Protection and Exploration
About the Guest
What is your home built on? Joshua Straub, author of the book, "Safe House," talks to Dennis Rainey about the four walls parents need to build around their home, beginning with the wall of exploration. Joshua explains that allowing our kids to explore leads them to self-confidence, but must be balanced with protection.
Joshua StraubJoshua Straub, Ph.D., author and speaker, serves as the Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents, spouses and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of ...more
Joshua Straub tells parents that allowing our kids to explore leads them to self-confidence, but it must be balanced with protection.
Protection and Exploration
Bob: If you want to raise kids who are emotionally healthy adults, Dr. Joshua Straub says, “Your children need to be given freedom and boundaries.”
Joshua: Research shows that our ability to allow our kids to explore, especially early in life, leads to self-competence and self-confidence later on as adults. The opposite wall of exploration is protection; okay? We want our kids to go out and play in the yard, but we don’t want them to go too far lest they get hit by a car. We have to balance those walls of exploration and protection, age appropriately, over time.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How do you find the balance between exploration and safety for your kids?—and do you tend to lean in one direction or the other, being too permissive or too controlling? We’re going to talk more about that today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I’ve got to confess—I saw the title of the book we’re going to talk about today and I thought, “This was a spy thriller because the safe house is where you take the witness and you hide them before the trial.” I thought that was what this was going to be about.
Dennis: Well, we are going to be talking about a safe house today; and I think we’ve got to talk about, first of all, “What’s the foundation for building some walls and creating a safe house?” To do that, you’ve just got to open your Bible to Matthew, Chapter 7, because we’re going to talk about you building a safe place / a safe house for your kids and for them to grow up, finish childhood, grow into adolescence all the way through to maturity.
And in Matthew 7, He says this: “Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock,”—there’s the foundation—
—“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.” And as a parent—these are not Jesus’ words / these are mine—as a parent, you need to know that there are plenty of winds, plenty of rain, plenty of floods today that are pounding on your home. So, listen up! Jesus said if you hear His words and obey them, your house is going to be firm in the midst. He says: “But it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
If you want to have a safe place for your kids to grow up in and to become all that God created them to be, you’ve got to settle the issue of who’s going to be the builder of your home. Frankly, that begins with: “Who’s going to be the builder of your life, and is Jesus Christ going to be your Lord and Master?”
And beyond this foundation of committing your life to Him, you need some help in putting up some walls.
We’ve got a wall builder on the broadcast with us. Dr. Joshua Straub joins us again on FamilyLife Today—Josh, welcome back.
Joshua: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.
Dennis: How long have you been building walls for homes, Josh?
Joshua: I’ve been a counselor for the past 15 years and married to my wife and doing our own building of our own walls for the last 6 years.
Bob: So, you would agree with Dennis that the walls to the home that you are building are only as good as the foundation that you’re building on?
Joshua: Absolutely. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15, “I die daily.” And our ability to die every single day is what allows us to stay connected in our marriage and allows us to stay connected with our kids as well.
Dennis: You’ve put your blueprints into a book called Safe House.
It talks about four walls that you want to encourage parents to build around their homes. It’s all about building a home that is emotionally safe for your kids. Let’s talk about the first wall that a parent needs to build.
Joshua: Can I tell a story first about the importance of these walls?
Joshua: We were living in Branson, Missouri, of all places—so keep that in your brain. We believe in Deuteronomy, Chapter 6—that when Moses described how to leave a legacy, he started out by saying, “Hear O Israel.” He was talking to the entire church and how to leave a legacy within the family.
So, we were living in Branson. We didn’t have family around us. We didn’t have our own parents, and things weren’t there. So, we had adopted aunts and uncles, adopted grandparents who helped us with our kids. When I say, “adopted aunts and uncles,” we had young 20-something, business professionals who weren’t married yet. We’d invite them into our home. They saw how we lived / how we did our marriage. Then, they helped us with our kids so we could go on date nights. They, also then, learned kind of mentoring, vicariously, through how they watched us live and watch our kids.
But we also had adopted grandparents. This one set of adopted grandparents, in particular, watched our son every Friday night so we could go on a date night. I remember one time walking him [son] into the house, and we heard gun shots going off down below the house. Our son is about 20/21 months at the time; and he’s saying, “Da-da, boom, boom / Boom, boom, Da-da.” [Laughter] And in the Ozarks—you think nothing of that. You just think someone is target practicing; right? [Laughter]
So—and I didn’t know this either—when I became a parent, nobody told me that they put in a built-in laxative into car seats; right? So, you get your kid all bundled up. You get him in that car seat; and no sooner than a mile down the road—
Dennis: There you go!
Joshua: —they are pushing, baby. He did that this particular time. It is common etiquette to not leave a number two lingering there when you drop them off at the babysitter’s. So, I go inside. We’re hearing these gunshots. I’m changing his diaper. My wife, Christi—she’s explaining the food we packed for dinner and stuff that evening. I go into the kitchen, and I wash my hands.
