A couple years ago I took my newly arrived foster boys to Johnston’s Pumpkin Farm for a hayride and some seasonal magic. What I got was a surprise insight into “motherhood”.
The hayride was over and Randy, 3 at the time, was exploring the sandbox in the play area when a bigger boy who was there on a school field trip came over and yanked the pail he was playing with out of his grip.
Randy stood, stunned. His face clouded up as he looked to me to administer justice. I turned into a raging mama bear. I felt my soul standing tall and roaring before the attack. I was about to cross the 10 feet between us and clock the kid but something (I can only assume was the intervention of the holy spirit) held me back.
The pint-sized jerk ran off with the pail, and Randy and I dealt with the pain together. We talked about how what the other boy did “not ok” and how it made us feel “really sad”. We went looking for new toys.
I had to acknowledge that something very strange had happened to me too. I was overcome with a need to protect Randy from hurting again and I sized up every potential threat that toddled toward the sandbox.
I’m guessing that if you’re a parent, a guardian, or if you’ve ever loved a child you’ve felt exactly the same way. I’m also guessing that that feeling didn’t stop as your baby got older. In fact, it must have only intensified as the number of threats to your darling one’s future increased.
Even now, the full and happy future of your baby is being challenged by crazy drivers, disloyal friends, power-hungry professors, poor economics, corrupting media influences, selfish significant-others and protective parents.
You may need to read that last sentence again. Yep, I said it. Your kid’s future (and that includes the kids at your church or school, not just your biological child) is being seriously limited by your protection. Allow me to explain before you start chucking those rotten vegetables that you keep on hand for such occasions.
Lately, since I’ve been more involved in young womens’ ministry in the last year and a half, I’ve noticed a pretty scary trend. Many of the sponsors, parents and denominational workers I’ve talked to that work with Jr. high and Highschool girls are hyper-focused on protecting our girls. I mean, they TALK about preparing our young ladies for college, careers and healthy relationships and all that, but their truest motivators are revealed more subtly in their comments. For example:
“We voted not to allow the purchase of XYZ book for the teen girls’ small groups because the book contains a section on masturbation.” (Really? Because they have probably figured out that they have girl parts with lots of sensitive nerve endings and have likely heard myths that need some Biblical context.)
“We don’t allow our girls to watch anything rated PG-13.” (Interesting. Those guidelines are pretty fickle.)
“My daughter will not be going to your workshop. We don’t like them being exposed to non-Christian resources.” (Because you have to have it stamped “Made in Church” for it to be good advice?)
Sometimes I am overcome with frustration when I hear statements like those! I want to shout—What are you thinking?!!! Why are you putting all your energy into protecting our girls when they need desperately to be PREPARED. Some of them are already making poor decisions that have huge repercussions, but we’re still cranking out G-rated only discussions. By the way, have you noticed that the Bible itself is not G-rated, friends?
This “protective bubble” mentality continually drives girls away from us, and as quoted in a Barna study all the way back in 2011–it actually drives them away from the church.
We need a broader vision and WE (parents, teachers and youth leaders) need to be trusted sources of information as these girls navigate life’s tough decisions. We do NOT need to be the far-removed “church ladies” who spit out a few well-rehearsed and applicable Bible verses while being fully removed from these girl’s very pervasive context of culture. PS, please don’t get upset when I talk to your girl about sex before you do. If she’s 14 and you haven’t discussed these things…you’re late. You may be late at 10 in some parts of the country.
Here’s my view and my guiding methodology as a speaker and youth worker: PROTECT your daughters, YES! But only until you have the opportunity to PREPARE them.
What this means is that as your girl gets older, you become less and less focused on protection and more on preparation until, around age 17, you’ve got a fully capable adult who still lives at home for 1 year while she’s testing out independence.
I know families where the parent (and sometimes the boarding school) makes all their teen’s hard choices for them, even through the first year of college! That’s just laziness masquerading as guidance. Real guidance is putting in the time to help your child figure out her own values and choices. The sooner a girl makes her own framework for decision making, the less rebellious she’ll be, and the more ready for conquering real life.
My point: please stop hovering–especially over our high school girls! Instead of screening every piece of literature, every song or every show, please help your girl develop the framework for making her own decisions.
So how does this process develop? Here’s how it went down for me:
- My parents helped me see that the God of the Bible wanted GOOD for me
This is absolutely necessary! If I didn’t understand that God’s actions are repeatedly for me and not against me, I would have never been interested in doing anything His way.
Study: Genesis 1& 2—God’s original plan of eternal perfection and bliss and communion with us. 1 John 3:1, Jer. 29:11
- This GOOD God has boundaries and frameworks set to keep me happy
Again, absolutely necessary to understand at a young age, especially when the message from popular culture paints any form of abstinence as if a young person is missing out. This is satan’s oldest trick in the book, as he used it with Eve. Unfortunately, it’s still working!
Study: Genesis 3—How God loved us so much that he wanted to provide choice, but that he also warned about the consequences of not choosing to follow his ways. Deut. 5:33, Ex 20—have discussions about how following each commandment would protect you and your family. Eph. 2:1-5.
- I was encouraged to study and apply Biblical principles on my own!
Sometimes we get caught in the trap of banning everything that isn’t produced by our church, or even our denomination because we’re so afraid for our kids. Give them a little credit! Give the Holy Spirit a little credit! Don’t disallow something just because of its origin. Teach kids to judge it based on merit! Give them increasing freedom and responsibility as they show they get these concepts. In the marketplace of ideas, the good ones eventually prove themselves.
Study: Rom. 8:1-17—how Jesus alone is cure for me wanting to go against these principles. Eph. 4:17-24, 1 Thess. 5:21, Phil.4:8, 1Tim 4:12-16
- My parents, teachers and Godly friends were not to talk me into decision, but were trustworthy counsel when I had questions.
I had to learn to seek counsel from those who had the kinds of life I wanted-happy, successful Christians who were blessed by God. Everyone is willing to offer advice, but there are usually only a few qualified to give it. For example, you wouldn’t ask a baker the best way to make money from the stock market because the baker is not qualified. In the realm of Godly advice, we need to teach our young ones to consider the source of advice before taking action on it.
Study: 1Kings 12:1-19—how Rehoboam was unwise to take advice from his friends. Prov. 15:22, Rom. 12:1-2, Prov. 3:21-26, Ecc. 9:13-18
- My parents let me face the full weight of my decisions.
I talked a lot with my mom (and still do) about major decisions. I only had to feel a few painful disappointments early on to start realizing how true and helpful Biblical wisdom really is! My parents didn’t try to protect me from my poor decisions, but definitely used them as teaching moments.
One of the key priorities to helping our young girls develop this personal framework is to have many one-on-one discussions (check out Deut. 6:7). They best way to start these discussions is by asking a lot of questions and listening to a lot of answers. This way, you’ll get the credibility of being the adult that cares enough to understand them instead of controlling them. This is how you will help prepare them for the life of adventure that God has in store.
I’m curious about how your parenting or teaching style supports or contradicts these points. Also, would love to collect your tips on when to protect and when to prepare—leave me a comment below!
Thanks for stopping by! If you want to read an excellent article on developing a framework around media and entertainment decisions, check out this one I found over at Focus on the Family.
You can also check out my YouTube channel for devotional thoughts and random advice bits for girls!