ppp1When I was a kid I never really thought about the pressure I put my parents under when I was asking, then nagging them if I could go over to a friend’s house after church. It’s funny how most children don’t have it in them to actually think outside of their self focused wants and put themselves in their parent’s shoes.

So naturally when I was pregnant with our first baby, I was completely unprepared for the parental peer pressure or cultural pressures parents gets bombarded with over a lifetime of parenting. Parental peer pressure basically begins the minute you either plan on having a baby or you find out you are having one and unfortunately doesn’t get any easier over the course of the next 20 or some odd years.

Peer pressure: is influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform to group norms.

Sleepovers have been one of the most uncomfortable parental pressures I have ever dealt with. I’m good with saying no to certain movies, no problem, but sleepovers is a hard one. Not because I lack conviction. It’s more that I remember how it felt to feel left out in a crowd, and I didn’t want my kids to experience that same feeling when all their friends were getting together and having a sleepover–except them.

For the past few months I have felt the prompting to share with you why we don’t do sleep overs. To be honest, I kept putting article on the back burner simply because I know that anything that lands in that FREEDOM {gray area} category biblically can potentially cause conflict, even among believers and that just isn’t my desire.

That being said, just the other day, a post by Tim Challies came through my newsfeed. He posted on Why His Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers in response to Dr. James Dobson’s writings in child training books on this topic. I highly recommend reading Tim’s response and the excerpts he highlights. Very insightful and challenging. Plus, I find it interested that Dobson doesn’t advocate sleepovers either, in fact he strongly and boldly discourages them.

Sleepovers

1. We are realists with a biblical worldview.

In all of our parenting decisions, Isaac and I have tried to do our due diligence in two areas: being realists and looking at every situation and circumstance through a biblical worldview. That being said, because we are not naive to the realities of what can occur and does occur {sometimes} at sleepovers, we don’t feel they are edifying to friendships.

I am not just talking about the obvious threat of sexual vulnerability, although especially with technology and sexual confusion among young people today, the threats are even more profuse. Just because someone is being raised in a “Christian” family, does not mean we can just assume that everyone who comes to their home or who is living in their home is of the same spirit and mind.

Isaac and I grew up in very different households and had very different childhood experiences, but with regard to sleepovers, many of our experiences could be categorized as very similar. We experienced everything from teepeeing houses {vandalism}, games like Truth or Dare, Ding Dong Ditch, Smoking and Drinking, Watching Horrid Movies {that stole a purity of mind from me in my youth}, Story Telling {such as sexual experience}, Gossip {which can destroy reputations and self esteems of these young vulnerable kids, but can also be considered a form of bullying}, and even an ouija game board {inviting demonic and spiritual warfare}.

So as you can see, we had very eye opening experiences ourselves. Because we know the temptations for sin that can occur when you put a bunch of young kids together unsupervised {or even minimally supervised}, we just don’t feel good about it. Now, most of our dear friends that we are closest to are not the type we would need to worry about having beer and porn on the tv. However, what if the family allowed the older brother to have a guy friend stay the night? To be quite honest, I have no personal fear that any of the severe above things would happen to our children, BUT I do know that sin comes in the dark. And when you have a bunch of girls, at night, unsupervised by an adult, the temptation for gossip, sharing about crushes {which could later then crush them out of embarrassment}, or simply having no self control over their tongues because they are tired can totally happen! And that simply put, is just not edifying to the friendship and defeats the entire purpose behind getting together in the first place. This all leads me to the next point.

2.) We don’t want to be exclusive.

Remember that Parental Peer Pressure I talked about at the beginning? How hard is it when you let your child stay over with one friend, but not the other because you just don’t know them as well? Or, what if you say yes, and then the hosting family invites some more kids over to and you have never met them, don’t know their parents, etc…

In order to avoid saying no to some and favor others, we just say no to all. :) And we do it confidently. Well to our children we do. It is a bit harder when the other parent approaches you because then you feel parental peer pressure and have to have the talk, We Don’t Do Sleepovers.

Tim Challies puts it like this {and I really couldn’t say it any better}:

“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.”

3.) We don’t do sleepovers because we feel that, as parents will be held accountable by God for what happens to our children on our watch. And we want to teach our children to make wise decisions. Our thought process is that evaluating a situation, recognizing it may not be edifying, and choosing not to go or participate is using wisdom.

Now, you are probably thinking, “But God’s grace would cover you in a situation you had no control over. You can’t be everywhere at all times with your children watching over them like a hawk, and that wouldn’t be healthy either.” And you are right to say that. I don’t believe that if my child was somehow harmed because of someone else’s sin, I would be held accountable. That isn’t actually what I am saying here. What I am saying is that, there is a difference in knowing and unknowing the likelihood of a threat and choosing to just overlook the potential threats in the name of fun or being a cool mom vs a true accident happening that I couldn’t have prevented.
It’s not a matter of having control, it’s about not overlooking statistical threats and the realities of sin in our world.

