Reb Bradley v Family Ministries
ISSUE #6 – June-July 2006
Summer Greetings from Reb
It’s good to be in touch again.
It has been hot here in northern
California, over a hundred degrees most of the time. Fortunately, the heat is dry, and I am
blessed to spend most of my time inside my air-conditioned office working on my
new book. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I am I am hoping to have it
done before the end of summer. It is my prayer that God will use this book,
directed to a secular audience, to reach people far outside my normal circle of
ministry. The publisher I am working with has published more than few
bestsellers and is greatly enthused about this one. Those of you who take time
for intercession, I would appreciate your prayers for clarity of thought.
Although I am an experienced writer, I am not like some that can whip out the
pages – writing comes slow to me.
On the home front...
Last newsletter I told you about some homeless neighbor children that came to live us. I had mentioned that CPS had taken them and we were praying they would be placed with a Christian aunt and uncle. Well, the Lord heard our prayers and the aunt and uncle have guardianship, and the kids are excited to have a home and family.
Convention season is mostly over. Our trips to Hawaii and South Carolina were tremendously fruitful. This month I will be presenting a child training seminar for a church in Lancaster, California on the weekend of July 21-23. If you know someone in that area who might be interested in attending, it will be at Berean Fellowship (661) 942-2520. Bev and I will both be speaking at the Valley Home Educators convention in Modesto, California on the weekend of July 28-29. Remember that I am available to speak at churches. Consider talking to your homeschool support group or church leaders about sponsoring a child-training seminar. I have openings in the fall.
We are thankful for those who have been able to help us with financial gifts. Our needs continue, so we welcome all new supporters who would like to partner with us in this ministry. Thank you in advance for your love!!!
Once again, many thanks for thinking of us and praying for us. Our efforts are useless without the hand of God moved by your prayers. Please continue to call upon Him so that our labor will be most fruitful.
Please stay in touch,
June/July Article of the Month
Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling Part 6
If you missed the first five installments of this ongoing article, you can read them on our website. To get there click here or go to the Family Ministries home page and click on the link for Monthly Email Newsletters.
Over the last several years my wife and I have heard from many in the homeschool community who have watched their wonderful homeschooled children grow up and make choices contrary to their parents’ values. After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. Bev and I still stand behind what we have taught on parenting in the past. However, we urgently add to it the following insights.
(For a complete audio presentation, order the new series “What I Wish I Knew When My Children were Young.”)
1. Dreams for the children are really about the parents (November Newsletter)
4. Tendency to judge (December Newsletter)
5. Over-dependence on authority and control (January Newsletter)
6. Over-reliance upon sheltering
An over-dependence on control in a family is often accompanied by an over-reliance on sheltering of children. It is not uncommon for homeschool parents to feel that since they filter whatever their children see and hear, they will control the results in their lives. That was me for many years. I remember saying to people, “I am controlling the influences in my children’s lives, so I am going to control the outcome.” I was absolutely certain that my children would be exempted from significant temptation and from developing particular bad habits because I was controlling what touched their lives.
I took nothing for granted and evaluated the effects of everything that had contact with my family. I got rid of the TV antennae when my older children were little and allowed them to watch only approved videos, ie: ones with no boy/girl relationships or occult powers -- Popeye and Mary Poppins were therefore out. They would attend birthday parties for children from church, but I would instruct them that if the birthday boy or girl’s mother tried to show a video on my “no-watch” list, they were to go to a back bedroom and entertain themselves until the video was over. We carefully screened the music they heard and watched them cautiously when they were with friends.
My children could not play with most children in the neighborhood and were even kept away from some children in “like-minded” families. They were sheltered from secular publications, let alone any Christian books or magazines that promoted values that didn’t match our own. Youth groups or Scouting were unheard of. Santa Claus, Halloween, and Harvest parties, as well as Superheroes and Barbies, were anathema. I hardly wanted them to go into Wal-Mart or grocery stores lest they be exposed to images of immodestly dressed women. If the family’s driving route was going to take us past a striptease club I would sternly admonish my sons to not even look slightly in the direction of the building. My standards were not as radical as others’ I have known, but I was extremely selective about what my family was exposed to. I wanted to be absolutely certain my children were protected from any corrupting influences. Little did I know that it would take a lot more than my great emphasis on sheltering to achieve the results I desired.
