Thursday, September 9, 2010

To shelter or not to shelter?

I'm a missionary kid and grew up in a pretty sheltered, very conservative home. Singapore (where I grew up) is more conservative than America anyway so it wasn't too hard for my parents to keep us kids sheltered from the world.

I actually never thought of myself as being sheltered. We knew what we believed, what we did, and what we didn't do. I was not unhappy or didn't feel deprived in any way. I only realized I'd been sheltered when my husband informed me of it. :)

Now, as a relatively new mother, I'm trying to figure out what my parents did right. So many of my peers have gone insane now that they're out on their own--some of them come from extremely conservative, sheltered homes and some from liberal, unsheltered homes. That scares me because I want my boys (and any other children we might have) to always be good and be close to God. I want to be best friends with them while still maintaining parental authority--I think that's part of the key to my parents' success.

Mike and I have discussed this extensively because I worry about it every time I see a disgusting commercial, a gross new movie, or even homosexuality on Nick Jr. The world is such a horrible place--how do I protect my babies from it without making them run wild after they leave our house? We've come up with a few ideas, but I'd welcome more from you more experienced parents!

1. Be a good example of being close to God. How will kids know how to be close to God if they don't see their parents close to Him? I personally had the most amazing examples in the world.

2. Be consistent. If you have standards for Sunday that are different from your standards for the rest of the week, kids are going to get confused. You should have the same standards no matter who's around. Now, you also have the keep the stumbling block principle in mind so it can get kind of sticky, but you can explain that to them.

3. Be genuine. Don't have standards "just because." You need to have reasons for why you do what you do. What's wrong with women wearing pants? What's wrong with going to the movies? What's wrong with rock music? Kids will test you on everything, so make sure you know why your standards are so high.

4. Make church more important than anything else.

5. Keep bad influences out of their lives as much as possible. This is the thing I worry about the most--we're so surrounded by evil today, how can I catch all of it before it gets to them? I'm already planning ways. Thankfully technology has made it easier. :)

6. Pray! answer my question, I would say shelter, definitely. But don't go crazy and disallow everything under the general heading of "appearance of evil." Too much unfounded sheltering can push kids even further away.


  1. Well, I disagree with the sheltering. I think our children need to be informed of the things going on in the world (age appropriate of course), but protected from them. We plan on explaining why the world does things their way and why we do them differently. We also are not going to hold our children to higher standards than we hold ourselves. We think that is what's causing so many problems in young adults right now: there weren't any explanations given for all these standards.

    As for church, yes, it's important, but not above all else. We've seen many unsaved people shunned and not want to get saved b/c of this philosophy (saved relatives going to church and not spending time with unsaved out-of-town relatives when they visit for a few days). A person's relationship with God on his/her own is the most important thing. Church is just a group of fellow believers. Obviously church is important and a very good thing, but my spouse and children are more important than church.

    Please don't take anything offensively - just expressing my thoughts in love. :)

  2. I agree with what Amy said about church - it should not be above all else. God should (I am sure you mean that as a given). But church is not what makes you a "good" Christian nor does it define your spirituality. If we train our kids that "we go to church always, no matter what" I think we are inadvertently telling them that it is duty rather than a privilege.

    We personally explain to our kids that that we go to church because we love God, not because it is an obligation or a ritual. We always say on Saturday night, "Guess where we get to go tomorrow? " and Liam (and now Leila) always respond, "We get to go to church!" See, the key word is "get." I grew up somewhat sheltered too, and was forced to always go to church, and can honestly say that there were times that I hated it. I was not going out of my own desire to please God, but out of obligation to my parents. I even remember faking sick on several occasions!

    I am not meaning to be critical, just wanted to point that out. God and family should always be most important! Church is just a natural thing that comes about by putting God first. Again, this may have been what you meant.

    I have seen your blog a few times - very nice. I have one too if you want to check it out sometime. You can find the site on my facebook page!

  3. I guess I should have explained the "Make church more important than anything else" thing. I mean don't skip church for a ball game--to use a cliche--or something like that. When I was a teenager, I missed out on competing in the finals of the yoyo nationals 'cause it was on a Sunday. But when my black belt test was going to be scheduled on a Sunday, and I went to my master and told him I wouldn't be able to do it if it were on a Sunday (even though it was my last chance before leaving Singapore), my master changed it to a Saturday. I knew that church came first and I wasn't going to skip it for something else. I never was upset about it because that's what I'd always grown up with. This is something my pastor and my parents have both told me is an important key to parenting, and I trust them completely!
    And Amy, I do disagree with you about not going to church when unsaved family is in town. I think it's more of a testimony to them that you do go to church instead of skipping to spend time with them. My dad's unsaved family always knew we went to church with or without them when they visited, and quite a few times they decided to go with us.
    And I also disagree about not sheltering kids (obviously since that's what I wrote in the first place *smile*). I believe if kids keep seeing things (like the commercial for with the two gay guys), they'll start to get used to them. And kids aren't the only ones like that--adults have that weakness too. I know they're going to find out about stuff, but I'd rather they not be constantly exposed to it.

  4. I'm not saying constantly expose them to those kinds of things. That is the extreme opposite of sheltering and there should be a balance. Of course we don't want our children seeing those things either. But unlike parents who shelter, we won't freak out if they happen to see/hear something. We'll just talk about it instead of saying "it's bad. we're not going to talk about it." When I think sheltering your children, I think of teenagers and college students not having a clue as to what's going on in the real world b/c their parents don't talk about them. A balance is giving your child information so that by the time they leave the house they are fully aware of what is going on around them. Obviously, homosexual characters on shows and sexy TV ads are not appropriate for young children. That's why I said age appropriate. Saved or unsaved, those kinds of things should not be exposed to children.

