Being a parent is hard. Being a parent in today’s world, with an abundance of technology and the overwhelming availability of news and information makes it even more challenging. To combat the ever-evolving challenges of parenting, my husband and I developed the “Safety Rule” in our house for governing not only technology but all aspects of parenting.
We have always viewed our kids as being intricate physical, emotional, and spiritual beings, and our job has been twofold: 1) introduce them to Jesus and help them develop a relationship with him 2) protect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually as God fulfills his plan for their lives.
Protecting them physically has really been the easy part. We bought the best car seats, and vehicles with the highest safety ratings, We put helmets on their heads and pads on their knees. “We got this!” However, we weren’t prepared for how difficult it would be to keep them spiritually and emotionally safe; to keep comments from wounding their spirits and images from impacting their values. Honestly, in the beginning, we didn’t even realize our kids were in spiritual or emotional danger. We hadn’t thought that deep, and we definitely weren’t aware of the enemy.
With the Safety Rule, we sought to protect our children by sifting all of their requests and our decisions through the filter of “Is this safe for them physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually?” This answered almost all of our parent dilemmas and easily addressed technology questions.
If it was safe for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually we would be happy to consider it. If it wasn’t safe for them in one of those areas the answer was not only NO but it was also non-negotiable.
The safety rule doesn’t mean your kids won’t get upset or angry but it does give you a foundation to stand on and a sense of confidence in your decision making. It also opens up an opportunity for some really great conversations about tough topics and helps your kids to see that dangers are not only of a physical nature but can be spiritual and emotional.
The Safety Rule makes navigating phone choices more straightforward.
For example, when my daughter asked to keep her phone in her room at night. I said let’s run that through the safety filter. Is it safe for her physically? No, she will stay up till all hours on it, and sleep deprivation is the number one factor in poor mental health. Socially? Definitely no. As my dad said, nothing good happens after midnight except sleep. Late at night kids' posts increase in risk as impulses go down, and a child alone with their thoughts regarding how they feel compared to their peers is not a good combination. Is it safe spiritually? No satan lurks in the dark. The answer? Definitely a no for her phone in her room at night. It's not safe.
When my son at ages 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old (he’s persistent) asks for Snap Chat I said let's run it through the safety filter. To which he responded with a deep sigh and an eye roll. I quickly shared that snap chat is like an entree that comes with a side of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as does all social media. He mumbled, “that's ridiculous but not safe”. So request denied. (This conversation actually was deep, rich, and educational for him).
When my kids approached us and asked when they could have a cell phone we let them know that it depended on we felt they were responsible enough to make wise decisions and be safe. We definitely knew that wasn’t going to be before the age of 13, and if we are being honest it's not before age 24 when their brain fully develops. However, we watched each child maneuver life and gave them phones when we felt they would be safe. At any time we saw that they were not able to stay safe either because of their own choices or the choices of others we removed the phone for a while.
The Safety Rule allows for wins (for all sides)
When my oldest daughter wanted to stay up later than usual to watch the newly released sequel to one of her favorite shows I ran it through the safety rule. My initial reaction was No, you’ll be tired, I’ll be tired, you can watch it tomorrow. But according to the safety rule, it's not a safety issue and therefore I should consider honoring her request. I allowed it and won points for being a parent that is flexible and ‘cool’.
The safety rule allowed us to make decisions that were unique to each child and not based on emotion. The facts were presented and clear. The conversations were rich. Our children got so used to the safety filter that they would often approach us and say “I know this is probably a no because of the safety rule but I thought I would ask anyway.” Eventually, they would even say “I know I can’t because it's not safe”. As they became young adults they were able to carry this way of thinking into their college and adult years and continue to make decisions based on their own physical, emotional and spiritual safety. They were able to address the impact their decisions had on their whole being versus just their physical being.
The Safety rule gave us a way to be consistent in our rulemaking and allowed us to be less dependent on our emotions or just “a whim”. It also cut down on the amount of arguing or discussion of rules because the kids knew how and why the rule was made. Now sometimes they wanted to argue about whether something was safe but we just shut that down. We were the gatekeepers of safety, assigned the role by the Lord. That was not their job.
I would be lying if I said this was a fail-proof method and it opened the doors to allow us to be the most amazing parents ever and raise perfect children who were always safe, loved the Lord, and always followed the rules. But we know that even Adam and Eve with the perfect Father and perfect environment made mistakes. However, the Safety rule did give us a sense of control over our decisions and a compass to follow when we were feeling lost in the technology forest and all other aspects of parenting. Parenting is the toughest job we will ever have and yet the Lord wants us to be successful at it. Trust Him. KISS your kid: Keep It Super Simple. Play it SAFE!
Lana Snear currently serves as the South Campus Counselor at Legacy Christian Academy. She came to Legacy in 2018 with previous experience working in private practice, as well as other private and public school districts. Dr. Snear received her Doctorate degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. She holds a license in psychology, school psychology, and a certification in professional Christian counseling. She has been married for 30 years, has 4 children, and a new granddaughter. She loves the relationships she has gotten to build with the students and families at Legacy. Her over-arching goal is that each student would know they are ‘seen' and have great value. KNOWTICE OTHERS=Notice others + Know Others
Dr. Snear has crafted several blogs for our families including the Middle School Romance blog.
Legacy Christian Academy is Frisco's preeminent Pre-K through 12 Christian school committed to educating students in a college preparatory environment balanced in academics, athletics, and fine arts–all within the context of a biblical worldview. For more information on Legacy, visit our admissions page.