A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

Talking to Your Kids about Sex

fatherson-talkThe Background

I had an amazing talk with Ethan a few weeks ago while he was still eight years old. No, it was not THE TALK. It was rather one of many talks that we have had and hopefully will continue to have over the years to come. Let me give you some background.

The fact of the matter is while I can technically say I was a virgin when I got married, I messed up a lot with sexuality throughout high school and college. I have experiences I truly regret that continue to have an emotional and spiritual impact even now. I don’t want my children to go through that. So, in order to keep them from making sexual mistakes I had a plan. I would hide everything about sex I possibly could from them and then scare the living daylights out of them about the rest. Then it occurred to me. That was my dad’s sex education plan. I only remember one talk with him ever. He warned me before I left for college that some girl would find out I wanted to be pure and she would set her sights on me and try to “conquer” me. Sadly, I was 17 and my hormones were raging and while the spiritual side of me was saying, “Oh, how awful,” the other side of me was saying, “I sure hope so.” In that little bit of self-admission can you see the problem with the “hide and scare” sex education plan? 

Hiding it only produces curiosity. The fear only produces rebellion. That is what it produced in me and I realized it would produce that in my kids. Sadly, I was curious about sexuality but I was afraid to talk to my parents about it and learn from them. So, I learned about sex at school (and I don’t mean from health class), work and from pornography-whether it was the locker room brag sessions, the clandestine centerfold passed around under the teacher’s nose, the stories of the sexually active girls and guys I worked with or the video one of the guys on my dorm floor rented and showed in his room. 

Let me ask you, is that how you want your kids to learn about sex? Trust me. if you purposefully or even unconsciously take the “hide and scare” method, that is exactly where your kids will learn about it. Gone are the days where we can hide sex from our kids and they make it to marriage and just learn for themselves (even if you are a homeschooler). The fact is, if you don’t take the upper hand on this one and inoculate your kids with healthy teaching and exposure to sexuality you better know that Satan will get it into their little hands somehow. I know about one child who was told how to unlock some easter egg of pornographic pictures on a video game by another kid in his bible class. If you want to know how really bad it can get, I know of a story of a teenage girl who met with her youth minister to ask a question about oral sex. She had a rep among the boys in the youth group as being pretty good at it but was starting to have second thoughts about whether it was right. What a rude awakening for the youth minister. 

Do you get the point? Dads, Moms start thinking about how you are going to talk to your kids. Go a step further. Start talking to them about it.

The Talk

So back to my conversation with Ethan.

Ethan has started Cub Scouts again. One of the very first things we have to go through is “safety” training in which I read to Ethan some safety rules about strangers and such. Included in that was the rule that his body is his body and he doesn’t have to let anyone do anything to his body that makes him feel uncomfortable. As part of that process, we went through some scenarios and he was to respond how he could act. For instance, if a man pulls up while he is playing in the yard and says, “Hey pal, can you come help me find my dog?” Ethan knows to say, “No. But I’ll get my Dad and he can help you.” 

Another scenario was what should he do if someone offers to show him pictures of naked people. WOW! Didn’t expect that from the Cub Scouts, but kudos to them for putting it in there. Now, the old me didn’t want Ethan to know that it was even possible to see pictures of naked people anywhere. What was I going to do with this? I could just skip it. But I didn’t. I went ahead and asked him. Of course, he gave the right answer. “I’d tell them no and come home.”

What would I do next? I could have said, “Great answer, Son,” and moved on to the scenario about the missing dog. Instead, I probed a little. I didn’t tape the conversation, so this isn’t word for word, but it went something like this:

“I bet that would be hard to say no to. I mean, bet you’re a little curious what a naked woman looks like aren’t you.”

“Yes sir,” he responded.

“What do you think you should do even though you are really curious?” I asked.

“I should still say no.”

“That’s right. You know what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being curious about what a naked woman looks like. God made us to grow up and be sexual people and curiosity is part of that. But did you know that God has a plan through which we can learn all about our curiosities about women?”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. He has given us marriage. When you get married, you’ll be able to see the woman you marry naked and learn all about it and learn to enjoy it. And if you wait until then to pursue your curiosity it will be a great thing.”

I continued, “Let me ask you, Ethan. Has anyone ever tried to show you a picture of naked women?”

I inwardly sighed with relief when he said, “No sir.”

“Very good. I have to tell you when I was your age, I was out playing baseball with some guys and one guy brought a picture of a naked woman and I was really curious…”

Ethan interrupted, “But you said no way, I’m not looking, didn’t you.”

“I wish I had said that. Sadly, I didn’t. I looked. And you know what. It didn’t take my curiosity away. It just made it stronger and made it harder for me to say no when I was older. It taught me all kinds of wrong things about women and sex. It even has caused problems for me up to today with your mom. That’s why I’m telling you about this. Because I want to protect you from that kind of harm.”

