A number of Christian authors recently spent the night at a friend’s house, made some bad choices, and decided to write about sleepovers.
Either that, or yet another group of authors have children getting old enough to be invited to one. Either way, the articles are posting, the questions are swirling, and the opinions are fluctuating. Should we let our kids sleepover at other people’s houses? If so, which houses are okay and which aren’t?
Lisa Cherry’s article, “What To Do About Sleepovers” is tremendously helpful because it provides a great list of considerations that not everyone thinks about. I would also like to share three additional observations I believe will be beneficial to the conversation because they come from a sphere of experience that not a lot of parents have access to.
Credentials As a family counselor and former Dean of Students at a large school, I frequently sit across the desk from parents who look at me through swollen eyes and ask, “How was I supposed to know this was happening?” We go through a lot of tissues in my office. And when I say “we,” I mean it. How do families get to that place? There are many, many avenues . . . and unfortunately, all of the dangers that contribute to the most destructive youth-sins flourish in the petri dish of sleepovers.
Occasions for the Flesh
1. Pressure. Modern parents have seemingly forgotten about the overwhelming power of peer-pressure. They gladly send their children to the mall, to their friend’s house, or to that digital hangout (social media) with little thought as to what influences they’re being exposed to. How do I know this? They send them to the mall without an FBI wiretap.
PLEASE PAY CLOSE ATTENTION: Nearly every single sin I have ever worked through with a young person started as a result of group-think.
Drug abuse, pornography, smoking, and rape seldom appear in a vacuum. Most of the choices that lead to those ends began while hanging out with a group of “friends.”
PEER-PRESSURE IS REAL, and it’s seldom pressure to do right.
Personal Anecdote: When I was younger, my parents wanted me to hang out with this guy in order to be a good influence on him. You can see where this is going – I quickly became an unfortunate fulfillment of the negative side of Galatians 6:1.
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
I wasn’t spiritual enough. I was tempted. I gave in to the pressure.
Professional Case Study: I’ve dealt with teens who’ve been introduced to drugs at their extended family’s house. I’ve cried with children who have been molested at the house of church families. I’ve had to exercise school discipline on children because of choices they made under pressure from their school “friends.”
Sleepover Application: Welcome to one of the most dangerous cesspools of peer-pressure on the planet.
A. It’s generally a group of unsupervised children.
B. It’s at night when exhausted adults are sleeping.
C. It’s at home. Believe it or not, it’s this one point that makes sleepovers so deceptively unsafe. For some reason we think that just because our kids aren’t in brothel or drug-den that somehow they’re okay. Because “nothing so despicable could ever happen in our home,” we let our guard down and assume that every word and deed is completely Christ-honoring.
I used to tell my counseling staff at camp that the boys running around playing aggressively aren’t generally the ones the counselor should be focusing their supervision on. It’s the knot of “cute,” “quiet” girls sitting “sweetly” in a circle talking. Nearly every phone call I ever received from angry parents had nothing to do with their children getting hurt during an aggressive game, it had to do with the wicked words said while everyone was being “quiet” and the supervisors thought they could take a mental break because everyone was sitting. Welcome to sleepovers.
2. Sexuality. Another oversight of modern parenting is that adults seem blind to sexual issues. I believe one facet of this problem is not that most Christian parents deny the sexuality of our world, but that they’re blind to the sexuality that their children are exposed to. It is a researched and undeniable fact that many elementary students in the public schools are having sex. Why? Because they’re sinful, self-worshipping little people who are constantly bombarded by the music and movies and shows that tell them they should be having sex.
But for some reason, Christian parents let their kids watch and listen to the same garbage, but don’t believe that the Christian kids are experimenting! THEY ARE!! They are just as sinful and self-worshipping, and they’re filling their minds with the same garbage. What did you expect?!
Personal Anecdote: From the time I was a teenager until now, I can say with grand certainty that over 80% of the teens I’ve encountered in that time have experimented with various forms of sexuality. Kids from every demographic, ethnic background, and social bracket are dabbling in one of the most destructive sins. But for some reason, modern parents either don’t think it’s happening or they don’t think it’s really that big of a deal.
