“Aren’t you overprotecting your children when you do that?”
As a Christian making the parenting choices that I do, I get asked this question all of the time.
As a homeschool parent, I get asked this question all of the time.
To me, that question is fundamentally flawed. Of course I’m overprotecting them! I would never think of underprotecting them in a time when there is an increasingly dark adult world coming closer and closer to which they have unprecedented access. They have the opportunity to interact with a world that, in previous generations, wouldn’t even be dreamed of. Violence in video games. Graphic lyrics in songs. Sex in most movies/TV shows. All kinds of mischief, sin, and evil on the internet. Even in “children’s” literature, there are dark spiritual themes, adult topics being discussed, or strong language used.
Children’s minds cannot comprehend the adult information being presented by a more mainstream audience. At the same time, the multi-generational families and the neighborhoods that were involved in childraising have diminished. There is less support to help raise a child in a more complicated world.
On top of that, I believe that our culture underprotects children in the name of getting them ready for adulthood. I wonder if the way I define the word “prepared” and the way others define the word is different. Prepared, to me, means having had plenty of time to be a child, plenty of time to develop maturity and plenty of time to develop a strong vocabulary. After those three are accomplished, then there is ample time to introduce them to more of the harsher realities of life, to the adult themes of life, and to the spiritual topics that are so casually portrayed in media and books.
The other day, my older son handed me a Boy Scout magazine that had a comic strip in it. There was a picture of an angel announcing a message to someone. My son was laughing, showed me the picture, and told me that the angel looked just like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. (Probably not what the magazine was going for in their attempt at an angel).
Contrary to what some people would expect, we as a family have read all of the Harry Potter books and watched all of the videos. In fact, in the days from the time that a new HP movie is announced until the day it is released, we are all giddy and are planning where and when we’ll see the movie.
However, if you had asked me 5/6 years ago, I would’ve said that, while I had read the books and enjoyed them, my kids hadn’t been allowed to read them yet – even though all of their peers in public school had. From what I had read, I knew they would love them; however, I also knew that there was a lot of content in them that they didn’t have the maturity, nor the vocabulary, to openly discuss with me. My husband and I decided that there were some specifics that we had to see in our kids before they were allowed to be exposed to something that we felt might be dangerous if exposed to too early. When we saw those things develop in them, we read the books together and talked about what we were reading.
We do have a few set rules in our house in this regards. They don’t attend or host sleepovers. The TV shows/movies that they’re allowed to watch is still monitored. Their video games are purchased with us, and the time they spend playing is monitored. In an era where watching TV has all but displaced reading as a leisure activity, we limit their TV time and strongly encourage reading.
I am in no way wanting to forever shield my kids from the harsh realities of the world – I just want them to be exposed to those kinds of things when their maturity level is such that they can discuss them intelligently and have a context in which to place them. In fact, because I have 3 teenagers and one that is 12, we have been in the stage of releasing and having frank discussions for quite a while – and the way I see it, we can do so with confidence because we spent the work protecting until they were ready.
So yes, Miss Checkout Lady in the supermarket, Mr. Neighbor down the street, and Mrs. Concerned Parent at our kids’ activity, I believe in overprotecting a child until they are ready to experience life with maturity, a strong vocabulary, and cognitive abilities to have a frank discussion about each experience.