If You must Shelter, Teach Too
By: Judi Murphy
Raising girls in these days is frightening! Our girls don’t get to be little girls for long. Very early on, they are faced with decisions and moral dilemmas that are tough even for adults. Oh how we long to shut out the world and cocoon our girls from those influences.
Arguments for keeping kids sheltered swing vastly on the pendulum. There are those who believe sheltering kids is the only way to go to protect them, and the only way for them to grow up in purity and with a strong moral compass. On the other side, there are those who think girls should be out in the world to “be salt and light,” and to learn how to better interact with peers and adults.
Parents and mentors must decide what each child is able to understand and handle. Obviously, some sheltering is needed for children; the younger the child the more sheltering needed, most likely. But there are some things parents, teachers, and mentors on both sides of the argument can do to help children.
Be a safe listener: As girls grow older, give them some space to test out biblical truths and morals you have taught them. Say she comes to you and tells you that her best friend joined other girls in a round of drinking games at a sleepover. How do you respond to that? Your reaction is critical.
React too lightly, or not all, you may appear as to endorse or find the behavior acceptable. React too strongly and you risk communicating to her that she can’t talk to you about the issues she faces without having negative consequences. Is your natural reaction going to be to ban her from ever being in the same room with those girls again? Or can you help her sort out her feelings about the situation, and come up with ways to be a positive influence in the lives of those friends?
Active listening on your part communicates that her thoughts and decisions are important and valid to you. You pave the way for further communication. Reacting with ultimatums or demands will shut her down, and likely hinder further communication. Recognize that you have been instilling godly values in her, and that she may be coming to you because she needs a sounding board so she can work out for herself how to apply what she’s learned in order to handle her friends and her situation.
Look to Socrates: Ever heard of the Socratic Method? It’s a great coaching/parenting tool. It involves asking questions to stimulate critical thinking and make ideas come to life. As she answers your direct questions, you empower her to come to conclusions and truths “on her own,” making it far more likely she will own them and act on them herself.
For example, using the above scenario, you might ask:
“Why do you think those girls decided to play that game? Was it a good thing to do?”
“Do you think there are negative consequences of a game like that? What might they be?”
“What temptations do you face when you are asked to participate? How do you respond to those temptations?”
“How do you think Jesus would handle that situation? How does Jesus feel about those girls? What kind of friendship would He have with them?”
If you must shelter, teach, too: Even your firm belief is that your girls should have as little interaction with the secular world as possible, it’s important to recognize that at some point, as adults they will indeed encounter and interact with the world at large — people with all kinds of values, viewpoints, and lifestyles. Our natural human tendency is to fear, reject, and shun people and things that are different from us. However, God’s admonition was to first love Him, and then to love others. We must help our girls learn how to love people who are different from them. Teach them critical thinking and reasoning skills; how to embrace those who are different from them; how to love them like Jesus did. It’s comforting to note that in Jesus’ life on earth, Jesus wasn’t impacted by the sin of the people He befriended, but rather, His holiness and His love affected the people around Him. May the same be true of our girls.