No doubt your kids school is either out or will be soon. It does’t matter if the calendar says it’s summer or not, when school’s out, our kids are in full summer-mode. And they’ve started planning out their many summer adventures. And probably most of those will involve their friends. But what part should we parents play in these plans?
Some of you may remember on episode 35 when Tim Challies joined me for an engaging discussion about parental blindspots. I asked him to speak on the subject because his articles on parenting and family show he has fantastic insight and discernment as he encourages us to challenge our views on certain practices many Christians believe are acceptable.
And today we’re going to be talking about one such rite-of-passage that we parents need to give some more thought to.
But more on that in a minute.
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You are part of the Genesis Family of TLP. You’re on the leading edge of a ministry that God is raising up to equip families to not only survive, but also thrive in this dark world. I thank our friend, John for putting that goal into such eloquent terms.
And part of that thriving involves whether or not our children should participation sleepovers at their friend’s house.
A couple years ago, it seems as if a number of Christian authors decided to spend the night at one of their houses, made some bad choices, and decided to write all about sleepovers.
Either that, or yet another group of authors have children getting old enough to be invited to one.
Either way, the articles were posted, the questions swirled, and the opinions fluctuated. Should we let our kids sleepover at other people’s houses? If so, which houses are okay and which aren’t?
Lisa Cherry’s article, “What To Do About Sleepovers” is tremendously helpful because it provides a great list of considerations that not everyone thinks about. As I mentioned earlier, Tim Challies article may have been the one to spark all the interest. I’ll link both of these articles for you in the description and on TruthLoveParnent.com
I too would like to weigh in on this extremely important topic and share three additional observations I believe will be beneficial to the conversation because they come from a sphere of experience to which not many parents have access.
As the former Dean of Students at a large Christian school and current Lead counselor at a home for at-risk teens, I frequently sit across from parents who look at me through swollen eyes and ask, “How was I supposed to know this was happening?”
We’ve gone through a lot of tissues in my office i the past ten years. And when I say “we,” I mean it.
Have you ever wondered how families get to that place? Have you ever been tempted to judge people like that because we believe they probably would have seen it if they paid more attention? Well, there are many, many avenues to destroy a family. And unfortunately, all of the dangers that contribute to the most destructive sins our youth struggle with flourish in the petri dish of the modern day sleepover.
I’d like to deal with just three of these temptations our kids are daily faced with, and I want to discuss them in light of sleepovers.
The Three Temptations Sleepovers Invite
Modern parents have seemingly forgotten about the overwhelming power of peer-pressure. They gladly send their children to the mall, to their friend’s house, or to that digital hangout called social media with little thought as to what influences they’re being exposed to. How do I know this? Because they send them to the mall without an FBI wiretap.
PLEASE PAY CLOSE ATTENTION: Nearly every single sin I have ever worked through with a young person in counseling started as a result of group-think.
Drug abuse, pornography, smoking, and rape seldom appear in a vacuum. Most of the choices that lead to those ends began while hanging out with a group of “friends.”
PEER-PRESSURE IS REAL, and it seldom pressures our kids to do right.
Personal Anecdote: When I was younger, my parents wanted me to hang out with this guy in order to be a good influence on him. You can see where this is going – I quickly became an unfortunate fulfillment of the negative side of Galatians 6:1.
“Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
I wasn’t spiritual enough. I was tempted. I gave in to the pressure.
Professional Case Study: I’ve dealt with many teens who’ve been introduced to drugs at their extended family’s house. I’ve cried with children who have been molested at the house of church families. I’ve counseled many children whose first homosexual encounter happened at a sleepover.
Sleepover Application: Welcome to one of the most dangerous cesspools of peer-pressure on the planet.
I used to tell my counseling staff at camp that the boys running around playing aggressively aren’t generally the ones the counselor should be focusing their supervision on. It’s the knot of “cute,” “quiet” girls sitting “sweetly” in a circle talking. Nearly every phone call I ever received from angry parents had nothing to do with their children getting hurt during an aggressive game, it had to do with the wicked words said while everyone was being “quiet” and the supervisors thought they could take a mental break because everyone was sitting down. Welcome to the incarnation of sleepovers.
Lord willing, your choices in high school were far purer than mine, but I believe many of you did the same things I did and more. Under the noses of our very own parents, we viewed pornography, were sexually engaged, and experimented with our first addictive substances because everyone else was.
And that leads me to the second temptation that’s plaguing our children and that thrives at sleepovers.
