In the topic of truly Catholic child rearing, the question must eventually come to the fore: What is appropriate for my child to read, watch, hear? What topics should we try not to discuss in front of children? I think all Catholic parents would agree that some degree of caution, or sheltering if you will, is necessary, but there may be varying opinions on how to do it, or when it should start to be phased out.
1. What comes to mind immediately is that it is all too easy for a sheltered child todevelop a certain judgmental attitude towards others with a looser view of Christian liberty than those to which he is accustomed. It’s the old “There’s only one way to skin a cat” mentality. One example that makes me giggle now is that at a music recital, a young girl I knew sang the song “Eternal Flame.” I had heard this playing in a store on a station I was not allowed to tune into, and I was horrified –first that she would sing such a pagan song, and second that my Christian music teacher would have allowed it at the recital! Now, that song has been relegated to the ranks of “oldie” and would today probably be played on the same kind of station I was allowed to listen to back when the Bangles were doing their thing.
2. Another common criticism of “sheltered children” is that they will feel deprived of a normal childhood, leading them to rebel at the first possible opportunity, and run straight for all the things that were forbidden them. The theory is that making something unattainable is exactly what makes it attractive to young people, so a parent who denies his child free access to modern cultural trends is really just setting himself up for disaster. I think this is the foundation for the commonly held PK fallacy – pastor’s kids are really more rebellious than regular kids. (Probably enhanced by plots such as that of Footloose.) These may be some of the same parents who offer to let their children experiment with drugs or alcohol, thinking that if they take away the novelty, the child will naturally reject it as stupid.
3. Another oft-touted objection to sheltering children is one based on peer pressure: What will the child have to talk about with his TV-watching, moviegoing, video-gaming friends? The sheltered child will be ostracized because he is a geek with nothing to say and no common ground for conversation. This in turn might lead to a loner mentality or similar loss of social skills that are a requisite for success in the real world.
4. Speaking of the real world, a primary objection to sheltering is that when it’s time for a little bird to leave the nest, they will be so ill prepared for the real world, that they will be completely impotent first to cope with real life, and secondly to succeed or make an impact in any sense, effectively crippling them as humans. Additionally there may be some danger of not knowing how to rebut the multitude of different opinions or philosophies, causing them to actually be more susceptible to peer pressure and “every wind of doctrine” than they otherwise would have. Thus any benefit of the sheltering only occurs until they leave home, or when they live a semi-hermit-like existence and retire from society.
This post is already long, so I will complete my thoughts later on the benefits of sheltering, addressing each of the points above, and start a discussion on how to accomplish it effectively.
For now I leave you with some questions for discussion:
As a child, were you sheltered too much, or not enough? How so? Can you think of any other cons of sheltering to consider as a Catholic parent who wants his children to be salt and light?
(I’d like to save the “pros” discussion for the next post… so stay tuned!)