In the last five years I have heard countless reports of highly sheltered homeschool children who grew up and abandoned their parents’ values. Some of these children were never allowed out of their parents’ sight and were not permitted to be in any kind of group setting, even with other “like-minded” kids, yet they still managed to develop an appetite for the world’s pleasures. While I’ve seen sheltered children grow up and turn away from their parents’ standards, conversely, I’ve known some Christian young people who went to public school, watched TV, attended youth groups, and dated, yet they walk in purity, have respectful, loving relationships with their parents, and now enjoy good marriages. Their parents broke the all the “rules of sheltering,” yet these kids grew up close to their families and resilient in their walks with Christ. Super-strict sheltering was obviously not the ultimate answer for them.
Protecting from temptations and corrupting influences is part of raising children. Every parent shelters to one degree or another. We all set standards for diet, for relationships, for reading and entertainment. One permits the children to watch network television, but prohibits cable movie stations; another forbids network TV, but allows parent-approved videos; still another tolerates only parent-approved Christian videos; and another permits only books. All parents shelter – they just draw their lines in different places.
Protecting our children is not only a natural response of paternal love, but fulfills the commands of God. The Scriptures are clear that we are to make no provision for our flesh (Rom 13:14) and are to avoid all corrupting influences (2 Cor 6:17-7:1). It warns us that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33) and that those who spend too much time with bad people may learn their ways (Prov 22:24-25) and suffer for it (Prov 13:20). Just as our Father in heaven will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13), we rightly keep our children out of situations they will lack the moral strength to handle. Young children are weak and we are to protect the weak (1 Thes 5:12).
God understood the vulnerability of human nature when he gave the Israelites instructions before they entered the Promised Land. He told them to chase out the idol-worshipping Pagans in the land, lest His people associate with them and be drawn into idolatry (Ex 23:32-33; Num 33:51-56; Josh 23:7-13). The Israelites disregarded God’s protective warning and allowed some Pagans to remain in the land. Subsequently, each successive generation of young people was lost to idolatry. God instructed them to shelter their families, but their neglect of His warnings brought pain to their children and to their grandchildren for many generations.
Sheltering our families from bad influences is critical for their safety, but it is possible to become imbalanced and rely too heavily upon sheltering. We do this in a couple of ways.
1. We are imbalanced when sheltering from harm is the predominant expression of our parenting. Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or with putting into them that which is good? I want to ask that again: Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or with putting into them that which is good? Consider that rearing children is like creating a family menu. If we keep them away from all junk food and feed them only prunes, their bodies will respond negatively. Protection from too much junk food is obviously a good idea, but their bodies need balanced nutrition. Physical health is achieved by both avoiding what is harmful and taking in a balance of what is good. To raise spiritually and morally healthy children we need to do the same. We must certainly protect them from harmful influences, but more than that, we must give them that which strengthens them spiritually and morally.
In my case I protected my oldest children from harm more than I invested into them health. I certainly taught my children a great deal about God and Kingdom living – we saturated them with the Word and Kingdom stories. Their lives were full of outreach and ministry, but comparatively, I was most intense about sheltering. I was continually analyzing the effects of every aspect of life, and my children never knew what thing Dad would declare off-limits next. Those parents who aren’t analyzers like me just wait for their favorite teacher to expose for them the next unseen danger to their family. In imbalanced homes parents are most passionate about protecting children from harmful influences, and the children see that passion, then come to view Christianity as mostly about “avoiding bad stuff.” When protection from the world becomes the defining characteristic of Christianity, we shouldn’t be surprised if our kids grow up and forsake the lifeless “religion of avoidance” they learned from us. As I stated in the December issue, point c of section 4, that is not a faith most children are drawn to; in fact, it is one that will likely repel them. (For further discussion on this topic I refer you to my book, Child Training Tips, pages 171-172.)
Please note that the operative word in my assessment is passion. Our children learn what’s important to us not by what we verbally emphasize, but by what they see us passionate about. It is the intensity of our reaction to potential corruption that elevates to our children our priorities. If they see a greater intensity in us for their sheltering than they do for their equipping, we shouldn’t be surprised if they come to view Christianity negatively as a “religion of avoidance.” (In fact, our intensity may actually create a mystique and raise curiosity toward that which is forbidden.)