Another oversight of modern parenting is that adults seem blind to sexual issues. I believe one facet of this problem is not that most Christian parents deny the sexuality of our world, but that they’re blind to the sexuality to which their children are exposed. It’s a researched and undeniable fact that many elementary students in the public schools are having sex. Why? Because they’re sinful, self-worshipping little people who are constantly bombarded by the music and movies and shows that tell them they should be having sex.
But for some reason, Christian parents let their kids watch and listen to the same garbage, but don’t believe that the Christian kids are experimenting! THEY ARE!! They are just as sinful and self-worshipping, and they’re filling their minds with the same garbage. What did we expect?!
Personal Anecdote: From the time I was a teenager until now, I can say with grand certainty that over 80% of the teens I’ve encountered in that time have experimented with various forms of sexuality. Kids from every demographic, ethnic background, and social bracket are dabbling in one of the most destructive sins ever. But for some reason, modern parents either don’t think it’s happening or they don’t think it’s really that big of a deal.
Professional Case Study: Time would fail me to tell of all of the sexual escapades had by the many children I’ve worked with over the years . . . and every single one of them had parents who allowed them to watch and listen to sex-stuffed trash.
Sleepover Application: Do I even need to? I could spend the rest of the day talking about groups of children of all ages and the pornographic things they did with their parents sleeping across the hall. It would curl your hair and offend your sensibilities. It’s happening, my friends.
And the last issue I want to discuss is trust.
3. Trust Issues
Too many parents just trust their children far too much. Modern psychology has taught us that we need to “respect our children’s boundaries” and other equally damnable ideas . . . and Christians parents have bought in to it!
Personal Anecdote: My parents shouldn’t have trusted me AT ALL. And yet too often they did. I do not fault them completely; I was a fantastic liar, but I’d been caught enough times that even I (the child) was surprised my leash was as long as it was. And it just made it easier to get into more trouble later.
Professional Case Study: I’ve had young people admit to me that they’ve stolen, done drugs, snuck out of the house in the middle of the night, and had sex . . . but when I or the teen tell the parent what they’ve done THE PARENT DOESN’T BELIEVE IT! They’re so deluded that their “child would never do that,” that they don’t believe their own children’s admissions!
P.S. I’ve spoken with a number of parents who say their children need to learn how to respond to temptation. I agree. The Lord not only knows what we can handle in His power, but He always provides a way to escape. But I want you to consider two things:
I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, and potentially I would if I didn’t possess the credentials to prove that these things are in fact happening. On the other hand, I have to admit that God is graciously and vibrantly at work in the hearts of young people. So much so, that I do not doubt that many of them can stand strong in the face of peer-pressure, are disgusted by sexual sins, and (for those reasons and more) are trustworthy. But most of the teens I interact with are not.
So, would I allow my kids to have a sleepover? Yes. If they are in my house with a small number of kids, and either I or my wife was with them the entire evening. Otherwise . . . no way.
I know the overwhelming power of peer-pressure and the allure of sexuality too well to trust most children to make Christ-honoring choices in such situations – including my own. I know I didn’t when I was their age.
“Aaron, I believe you're wrong about my kids.”
You might be right, and — like I said — I can imagine my kids having a sleepover in my house wit a small number of kids and under appropriate supervision the entire time.
So, if you’re going to allow your kids to attend sleepover, I reccomend the following considerations:
Listen, I realize I’ve made some startling claims today, but propriety and time keep me from expounding the most grotesque sins I’ve witnessed among the young people I’ve counseled in my comparatively few years. This is why I’m sharing my observations: the more you know about the danger, the more careful you’ll be. I’m here to sound the siren call that the danger of sleepovers cannot be over-exaggerated. Sleepovers are not just cute fun. They are, by design, perfect places for sin to breed and grow. And Satan loves to use them to your child’s disadvantage.
Most parents just aren’t aware how real, prevalent, and dangerous peer-pressure is in the lives of their children. They don’t seem to realize how present and life-altering sexual sins are. And, in general, they trust their children to be more spiritually mature than they really are. Knowing my own past, I struggle to understand how we parents do this, but we so often do.
We must be wise, premeditated parents in every area . . . including birthday parties, play dates, and sleepovers.
If you disagree, we’d love to hear your comments. You can share them at TruthLoveParent.com where you’ll also find our episode notes and show transcripts. And you can email us TeamTLP or Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
I’m very excited about our next episode. We’re going to be unpacking the idea of Evangelism Parenting.
There’re no shortages of opportunities to shine the light of the Gospel on our kids. But there are also no shortage of opportunities for them to make a choice that will change their lives forever. Think biblically about what adventures your kids should have this summer.
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