How to keep your child's heart with all vigilance
Children need to see the world as a good and safe place. This statement has always been a cornerstone of my parenting philosophy. Since my husband and I brought home our first baby, over sixteen years ago, this belief has shaped our actions and has acted as a filter. Mistakes aplenty have been made, but this is something I believe we got right.
Sadly, the world isn’t always a good and safe place. I know that, and so do my kids, but their exposure to the news and to adult problems was delayed and gradual. Thankfully, as kids mature, and a parent’s ability to control information declines, kid’s coping mechanisms also increase- particularly with loving guidance and Biblical teaching in the ways of God.
It isn’t always possible to shield the ugliness of the world from our children, and grace is given for those times when we’re unable to, but the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 says,
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
This applies to both adults and children. But young children need extra help from their parents and caregivers, until the time comes, when they are able to establish their own boundaries around their hearts. What might this look like?
I believe it looks like protecting children from too much information. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me here, but in our family, it meant that we didn’t listen to the news or talk radio in the car when the kids were present. The same went for the television at home- we kept the news off. We also tried our best to wait until the kids weren’t around to talk about things like finances and other adult concerns. Kids can take adult problems into their hearts, as their own, and this isn’t right or fair to them. They have their own problems. Growing up is hard enough as it is. Their childhood need to be protected. Guard their hearts.
Negative news, contentious debates, and sad stories are everywhere. We can’t take on all the problems of the world. Pay attention to where the Holy Spirit guides you, in where you choose to give your heart. If you feel a burden towards a particular need, prayerfully consider it, and then, of course, obey, if you hear the Spirit calling you toward that need. But you won’t be called to everything. Be mindful of where you choose to invest your heart, and in turn, you’re your time and energy. Only then, will it flow with the springs of life.
When it comes to determining the information you choose to take in, or that you allow your children to take in, consider first, three questions. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Is it true?
This can be hard to determine, but please, consider the source of your news.
Is it kind?
Is someone else’s failure, embarrassment, or tragedy being exploited for entertainment at their expense?
Is it necessary?
Does is affect you personally, or people in your life? Can you help? Can you learn from it? Or is it just pulling at my heartstrings for no particular purpose?
Putting boundaries on the information we choose to focus on is a gift we give to ourselves, a way to guard our hearts. We can also give this gift to our children. At first, we’ll have to do it for them- but our job, as parents, is to give them the tools they need to do it on their own. As they get older, they will need to learn that, because of sin, the world doesn’t always seem like good and safe place. I pray that by then, they will personally know the one true God, who is very good, who is in control, who loves them, and with whom they can place their trust in.