I went on, “Because I’ve done some wrong things, I want to do everything in my power to help you avoid those wrong things because I know how harmful they are. I so want you to be be pure as you grow older. However, I also want you to know that if you make a mistake like I did, you can come talk to me about it. I know that I will be sad for you. But I remember when I made mistakes, I was very upset at me and I needed to talk to someone but I didn’t feel like I could because I knew I would just get in trouble. I want you to know if you make a mistake, I won’t be happy about it, but you can talk to me about it and I will still love you. I’ll be there to help you get over it and get past it. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes sir. How much longer do we have to do this?”

I cut him loose at that point.

The Keys

Key points I hope you got out of that conversation.

1) Talk about sex as if it is completely natural. I want my kids to know talking to me and their mom about sex is the most natural place to talk about it.

2) Affirm that curiosity about sexuality is natural. My son is not a freak or a pervert because he is curious about naked women. Neither is yours. And let me assure you if your son is getting close to 10 he is curious about naked women. I’m just glad that my son felt safe enough to be honest with me about it.

3) Express God’s plan for pursuing our curiosity in a positive light. Too many parents spend so much time being negative about sex when they talk about it that kids grow up afraid of sex even in marriage.

4) Non-judgmentally discuss what experiences they have had or might have had. If, God forbid, someone ever does show my son a picture of a naked woman, I want him to feel comfortable telling me about it so I can help him work through the feelings of excitement, guilt, curiosity and shame it will produce.

5) Share your own mistakes and their consequences. I used to be afraid doing this would provide tacit permission for my kids to make the same mistakes. I imagine in some few cases that will happen. However, now I realize it actually produces two positive results. First, it helps them feel comfortable talking with me if they make a mistake. They know I’ve made mistakes and so I won’t simply be sitting in judgment over them. Second, it lets them know in a non-threatening way how negative improper sexual conduct is and how it will impact their lives. In other words, it provides them with honesty where as the kids at school and the pornographers either have no idea what sexual acting out does or they ignore it and just lie to them.

6) Assure your children they can talk to you even about their mistakes and you will still love them. Again, I want my kids to know they can talk to me. If my son or daughter ends up going “too far” on a date, I don’t want them hiding that on the inside. Such isolation will only breed shame that will likely drive them to act out further the next time. Talking to me may provide the relief and forgiveness and education that helps them overcome and not commit the same mistake twice.

There is no foolproof plan for this. I don’t think there is a set way to teach about sex that will absolutely assure your children will never make a mistake. But I think this approach is better than the “hide and scare” tactic I was placing so much stock in before. I offer it to you for what it’s worth.

talking-to-your-kids-about-sex

 

As I close, let me share with you the book that has helped me out the most on this topic. I encourage you to get it and read it. It helps lay out a plan for age appropriate sexual education beginning with infancy on through the early adult years. It is Mark Laaser’s Talking to Your Kids About Sex: How to Have a Lifetime of Age-Appropriate Conversations with Your Children About Healthy Sexuality.

 

 

 

AN APOLOGY: My apologies for the inadvertent stumbling block associated with this post by the “related topics” links that were automatically generated by someone other than me. I have learned that a few inappropriate links were generated. I believe I have disabled that feature, but for all those who first read this while the links were still there, I apologize. Thank you for continuing to read my blog.

Advertisements

November 11, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, My Family, parenting, Raising Kids, Sex and Sexuality | , , , | 3 Comments

How to Seize Teaching Opportunities with Your Kids OR Natural Consequences vs. Punishment

ethan-eye-examI nearly lost a great opportunity yesterday. 

Ethan, my 8 years and 362 days old son, walked into the house without his glasses. I was busily preparing to present a lesson on the Kingdom of Heaven at the Jackson Heights Church of Christ in Columbia, Tennessee. I was already stressed because I was behind and under the gun. Ethan said, “Dad, I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”

It took me a moment to process. “What?”

“I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”

“Are you saying you left your glasses on the bus?”

“No. I left them on Jacob’s backpack.”

“Wasn’t Jacob’s backpack on the bus?”

“Yes.”

My blood pressure started rising. Jacob lives next door so I hustled Ethan off to see if Jacob had his glasses. Of course not. Jacob said he put them on the seat beside Ethan so Ethan could find them. Yeah well, we already know how well that plan worked. Fortunately, we live in the middle of a loop the bus has to make so it actually passes by our house twice. We waited in the middle of the road. Ethan was frolicking with his siblings seemingly oblivious to the financial crisis he was putting us in. I, on the other hand, was about to lose it. 

