The other night I put my son to bed and asked him if there were any new words he heard at school that he didn’t know. He’s eight. And yet, we have this conversation together about once a month. Why? Because I want him to know he can ask me anything. But I also want to know what he’s hearing so I can be ready for more to come.
It’s impossible to protect my children from every negative message or influence in this world. There are some days I feel like we do this parenting thing really well, and others where we’ve left our kids to experience harder parts of life with little preparation. Yep, we’re all going to drop the ball at some point. But rather than assuming my kids need to be shoved in a bubble when challenges occur, we first ask ourselves this question…
In this situation, does my child need a shelter, a shield or a sword?
WHEN THEY NEED A SHELTER
I don’t want to raise sheltered kids. I don’t want them growing up fearful and believing they are not wise enough to navigate the dangers of a world we are called to reach for Christ. But you know what…sometimes they still NEED a shelter. The purpose of a shelter is to provide protection from storms or battles that we are not equipped or strong enough to survive on our own. It’s a safe place and we all need one. We must use discernment and identify the battles our children need sheltered from until they have been equipped to fight.
WHEN THEY NEED A SHIELD
No matter how great a shelter we may provide for our children, there will be a time when they are ready for more. We need to be honest with them about the dangers of life, but encourage them to know that God has has not left us to face it alone. I love what Jesus says to His disciples as He prepares them for their first journey without Him.
“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
The best shield we can give our children is knowledge of what they are about to experience and training them how to handle it. Last summer, Davis and I spent a day together before school started and I used the opportunity to talk with him about some challenges I knew he would face soon. Specifically, we talked about both the good and the bad that come with the internet. I told him what p0rn0graphy was and also explained how human traffickers use games and social media to their advantage. Needless to say, Davis was shocked. And as we continued to talk, I shared about how important it is to “bounce” our eyes and ears away from those dangers.
Ever since that night, Davis has become the “bounce your eyes” police! He has taught our daughter, Reide, about looking away when certain commercials come on TV. When our children are in situations away from the shelter we have provided, we want them prepared with a shield to protect their hearts on their own.
WHEN THEY NEED A SWORD
I can prepare them with the defense of a shelter and shield for many situations, but not for all of them. I can’t teach them about every word they’ll hear or thing they’ll be asked to do by friends. It’s in these times when they’re away from us, they will need the sword. It’s their offensive weapon in the battle of life! As our children get older, they will naturally develop (and desperately want!) greater independence from us. Which also means they will be exposed to more and be tempted by more. That seems hard right now as I think about it since they’re so young, but it’s our job to get them ready for this part of life.
We need to look no further than what Jesus modeled for us in His own temptation. In the desert, He responded to each challenge with the truth of God’s Word. Scripture was buried deep in His heart and Jesus used it to protect Himself and fight the schemes of the enemy. God’s Word is the best offensive weapon we have in this world.
We are helping our children to understand and be comfortable using His Word throughout their day. How? We weave it into everyday conversation with them. For example, the other day Davis came home with math homework that was about borrowing money. The problems went something like this, “If Joe wants to buy a toy for $20 but only has $3, how much money does he need to borrow to get the toy?” Yes, I get that it’s just trying to teach him math. But in that moment I took the opportunity to also teach him what God’s Word says about borrowing money. I didn’t bust out the Bible or even tell him where it was in the Bible. I just started the conversation…
Me: “Hey bud, do you know what God’s Word tells us about borrowing money?”
Davis: “No. What?”
Me: “It says not to. In fact, it says that the borrower is slave to the lender.” And then we talked about what that meant.
In that moment, I provided him with the sword of God’s Word. And we do this as often as we can, whether we see them giving, encouraging someone, being mean, lying and more. Our goal is to hide God’s Word in their hearts so they are ready to use it at all times. It’s their sword.
We can’t forget that there’s a battle happening around our children every single day. And as a parent, there are days I feel like I’m dancing around when to let my kids experience more and when to keep them in the shelter of our protection. They’re fighting so much noise around them now than we ever did at their age. But instead of defaulting to the shelter, we equip them with the shield and the sword too.
Question: How are you equipping your children with a shelter, shield or sword? And what great tools have you found that help prepare your children?