The Parable of the Sapling

A Case for ‘Sheltering’

This is a Guest Post Written by Austin Pruitt


Peer pressure dominates our society, children and adults alike. However, I believe that children are affected the most by negative peer pressure because they are young, impressionable, vulnerable, and their emotional and spiritual “roots” have not yet had time to fully develop. A child can be compared to a sapling that is trying to grow into a tree. While a sapling is still small and weak, it can be destroyed by even gentle rainfall or by an animal that unknowingly steps on it while running through the field. A sapling must have an extremely safe and nurturing environment while it’s in the initial stages of growing. Some gardeners will insist on giving a young sapling a greenhouse initially so that it can grow; a shelter where the elements are controlled and are therefore perfect for healthy growth.

After a few years of growing in the greenhouse, a saplings’ roots have had a chance to stretch deeper into the soil and the trunk has become thicker and taller – the sapling is now a small tree. Now, even heavy rainfall won’t harm the tree. Rather, the rain only gives the tree more nourishment so that it can continue to grow taller and stronger. At this point, the gardener decides to relocate the tree from the greenhouse to the open field. But, even though the small tree is stronger and thus gets to develop outdoors, a small chain-link fence will sometimes be erected to form a circle around the tree for added protection. Also, even though the gardener can rely on the rain to provide nourishment, he or she must also remain constantly vigilant as the tree continues to grow.

More time passes, and the tree has now grown to become 30 feet tall with roots that extend 30 feet into the ground. At this point, it’s important to remember that even though the tree is 10,000 times stronger than it was as a sapling, that doesn’t mean it’s not indestructible. A hurricane, or a tornado, or a monsoon could still uproot the tree. No living thing on this earth is indestructible. Even so, now that the gardener has nurtured and protected this tree for many years, he or she can be at peace in knowing that the tree will, most likely, be able to stand strong and weather the storms of life for decades to come. If it weren’t for the gardener, chances are that the tree would not survived this long. But now, the need for the gardener has passed.


I wrote this parable in order to illustrate a basic principle. I want parents to not be ashamed when they provide a more “sheltered” environment for their younger children. Shelter is, after all, one of the basic human needs for survival (like food and water). All human beings, young and old, must have shelter, but children need it most of all.

As a parent, don’t be ashamed to use a “greenhouse” if necessary in order to give your “sapling” a chance to grow into a mighty tree. Once your child has developed deep roots and is ready to take on the hail-storms of life, then you can stand back and watch with pride as your little “sapling” stands firm and faces life’s trials with fortitude and resilience. When your child is the President of the United States you can have the last laugh as you recall the snobby know-it-all education “experts” who called you a “helicopter parent”.






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