As I take a step out of the kitchen, I heard—CRACK—and everybody stopped in their tracks. There was drywall at my wife’s feet. I looked up; and about five feet away from my head, at head level, a bullet hole—a stray bullet had come shooting through that house where we were dropping our son off. She went and protected Landon. I got down on my hands and knees, and I found a 9mm slug lying on their bedroom floor.
When you drop your kids off, you expect to be dropping them off at what I call a safe house—as you described earlier, in a spy thriller, a safe place for taking refuge. Our kids have emotional bullets coming at them every single day from outside the home—peer pressure, the media, video games, social media—you name it. They have pressure—emotional pressure coming at them / emotional bullets. When they come home, our home should be the emotionally safest place on the planet for our kids.
There should not be emotional bullets, also, coming from within the home as well.
Joshua: Because if they don’t have a safe place to land after they’ve been out throughout the day, they will find a safe place to land somewhere. I’ve worked with juvenile delinquents for 15 years—pretty much every single one I’ve come across, their home wasn’t safe. The reason they were in trouble was because they found safe places that actually weren’t safe.
Dennis: Where’d the bullet come from?
Joshua: To this day, we don’t really fully know yet. There was a house down below where people had lived. He had just recently gotten out of jail, and they took off. So, we called the police / we called 9-1-1. The police had gone down, and they had tried to find them, do interviews, and that kind of thing. So, they had taken off.
I just know that that neighborhood became the safest place in Missouri that night because there were more cops surrounding that neighborhood. And that was the last bullet we heard. They knew they had made a mistake, and they took off. That was that.
Bob: And you went on to your date and left your 21-month-old with the babysitter in the bullet house?
Joshua: I love my wife!
Bob: I understand that. [Laughter]
Dennis: But your wife is not going to be on the date! She’s not going to be anywhere near on that date! [Laughter]
Joshua: Are you kidding? I had to go debrief my traumatized wife that night; yes—so—yes.
Bob: That’s a vivid picture of what a physically unsafe house looks like. To create an emotionally safe house, you’re suggesting that we need to be focused on—you describe them as walls—
Bob: —four different elements that make for emotional safety. What’s one of those walls?
Joshua: The first wall that I describe is—when you walk out your front door, you look out into the world to explore. That first word is exploration. The reason that first wall is exploration is because research shows that our ability to allow our kids to explore, especially early in life, leads to self-competence and self-confidence later on as adults. The opposite wall of that of exploration is protection.
We want our kids to go out and play in the yard, but we don’t want them to go too far lest they get hit by a car. We have to balance those walls of exploration and protection, age appropriately, over time.
The problem is we are living in a culture where we’re overprotecting our kids. We are rescuing them from consequences that they should be experiencing—we’re doing their homework for them / we’re calling the teacher and calling it the teacher’s fault if they’re getting bad grades. We’re not allowing them [children] to truly experience the consequences of their own actions. That’s the helicopter generation, if you will. So, there has got to be a balance of exploration and protection—those two walls are critical.
Bob: I remember when our kids were born—one of the first things Mary Ann did was—we went around and put in all of the electric sockets these plug-ins so that the kids couldn’t put their fingers in the socket. We put in things in the drawers, especially where we had the Drano and the other stuff, where the kids couldn’t open the drawers without having to push down on something.
We called it child-proofing our home. I don’t think we were being overly protective in doing that; were we?
Joshua: No, not physically—absolutely not.
Bob: I think every parent is thinking, “Yes, we want there to be safety.” We think of protection as the natural thing you do to get to safety, rather than thinking of exploration as a high value.
Joshua: One great example of this would be—our kids—I describe in the book what’s called praising the struggle / the ability to be able to help your kids through difficult challenges. I don’t want my daughter, who is a toddler right now, running through the backyard and going: “Way to go! You’re going to be an Olympian one day”; right? The chances of her being an Olympian are very, very, very, very extremely slim. I don’t want her to think she’s just this awesome runner. So, our ability to be able to be honest with our kids about their talents and their abilities, but also, point them in the right direction to where their strengths do lie.
Another good example—this is my son.
I can remember one time he had to put his blocks away before bed. I told him he had to put his blocks away. We are singing the cleanup song; alright? But he was frustrated—he did not want to put those toys away. Rather than picking up the toys for him and just going to bed, I wanted to teach him what it was to work through his frustration—I wanted to help him.
A lot of times, as parents, we just want to—and there are appropriate times to just do it and overprotect because it’s important to do that—but the more that we can engage them and challenge them in their struggles—I describe it as a balance. Really, the balance between exploration and protection is a balance between support and challenge. You want to offer challenge to your kids—just like you when you are going to the gym; right? You want to put your muscles under some type of strain and stress but not too much that they break. That’s really what we’re looking at here.
