Friday, April 6, 2007

Defensive Parenting

I think as a family we do a pretty good job of being defensive around our house. What I mean is, we are careful what our children watch on TV, what they hear on the radio, what movies they see, what magazines are brought into the house, etc. We guard our children’s hearts and minds pretty well.
I know some families who are WAY more careful than us and it usually gives me a twinge of guilt knowing that my daughter sometimes watches Sponge Bob Squarepants on TV when I started out saying that she wouldn’t. When I am around the children from a family like this, I find myself being very careful. The parents seem to be easily offended by things that I don’t think twice about.
But sometimes I see Christian families who don't seem to think twice about anything. And I am the one that is shocked. I used to think that other Christians were much like our family—striving to be godly. What I have found out was that some families just go to church.
So, it seems that there is a scale. On the left I imagine extremely permissive parents whose children participate in the world just as children from non-Christian homes do. On the right, I imagine children who are home schooled and rarely away from their parents.

I can imagine where I would place our family on such a scale. I guess everyone can find families around them who are very different on this scale from their own. The closer you are to the other family on this scale, the more comfortable you are letting your kids hang out with their kids. Makes sense, huh?
The only problem with this scale theory is that we are not to compare ourselves to other families. They are not our standard--the Bible is.
So maybe this is not all revolutionary to you. Our family does a pretty good job of protecting our children. Our defensive skills are fairly sharp in the war for our children’s salvation. I am proud to say that my 7 year old does not know a cuss word and is very naive about things that 7 year olds should still be naive about. Other children her age have not been nearly as protected as her.
But as anyone knows, defense has an opposite. It is known as offense and it is not talked about nearly as much as it’s counterpart. Here is an area where our family can improve. Without an offensive strategy we just end up with sheltered and naive children who are unprepared for the “real” world. (The argument many give against home schooling!) What so many Christian home schooling families get that many of us often don’t—is that the offensive side is just as important for our children.
So what does the offense look like? Is it about finding “alternative” choices for your children? Suppose they aren’t allowed to watch cartoons on the cable channel. Well, everyone knows children need cartoons to watch, so we will just check out appropriate videos from the library. We will teach them to say they are not allowed to watch those channels if they go to a friend’s house. Instead of reading just anything from their school library, we will make sure they read wholesome books written by Christian authors about young men and women of God. Instead of listening to the radio or the popular music of the moment, we will fill their media library with contemporary Christian artists. This is surely a better choice.
Is this really what offense is about? Or are we spending our time making substitutions for the blanks the world has already deemed need to be filled in for our children?
Since the Bible is our standard, let’s consider what it has to say about all this. One of the first verses that Christian home schooling families often cite is Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The argument, of course, is that instilling the word of God into our children is something that happens all day every day. This is the offensive weapon we have been given. God’s word is the sword of the spirit—the only offensive weapon mentioned in Ephesians chapter 6. So, in order to fight offensively for my children’s salvation—not just defend them against the world—I need God’s word and lots of it!
It’s just so simple it seems too good to be true. I didn’t say it was easy, but I marvel at the simplicity of God’s plan. Fill them up with the word of God. If we do this, our children will grow to understand the will of God and be able to make godly decisions for themselves (eventually). If we as a family are following God’s word, then our decisions we make today for our children will automatically be those that are good for them. No more need to scramble around finding alternatives so our children will not be deprived of the entertainment other youngsters enjoy. When our choices are based on God’s word, and our days filled with it, they will lack for nothing.

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