A friend of mine and I were discussing how to teach our children about the sins and dangers of the world we live in without harming them in the process. We disagreed some about the way to go about it. She talked about being glad her children, who are at public school, are seeing the “real world”, even though some of the tough questions they ask concern her. (She has to define adult terms just to be able to have conversations about what her children learn.)
This argument bolsters many parents’ opinion that homeschooling is bad for children, believing they should learn to deal with the negative influences now because they will face them later.
I refer to the alternative in the title as “sheltering” simply because that’s the catch phrase for it.
One misconception I’ve learned about this debate: none of our children are isolated from “the world” or its ways. There really isn’t a “sheltering.” They are simply exposed from different angles. And that makes all the difference.
One effective way I have found to approach an ethical/moral dilemma is to think of it with an exaggerated hypothesis. In this scenario, I thought of how I want my kids to learn to deal with pornography.
Pornography is packaged beautifully. It is marketed to be full of pleasure and fun and excitement. We’re never shown the broken homes and hearts that lie in the wake of its path. It’s typical of sin: it lies.
For that reason, I want them to learn about it differently than the producers would teach them. And at the appropriate time. It would be foolish to try to have a conversation with my 4 year-old about words and images he doesn’t need to know. But it’s not wise to try to pretend, indefinitely, that pornography doesn’t exist.
Based on my friend’s opinion, taking this exaggerated example (though I’m not sure “exaggerated” is the right term since it is a reality), we might leave a stack of pornographic magazines in his bedroom to peruse at his leisure. We might even tell him “they’re bad”, but still give him access to process it on his own. To do that would be to let the lying marketers teach my children about this poison.
Not many parents would agree with this approach.
Because the truth is, I can teach my children about the sin and damage of pornography without willingly exposing them. Does that mean they won’t be exposed at some later time? No. Does my unwillingness to expose them now make them ill-prepared to deal with it later? I don’t think so.
What our job as parents should be is teaching what is right to our children, securing their moorings to God’s Word as they grow up, giving them the moral compass they need to evaluate any number of situations in the future.
Will a child be “shocked” as an adult to see pornography for the first time? I hope so. Does that make him less suited to deal with it? I can’t imagine how. This idea that if our children aren’t submerged in all the darkness of the culture they will somehow be unequipped to handle darkness is not a concept I find to be Scriptural.
The wise father in Proverbs pleaded with his son to “enter not into the path of the wicked.” Does that reconcile with the idea that parents who prefer to not immerse their children in depravity are too guarded and sheltering?
By the way, depravity resides in us all. There is certainly no such thing as shielding our kids from sin when we live in sin-wrapped flesh. There is a difference, though, in being redeemed by His blood, and seeking to “eschew evil” and do what is right. Our job isn’t to pretend the world around us isn’t depraved, but to examine it through a filter of truth.
I think we are responsible for teaching our children about sin, the same way Jesus taught his (adult) disciples about sin. It’s not a hiding away and shielding their eyes, neither is it a releasing them into territory before they are fully discipled. But as we walk with them, giving them a right lens through which to see, cultivating a right heart with which to discern.