What I did with my son was—I started picking up the blocks for him. I went to put them in the bucket; but as I did, I just let out this really loud grunt like: “URGH!”
I’m holding onto the block, and I’m just releasing it into the bucket. I would do it piece by piece; and all of a sudden, he started to laugh. He was a toddler, at the time, and he was getting ready to really go into a tantrum. All of a sudden, he started laughing. I was able to describe to him, as I could, just going, “I know you are angry, buddy; but we have to do this.” He would, then, take a piece and he would do it with me. He would: “URGH!” It was just helping him learn how to work through that frustration rather than doing that for him—I wanted him to experience that.
Dennis: It seems almost counterintuitive; but actually, to train your kids to be explorers and to venture out, they really need boundaries. I’ve never forgotten this illustration about a study that was done on a playground that had streets on three sides of it. They noticed that when they didn’t have a fence up on the playground, the kids only used about 40 to 50 percent of the playground because there were cars whizzing by.
But they decided they’d put a fence around that playground. When they did, all of a sudden, the kids went out to the edges of the playground and they enjoyed all of it.
I think there is a generation today who think that kids need green fields—it’s the Microsoft® advertisement in the magazine where it’s limitless—you can go for it / you can go out there. Actually, they really do need boundaries to teach them how far they can go.
Joshua: That’s a great example because in one recent survey, it found that over 54 percent of millennial parents today want to be their child’s BFF / their best friend forever. This type of parent is a parent who does exactly what you described—where they allow them to explore more than they should, age appropriately. They, also, are more grace-filled, but they tend to lean toward exploration. They, also, tend to lean toward grace.
As their children explore out into the world and they run into consequences, rather than being the child’s fault for the consequences in their actions, they blame the world rather than the child.
The reality is—our children—they need an authority figure / they don’t need a BFF. I just humbly tell parents: “If you’re looking for your child to be your best friend, you need to find friends your own age.”
Bob: You know, I have to be honest—and we’re talking with Joshua Straub, who has written a book called Safe House—my wife and I have talked about this. I leaned more in that direction when we were raising our kids. I spent seven summers, growing up, as camp counselor, and my kids [camp kids] loved being in my cabin—I was the fun camp counselor. I mean—
Dennis: I’m shocked! I’m totally stunned by this. [Laughter]
Bob: I was always coming up with fun things for the cabin to do, and I got high scores from those kids. So, I thought parenting—that’s what you did! You have kids—you create a fun environment / they think you’re the best counselor.
Well, Mary Ann was more aware of the fact that kids need structure, and boundaries, and kids need to be told, “No,” every now and then. Here I was—the softer parent—and she was the more authoritarian parent, which didn’t put her in a good light in that parenting equilibrium.
But honestly, Josh, I was always a little in fear of the fact that if I put the boundaries too hard and firm around my kids, they were going to rebel relationally / they were going to check out—they were going to go, “Okay; if I can’t get Dad on my side, I’ll go find somebody who will say, ‘Yes,’ to me.” I lived in a little bit of fear of that as a parent.
Joshua: That’s a great illustration because in—you know, we talked about the foundation of a safe house is our rock—Christ. I describe it as the foundation of these walls. Our ability to balance these walls well over time is a secure parent. Well, the ultimate secure parent has a relationship—is secure in who they are in Christ—
—but also is their ability to know and connect their own story.
I was telling you guys earlier about my relationship with my own parents and how I grew up. My ability to connect the dots to how that divorce impacted who I became really had a huge impact on who I am now, as a parent, and how present I am with my kids in these difficult moments. This is true for all of us. I tend to lean more toward that helicopter, overprotective parent, and I see that.
Again, there is nothing bad about these things. It’s important that we just know what our tendencies are so that we can know: “Okay; I have a little bit of fear here around this. Where is that fear coming from? How is it hindering my relationship with my kids?” or “How is it hindering my kids and how I relate to them?”
So, for my wife and I—we see our differences, but we’re able to unify ourselves together and go—and see each other’s strengths and weaknesses and then come together in that in the way that we parent our kids.
Bob: Mary Ann said to me one time—she said, “You will probably—if you get strict with the kids and you think, ‘I’m probably being too strict,’”—she said, “You will probably never be too strict.”
Joshua: That’s exactly right. [Laughter]
Bob: When you think you are being too strict, just recognize that. I was able to say to her, “You will probably never be too overly affectionate with the kids,”—because as she looked at her own story, she would—I think she’d say, “Yes, it didn’t come naturally to me to hug, to kiss, to express affection, to say, ‘I love you.’” So: “At the point you are starting to feel like, ‘I’m laying it on a little too thick with this,’ you’re probably just about where you need to be.”
Joshua: Yes; absolutely. It’s a great point.
