Lindsay and Doug Harold are Christian super-parents who do recommend sheltering kids. But the way they do it is interesting. Lindsey writes about it on her Lindsay’s Logic blog.
People often criticize parents who are careful about what their children watch, listen to, or read or who monitor their friends and influences very carefully. This criticism is very commonly made of homeschooling parents, though it has certainly been applied to others as well. The claim is that these parents are sheltering their children too much and that they won’t know how to deal with the real world when they enter it upon reaching adulthood. Some even claim that sheltered children will be more likely to go crazy with the sudden freedom than children who have grown up exposed to evil things of the world and are used to them.
There seems to be a misunderstanding about what sheltering is and what its purpose is.
There’s a big difference between knowing about evil things that can happen and knowing evil by being steeped in it. It is certainly possible to shelter one’s children too much so that they are ignorant of reality and have no idea how to function in society or how to address the wrong ideas of the world. But that’s very rare. The greater danger is in putting children in the midst of evil before they are prepared (developmentally and spiritually) to handle it. That is by far the more common scenario and the one more likely to result in problems.
You don’t send a soldier into battle until he’s trained, and you don’t send a child into the world until he’s trained either. Children are very vulnerable and need protection until they are prepared to fight evil on their own.
Dina sent me this Gospel Coalition interview with Francis and Lisa Chan, that talked about the importance of training kids to have a specific purpose, too.
How has parenting seven kids affected your marriage? What’s your biggest piece of advice for fellow parents with respect to their marriages?
Children change everything. I am convinced God uses our children to cleanse us from self-centeredness. Babies demand that you move your focus off yourself and onto them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only bad when they’re 13 and still believe everyone should drop whatever they’re doing to tend to their needs. It’s hard enough to fight self-centeredness in ourselves, but parents are given the task of training their children to live God-centered lives as well (Deut. 6:4–9).
Our biggest piece of advice would be to view your kids as assets rather than burdens. It used to be that people envied couples with many kids. It meant they had more help on the farm, with the business, around the home, and so on. When people hear we have seven kids now, though, they feel sorry for us! Why is it that for thousands of years children were a blessing, yet in the past few decades we’ve come to view them as burdens? Poor parenting. We raise them to either be burdens or assets. Good parenting involves teaching them to love and serve others rather than expecting to be constantly served. While we will always serve our kids to some degree, we also expect them to serve each other and those around us. Our children have been our biggest assets in ministry. Rather than distracting from kingdom work, they multiply it. Nine servants are better than two.
One of the things that’s scary to me is that if I did get married, my wife might be too soft on the children, and always let them have their way. Women sometimes want to be the child’s friend and not his parent. Men have a different view of children. We want them to be independent and to not starve, and to make a difference for God. So on the one hand, I want to be protective of them and shelter them from things they are not old enough to see, and on the other hand I want them to grow their skills in order to serve God. What a difficult balancing act – I am not sure I understand children well enough to manage it. But, that’s what a wife is for, right? She’s the Director of Child Development.