Way back in the beginning of 2014, before I even announced that I was pregnant, I started writing a series on the parenting vision that Cory and I have for our family. I wrote about putting God at the center, attachment parenting, and intentional living as important key areas we want to focus on as parents. Since then, I’ve been busy and distracted with making a baby, and I never got around to finishing the series! I’d like to do that now, and share the final piece of our parenting vision—teaching safety and wisdom.
Although safety and wisdom in some ways intersect with living intentionally, there are many specific “safety” areas that we plan to emphasize as parents. The fact is, we live in a dangerous world, and we want our children to be prepared to make wise choices and protect themselves, not only physically but emotionally as well. As a family, we want to be smart and safety-conscious. In order to do that, we plan to: educate our children about guns, ensure that they are proficient in self-defense, teach them about internet safety, warn them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, maintain an open dialogue about sex, help them to develop confidence in their interpersonal skills including setting boundaries, empower them with decision-making skills and opportunities, and most importantly, teach them about the protective power of prayer.
Guns are obviously a hot topic in America right now, and pretty much always. Politics aside, I believe that a world without guns would be a safer place, but I also know that a world without guns will most likely never exist. If “bad guys” are going to have guns, which they always will, then I sure as heck want to make sure that the “good guys” have them too. Owning a gun is an important right that I support because it is the best way to defend oneself in this crazy world. As a new parent, especially, I want to make sure I always have the right to protect my child from anybody who tries to hurt him. All of that being said, guns are a powerful weapon that can do great harm in the wrong hands. Educating people, and especially children, about gun safety is a huge protective factor. Cory and I plan to make sure that our children understand the seriousness of handling a gun, and that they know what to do if they see one (get away immediately and tell a trusted adult). We also plan to make sure that, at the appropriate age, they know how to use a gun—how to unload it, how to shoot it, and how to defend themselves with it in a life-threatening situation.
Self-defense (without the use of weapons) is a skill that not many people seem to have these days, and we want to ensure that our children can kick some butt if they need to. A child who can defend him or herself against predators or bullies is a safer child. Cory and I plan to enroll our children in martial arts programs from a young age, so that they can feel confident and safe in their ability to defend themselves.
Safety goes beyond just the physical world, of course. In our technological world, there are more and more virtual dangers cropping up every day. Scams are becoming harder and harder to spot, even for tech-savvy people like me and Cory. That’s why it is more important than ever to us to teach our kids about how to be safe on the internet. Not only are there child-predators out there, but bullies from kids’ own peer group as well as financial and identity scams and viruses. Beyond that, there are many things on the internet that aren’t appropriate for any eyes, let alone a child’s, and it is important to us to teach our kids about those dangers as well. While we don’t plan to allow our children to have unmonitored time on the internet until they are most likely at least 15 years old, we want them to be prepared to handle any of the threats that they are likely to face in the virtual world.
It goes without saying that drugs and alcohol are dangerous. If our children were going to attend a public school, they’d be exposed to the “Red Ribbon Week” program, which educates children about the dangers of drugs. Of course, dedicating only one week to the topic is not a super effective way to convince children to avoid experimenting with drugs and alcohol, especially as they grow into teens and face peer pressure. In our family, we will talk openly and frequently about these issues, and most importantly, we will lead by example. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying alcohol to a certain point, neither I nor Cory have a taste for it, and I hope that our example speaks to our children. Obviously, we don’t use illegal drugs either, and we tend to avoid any situations where other people might be using them and pressuring others. Overall, we simply believe that it’s much easier to honor God when one is completely sober and in control of his or her actions. We don’t need drugs or alcohol to enjoy ourselves! We hope that if we instill that belief in our children, they will be able to avoid the dangers that many teens face in this area.
Many parents these days seem uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss sex with their children. The “sex talk” is a one-time event in which the parent awkwardly stumbles through a speech about saving oneself for marriage or at the very least practicing safer sex. On the other end of the spectrum are the parents who pass out condoms like they’re going out of style and allow their children to do whatever they want with their bodies. Cory and I don’t want to be either of those types of parents—we want sex to be a topic that we can discuss freely with our kids, but we also are going to have rules in place to protect them. The fact is that sex, when used for the wrong reasons, can be incredibly harmful in many ways. STIs and unplanned pregnancy are two of the physical risks, but the emotional impact of sharing physical intimacy with another person is often overlooked. We believe that sex is meant to be shared between only two people for their entire lives, within a committed, loving, mutually respectful relationship. As parents, we will lead by example, maintain an open dialogue about sex, and when necessary, enforce boundaries for our children.
Setting and enforcing boundaries with others is a skill that I didn’t learn well until I was an adult. Looking back, I know that I could have avoided a lot of struggles and pain in my relationships with others if I’d developed this skill earlier in life. Cory and I want to teach our children the importance of setting healthy boundaries without feeling guilty. Again, one of the main ways we plan to do this is by example. We will set boundaries with our children as needed, and allow them to see us setting boundaries with others and with each other. Setting boundaries is simply communicating clearly where one’s limits are, and expecting others to respect them. We will encourage our kids to set their own boundaries within our family and with others.
One parenting trend that really ruffles my feathers is the tendency for parents to treat their children like fools. Many parents seem to think that their children are incapable of mature thought or making any important decisions until at least the age of 25. Children (and especially teenagers) may think that they know everything, and that is obviously not true, but that doesn’t mean that they know nothing. Believe it or not, individuals under the age of 18 are capable of making decisions, even good ones! Adults are also very capable of making not-so-good decisions. There is nothing magical about age that makes people suddenly wise enough to make good decisions. My point is that we plan to allow our children to choose things for themselves, with us providing supportive guidance. There are limits, obviously, but within the confines of our ground rules we believe that our kids should be allowed to make their own decisions. Even the decisions that turn out to be bad ones are important learning experiences. We all have those, whether we’re adults or not. Cory and I plan to empower our children with tools for thinking problems through and making decisions that honor God and bring peace to their lives.
Finally, we want to teach our children about the power of prayer, when it comes to seeking both wisdom and protection. God says in his Word that both are available through him when we ask. There is no greater source! In the end, no matter how well-prepared or educated or careful our children are, they are still at the mercy of other forces in our world. God is the one person who has control over these things, and learning to trust him completely is the key to a good life. There is a place for wisdom and doing things to the best of our ability to make our own paths straight, but ultimately faith in God is the most powerful protection of all. Not only will Cory and I pray over all of our children for safety, but we will teach them to do the same for themselves. God hears us when we call to him in faith, and we want our children to trust that with all of their hearts.
Our journey into parenthood has begun now, and we are already learning new things and adapting our strategy as needed. Our parenting vision is an outline for our ideal parenting practices, and we hope that we can follow it as much as possible. That being said, parenting is a learning experience and we are sure to change certain things along the way. Our main goals of keeping God at the center, using attachment parenting, living intentionally, and teaching safety and wisdom are all likely to stay intact, although the specifics may change a bit here and there as we go through this adventure. One of the most important things to us is that no matter what, we always think. No parenting practice should be used without consideration of its benefits and drawbacks—we want to ensure that we do things for a reason, not just because. With that in mind, we have many years of growing and learning ahead of us. So far, being a parent has its challenges for us, but I also think it’s the best job in the world. It’s a wonderful gift and a huge responsibility that already brings me so much satisfaction. My purpose in life during this season is to be the best parent that I can be, to honor God and this gift that he’s given me.