We stopped the bus, but no glasses. The driver assured us she would look for them. I talked to her this morning. No glasses. Who knows what has happened to the glasses. Probably one of the kids saw them and grabbed them. I hope it was someone who knew they were Ethan’s and decided to hold on to them to give them back this morning. However, I don’t have too much hope for that.

Can you see where I nearly lost a great opportunity yet? I was already stressed and this was just a bit too much. I almost lost it. In fact, I was so mad I told all the family to just leave me alone because I was about to come unglued and behave inappropriately. Gratefully, as I went back to my lesson, I recalled the number of mistakes I have made that have cost me all kinds of money. Then it hit me. When I make a mistake that costs me money, who pays for it? Not my parents. I do.

This is not a time to be overflowing with anger. This is a life lesson in the making. This is a time to teach consequences. 

I had a little heart to heart with my very precious near birthday boy. 

“Ethan, I’m sorry I was so angry. I’m trying to get over that. The fact is, everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes that have cost all kinds of money. I’m upset that you were careless but we all do that sometimes. Here’s the problem. When I make mistakes, guess who has to pay for it?”

“You do, Dad.”

“That’s right. I do. Now that you’ve made a mistake, guess who needs to pay for it?”

“Me?” He said it in the form of a question clearly hoping he was mistaken.

“Yes. You. Your birthday is on Thursday. Any money you get is going to have to pay for some new glasses if you don’t find them.” 

Then I showed him his bank account balance online from the 8 years of saving gift money and other savings and I said, “Here is your bank account for going to college or buying a car one day. Here is the balance. Whatever is left over after your birthday money will have to come out of your savings and you won’t be able to use it when you get older for whatever you wanted.”

He immediately started crying. For a moment I was crushed. But I held on. This was the right thing. After all, what would happen if he was careless with his glasses and learned that a new pair would just magically appear? He certainly wouldn’t learn to take care of his glasses or anything else. 

Of course, later he said something to his sister about being punished by having to pay for his glasses. I pulled him aside and said, “Oh buddy, you misunderstood. I’m not punishing you by making you pay for your glasses. Punishment would be if I spanked you or grounded you or removed some privilege. This isn’t punishment. This is natural consequences. If I lost my glasses, who would have to pay for them? That’s right, me. That wouldn’t be punishment. That would simply be what I had to do because I lost my glasses. You need to learn that lesson too. Sometimes everyone is careless and makes mistakes. But when we do, we have to pay for it. If you can learn that lesson now, you will miss out on a lot of heartache as you get older.”

As you can see, because I allowed myself to get angry in the moment, I almost lost this golden teaching opportunity. It was almost merely a time for me to shout and holler and generally be foolish in front of my kids. Gratefully, by God’s grace, I was able to seize the moment. It wasn’t easy for me and it won’t be easy for Ethan (especially on his birthday on Thursday), but in the long run it will make his life easier. I’m sure of that.

November 4, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Disciplining Children, Finances, My Family, parenting, Raising Kids | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Church and Family Togetherness (an excerpt)

Built by the Lord

Check out the book today!

If you haven’t read the last two Springboards for Your Family Life as part of this series, I encourage you to read “The Great American Struggle” and “Meaningful Together Time” first. That will get you caught up for this final installment in the series.

The Church and Family Togetherness

At this point we enter some muddy waters. The modern trend is for churches to provide activities for all the young people. Even if the activities are scriptural in nature, I begin to question the ultimate benefit of the church being overly involved in this.

Churches, instead of being another institution that separates the family into age categories, ought to do everything possible to get families together. We must remember the church is not supposed to take the place of the family.

Satan is working in our culture to rip our families to shreds. Churches must stand as shining beacons to overcome Satan in this by drawing families together in Christ. Perhaps we really should encourage kids to sit with their families in worship. Maybe we should try family-based Bible classes sometimes and not just age-segregated classes. Maybe we should teach fathers and mothers to train their children instead of just scheduling another training class at which parents drop off their kids. I am not sure all the ways this can be done, but I am sure we need to examine this.

Whatever the approach of the congregation, we must keep in mind our family has got to stay together. What are we doing to draw our families closer? In our culture this kind of togetherness does not happen accidentally. If we are not doing something to accomplish this on purpose, we are probably not going to accomplish it.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, parenting, Raising Kids | , , , , | 6 Comments

Meaningful Together Time (an excerpt)

Built by the Lord

Check out the book today!

If you didn’t read last week’s A Springboard for Your Family Life, check it out for the first part of this chapter on “Keeping the Family Together.” Click the link below.

