Protecting our children is one of the primary jobs of parenthood, and the list of dangers seems to be growing exponentially.
- There is BPA in your bottled water and hormones in your meat.
- There are predators on the Internet and cyber-bullies on social media.
- There are addictive drugs and addictive video games.
- There are terrorists hijacking our planes and the TSA hijacking our dignity.
It makes you long for the days when seesaws and merry-go-rounds were still allowed on playgrounds.
The fact is that new dangers are popping up every day, and it is impossible for even the most vigilant parents to keep up with them all.
That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your children. It just means that doing so will become increasingly complex and require some added intentionality.
There are three general principles that can help guide the process:
- SET THE EXAMPLE.
A culture of safety — whether at work or at home — starts at the top. If you want your kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, then you probably should, too. Same rule goes for seatbelts, overeating, cigarettes, alcohol, or anything else. Most values are “caught” not “taught.”
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”
– Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)
- SET THE STANDARD.
Talk with your kids. Point out the dangers as you become aware of them. Let them know what your expectations are. Set a curfew. Curfews aren’t tyranny; they are parents showing that they care! Then enforce the standards you have established. A rule that isn’t enforced is no rule at all.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
- SET THEM FREE.
The ultimate goal of parenting isn’t to have large children, but to have fully functioning adults. The only way to achieve that goal is to gradually shift responsibility from your shoulders to theirs. This is probably the hardest, but most important, part of the whole process. You will never be able to make enough rules to protect your children. They must internalize safety consciousness themselves. They must make it their own. Making it their own often means making mistakes. It can be hard to watch as our children attend the school of hard-knocks, but sometimes “experience is the best teacher.”
“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)
The temptation is to simply be “helicopter parents” — ones that are always hovering, always micro-managing, always trying to smooth the way and make the decisions and manipulate the circumstances — but that is a fool’s game. No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.