how to keep our children little (in a “grow up fast” world)

kids onlineby Lindsey Bell, , Tell-Me-How Tuesday Contributor

As I dropped my four-year-old off at preschool a couple of weeks ago, he said something that nearly brought me to tears: “Mom, you don’t need to walk me in today. I can go by myself.”

Our children are growing up. Fast. And our world is encouraging them to grow up even faster.

We can’t go into the mall or even check out at the grocery store without seeing pictures of women dressed immodestly. Sexual predators lurk online (and unfortunately in our communities, too), just waiting for an innocent victim to catch. The news is full of heart-breaking stories: stories of murder, rape, hurricanes, tornadoes, brokenness, and devastation.

All of these work together to steal our children’s innocence…to force them to grow up too soon.

So how do we do it? How do we protect our kids from the dangers of this world without scaring them? How do we keep our children little, when the world wants them to grow up fast?

Here are a few things I am doing with my children:

1. Let them be little. For some reason, I’m always looking forward to the next stage my kids are getting ready to enter. I’m looking forward to the time when naps won’t dictate our schedule and I can ditch the pack-n-play. In essence, I’m rushing my kids. I’m not allowing them to just be little. To play and have fun and make messes. The world is doing enough to rush them; I don’t want to add to it.

2. Limit screen time. We all know the benefits of play and the dangers of spending too much time online. It’s nonetheless a struggle for most (if not all) parents to limit screen time—in both their own life and in their child’s life. My family has learned to limit screen time by setting a timer. When the timer goes off, the television or computer goes off too.

3. Monitor their time online.Purchase a monitoring system and install it on all of your devices. Know what your kids are watching and whom they are talking to.

4. Don’t overexpose them to news. A couple of years ago, a tornado devastated our community. I learned then (by overexposing my 3 year old) that it’s important to limit the amount of exposure our kids get to the news. It’s also important to tell them about positive things going on in the world.

5. Teach them about dangers, but don’t terrify them. Our kids need to know about stranger-danger. They need to be prepared for fires and storms. But they don’t need to live in fear. As parents, we have to walk that fine line between preparing them and scaring them.

Let’s talk: How do you protect the innocence of your children?

About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a parenting devotional to be released in January 2014. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at any of the following locations:

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13 Comments

  • I’m not a parent but I am a pre-school teacher and loving godmother of two and one of the things I’ve found that really helps when a child is exposed to a traumatic situation is to tell them to look for the “helpers”. Helpers are firemen, police officers, EMTs, doctors, teachers and even the news casters. They’re helping the situation get better. I also encourage the kids to look for helpers in problems they encounter everyday like a confrontation at school or something. Really helps them recognize the good in bad situations and teaches them that they are safe. 🙂

    Reply
  • I found this on Pinterest, and was compelled to leave a comment. I totally agree that our children are being rushed into growing up, and thought I would share a few of my thoughts and things we have done to keep our child “little”. Our son is now nearing thirteen years old, and I think we have done a great job raising him so far. In our house, video games are age appropriate, as are DVD’s. He has access only to movies that are family friendly, and time for those things are limited. He also has very limited internet access, and no cell phone. He reads to us for 20 minutes a day (has since 1st grade). We eat together around the table every night, unless we make a special night for a movie together and do a picnic in the livingroom.
    Thank you for a great blog, I will be back again 🙂

    Reply
  • Awesome tips. I have a 3 year old. I can’t, and don’t want to imagine my baby lost of her innocence. I will enjoy her every step of the way. I definitely agree when you say that our children should be warned of danger but not terrified by it. I find that thin line and try to walk it.

    Reply
  • As a mama of a 15,10,6 & 3 mth old yesI know how fast time flies and although it does I make sure to have us time I like to give them time alone and us together and family time. I love to see that my 6 yr. little girl loves to play make believe it’s true they do grow so fast but so far they seem to be listening and agreeing that slowing down is a very good thing.

    Reply
  • I don’t know that I’ve done a good job of that. It’s hard to shield them. Newtown is just a town over so my kids were very aware of what had happened…they have friends that live in that town from sports. Security in our schools was beefed up and it made my youngest nervous…like it could happen here, which of course it could…it could happen anywhere. The news was all around them. I agree that we shouldn’t just sit in front of the news, but they see it on the internet too. Last night my daughter came down because a kid from our high school went missing last night…they found him safe and sound this morning, and the whole story hasn’t come out yet, but she wanted to make sure I stayed with her younger brother at the bus stop, just in case. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by trying to prepare them for different scenarios.

    Reply
  • It really can be so hard. It is a fine line between keeping them safe and preparing them …and scaring them to death and having *that* rob them of their innocence. The advice about not overexposing them to news is so good. Sometimes I forget this and have the news on in the background, and that’s not always helpful. Great post!! –Lisa

    Reply
  • We had a freaky incident last night after my husband left the TV blaring with the news of the latest school shooting. My daughter was right there! I’m not sure what she heard but I totally agree about limiting (or eliminating) that kind of thing. I do find myself rushing her a lot and I shouldn’t. My son loves to make messes and sometimes it’s all I can do not to start picking it up while he’s still playing. I usually let him finish, though. I wouldn’t want him to always picture me interrupting his play!

    Reply
    • Tamara, I read a quote from Tricia Goyer once that has helped me refocus throughout the day: “What if your child’s most vivid childhood memory was of today? What would he or she remember?” That quote has challenged me so many times when I try to rush my sons.

      Reply
  • Yep, there is a fine line between too much info and not enough, and sometimes it is hard to fine. I let the kids dictate a little by the questions they ask, but I only give them as much info as needed to get the point across. There are times, though, whether they ask or not, they need to be told, and that’s hard. I find that a lot of reassuring is needed and, when they know you are there and want what is best for them, that helps most. It keeps them stable and secure, and that’s what’s most important. 🙂

    Reply
    • That’s a great point, Julie. I think allowing your children to lead in the discussion is a great way to know how much to share. Very well said!

      Reply
  • such great tips for a scary topic. We don’t have regular TV, we have ROKU so commericials or news on Netflix or Amazon and he’s still too little to web surf.

    From the moment he was a baby, I always used the correct terms for his body parts and always that they belonged to him and no one else, no one can touch his body. I also tell Dino that he can tell me anything and nothing will stop me from loving and protecting him…I will fight for him and fart on the bad people (have to make him understand)

    I also tell Dino that he has to stay close by me or those who are in his care, if he runs off someone could take him and pull his hair, pinch him, not give him snacks and not see me again. Maybe I scare him but I want him to know to stay close and not go off with someone he is not supposed, even if he knows them.

    Reply
    • We don’t have cable either. At first we didn’t get it because of the expense, but now, I’m so glad we never did. This way, there’s much fewer options and temptations. If it’s not there, it won’t be an option 🙂

      I also told my boys the correct terms for body parts. So far, I’m glad I made that decision…although there are times I’ve wondered…like when he says at church, “Mom, my ***** hurts” or something like that, lol 🙂

      Reply

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