Let’s ask ourselves, if the kids hear Uncle Bill say a swear word at the family reunion, do they see us “freak out,” yet in contrast, whenever we are offended do they see us allow ourselves to hold the offense a long time? If they happen to look at an immodestly dressed woman on a magazine cover at the store, do we “lose it” and lecture them, yet in contrast, do they see us, without repentance, grumble against those who are over us in the Lord? The intensity of our emotions on an issue is what impacts our children most. In fact, I once heard it said that our children learn what is important not from what we say, but from what they see us “stress out” over.
Yes, it is right to value and protect our children’s moral innocence, and it is natural for us to react with intensity or anger to anyone or anything that might rob them of that innocence. However, when we treat every minor issue as a threat deserving of our outrage, it is possible we are defining Christianity for our children in a negative way.
After watching multitudes of highly sheltered children grow up and chase after the very things from which their parents sought to keep them, and seeing less-sheltered children grow up and walk strong, I am more selective about which hill I want to die on. I now pick my battles more carefully. I have concluded that fruitful parenting is more about what we put into our children than what we protect them from.
2. Sheltering is a critical part of parenting, but if parents keep it their primary focus, the children will grow up ill equipped to handle the temptations in the world.
When we enter the world as infants we arrive with immune systems still in development. Because we have had no contact with germs or disease while in the womb, our bodies need to come in contact with them, so that we can develop immunities. Babies who are isolated and kept in germfree environments fail to develop sufficient resistance, so succumb more easily to diseases when they grow older and encounter them. Medical inoculations only succeed because God has designed the body with the capacity to develop antibodies against disease. A child isolated from disease may appear to be of the greatest health to his parents, but the health of the human body is only proven by how it withstands an attack. A weak constitution succumbs to every germ and virus – a strong one fights them off. Our spiritual and moral health is developed and proved in the same way.
If we isolate our kids from the world until they are adults they may appear to us to be spiritually minded and strong in character. However, it is how they ultimately engage the world that proves their spiritual resilience. This is because sheltering does not transform the human heart – it merely preserves it, temporarily. Sheltering is nothing more than keeping something flammable away from a fire.
It is true that a boxer trains without an opponent until his coach decides he is ready for an actual fight. And it is true that a farmer might raise plants in a greenhouse until they are mature enough to be transplanted and face the various elements of nature. So also, we keep our children away from bad influences when they are young and need to grow unhindered in character and spiritual wisdom. The problem is that sheltering without significant preparation to engage the world fails to equip them. In fact, it may insure that they will fall in their first solo encounters.
Growing up isolated from temptation can develop a child who appears spiritually strong, but the appearance is not reality. When I was in college in 1974 I moved to northern California to live for a summer in a Christian commune. I was somewhat isolated from the world and surrounded by an amazing support system of my fellow “Jesus people.” I remember feeling so full of faith, so committed to holiness, and so in love with God that summer. However, the “spirituality“ I felt and the level of holiness I achieved was not real and could not endure testing. At the end of summer I returned to college in Southern California and discovered that I had not developed true spiritual muscles – when faced with temptation I fell flat on my face every time. The communal environment, isolated from significant temptation, had not prepared me for the battle I would face in the world. Valid spiritual growth required that I face temptation and develop the capacity to resist it, which eventually I did. My isolation from temptation had left me like a boxer who had shadow boxed, trained rigorously, and looked good in his trunks, but had never faced a sparring partner, let alone a true opponent.
Many sincere Christians return from retreats and church camps the same way. Over several days they are isolated from the world, surrounded with fellowship, and saturated with the Word of God. They come home feeling deeply spiritual. However, within a few days after returning they discover their “mountain top high” has faded away. So also, the spirituality our sheltered children achieve may only be spiritual fluff. If we want to prepare them to thrive in the world we must take them into it and teach them how to engage it. As part of that preparation I have several recommendations:
a. Take time to teach them about God and living in His kingdom. I emphasize this particularly for dads who are careful to shelter, but rarely get around to actually instructing their children in the faith. Too many fathers (and some moms) are quick to forbid all TV and youth groups, but never take the time to sit down and acquaint their children with the Word and how it points us to God. Preparing children to face the world requires more than keeping them away from its corruptions – parents must put into them Truth that will draw them to God. It is those children who have found God irresistible who will be faithful to Him.