Dennis: Here’s where you’ve got to take a step back and look at the genius of God and how He brings two people together to complement one another. Rather than try to change the other parent and try to make them more like you, instead say: “You know what? Let’s embrace our differences. Let’s talk about how we work together.”
It may mean we have to call a time out with the kid and go have a conversation in the bedroom, where you’re away from the kids and they can’t hear you arguing and discussing your differences about how to approach this issue. If one’s overly protective and the other one is overly permissive, you’ve got to have some freedom for both to express. Then, begin to pray about it and talk about, “How do we come to agreement here?” It’s important that you ultimately agree on how you’re going to raise your kids.
Joshua: And that unified front is huge. Our kids don’t do as we say—they do as we do. They are watching us. How we interact in our marriage has a huge impact in how they are going to interact in theirs.
Dennis: So, here we are—we’ve got two walls that we are beginning to build on this foundation—exploration, which empowers children to explore / move toward independence, which they have to do at some point.
Bob: And make mistakes, and learn there are consequences, and let them do that, instead of trying to protect them from everything.
Dennis: Yes. Then, there is the wall of protection, which also sets up boundaries.
Yet, at some point, no matter how good a job you do trying to balance these two, you are going to have a kid like Josh—who, when he got a bicycle / he decided, because he loved riding a bicycle, you were just going to take out and go riding in a place where you shouldn’t have been.
Joshua: Yes. I went down—I’ll never forget that moment—I ran that baby down through the yard and out into the alley and I met the grill of a car. I mean, I didn’t get hit; but I mean that car slammed on its brakes. It was two inches from me and scared the daylights out of me.
Dennis: Your mom and dad made it real clear to you—you were not to leave the yard.
Joshua: I did anyway, and I wanted to jump the hill at the bottom of the alleyway. There were hardly ever cars there. So, I just thought, “Why not give it a whirl?” I was probably about six or seven years old at the time and just took my bike down over there, and that was it.
Bob: Trying to calibrate where we belong, as parents, between the wall of protection and the wall of exploration, that’s kind of a fluid place to be. It’s not easy to dial in the exact place.
Joshua: I have a Safe House Parenting Assessment in the book, where you can kind of take a look at what your parenting style is based upon where you’re at with these four walls. And the key, though, is really understanding your own story and your ability / what your tendency is and your ability to be present with your kids—in their fearful and scared moments or when they’re acting out—what’s really going on underneath them. If you can get a gauge on where you are / what your parenting tendency is—it gives you the ability to know where you need to, maybe, be a little bit more strict or be a little bit more affectionate with your kids to meet them where they are.
Dennis: Okay; we’ve got two walls. We’ve got two more to go. I just want to go back and summarize where we started. As a parent—listen to me—your commitment to Jesus Christ and to your spouse is your foundation. Jesus compared building a house to building it on a rock—to obeying what He said to do in the Bible, fulfilling your vows, being obedient to do what He called you to do.
If you made a promise to stay married, that is your second most important promise you need to fulfill. The first is back to making Jesus Christ and allowing Him to be Lord of your life. Your kids need to see you and your spouse working things out—showing them how two messy people, who are selfish at times, work through difficulty. Don’t just remain married, but forgive each other. Give grace to each other and grow together, as a couple, and experience life as God designed it.
Bob: The strength of a marriage relationship is one of the key elements of a safe house. We often think it’s all about how we relate to our kids, and that’s a big part of it; but how we relate to one another, as husband and wife, is just as important. In fact, in some ways, it may be more important to the emotional safety that our kids feel.
That’s why we’re so committed, here at FamilyLife, to providing practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families because we want kids to grow up in safe homes. We’ve got copies of Dr. Joshua Straub’s book by that title, Safe House. The book is available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to request your copy. Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order the book by phone when you call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask about the book, Safe House, when you get in touch with us.
You know, we have got a couple of champions that we want to wish a “Happy anniversary!” to today. Their names are Darryl and Sharon Champion. They are a couple of champions. “Congratulations!” to Darryl and Sharon, who have been married 30 years.
They’re marriage champions; right?—been married 30 years today. They live in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. They listen to FamilyLife Today and have been recently to one of our Weekend to Remember® getaways. We wanted to just say, “Happy Anniversary!” because we think anniversaries matter.
We think it’s important when couples stay together 20 and 30 and 40 and 50 years. In fact, what we do, here at FamilyLife, is to try to help make that happen. We’re all about effectively developing godly marriages and families because we believe those kinds of marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time.
And we want to say, “Thank you,” today to those of you who join with us in this mission as you donate to help defray the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We couldn’t do what we do without your help, and we’re grateful for you. If you’d like to make a donation today, it’s easy. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com—make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about when you ought to show grace to a child who has disobeyed and when you ought to allow them to experience consequences. We’ve got some thoughts about that—we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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