It’s a safe bet that I’m going to have a problem with any article that begins “James Dobson believes…” I’m not a fan of James Dobson. I’m not a fan of his views on child-rearing in particular.
So, it should come as no surprise I disagree with Tim Challies and his article “Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers,” which begins by citing Mr. Dobson.
Challies goes on to say he disagrees that the world is more dangerous but still has decided to make a hard and fast rule prohibiting sleepovers.
First off, I am not an expert on child molestation. I’m not going to argue with with either Dobson’s assertion that the world is more dangerous for children then it used to be or with Chillies’s assertion that it is just as dangerous as it always was because I simply don’t know.
Luckily, I know someone who does. After reading this post, I immediately reached out to my favorite child safety expert Pattie Fitzgerald. Last year, I did a webinar with Pattie on how to protect your children from predators and, in my opinion, she is the BEST at what she does. So, I sent her the post and asked her what she thought.
Here was her response as to the assertion that children are less safe:
So, if children aren’t less safe, I asked Pattie if sleepovers should be off limits.
Also, not surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with Pattie. I do understand an easy NO SLEEPOVER prohibition. Lord knows exceptions and exemptions can become difficult with children. However, it is not the approach I would take.
Whether I’m dealing with sleepovers or playgrounds, my approach to parenting is very simple.
It is my job to teach my children to deal with the world - not to merely protect them from it.
Let me be clear. I hate this. I really, really do. My baby is going to kindergarten in three weeks and I am dreading every second of it. I don’t want him to be picked on or teased or so much as over-extended. I want to wrap him in a blanket and cuddle on the couch while we watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs until the end of time but that ain’t how it works.
Parenting sucks. Teaching another person to deal with the complicated, icky grey areas of life while maintaining one’s compassion, sense of humor, and a savings account is HARD but that’s the gig.
No parent wants to have to explain to their child that some people aren’t nice and might want to hurt them. No parent wants to think about how their child would respond in another person tried to touch them inappropriately.
But guess what? We have to.
We have to walk the incredibly fine line between keeping them safe and giving them the opportunity to keep themselves safe.
Because the complicated truth - like Pattie said - is your child could encounter such a person ANYWHERE and eliminating sleepovers doesn’t change that. Like I’ve said before, the presence of any risk doesn’t automatically render a behavior dangerous. For me and my family, I don’t look at “sleepovers” as an activity and see more risk than reward.
Could that change based on the individual household? You betcha. But that decision-making process is one I’m willing to tackle.
The world we live in might be dangerous but it is the world my child must live in. If I don’t show him how to navigate it, who will?
How do you feel about sleepovers?