Why My Family Doesn't Do Sleepovers | Challies Dot Com
James Dobson believes that children should not participate in sleepovers. The world has changed, he says, and has become too dangerous to allow your children out of your sight for so long. In his book Bringing Up Girls, he says:
Sadly, the world has changed in the last few decades, and it is no longer a safe place for children. Pedophiles and child molesters are more pervasive than ever. That is why parents must be diligent to protect their kids every hour of the day and night. ?
Until you have dealt with little victims as I have and seen the pain in their eyes, you might not fully appreciate the devastation inflicted by molestation. It casts a long shadow on everything that follows, including future marital relationships. Therefore, parents have to think the unthinkable in every situation. The threat can come from anywhere?including neighbors, uncles, stepfathers, grandfathers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, music instructors, Scout leaders, and babysitters. Even public bathrooms can be dangerous today?
He believes the threat is so pervasive that parents should not allow their children to participate in sleepovers. I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing.
I agree with the nature of his concerns. Before my children were even old enough to ask, Aileen and I talked it through and decided we would not allow our kids to do sleepovers. Now let?s be clear: there is no biblical command that forbids them, so this was not a matter of clear right and wrong, but a matter of attempting to act with wisdom. We determined we would make it a family rule: Our children would not be allowed to spend the night at their friends? homes. We believed they would face a particular kind of vulnerability if they found themselves alone and in bed outside our care, and we wanted to protect them from it. So they have stayed at their grandparents? and have stayed with my sisters when we?ve visited the South, but they have not stayed at friend?s homes. (Note: My son is fourteen and we have now relaxed the rule with him, though permission is still dependent on circumstances.)
The reason we drew the rule so firmly was that it removes exceptions and explanations. We know ourselves well and realized that if we drew up a list of exceptions we would inevitably broaden that list over time. Not only that, but we did not want to have to explain to a family why we allowed our children to stay with others but not with them. So sleepovers were just taken right off the table without exceptions or individual explanations.
In this way I agree with Dobson that there is wisdom in avoiding sleepovers. But here?s where I disagree: that the risk is that much higher today than it was decades ago.
Aileen and I made our decision based largely on experience and observation of what happened around us when we were young. We made this decision because even in our youth?decades ago?we saw plenty of evidence of the dangers inherent in sleepovers.
When I was young I had some bad experiences with sleepovers. Nothing devastating happened to me, but I did learn that sleepovers bring a certain vulnerability and that children often behave foolishly in these circumstances. Before long my family came to know the local chief of police and he told us that if he had learned anything in his many years of law enforcement it was this: Don?t let your kids sleep over. As I got older I learned of several people I knew who had been taken advantage of during sleepovers, and it wasn?t a perverse father in most cases, but a predatory older brother or sister or cousin. Sometimes it was even the friend himself. The world was plenty dangerous back then and children were just as vulnerable, but somehow these things weren?t talked about as they are today.
As Aileen and I considered all of this and weighed it in our minds, we decided that the benefits of sleepovers did not outweigh the risks.
Denny Burk writes, ?Parents must be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves when figuring out the best way to protect children from both. Moreover, parents will often have to pursue principles that might seem strange to the rest of the world but which are the only rational responses to very real and potential threats to children.? Burk believes we need to challenge the assumption of sleepover-as-norm, and I quite agree. Do not allow yourself to feel pressured into sleepovers simply because it is what parents have always done. Instead, consider the issues and come to a conclusion that is right for your family and your context.
I would be interested to know: Do you allow sleepovers? Why or why not?
There are interesting perspectives in the comment section below.
This is an area that I am really torn on. My older two girls have been to sleep overs and have great times while there. I always worry about it, but I also see problems with never letting you children out of your sight either. Each time our girls are out of our care, I carefully talk to them before hand about how to call us and what to do if someone tries to touch them. I also carefully question them after the fact.
I have no concerns about sleepovers. My son just had his first one, but most kids his age have already gone on them. (He just didn't want to until now.)
My kids know how to handle themselves in situations where they are asked to do something they're uncomfortable with, but I don't warn them every time they visit a friend.
I went on tons of sleepovers as a kid and loved it. And I loved having people over. I see it as a part of childhood.
Protecting kids from molesters and such is not about sleepovers to me, it's about life in general. I don't see sleepovers as a particular threat.
Then again I am very trusting. My kids are with babysitters, other kids' nannies and parents at playdates, and my 10-year-old is allowed to go on errands by himself (with my phone in his pocket). Sometimes he just goes for walks.
Bottom line: I think we can protect our kids (as much as humanly possible) without raising them in a culture of fear. I don't want them eying every parent or nanny suspiciously, wondering if they're going to try something with them. And they cover all of that in school as well, inappropriate touching, how to handle it, etc.
But I don't want to brief them every time they visit someone on what they have to watch out for and then quiz them upon their return; I give them information and the strength to know when something is not what it should be, and we talk about it the same way we talk about what to do if we're taking the subway and one of us doesn't make it onto the train or gets off too soon.
I'm pretty much like Laurie. My kids know (generally and in age-specific terms) what kinds of things are acceptable and what aren't, and they know what to do if they feel something isn't right, and that is for all the time, not just sleepovers. Kids are abused by family members, teachers, trusted friends, and youth group leaders. It's not about illicit sex, it's a power trip and my children know that *they* are the ones with the power over their own bodies. If I felt the need to forewarn my child about someone they were staying with or quiz them upon their return, I just wouldn't send them to that house to begin with. There are definitely people who will never host our children (including family members) but the kids don't need to know that, or the reasons why, at least not at these ages.
70% of the U.S. population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. At 36 and counting!
We dont send our kids to very many other peoples houses, but they do have sleepovers at both sets of grandparents and my sisters. I was molested by my grandfather for much of my childhood, so I do have a fear. I try not to let that fear over come me, instead I am just trying to give them the tools to avoid it.
Molly, Morgan, Mia and Carson
My oldest son (almost 16) sleeps over at friends houses pretty much at least every weekend. My other boys (10 and 12) have slept over at friends houses as well. We've had talks with them about safety and such, and I feel very comfortable with their friends parents.
Carolyn - 37
Wife to Chad - 39
Mom to Tom - 15
Nathan - 10
As an older child I had an encounter with a male, who was not a stranger to me, with bad intentions...and it wasn't at a sleepover.
It makes no sense to me to forbid this and allow other things. That's just guessing.
Sleepovers are great fun for kids and I simply cannot live life with such a lack of trust of the people I surround myself and my kids with. I would much rather prepare my child to be aware of a situation that seems wrong on the off chance they find themselves in that situation, rather than try to inaccurately predict where a supposed encounter of this nature might happen and completely remove the privilege of enjoying that activity.