4.) Because we don’t like the fruit {or consequences}.

We believe that sowing and reaping is a biblical and spiritual law that no one can escape. That being said, every choice we make has fruit and/or consequences. You know where I am going with this one, don’t you? We have tried out sleepovers, and nothing bad happened per se, but we didn’t like the consequence and price our family makes when we get to have an over tired kiddo home the rest of the weekend. It takes a few days just to get their schedule back in sync, and in the meanwhile we get to deal with over emotional grumpville.

What fruit comes from the slumber party? Grumpiness? Idle Chat? Gossip? Embarrassment or Regret? Or Strengthened Friendships, Edifying & God Glorifying Conversations?

If the point of having a “sleep over” is to spend more time together as friends, to grow the friendship, but then the time is filled with idle chat, it defeats the main purpose of growing a deeper friendship. Some children are more mature, and can lead conversations with their peers to things such as what they are reading, what God is teaching them, and what they dream about doing for the kingdom. That’s what makes decisions like this so difficult for parents. Because not all children are the same. Other kids are not even in this space spiritually, which is ok, everyone is on their own spiritual journey, right!? But most situations really do require an older role model, parent, or sibling really modeling for young girls what it means to have an edifying, God glorifying time together. One that is free from gossip, idle chat, or embarrassing conversations. Amen?

Our Parenting Journey:

You should know that we have made a few exceptions along our 15 year road of parenting. You should know that in those few times that we let our children go, they came home and reported that they even felt they probably shouldn’t have gone {with the exception of one or two instances}. For the most part, it didn’t create stronger friendships. I am glad we did, because our older children now understand why we have chosen not to do sleepovers and they agree… for the most part. They don’t ask to stay over because they know our thoughts, which evades the parental peer pressure, except when a parent or another child asks you.
I was recently asked if I would let other kids stay over at our house. Obviously, in the case of an emergency, I most likely would. But other than those circumstances, no. Can you imagine how awkward it would be if we did host a sleepover and then the parent of the child wanted to reciprocate and I had to tell them, no thank you, we don’t do sleepovers. Talk about confusing. They would totally take offense to that. So, no. Out of avoiding the conflict I would say no to that question.
Another thing we have done over the years is camping with other families. Which is a super fun idea. The kids can stay up playing card games, supervised by parents, but then we are there to make sure they aren’t up to all unreasonable hours of the night. In these circumstances we have kept our children with us. I think there was only one occasion where our eldest slept in a tent with the girls. But we were right there.

As the kids get older this issue has arisen a couple of times. For example, overnight camps. That is a whole post by itself. But the conclusion, which was made by my daughter, was that it wasn’t edifying and that she doesn’t want to go again.

While there is no strong scripture that points to sleepovers and parental decisions. I was encouraged and convicted by the particular scripture passage in 1 John 2 {the whole chapter} with regard to this issue.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes…
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Like I said, this scripture verse is in NO way attached to sleep overs, but it does however speak directly to all of us parents, fathers, young men, and children. It warns us of the danger of having blinders on to the reality of what is in the world and compares it to being in the dark. What we have found is that when you are parenting against the grain of the culture… often times people think you are crazy or simply disagree. But be encouraged that the Lord assures us we should not worry about loving the world, including what others in the world think of our parenting methods. It’s hard to do, I know. But this is just one encouragement in whatever parenting decision you are making… whether sleepovers or something else… follow the light.

To end, I want to reiterate that this is not a black and white issue. The Lord gives us free will in our decision making as parents. There is no clear bible verses that say not to let your kids go stay overnight at a friend’s home. This is just our opinion and what we have decided to do based on our experiences and what we believe the realistic issues are of today. Isaac and I have put a lot of thought into why we don’t allow our children to do sleepovers and made it a universal rule in our family. Our deepest desire was never to challenge others in their parenting, but to simply be diligent as parents to protect the purity of our children’s minds, souls, bodies, and hearts and teach them to guard themselves as well.

The most important thing is that you and your spouse are in alignment on the issue and that you have made your decision based upon the convictions the Lord impresses into your heart. You are parenting as a team and need to make decisions like this together and be a united team in front of your kids on these issues.

Lastly, can I ask you to really pray about this issue. And whatever you choose as parents, teach your children to have respect of other’s decisions and not beg. It is really hard to tell a child, “No, I’m sorry, We Don’t Do Sleepovers,” when they are looking at you with those puppy dog eyes.

Let’s Pray Together.

Lord, parenting is hard. We all wish you could just write out an easy equation and tell us what to say yes and what to say no to. We are all of one same heart, we all love our children. We just ask that you would guide each of us as we make decisions for our families. Guide us, speak your truth and encourage us along the road. We ask that you would protect the hearts, minds, souls, and bodies of our children. Might you put your full armor upon each of them right now as we pray. We live in a very unpredictable world and we know that our children are not our own, so help us as parents to find that healthy balance between trusting you with our children and doing the job you assigned to us in choosing us as parents. Amen.

signature20131005-tolpin-5603