  5. Yes, that is what I thought you may have meant about the church thing! Very true! Of course, my kids already feel like church is their second home since Daddy is the pastor! We have to work on them not feeling TOO comfortable there! For example, their new thing is to take of their socks and shoes and start running around as soon as we get there! Ha! Not really what we want! :-)

  6. Amy, I think we're having different definitions of sheltering. I'm not saying we'll act as if bad things don't exist, I'm saying we'll keep bad things away as much as possible. Of course when the kids do see something (which they will), we'll explain why it's bad and why we avoid it.
    When you say certain things aren't "age-appropriate," that's pretty much what I mean by sheltering. We're just going to try to keep as much evil as possible out of our house.

  7. I like your note. If I could advise you to change one point, it would be to move #6 to #1. I believe that you are right in your desire to shelter your children, as you should yourselves. Sin is not age dependent. The world recommends the ratings of p, pg, pg 17 and so on. God's standard is simply 'holiness'.
    Some of the comments were interesting. Is the church still the Body of Christ? When did the church change from an 'assembly' to a 'fellowship'? Putting the Body of Christ first in our lives may not be a bad idea.
    This is an interesting subject. I look forward to reading more.

  8. Thanks, Daddy! I didn't necessarily have them in order of importance, just typed them as I thought of them.
    I know you know what you're talking about--look how well we kids turned out! :)

  9. I completely believe that the church is the body of Christ and am not saying it's not important. However, God can and should be present at home, too. My spouse and children are more important to me than church in the fact that God gave me the awesome responsibility of serving my husband and raising our children for His glory. Let me put it this way: if Mike was a pastor and his role as pastor interfered in any way with any of our children's relationship with God, he would step down as pastor. God can bring a different pastor to a church, but he gave our children specifically to us and we can't change that. Our children are our number one ministry.

    What I meant by "age appropriate" was that I'm not going to sit down and explain why we don't swear to my 10 month old if someone swears in front of her at the grocery store. She would have no comprehension of that. Same thing with drugs, sex, music, dress, etc. On the same note, I also wouldn't let my 3 year old watch a chick flick even if there's nothing wrong with it (no sex, swearing, immodest dress, etc.). What is completely sinless can still be inappropriate for a young child.

  10. Obviously God and family come first, but if those are truly first, church will be first too, you know what I'm saying? There should never be a situation where you have to choose between church and your family--if there is, then I personally think something's wrong.
    And I don't think my dad was saying you should let your 3-year-old watch a chick flick (although if there's nothing wrong with it, I don't see why not). There are definitely things that aren't appropriate for children that are fine for adults (I'm thinking more action movies or something along those lines). But you can't rate sin as age appropriate--like Dad said with the movie ratings. Sin and evil are not appropriate for any age.
    Amy, I know you're thinking of those extremely sheltered kids who have no clue about the world and are completely socially awkward. I don't feel that I fit into that category (although some may disagree), but I still feel like I was properly sheltered when I was growing up. You personally decide where to draw the line when it comes to sheltering your children, but no matter where you draw the line, it should be drawn somewhere.

  11. Looks like you have learned what I did not too long ago - you can post something that you just feel strongly about on your blog, not really meaning it to go anywhere or be a huge discussion, and all of a sudden it turns into something! Ha! But, you have to expect that when you publically write something on the internet! I just read your most recent post about the balloons. Cute!

  12. Hey, didn't Stephanie post a note here? Anyway, I thought that the disagreements noted above were an invitation to jump in. Sorry, next time I will stick to encouraging and uplifting comments - You know that is my nature anyway. You are doing a good job with the kids. Just remember that about the time that you figure it out, they will be raising their kids.

  13. Emily, yep! All these comments kind of surprised me, but I don't mind. :)

    Dad, yeah, Steph posted but then she wanted me to delete it 'cause she thought it was too harsh. :) But she was right and you were right and always feel free to jump into any discussions on my blog! Even if I'm the one you're arguing with ('cause I know from experience you can quickly prove me wrong, but I can on occasion prove you wrong too *grin*).

  14. This thread is almost as heated as facebook comments on the Duggar page...must mean you're doing something right Liz! :)

    I had a discussion about "sheltering" kids tonight at church. In our situation financially, we aren't at a place where Christian education will be a possibility for us, and our best choice would be homeschooling. Most of them made comments about social skills and such, but I don't agree. I like the idea of sheltering my kids a little. I'd rather them learn about the wrong stuff from us teaching them (with the Bible) than from tv or peers...

  15. Thanks, Meredith! I think the Duggar kids are awesome! They're all completely happy and well-adjusted (as opposed to some other families on TLC).

    And I was homeschooled too--most people in college were surprised to find that out. Social skills and stuff depends on the parents. You'll find socially awkward kids in public and Christian schools too. We're probably gonna homeschool Gehrig and Logan (unless we end up moving back to Pensacola), but we're already looking forward to getting Gehrig involved in soccer and T-ball next year so he'll have plenty of social interaction.

  16. I've found often people say they are putting their family first in order to excuse their lack of faithfulness to church and blatant adoption of worldly values -- "We couldn't be at church Wednesday because Joey had something at school." I think it is very interesting that people will miss church for reasons for which they would never consider allowing their children to miss public school, or for which they themselves would never miss work. For us, we put our family first BY being faithful to church.