It is important at this point to emphasize that true Christianity is not merely a system of religious beliefs that can be embraced or forsaken – it is a relationship between individuals and God. Therefore, Christians are not strengthened simply by massive doses of indoctrination. Our faith is strengthened as we discover God in the Word, and as we walk with Him we find Him to be trustworthy. If we want our children to remain faithful to God we must do all we can to lead them to Him, not just to a “system of faith.”
Keep in mind that Bible instruction by itself is not some magic ingredient in a “parenting formula.” Many homeschool prodigals were heavily groomed in the Scriptures. We do best when we faithfully use the Scriptures to reveal to children the Lord himself. Remember Jesus’ words in John 5:39, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” It is faith in Christ that carries us – not faith in Christianity.
b. Pass on a pure faith. It has been said that faith is caught and not taught, and I would agree. As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, I have seen young married people who grew up in the public schools, but who walked in purity and close to Christ through their teen years, and are still close to their parents. What their parents gave them was not the gift of extreme sheltering, but the gift of a sincere faith in Christ. Homeschool parents must give the same gift to their children (1 Tim 1:5; 2 Tim 1:5). The problem is that we cannot give what we do not have. If we want to give our children a lasting and sincere faith in Christ, then we must first have it ourselves.
What is the faith in us that our children see? As I have sought to show in the first six points of this series of articles, the purity of our faith is degraded by our missteps in parenting:
1. If the dreams we have for our children are really about us, might not they feel undue pressure to make us a success? In other words, is the faith they see in us a self-centered one?
2. If we have regarded them as a trophy, do they feel our intensity about not making the family look bad in public? In other words, is the simplicity of our faith polluted by our pride?
3. If we have emphasized outward form to our children, might not they equate holiness with external appearances? In other words, has the grace of our relationship with Christ been slowly traded for a phariseeistic concern for externals?
4. If they hear us pronounce judgments of others, might they not learn from us self-righteousness or fear of judgment? In other words, is it possible they see in us a faith that is both shallow and proud?
5. If our homes are controlled chiefly by intimidation and fear, might not our children feel like they are inconsequential, non-persons? In other words, are we losing the very relationship with our teens required to attract them to our Lord?
6. If we over-elevate sheltering as an ingredient in our parenting formula, is it possible our children might come to believe that Christianity is mostly about avoiding bad stuff? In other words, although our Lord never told people to shelter themselves from anything except self-righteous religious leaders, do we present an inaccurate (and unattractive) picture of him?
The apostle Paul told the Galatian church that he was concerned for their faith. They had started off with a simple faith in Christ, but had polluted it by seeking to make themselves acceptable to God, with what they did or didn’t do: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal 3:3). In the same way, we may have started off years ago with a simple, undefiled faith, but the more we got caught up in all the “works” of intense parenting, the more we moved away from a simple faith contagious to our children. It is critical for our sake, let alone for our children, that we enjoy a life-giving faith in Christ with no religious trappings added to it. I don’t believe that I can adequately explain this concept in a few paragraphs, so please be encouraged that I will be addressing it in detail in a future series of articles.
c. Expose them to the world a little at a time, so that they will not be overwhelmed by its attraction when they finally face it. Just as babies raised in germfree environments more easily contract diseases, so also do Christians who have not encountered the world.
After the Iron Curtain fell in the Soviet Union, our church developed a ministry to help Russian and Ukrainian immigrants assimilate into the U.S. Over the years my wife and I got to know many immigrant families and we marveled at what it was like to raise a family under Communism. Back in the Soviet Union homeschooling and private Christian schools had not been legal, and parents were forced to send their children to Communist schools where one of the instructors’ goals was to indoctrinate the students in atheism. From the testimonies we heard, parents equipped their children at home and the children’s faith typically remained intact.
