You know by now that Larry Nasser, the former Team USA gymnastics doctor who molested at least 160 girls, has been sentenced to life in prison. Last week he was confronted by many of his victims in court. A 40-minute address by Rachael Denhollander, who was abused 16 years ago, was especially powerful as she shared the weight of both God’s truth and grace with her abuser.
This avalanche season of abuse allegations and confirmations is a good time for us parents to revisit how we’re doing in terms of keeping our kids safe. I know this topic can be tiresome, but here are three areas where I think we parents are prone to putting our kids at risk unintentionally. In other words, I think we can accidentally wear blinders, which put our children in harm’s way.
Three Blinders Parents May Unknowingly Wear
1. Trusting in Titles
A person’s title does not automatically qualify him or her to be entrusted with our children. We’ve seen coaches, doctors, teachers, pastors, well-loved actors, respected journalists and others found guilty in recent months of abusing children and women. We parents must not assume that because someone has a degree, or years of experience with kids, or is well-respected in the community, that they are not a potential danger to our little ones. Titles do not equal trustworthy.
2. Our Children’s Potential Success
When we moved back from overseas two years ago a new neighbor said to me, “Everyone here treats their kids like they’re the next NBA star.” That may be overstating it a bit, but his point was that we live in an age when it is commonplace and even considered good parenting to provide our children with every opportunity to succeed in any sport or activity. As a result, families commit immense time, money and resources to training their young ones to be exceptional in a given area. This drive can result in parents being singularly focused. We are prone to thinking, “I have to send my daughter to that camp/practice/trainer’s clinic because she is so close to achieving the next level.” Our passion for their success can blind us to potential pitfalls.
As my neighbor alluded to, in our current cultural setting parents are committed to providing the best opportunities for their children. In our active suburban setting it is understood that good parents put their children in several sports from a young age. It is normal for kids to be on multiple teams at once, even a travel team, and be away from home most nights of the week. The cultural tide can easily sweep parents away as they sense that this is what good parents do. In wanting to provide the best, or in wanting to keep up with the Joneses, or in wanting to simply behave normally, it’s easy for parents to go with the flow and not even consider their child’s safety. Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean it’s wise.
Let’s Not Exchange One Idol for Another
Our drive to see our kids succeed can lead to us wearing the above blinders. As we potentially idolize our kids’ achievements, we can accidentally—but easily—forsake their innocence for their success. But let’s not trade in a singular focus on their success for a singular focus on their safety.
The abuse stories are heartbreaking and haunting. It’s our reflex to ask, “What do I need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen to my kid?” Helicopter parents abound in the name of safety. But safety is also an unworthy god. Like success, it is never satisfied and we will never be able to do enough to make sure that either goal is fully realized.
At the end of the day, my encouragement to you and to me is to:
- Pray for wisdom
- Equip our children with tools to identify a bad situation and to seek help
- Be willing to make counter-cultural decisions for each child, according to the wisdom that God gives
- Trust God’s sovereignty and goodness at all times
- Know that you’ve done all that you can and that God is indeed enough for you and for your child if something ever does happen to them—know that he will bring healing