Why My Family DOES Sleepovers

A memory I'm glad I didn't miss. 

A memory I'm glad I didn't miss. 

It’s a safe bet that I’m going to have a problem with any article that begins “James Dobson believes…” I’m not a fan of James Dobson. I’m not a fan of his views on child-rearing in particular. 

So, it should come as no surprise I disagree with Tim Challies and his article “Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers,” which begins by citing Mr. Dobson. 

James Dobson believes that children should not participate in sleepovers. The world has changed, he says, and has become too dangerous to allow your children out of your sight for so long.
— Why My Family Doesn't Do Sleepovers

Challies goes on to say he disagrees that the world is more dangerous but still has decided to make a hard and fast rule prohibiting sleepovers. 

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… Aileen and I made our decision based largely on experience and observation of what happened around us when we were young. We made this decision because even in our youth—decades ago—we saw plenty of evidence of the dangers inherent in sleepovers.
— Why My Family Doesn't Do Sleepovers

First off, I am not an expert on child molestation. I’m not going to argue with with either Dobson’s assertion that the world is more dangerous for children then it used to be or with Chillies’s assertion that it is just as dangerous as it always was because I simply don’t know.

Luckily, I know someone who does. After reading this post, I immediately reached out to my favorite child safety expert Pattie Fitzgerald. Last year, I did a webinar with Pattie on how to protect your children from predators and, in my opinion, she is the BEST at what she does. So, I sent her the post and asked her what she thought. 

Here was her response as to the assertion that children are less safe:

I truly understand this father’s concerns and I don’t want to criticize another parent’s choice that is right for his family, but there is one statement he makes that not quite right. Namely... that the world is worse now and that children are not safe the way they were in the “good old days”. That is simply untrue, in fact statistically kids are safer today than 20-30 years ago because we are more alert, and talk about personal safety with them, many parents are better educated about the subject.
— Pattie Fitzgerald

So, if children aren’t less safe, I asked Pattie if sleepovers should be off limits.

Now as far as sleepovers, I talk about this a lot in my workshops and I’ve covered this extensively on my blog. Yes, sleepovers can be a slippery slope, but so can playdates, after school lessons, a family reunion! And you can’t wrap your kid in bubble wrap. However, I do know that stuff happens at sleepovers, either with an older sibling, an adult in the home, or even a friend. So parent are wise to do their due diligence first before ever allowing a sleepover, waiting until a child is old enough, and then limiting where and when.

When my daughter was younger, there were only 3 houses where she was allowed to sleep over. She knew I felt comfortable with these and that’s all I told her. I didn’t have her do sleepovers where there were older teenage brothers, I didn’t have her do sleepovers if the parents were not great at supervising, or if they were partiers, or even having some kind of adult party or function that night. Check out my post, the list of questions a parent should ask themselves BEFORE a sleepover and please feel free to share. Once again, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer here and I don’t want to criticize Mr. Dobson for making a personal parenting choice for his family. I understand it.
— Pattie Fitzgerald

Check out Pattie's sleepover recommendations!

Also, not surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with Pattie. I do understand an easy NO SLEEPOVER prohibition. Lord knows exceptions and exemptions can become difficult with children. However, it is not the approach I would take.

Whether I’m dealing with sleepovers or playgrounds, my approach to parenting is very simple.

It is my job to teach my children to deal with the world - not to merely protect them from it.

Let me be clear. I hate this. I really, really do. My baby is going to kindergarten in three weeks and I am dreading every second of it. I don’t want him to be picked on or teased or so much as over-extended. I want to wrap him in a blanket and cuddle on the couch while we watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs until the end of time but that ain’t how it works.

Parenting sucks. Teaching another person to deal with the complicated, icky grey areas of life while maintaining one’s compassion, sense of humor, and a savings account is HARD but that’s the gig. 

No parent wants to have to explain to their child that some people aren’t nice and might want to hurt them. No parent wants to think about how their child would respond in another person tried to touch them inappropriately. 

But guess what? We have to.

We have to walk the incredibly fine line between keeping them safe and giving them the opportunity to keep themselves safe. 

Because the complicated truth - like Pattie said - is your child could encounter such a person ANYWHERE and eliminating sleepovers doesn’t change that. Like I’ve said before, the presence of any risk doesn’t automatically render a behavior dangerous. For me and my family, I don’t look at “sleepovers” as an activity and see more risk than reward.

Could that change based on the individual household? You betcha. But that decision-making process is one I’m willing to tackle. 

The world we live in might be dangerous but it is the world my child must live in.  If I don’t show him how to navigate it, who will?

How do you feel about sleepovers?