The Great American Struggle

Meaningful Together Time

let me make one thing perfectly clear. To my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with any of the activities mentioned in the previous section in and of themselves. The answer to the problem is not necessarily to end all extra-curricular activities (though some may take that approach). The point is, with so many opportunities waiting to take each family member away from the family unit, we have to be on our guard to preserve family togetherness.

There is only one way to do this. We must carve out and schedule meaningful family together time. Further, we must not buy into the modern mumbo-jumbo saying, “It’s about quality time not quantity time.” There is not a single person out there who can teach us how to prefab quality time into fifteen minute chunks no matter how many books you by with questions to stimulate “meaningful” conversation. Quality time is the result of quantity time. There is no way around that.

Deuteronomy 6:7 provides some interesting insight to quality time. I recognize this passage talks about the Israelites passing the Law on to their children. We typically use this passage, rightly so, to discuss passing the gospel on to ours. However, let’s look at it from a broader base. the verse says, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

These Israelites were able to have quality time, passing the Law to their children because they spent time sitting together in the house and walking together in the way. They had time together when they got up and before they went to bed. do we take that kind of time together with our families?

We need to make time for the whole family to sit together in the house. Meal time is a great time for this. However, there ought to be other times as well. By time together, I do not mean time in the same house, but each in separate rooms. There needs to be time when all the televisions and computers are turned off, when all the phones are in the cradles and Mom, Dad and the kids are together.

Many of us wonder, “What on earth is there to do if we have turned off the tv and computers?” Read a book together and discuss what happens. Visit with one another the same way you would if you had company. Discuss what has happened in your individual lives that day. Ask each other for advice. Confide in each other. Play games together. A lot of life’s lessons can be passed along over a game of Yahtzee or dominoes.

let me encourage you to resist the urge to make all of your family time movie time. Watching television is always an individual activity no matter who you are sitting next to. Each person is individually interacting with what is on the screen. No one is interacting with each other. When you do have movie time as a family time, make sure to discuss the movie together afterwards. What did you learn from it? What were your favorite parts? What were you least favorite? What did you think when so and so said such and such? And so on.

Of course, as Deuteronomy 6:7 directly states, you need to study God’s word together and teach God’s word. Look at the book of Proverbs. The whole book is a parent’s recognition he has to teach his children. Do not think sermons and Bible classes are enough to teach your kids to be faithful Christians. They are not and God never intended them to be.

Along these same lines, the next time you go to a group Bible study, prayer time or singing, have your kids stay and be involved. Don’t send them off to the play room, tacitly teaching them that spiritual things are too big for them. Even if they do not get to say anything or ask any questions, what a great opportunity your kids will have to hear adults discuss the Bible and how it impacts their lives.

One more opportunity for together time is working together. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons we do not have time with family that our Bible counterparts had. Why did Mom and Dad have the ability to walk in the way with their children? They were going to the same places. When Mom was walking to the river with the clothes, little Susie was walking with her. When Dad was walking to the fields to plow, little Billy was walking with him.

We live in a different work culture. It is well nigh impossible to go back to that kind of work culture and I doubt any of us really want to. However, we need to figure out ways to work together as a family. Get the kids involved in yard work. Have them help you clean the house. Go together to someone who has a need and work together meeting the need. Visit the sick and shut-in together. Talk with each other as you walk in these ways. I guarantee you, the more of this time you spend together, the more quality moments you will rack up.

There is one more way the Old Testament demonstrated for producing family togetherness. In the Old Testament, we see memorials that set the Israelites apart as a group and prompted time to pass their faith along to their children. Consider passages like Exodus 12:25-27. God established an annual memorial to pas on Israel’s identity as His special people. When the family observed the Passover together every year, the children would eventually ask about it. There was quality time that came out of quantity time.

Certainly, it is good for you to have memorials of spiritual significance. However, we can broaden this concept, realizing family traditions provide family togetherness prompting quality time and meaningful interaction. Those traditions, whether they surround holidays, birthdays or any other aspect of family life, will provide a marker, causing your family to identify with one another.

Family traditions do not have to be anything out of this world. I know one family whose tradition is what they call “worm cakes.” It is essentially a bundt cake cut in half and pieced together to look like a worm. then it is decorated with colored icing. Oreos are crushed up to provide dirt. It is given jelly bean or M & M eyes. They might lay gummy worms around it to be its friends. Sometimes they use licorice sticks to make hair. Each one is decorated differently. These cakes were used on birthdays, holidays, special events. Amazingly enough these little cakes became so important, when this family’s two sons got married, guess what kind of cake they wanted for their groom’s cake. That’s right–a worm cake. Not much, just a family tradition providing great memories and togetherness.

Check out next Tuesday’s A Springboard for Your Family Life to finish up this little series from Built by the Lord as we examine how churches should act to help promote family together time.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, parenting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment