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    On Overprotecting

    December 7, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I can be a downright fierce mommy bear at times. Other times, I let little old ladies walk all over me, handing my son an evil red sucker {he’s sensitive to Red 40} without a word of protest on my part. But in my mind, I’m always fierce. Really. I let that lady have it, but only in my mind.

    So what does it mean to overprotect a child? Or is even the word overprotect a judgment call, meaning that someone is being excessive in the area of protection? I protect my children from a lot of wordly influences, that is for sure. They don’t watch TV. They don’t read books I haven’t read first. We screen their friendships {for now}.

    Si once made a comment to someone who asked us about such things that we “incubate the soul.” There is a time to protect from evil and allow good to flourish, to allow certain strengths to be built, certain weakness to be identified and dealt with, before setting a child free in the world.

     

    The “Real World”

    Often, people {the ever-illusive they out there that never has a name} will criticize the homeschooling movement saying that it is overprotective of the children, that they are never able to experience the “real world.” And usually the question that pops into my head is something along the lines of, “Why, with the state of public schools as they are today, would one wish them to be at all representative of the real world?”

    There is a little boy at our church that is most likely being pulled from the public schools in the next couple of weeks. It has been a horrible experience for him. Besides being bullied and learning, I’m sure, millions of derogatory terms for any known human flaw, he has also seen other children stripping and exposing their private parts in public. He is in the first grade, in one of our better school districts. Is this the real world that one’s children need to experience in order to grow up and fulfill their responsibilities as adults?

     

    A Need to Define Protect

    Even though I am, as I claim, downright fierce at times{especially since my babies really are babies}, I think there is a need to clarify what it means to protect, or really what the aim of the protection is, and what it is appropriate to protect from.

    The Trivium Pursuit blog recently posted an article from The Homeschooling Minute concerning protection. The point is made that “sheltering” means to guard or protect while its opposite is to expose or endanger. Now, granted, this is from the Homeschooling Minute. In other words, it’s not exactly meant to be a thorough analysis of the idea of protecting a child and all that this might entail. However, I do find the concept of sheltering=good, not sheltering=bad to be a bit simplistic without making sure there are some common definitions in place.

    Sheltering a child from the influence of the world is “good.” But sometimes this is extended into nonmoral areas. In our family, for instance, we choose not to protect from average pain. We do not use pain killers for every bump, bruise, headache, and teething incident. If pain is excessive {like someone breaks an arm}, that would be an exception. But reality is that the world hurts sometimes. If one runs without watching where one is going, one is going to get a bruise, and allowing the child to experience the pain is part of the lesson {rather than teaching him to pop a Tylenol for every ache}. We often treat teething with hours of hugging and reading stories rather than teething tablets and medicine. I am not saying every family must choose this approach. I am simply explaining an area in which we choose to comfort and bear with rather than protect.

    And sometimes parents protect children from the consequences of their sin. Is the child truly being bullied on the playground? Or was he playing violently and refusing to share, and so the other children decided to socially punish him? If the root problem is one’s own child’s behavior, the solution is not to protect the child from those horrible children at the playground, but to root out the character flaws that caused the problem and deal with them.

     

    The Eventual Goal

    Romans 16:9 speaks of one becoming wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. I think the book of Proverbs has a great practical example of how this would work out. First of all, though, I must explain that there is a difference between being innocent in what is evil and being ignorant of what is evil. A naive young man, unaware that there really are Proverbs 7 women out there, will eventually die from her flattery.

    So what does the Proverbs Teacher do? What is his methodology? First of all, he does not set his son free in the world to experience all of its “reality.” Instead, he walks with him, teaching him as they go. He explains how evil men work, how evil women flatter. He prepares the son to avoid evil and keep his feet on the path of goodness. He does not shelter his son to the point where he doesn’t know that these evils exist, but he also doesn’t offer any more gory details than are necessary for his son to learn how to avoid evil on his own.

    And that really is the point. Eventually, they have to be able to avoid evil on their own. Immersing them in evil in the name of helping them along in the “real world” is not Biblical. But neither is sheltering them to the point of ignorance. I always go back to Genesis, and the idea that my son, especially, must someday leave and start his own family.

    Perhaps what I am really looking for here is a process where we shelter our children so that we might be have fertile soul soil to cultivate when it is time to train them in their youth, so that they are prepared to be full-grown followers of God as adults.

     

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    2 Comments

  • Reply Kimbrah December 7, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Brandy-

    Great post! I heartily agree.

    This is totally off subject, but I just noticed that A’s toddler reading obsession is the same as Bobby’s right now. In fact I just got done reading it to him before naptime. You should also look into Sandra Boynton’s “Barnyard Dance” if you haven’t already. That is Bobby’s other favorite (we read it like a square dance, with knee slapping and everything).

  • Reply Rahime December 7, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    Not being a parent, I cannot speak with much authority on this subject. However, I think that you nailed it in the last 2 sentencces.

    I always go back to Genesis, and the idea that my son, especially, must someday leave and start his own family.

    Perhaps what I am really looking for here is a process where we shelter our children so that we might be have fertile soul soil to cultivate when it is time to train them in their youth, so that they are prepared to be full-grown followers of God as adults.

    I think the training starts even as they are very young children–when it’s least difficult to build life-long habits. The trick is for protection to grow increasingly smaller as the child reaches maturity and demonstrates the ability to use wisdom in his choices.

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