Family & Education

The Importance of Protecting Our Children

Like seeds in a greenhouse, kids grow up strong and healthy when parents shield them from too-heavy burdens
BY Durenda Wilson TIMEAugust 31, 2022 PRINT

If you’ve been a parent for more than five minutes, you know that the desire to protect your child at all costs is one that can’t really be compared to anything you’ve ever experienced. But many parents struggle to discern what is protection and what is “over-protection.”

Much of what used to be accepted as standard parental protection is now often seen as “over-protection.” Parents are encouraged to expose their children to inappropriate behaviors and situations that would have brought heavy criticism on those same parents even five years ago.

Fortunately, there seems to be a reawakening of the need to protect our kids and their childhood. After all, kids only get one; there are no do-overs. As parents, we are the only ones who can really ensure that our kids get to be kids.

The Importance of Childhood

This doesn’t mean that we are not placing any age-appropriate responsibility on their shoulders. It means that we understand that childhood is its own process. It’s organic. It can’t be manipulated, rushed, or suppressed without long-lasting, negative effects. A healthy childhood is nature’s way of preparing them for adulthood.

Kids need time to build forts, dig in the dirt, ride their bikes, and lay on the grass while watching the clouds float by. They need margin in their days. They need to experience the beauty and safety of childhood innocence. Kids need plenty of time to just be kids. As their parents, this is a gift that only we can give them—and it’s one of the important ways that we protect them.

Protection From What?

Kids are not adults. Their brains are still developing, and there is no need to burden them unnecessarily. We need to protect our kids from the people, situations, and behaviors that they are too young to process at their particular stage of development. They will face those burdens soon enough. When we allow them to develop at a normal pace, we give our kids the opportunity to learn how to navigate life in their own unique way. But this takes time.

What Protection Looks Like

I remember standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with my kids. As I looked around, I noticed how inappropriate most of the magazine covers were. They were strategically placed at various eye levels with one goal: to sell magazines. I doubt that anyone in marketing, or the person who delivered the magazines, was concerned about whether or not children would be over-exposed to adult themes in that checkout line.

It was my job as a parent to use discernment and make the decisions that I believed were best for my children. Even though my children weren’t reading yet, there were images that I wasn’t comfortable letting them see. So I either flipped the top copies to show only the backs of the magazines, placed a non-offensive magazine in front of the offensive ones, or simply distracted my kids from looking at them. When they were older, I no longer made the effort to hide those covers from them. Instead, I waited to see if they noticed, and then used the opportunity as a conversation starter for countless talks about a variety of topics.

Giving Your Kids a Strong Start

I have always loved the imagery that likens the process of childhood to starting a seed in a greenhouse.

The environment is controlled and the gardener is attentive as she nurtures the little seed along. The seed then sprouts, breaks through the soil, and continues to grow. But it’s not yet ready to be exposed to the elements, because it is still fragile in many ways.

Eventually, the seed becomes a sturdy plant. It can handle more and more time in the elements—though, it still needs a certain amount of protection from extreme weather.

Finally, after more time, the plant is strong and hearty and ready to be placed outside in the garden permanently. There, it thrives and is productive. Why? Because it was carefully tended to and protected through each stage of its development.

Protecting our kids and their childhood is worthy of our time, intention, and effort. It’s a long-term investment that will ultimately yield great results!

Durenda Wilson is a wife to one for 32 years, mom to 8, nana to 9, and a 26-year veteran homeschooling mom. She is also the author of "The Four Hour School Day" and writer/podcaster at DurendaWilson.com
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