It was our observation however, that within a year after being in the U.S. these same children started to go morally astray. They were like the proverbial germfree baby – in the Soviet Union they had never encountered the level of moral corruption found here. They had developed no resistance to temptation and were not morally prepared to handle American entertainment, vulgar playmates, and values of “tolerance” at school. Soviet parents, who had prepared their children to handle the pressures of godless atheism, had lacked the opportunity to equip their children to handle moral pressures. They found themselves here in America thrilled with their new freedom, but distressed by the way Americans exercised their liberty.
When my 12-year-old son was 8 years old, he asked me why we took him into Wal-Mart when we shopped. He was distressed because he found himself noticing women’s underwear advertisements hanging around the store. I acknowledged his distress and encouraged him to pray for the models, that they would value modesty and come to faith in Christ. Knowing he would face harder tests in life than Wal-Mart ads, I wanted him, by occasional exposure, to become desensitized to such images, and I wanted him to develop a wholesome, prayerful response to those who tempt him.
In a society like ours, so full of immodest fashions, desensitization eventually will happen, but our children’s greatest need is to have compassion for those who tempt them. The root of lust is self-centeredness, so the more selfless and loving our children are, the less they will be impacted by lust. I therefore encourage parents to concentrate on raising children who selflessly love others. I have found that praying for those who tempt us accomplishes two things – the recipient receives prayer and we see them through the eyes of God. Those who see others from God’s perspective will tend to have compassion on them as lost souls.
(Want help on raising loving children? I suggest the tape set “Beyond Obedience: Raising Children Who Love God and Others.” Also consider the study on 1 Corinthians 13 “The Power of Love.”)
d. Take them into the world on the offense, not defense. A major reason many parents choose to homeschool their children is that they are concerned about negative socialization in the classroom setting. They want control over when and how their children are faced with outside influences. When the children are confronted by the world the parents want to be there as guides. I understand this perspective, but such a view is inadequate. I want to be with my children when they encounter the world, but not merely so that they will survive it. Survival has to do with self-preservation, and is concerned with self, not others. Like a good captain I want to be with my children, so that I can lead them offensively into battle. We and our children are warriors in God’s kingdom, and we must take them into the world for the purpose of advancing that kingdom.
My 12-year-old son has been playing little league baseball every spring for the last 4 years, and I help out as an assistant coach. On occasion, when word of my son’s involvement leaks out, I will be approached by a concerned homeschool parent and questioned about the risks of such contact with unbelievers. They remind me that my son may hear bad words, vulgar jokes, and bad attitudes. Boys may even swear at him. I tell them that that is exactly what I was anticipating.
I want my son to know how to respond when unkind people express themselves (Luke 6:27-28), and I want to be with him when it happens. I want him to know he can survive quite well when others verbally abuse him, but more importantly, I want to witness it so I can coach him through it. I especially want to be there so I can help him see the world through eyes of compassion – not fear. I believe that those homeschoolers, who don’t just survive but thrive in the world, do so because they have a “kingdom” view of it. They see it as the place inhabited by the blind (2 Cor 4:4) who are potential members of God’s kingdom.
A major problem for us may be that we do not have what we need to give. We lack a kingdom view, so cannot give it to our kids. The sheltering mindset common to homeschoolers sometimes creates inward-focused families. We get so used to cutting ourselves off from everything that might threaten us that we end up separating ourselves not just from the world, but even from most Christians. God’s goal for us is not that we raise strong family-minded children who grow up and meet other strong family-minded children, who then marry and raise more strong family-minded children, who grow up and do the same. That line of thinking is totally self-centered and renders God’s people impotent as warriors for His kingdom. God’s goal for all His warriors is to continually reach out to the lost in the world. That is why we are here.
When we lack this perspective we will run from those who need our gospel. As an example, let’s say we are eating lunch with our family at McDonald’s. During the meal the children notice a woman scrounging through the trashcans inside the restaurant looking for food scraps. How do we respond? When we notice her outfit is greatly immodest by our standards, do we focus our children’s attention elsewhere or gather them quickly and leave? Do we use her predicament as a teaching opportunity for our children, and explain that we can’t give her any help since she is apparently too lazy to work? Or do we buy her some lunch and invite her to join us at our table? How our children see us respond to the lost will do more to influence them than all the books and stories we read to them.
