The word "fear", used as a verb, has two very distinctly different definitions. One definition is "to feel a painful apprehension or anxiety of some impending evil." Another definition is "to reverence; to venerate." When we began our long journey of raising our six children over 30 years ago, I wish my husband and I had realized that one can parent out of a place of anxious fear and anxiety, or we can parent out of a deep desire to reverence and fear God's plans for our children and our family. These are two very different motives for making parental decisions. Our protectiveness arose out of a deep-seated fear that our children might make the same mistakes we made in our younger years, and have to reap the bitter results of those mistakes, as we did.
In my very early years of parenting, it seems I feared almost anything that could potentially harm my children, especially spiritually or emotionally. My husband and I read a well-intentioned, but over-the-top book called "Terror in the Toy Box," and as a result we became very protective, overly so, to the point where we saw potential evil in even inanimate toys, such as Power Rangers, Rainbow Brite, and Smurfs. I would blush to share some of my stories with you, but suffice it to say that my adult children have shared a few laughs over our efforts to shield them from all harm. Thankfully, they realize now that we were just trying too hard.
As our children got older, the fear intensified, and it seemed there was potential danger everywhere, so our rules and parenting were pretty restrictive. The interesting thing is that, try as we might, we were not able to keep all evil at bay. Two of our children were exposed to pornography at a relative's home, for heaven's sake! And even though we rarely allowed them to spend the night away from home (who knows WHAT could happen?), on the one night we allowed our pre-teen boy to have an overnight at his best friends' home, his older brother made an unscheduled visit to the home and our son's friend found some rather interesting pictures in his luggage. So despite all our efforts, some evil still found its way to our children.
If we had it to do over again, with the incomparable benefit of hindsight, I believe we would have still been sheltering and pretty restrictive, but our motivation would have been different. We were very young in our Christian faith, and we saw demons behind every bush. Our fear for our children created anxiety and apprehension, in them and in us, and mixed up in it all was our feeling that our children must be perfect. I believe now that it is much healthier to create a reverential fear of a holy God in our children, to teach them from an early age that they must learn discernment and how to run from evil themselves, and to allow them to fail on their own, while we are still around to support them and help them work through their struggles. Purity and holiness come from within, and if we are running around removing all the bad influences from their lives FOR them, there's a real danger that they will enter adulthood unprepared to handle the sensuous, licentious nature of the world in which they must live. They may even learn a subtle message that sin might be something they just have to try, the ”forbidden” fruit that they’ve never been allowed exposure to.
I've heard of parents who occasionally watch a movie or listen to music with their children for the express purpose of talking through some of the things they are seeing and hearing that go against their family values and faith. This seems wiser to me than allowing children, especially older ones, absolutely no exposure to such things, and then having them walk out the door of the family home into a world that is chock-full of it, without giving them the tools to discern and decide what they should and should not allow in. Because our God is a merciful and redeeming God, our children have grown into wonderful, spiritually and emotionally healthy adults, despite our failures. He knew our hearts for our children, and He honored that.
Agree or disagree with me, I hope this makes for some good discussion around the family table