To Shelter or Not to Shelter, That is the Question!

A couple of months ago, we decided to introduce our girls to a movie we had loved when we were kids -- The Goonies. In my memory, this was a cute movie about a bunch of kids who stumbled onto a crime, then captured the criminals. I had forgotten about the cuss words and the potty humor. I cringed every time those kids on the movie opened their mouths. After the movie was over, we had a quick conversation about how we don't talk like the kids in the movie. I got two "I know, mom" responses and we went on with the evening.

The whole scenario, though, brought up the question of how much should we shelter our kids from things like movies, books and music. Some families I know don't allow their children to watch anything that they haven't seen first. One of my friends reads nearly all of her daughter's books before she allows her daughter to read them. Other families I know don't seem to have any rules. Their kids are watching R-rated moves at the age of 7.

It's a tough subject because there are no clear-cut answers in the Bible. Philippians 4:8 tells us "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." That list is a fine concept, but each of those things is subjective. Do you throw out an entire movie with a great message because it has a cuss word in it? Do you not read a work of great literature because you don't agree with the lifestyle the author lives? Do you prohibit your kids from listening to a song because the artist that sings it wears skimpy clothing at her concerts?

It's a tough call as parents as to how much or how little to shelter our children from the influences in the world around them. If we shelter them too much, we leave them unprepared to navigate the world themselves, but if we expose them to too much, we run the risk of snatching their innocence away from them. If there are no rules and no filters, we leave our kids to navigate the treacherous waters of society alone, but if there are too many rules, we run the risk of making the forbidden seem better than the allowed.

Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes. You know your kids best, and you know what they can and can't handle. Make your decisions based on your kids' personalities and temperaments. In our house, we set limits based on age and responsibility levels. Right now, my kids are allowed to watch G and PG-rated movies and play E and E10 (with approval) video games

We also have a no limits policy on books. If you want to read a book, and we think it's not appropriate agewise, we'll put it aside and wait until you're old enough. If you want to read a book that we think the subject matter is questionable but it's age-appropriate, we'll read it together and discuss it.

We try to strike a balance between setting some limits for our girls without making things more attractive by making them forbidden. This may not work for everyone, but, so far, it's working for us.

I truly think this is one of the biggest challenges that Christ-following parents face. Our job is to help our kids filter the stuff the world throws at them. We need to stand in between them and the world, only letting in the things for which they are ready. We can't always control what they see and hear, but we can help them understand it and put it into a Christian perspective for them.

To help your kids understand why you set limits on the things they see and hear, give them a colander and some sand with rocks in it. Have them filter the sand through the colander. When they are done, they should have rocks left in the colander. Explain that the sand is the stuff that is good for them to see and hear. It's age appropriate and it won't hurt them. Tell them that rocks are stuff that they either aren't ready for or could hurt them. Explain that you are the colander. It's your job to be a filter for things. As they get older and more responsible, the holes in the colander get bigger and more subjects can get through, but you still act as a filter. Explain that when the colander filters out the rocks, it's so the sand will be softer and smoother. As a parent, your role is to weed out some of the bumps in the path to make it easier for your kids to navigate life. The colander is a great visual for kids to understand your role in helping them to filter the world.

No matter where you are in raising your kids or what size the holes in your colander are, always remain available to act as a filter for your kids. Don't be afraid to keep them from something you know they are not ready for. God gave you the role of colander. Be a good one.