I cannot spiritually impart a “kingdom view” to you, but God can. I therefore admonish all readers to beseech God that the eyes of their hearts be opened, that they would see the world through kingdom eyes.
e. Cultivate a loving relationship with them, which will allow you to speak into their lives and influence their values. I will deal with this issue at length later in this series of articles, so suffice it to say that it is the key area of need I have discovered among my own and many other homeschool families. It has been my observation that in “control-oriented” homes, relationships between parents and teens are often weakest. For us to have influence over our teen’s hearts, especially when they are engaging the world, our love relationships with them must be strong.
In the Bible we see that people obeyed God for two reas+ons – fear and love. King David sang of his love for God (Ps 18:1; 116:1; 119:159) and he also sang of the fear of God (Ps 2:11; 22:25; 33:8). God wants His followers to be drawn to Him out of love (Jer 31:3), and that’s why it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But He also wants us to be kept on the path by fear of His authority (Luke 12:5; 1 Pet 2:17). That’s why He told the Israelites He wanted both their fear and their love; “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 10:12). With our children, it should be the same.
If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6). If we have their hearts they will seek to honor us whether we are present or not, and their hearts will remain open to our influence. I refer you to the apostle Paul who modeled this approach to leadership perfectly, “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love...” (Phile 1:8-9a). Paul’s pattern with the churches suggests he understood that appeals to love were more powerful than commands and threats. As an apostle, he could have issued personal commands many times, yet in his letters to the churches he plead with them 25 different times to do what was right, while he personally commanded them only twice (2 Th 3:6,12).
Many intense parents mistakenly think they have their children’s hearts, and therefore do not seek to cultivate better relationships. Beverly and I were such parents. We were certain that because we shared so much affection with our children that we had their hearts. However, when we gave them instructions, it was never our children’s love for us that we appealed to, it was their fear of our authority. This meant that our first three children were far more vulnerable to outside influences than they needed to be.
As intensely sheltered children grow into adolescence, and become aware of the different standards between families, some are attracted to others’ standards. They do not understand why the clothes you forbid them to wear, are worn by other Christians. They may not be able to grasp why you do not allow movies that many of their friends are permitted to see. If your relationship with your children is strong and based in love, they will honor your standards, and try to grasp your reasoning. But if their heart connection to you is weak, they will care little of your reasoning and look more to their friends for relationship and identity.
f. Help them find security in their relationship with you. When my oldest son was almost 16 we let him get his first job washing dishes at a restaurant managed by a Christian friend of ours. As diehard shelterers we wrestled with whether or not our son was ready to enter the world’s workforce. We knew we couldn’t shelter him forever, and so finally concluded that he should be old enough to send into the world two nights a week. What we didn’t realize was that he would be working with drug-using, tattooed, partiers, and our Christian friend was never scheduled to work our son’s shift.
Within a month it became apparent that our son’s new work associates were having an effect on him. He came home one evening and asked, “Dad, can I dye my hair blue?” After my wife was finally able to peal me off the ceiling, I laid into him, reminding him whose son he was, and that I would not have people at church telling their children not to be like the pastor’s son. I explained that just because he wanted to use washable dye, it didn’t make me any happier. (Note that my intense reaction had to do with “outward appearances” and the impact on me.)
Of course, my wife and I immediately began to evaluate whether we had made a mistake by letting him take the job. After an intense discussion we decided to coach him more carefully and let him keep his job.
Two months later he came home from work and asked me if he could pierce his ear. Again, my wife had to peal me off the ceiling. He thought it might be okay since he wanted a cross earring -- like I was supposed to be happy, because it would be a “sanctified” piercing. If that wasn’t enough, he also wanted to get a tattoo! But it was going to be okay, because it would be a Christian tattoo!
Needless to say, my mind was absolutely blown! I thought I had raised him better than this. I imaged that some day we might deal with a questionable haircut or some unacceptable music, but I would never have guessed that his values could change so quickly or so severely. What took me over the edge was not just that he suddenly had outrageous values, but that he thought I might go along with him! It immediately became obvious that he was not ready to handle the world. To our relief, he volunteered to quit the job.
One day, several years later, I was looking back and evaluating our approach to sheltering. Something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said “They like me!” As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me – my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration – in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn’t good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn’t be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.
The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn’t one that could be solved by extended sheltering – he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.
