose our children to ungodly things simply for the sake of exposing them to the real world. I didn't need to smoke a cigarette to know that it was bad for me because I was well-educated concerning that topic. I didn't need to have sex with 10 people prior to my husband so that I would know that he was the right one. God lead me to the right one because I was educated about where to look and how to find my way into the center of God's will for my life.
That is what sheltering is to me. We shelter them from situations, people, and places that they are not ready for because that is what God does for us. We protect them from abusive people, ungodly practices, and compromising situations, but, as we do so, we teach them the reasons why we are doing so. We show them what the truth is according to God's Word. We teach them how to research on their own so that they can make well-informed, Godly decisions on their own.
A funny cartoon character who tells ungodly jokes, uses poor manners, teases other characters, or acts in any way we that goes against our personal moral belief or the way we want our children to act is something that our children should be sheltered from. Just because it is animated, that doesn't make it okay. Just because a movie appears to be about a topic that we think would interest our children does not mean that it is appropriate for our children to watch it. I tell my children that certain shows are not necessarily ungodly, but that there are better choices for them to make, and that is why we make the entertainment choices that we do. No amount of subtlety is overlooked in our home because I don't believe that is what God would want us to do. It is just another form of sheltering and protecting our children while we teach them what is right and what is wrong.
This is a very long reponse to a topic that is a very hot one for me, obviously. I am sure that some of my readers disagree to some extent or maybe even on all points, but this is where God has taken my thoughts in my journey at this point in my life. We are called to train up our children in the way they should go, and we take that calling very seriously. If more parents did so, then I think that the world would be a much better place.