Raising children who are committed to purity doesn't happen by accident. Yes, kids DO have a free will. And yes at times they will exercise that will despite what you have taught them as a parent. It's true, sometimes "kids do the darndest things"! At the same time, I know there are things you can do that will definitely put the odds in your favor that they will make the right decisions.
I made a few decisions regarding my children that I will never regret. I realize they aren't perfect kids. And yes I realize they still have some growing up to do, and of course they will make mistakes. Even so it's important to keep mentoring, training and instructing our children about purity.
Today I'm going to share three things Larry and I feel strongly about regarding this.
We never punish them or make them feel punished for asking a question.
When I was a young child, if I heard something about a controversial subject (such as sex), perhaps a word I didn't understand or a sexual term, and I went to my parents and said, "what does this word mean?" they would usually respond with a frightened: "Where did you hear that?" If I said, "Over at Susie's house..." or "on TV" then what swiftly happened was that I never went to Susie's house again, or I was never allowed to watch that TV show again. The "source" of info suddenly became a problem. I remember the fact that the subject of my question seemed a moot point but the main thing suddenly became getting me away from the influence of whoever told me what I just heard. This is not so uncommon among many Christian parents.
Now, I realize my parents were just trying their best and doing what they knew how to do at the time. Before I get any comments about me being hard on my parents, let me say I don't say this as a statement of blame, simply sharing my experience. First, I realize nobody gets an instruction manual on what to do when you have kids. Second, I realize parenting is the hardest job on earth. And yes, I know it was their way of protecting me and I know they did that out of love, not wanting to harm me. Third, I'm a firm believer in learning from every experience both good and bad. But my point is simply this - it didn't work. Because what that taught me at a very young age was this... (these were my thoughts)
"I can't tell Mom and Dad anything.
I will immediately be punished for asking a question.
I will lose my friends.
I might not get to watch TV again.
I might have to change schools. (I didn't want to - I loved school.)
If people say words I don't understand, just keep them a secret at least until I figure out what it is some other way...
or find out from somebody else."
I determined I would never take this route when I became a parent. Sometimes being a parent is scary, however you cannot parent out of fear. If your kids fear your reactions they will not tell you anything, until it's too late and they are already in a mess.
We don't have a one time talk.
"The talk" is when you buy the book on sex that you get from a reputable Christian bookstore and sit down and go through it and nervously read everything and then say..."do you have any questions?" and pray they don't. Many if not most parents tend to do this. But no, I decided that wasn't for me either as a parent and Larry was thankfully 100% in agreement on that. So, back in 1989 we set about having kids ourselves and doing it they way we felt God leading us to do.
My children don't have to worry that they are going to be punished or that their lives are instantly and drastically going to change because they just opened their mouths. I know you are wondering...if the kids come home and ask about something very controversial they heard from a friend, do I just let them go to their house, spend the night, go places with them, etc. when they have questionable values?" No. Our strategy is to make our home a place where all their friends can come - whether they believe in our values or not, the key is, they are in our home where I can keep a watchful eye on things. I believe a big key when your children are growing up is to make your house the center of activity for them and their friends.
Larry and I are firm believers in making our house "the house all the kids want to come to". At any given time our house has at least three to four extra kids besides ours, hanging out, spending the night, sometimes for days at a time. Larry teases several of them that he needs their social security number to start claiming them on our taxes because for all intents and purposes we basically take care of them and feed them constantly. Many of my children's friends have become Christians and it started first not by coming to church but by being at our house all the time. I always advise parents, "make your house the fun house" - the place all the kids want to hang out. I want them all here so I can know what's going on. Does this require time? Extra money? Yes. I've spend thousands in pizza money. But it's worth it.
Regarding questionable things that they may hear in any form of media - rather than try to keep them away from the media (how impossible in today's society anyway) I choose to let it be a springboard for discussion.
When we first had kids I remember listening to a Christian counselor on the radio who said, "when is a child old enough to get answers about sex? When they ask them." Some disagree and say, "well some just aren't old enough and that's that" but I believe you can share the truth with them in an age appropriate way. You must start the converstion early -- for their protection -- especially in this day and age. It doesn't matter whether they are public schooled, Christian schooled or homeschooled - kids are going to hear stuff. For that matter, in this day and age they will hear it before they even start school. I always wanted to be the first to share with my children and give them my perspective, which is from the Word of God.
We have been teaching and training our kids about this since they were just little. Most of our instruction happened not opening a book nervously on the sofa and proceeding with fear and trembling, but instead in casual conversation around the dinner table. Most days my children would come home with a story from school. When they were just in elementary school, Dustin would come home and tell me about a kid in his class with behavior problems who banged his head on the floor. So we'd talk about why that might be for a few moments and then he'd say, "Mom, another boy in my class has parents who are getting divorced..." so we'd talk about divorce for a few minutes and what God says in His word about it. I'd not only tell him what God thinks about divorce but then we'd pray for the kid whose parent was going through the divorce. Since they were just little we've talked about drugs, alcohol abuse and smoking. The conversation over the days to come would roll around to, "Dad or Mom, a girl in my class said someone she knows has herpes. What is herpes?" So we would talk about it. We would cover what it is, how a person gets it, etc. At our dinnertable we have talked about everything from STD's to pregnancy, to AIDS, to abortion, to oral sex, to sexual abuse to YOU NAME IT. There is nothing off limits for the kids to ask us about and we answer it based upon the Word of God. And they do not have to fear us punishing them, or taking any swift action to make them drop friends from their life or click off any TV show or song that has a controversial subject. I think many parents tell their kids, "you can tell me ANYTHING" but - DO THEY REALLY MEAN IT?
A series of ongoing talks, open-ended talks, has proven very helpful for us.
We tell them what they have to look forward to.
The third thing we've done that I don't regret is that we have made a big deal of what our kids have to look forward to if they do things GOD'S WAY. Some people just tell their kids, "Don't have sex before marriage. It's wrong..." and then proceed to tell them everything that can go wrong if they do.
While sharing possible negative consequences is important, we also need to be teaching them about GOD'S GIFT. The Bible says all good gifts come from God the father above. Sex is one of His greatest gifts that He gives us in marriage. Our kids need to know that something great is in store for them! They need to realize the importance of making right decisions as teenagers and young adults so that they will one day be able to get married and enjoy freely God's gift without any hindrances on their lives.
In our home as well, we have talked openly to our kids about the fact that sex is one of God's greatest blessings in our marriage. They know that Larry and I have a marriage that includes intimacy. They know that we prioritize dates, romantic getaways, and Dustin sometimes teases us about the varieties of music he hears coming out of our room at times. While we don't flaunt our sex life to them neither do we go to great lengths to hide the fact that it exists. Children have to be taught these things and it teaches them and trains them about the importance of spending this time when they are married themselves. The kids need to know we are not just buddies, but we have a romantic relationship that we give priority to.
Our three kids seem very, very committed to God's plan for marriage, and at the same time they seem very excited about experiencing God's gift for them within the covenant of marriage. They talk to us about their struggles, their hopes, their dreams.
Larry and I are very often asked by the young parents of our church, "when do you start talking to your kids about sex, and drugs, and all that stuff...?" well, this is what we tell them.
For those taking notes (and some of you have told me you are!) just summarize today's post as this:
1) Create an atmosphere where your kids can tell you anything without fear.
2) Have a series of on-going talks.
3) Emphasize to them the blessings they have to look forward to as they obey God's Word.