I have since observed that what best equips children to handle the pressures of the world is security in who they are. Whether believer or unbeliever, those young people who are least tempted to follow the crowd are those who are secure in themselves and don’t need the approval of others. The Bible calls insecurity the fear of man – it is allowing other’s opinions of us to affect our values and choices. At the very least, if we want to prepare our children to stand tall in the world we need to help them find security in their relationship with us, and more importantly, with God.
In a future article I will share how we can be God’s means of helping our children find security. Those who don’t want to wait for the article can order the CD set What I REALLY Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young.
I believe that a primary reason we can over-rely on sheltering is because it is the easiest part of parenting to do. It requires no planning, little preparation, or expenditure of energy. It takes minimal immediate brainpower. We simply assess something might be harmful and say to our children, “NO.” It’s an aspect of parenting that is effortless to do, yet seems to promise an extreme impact. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it lazy parenting, but I will say that investing into our children does take a lot more work and much more time.
Before we leave this topic, we must consider the possibility that we are drawn to an over-dependence on sheltering because it appeals to the Pharisee in us. Maintaining a righteous appearance and avoiding uncleanness characterized the most religious people of Christ’s day, and he didn’t tolerate it (Luke 7:39-47; 15:2; Mark 7:15; Mat 15:17-20). Avoiding anything that seemed to defile made them feel “holy” and it does the same for us. The more we fixate on keeping our families away from corruption the prouder we can become of our higher standards. It may even get to the place that we can’t wait for opportunities to boast or “share” with others the standards we hold, ie: an invitation for our children to watch a movie, attend a Bible club, or accept a questionable gift, etc.). Pride is a dangerous sin because it blinds us to itself – it is the filter through which we see. Spiritual pride is even more dangerous because it involves what we think is righteousness (Luke 18:11-12). May God open our eyes that we might see why we are so prone to imbalance in this area.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Col 2:20-23
Lest this article be taken wrong, and some readers misinterpret my intentions, I want to emphasize that I am still a strong proponent of sheltering our children. My goal has been to alert parents to the problem of over‑reliance on sheltering. If you have finished this lengthy article, and are under the impression that I no longer believe in it, I would encourage you to go back and reread it.
Next issue: Point 7. Formulaic parenting breaks down relationship
What I REALLY Wish I Knew When My Children Were
Multitudes of homeschool parents around the country, including leaders, have graduated their first batch of kids, only to watch their graduates go wayward. Many were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values. In this 4-CD set Reb exposes blind spots in parenting that contribute to the breakdown of relationship between parents and children, and thereby increase prodigal tendencies. Every homeschooler and every family-minded parent needs to hear these messages.
Session titles include:
1. Solving the Crisis
4. The Power of a Strong Family
Finances: The convention season has helped us stay afloat, but without many events scheduled for the fall, we are looking at a coming season of leanness. We GREATLY appreciate those of you who have been able to help. Please prayerfully consider being a ministry partner with us. (We are a tax-exempt 501-C3). Even more important than help with finances, we covet your prayers.
Website help: We need to install some kind of shopping cart on the FM website. If you have any suggestions, drop us an email.
Seminars: Reb still has many open slots to present seminars for the rest of 2006. Consider arranging a seminar for your fellowship or school group.
We’d love for you to partner with us in providing help to families.
Testimonies from ministry friends
“Please send me your newsletters...Thanks!! Your message about the "homeschooling crisis" is nothing short of beautiful. It articulates perfectly the way I have felt for years.”
“Please add me to your monthly e-mail newsletter. My wife and I have recently been reading your "Child Training Tips" book and it has already made tremendous difference in our 3 and 1 year olds! Thank you so much for your straightforward and practical approach.”
“Please sign me up for the monthly newsletter and thanks for your messages. We heard you speak 15 years ago and were encouraged then. We are glad you are speaking to our hearts on what we are all facing today - as we see our children moving into adulthood and are facing issues that we all helped to create! Thanks”
Ministry Prayer Needs
-- Reb is working 12 hours a day for the entire month of July to complete his new book. Pray that his thoughts are clear and he communicates the Lord’s heart.
-- Financial stability for the ministry. Pray for God’s provision, so that we can continue unimpaired.
-- Opportunities to minister in churches and at Home School Conventions.
PO Box 266 Sheridan, CA 95681