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.
In this way I agree with Dobson that there is wisdom in avoiding sleepovers. But here’s where I disagree: that the risk is that much higher today than it was decades ago.
The dangers of sleepovers have changed since we were kids.
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.
When I was young I had some bad experiences with sleepovers. Nothing devastating happened to me, but I did learn that sleepovers bring a certain vulnerability and that children often behave foolishly in these circumstances. Before long my family came to know the local chief of police and he told us that if he had learned anything in his many years of law enforcement it was this: Don’t let your kids sleep over.
As I got older I learned of several people I knew who had been taken advantage of during sleepovers, and it wasn’t a perverse father in most cases, but a predatory older brother or sister or cousin. Sometimes it was even the friend himself. The world was plenty dangerous back then and children were just as vulnerable, but somehow these things weren’t talked about as they are today.
As Aileen and I considered all of this and weighed it in our minds, we decided that the benefits of sleepovers did not outweigh the risks.
Denny Burk writes, “Parents must be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves when figuring out the best way to protect children from both. Moreover, parents will often have to pursue principles that might seem strange to the rest of the world but which are the only rational responses to very real and potential threats to children.” Burk believes we need to challenge the assumption of sleepover-as-norm, and I quite agree. Do not allow yourself to feel pressured into sleepovers simply because it is what parents have always done. Instead, consider the issues and come to a conclusion that is right for your family and your context.
I would be interested to know: Do you allow sleepovers? Why or why not?