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Parenting Outside the Bubble


There are two sides of this “responsible parenting” red-rover game. The Experience parent wants their kids to see what the world is all about. The Bubble parent wants to shelter and protect their kids from anything worldly. The Experience  parent says that we should let our kids see and experience the world  from the safety and comfort of our own. The Bubble parent says that it’s our duty to protect our kids from an evil culture and world that wants to expose them to things before they are ready.

The Experience  parent says that if you don’t expose your kids to some things, then they will grow up wanting to eat the forbidden fruit of rated R movies and alcohol, and then not know how to manage their freedom successfully. The Bubble parent says that if you expose your kids to too much, then they will begin to feed their sinful desires from a young age and will never develop healthy guard rails against sin.

Who’s right?

How much of the world should I expose my kids too?

Why should we expose them at all?

How much of my own experience should I take into account?

Could we add another segment of parents, while agreeing that both sides carry some truth on their sides?

I’ll call this alternative parenting style, “my own personal style.” I’d encourage you to develop your own as well. Do what your experience tells you, and more importantly; what you feel is most spiritually important for your own family and kids.

Here’s some of what I do:

  • We do things together. There are some PG-13 movies I’d let my 9 year-old watch, but only when watched with me. I prefer to watch those movies from the comfort of my own living room, thereby giving me the luxury of the “PAUSE” button. Sometimes there are scenes with language that should demand some conversation of our own about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.
  • We talk about everything. We talk about the scary things, the dirty things, the sexy things, the inappropriate things, and I lead the discussion. When you talk about the “unmentionables” then you take away their power.
    • For example, a few weeks ago I got my 9 and 11 year old to share with me every, single, dirty word they had ever heard. I told them what they meant, in some embarrassing detail…  Why did I do this? Because the words themselves don’t have power. The reasons behind someone would use this language holds all the power. That’s what I really wanted to talk to my kids about.
  • I control what happens (movies, music, conversations, etc…) I’m the dad, and I get to be in charge. I wish some other dads would stop being embarrassed by what their kids already know.
  • We do hard things together. I’ve walked through hard things with my kids. Those experiences in foster care, and moving cross-country have been painful and helpful all at the same time.
  • I admit to not having all the answers. I really don’t have them all. I need some help. I pray to God for help. I seek out guidance from those older and more further along this journey than me. Most importantly, I let my kids see my own struggles to come up with the right thing to say in every situation. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Neil Westbrook · May 31, 2013

    Hi! I just discovered your blog. It’s great! Thank you for this post. I struggle with this specific issue as a pastor. Thanks again! (www.neilwestbrookblog.com)

  2. Jonathan Cliff · May 31, 2013

    Thanks for the comment Neil. I struggle, you struggle, and I think we all struggle! :)