Professional Case Study: Time would fail me to tell of all of the sexual escapades had by the many children I’ve worked with over the years . . . and every single one of them had parents who allowed them to watch and listen to sex-stuffed trash.
Sleepover Application: Do I even need to? I could spend the rest of the evening writing about groups of children of all ages and the pornographic things they did with their parents sleeping across the hall. It would curl your hair and offend your sensibilities. It’s happening.
3. Trust. Lastly, too many parents just trust their children far too much. Modern psychology has taught us that we need to “respect our children’s boundaries” and other equally damnable ideas . . . and Christians parents have bought in to it!
Personal Anecdote: My parents shouldn’t have trusted me AT ALL. And yet they did. I do not fault them completely; I was a fantastic liar, but I’d been caught enough times that even I (the child) was surprised my leash was as long as it was. And it just made it easier to get into more trouble later.
Professional Case Study: I’ve had young people admit to me that they’ve stolen, done drugs, snuck out of the house in the middle of the night, and had sex . . . but when I or the teen tell the parent what they’ve done THE PARENT DOESN’T BELIEVE IT! They’re so deluded that their “child would never do that,” that they don’t believe their children’s admissions!
A. Don’t just accept your child’s version of who will be at the party and what they’ll be doing. Find out for yourself (preferably from the parents of the house they’re going to) who’s going to be there and what they’re going to be doing.
B. Don’t just accept that the house you’re sending your child to believes and practices what you do. I remember being about five when a neighbor’s mom encouraged me to do something that my parents would not have allowed. It wasn’t anything wicked and vulgar, but it wasn’t something my mom and dad wanted me doing. It’s true that love hopes all things and believes all things, but we’re also called to be wise as serpents and discerning.
1. Has that parent shown clear signs of being Spirit-filled?
2. Do they have fruits that show their faith?
If these things aren’t true, we’d be wise not to trust them implicitly with the spiritual safety of our children.
P.S. I’ve spoken with a number of parents who say their children need to learn how to respond to temptation. I agree. The Lord not only knows what we can handle in His power, but He always provides a way to escape. But I want you to consider two things:
A. Proverbs is replete with admonitions to avoid temptation; not cut your teeth on it. It is not sound to thrust ourselves or the ones we love into temptations way without knowing they’re ready for it. If there were a ravenous lion in the street, I guarantee you wouldn’t let your child out of the house unless you knew she would be safe. Guess what! There is a lion who wants to destroy your child. Is she ready?
B. We do not know our children as well as God does. My parents thought I was mature enough to be a good influence on that guy, but they were wrong and I did not resist temptation. I wasn’t ready. I shouldn’t have been hanging out with him. Because we don’t know our kids like God does, we need to even more careful throwing them to the lion.
Concluding Thoughts I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, and potentially I would if I didn’t possess the credentials to prove that these things are in fact happening. On the other hand, I have to admit that God is graciously and vibrantly at work in the hearts of young people. So much so, that I do not doubt that many of them can stand strong in the face of peer-pressure, are disgusted by sexual sins, and (for those reasons and more) are trustworthy. But most of the teens I interact with are not. So, would I allow my kids to have a sleepover? Yes.
If they are in my house with a small number of kids, and either I or my wife was with them the entire evening.
Otherwise . . . no way. I know the overwhelming power of peer-pressure and the allure of sexuality too well to trust most children to make Christ-honoring choices in such situations – including my own. I know I didn’t when I was their age. Listen, I realize I’ve made some startling claims in this article, but propriety and time keep me from expounding the grotesque sins I have witnessed among the young people I’ve counseled in my comparatively few years. This is why I’m sharing my observations: the more you know about the danger, the more careful you’ll be. I’m here to sound the siren call that the danger of sleepovers cannot be over-exagerated. Sleepovers are not just cute fun. They are, by design, perfect places for sin to breed and grow. And Satan loves to use them to your child’s disadvantage. Most parents just aren’t aware how real, prevalent, and dangerous peer-pressure is in the lives of their children. They don’t seem to realize how present and life-altering sexual sins are. And, in general, they trust their children to be more spiritually mature than they really are. We must be wise, Godward parents in every area of our parenting . . . including birthday parties, play dates, and sleepovers. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.