Parents are always talking about how to protect their children without sheltering them. Invariably, in these conversations, the word “sheltered” is used as if being sheltered is a bad thing. I presume that most of the people who makes these arguments live in modern houses, with four or more walls and a roof and everything, and not, as they would seem to be advocating, on a bed of pine needles beneath a canopy of (preferably) sparsely limbed trees. To be fair, and to go ahead and make the anti-shelterian counter-argument before one of them does, yes, my house has windows. To go further, if a window overlooked an Adult Drive-in (my crack research team assures me that, while rare, they still do exist) I would either move, or keep that window closed.
My opinion on protecting children without failing to prepare them for life, is as follows. Anyone who reads the Bible to their children will have a hard time “sheltering” them. We have fratricide and other brutality in the first few chapters; keep reading and youâ€™ll hit rape, incest, idolatry, rebellion, war, famine, pestilence, etc. And while Iâ€™m not advocating providing details to children, I am advocating the idea that they can understand more than we give them credit for. I have a friend who told his children that a prostitute was someone who behaves as if they are married when they are not. In the childrenâ€™s minds, the prostitute was taking money to make dinner or to lay in bed and talk. But this was sufficient. The cynical mind says: but the child doesn’t truly understand what goes on when a man goes into a prostitute. A wise man says: do I? Proverbs says that the way of a man with a maid was too wonderful for him, Paul says that the true nature of the relationship between a man and a woman is a mystery. In the end, I think it is our foolishness that bites us, in that we believe that our exposure to sin has made us wiser rather than just more knowledgeable. We are become Eve, eating fruit not meant for us and gasping at the joy of untimely knowledge.
As a side note, in my experience, the problem with a sheltered child is that parents have often failed to give their children any real responsibility (authority for which they are held accountable). Responsibility and accountability allow obedience to perform itâ€™s work, taking faith and adding virtue, and to virtue finally, knowledge.