Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14
At some point, every parent and child will ask, “How can I talk to you about this?” The simplest question about sex from the mouth of your child can send shivers up the back of all of us. And our kids will have hundreds of questions about love, sex, dating, and relationships as they grow up! When it does happen, when they do ask those sometimes hard-to-answer questions, we grown-ups often vacillate between feeling all flustered and tongue-tied or traveling clear to the other end of the spectrum and getting a heart-pounding sense of duty to communicate everything on this delicate subject perfectly so as not to warp our children forever. Often we feel much like the parent in this story:
One day a grade-schooler came home and in the middle of doing her spelling homework she asked her mother, “How do you get babies?”
Flustered, the mother rambled, explaining about the birds and bees and body parts. She waxed on about moral responsibility and wise choices. Her daughter sat wide-eyed and mouth gaping open as she tried to process the barrage of information.
The next day while the little girl sat doing her homework again, she proclaimed to her mother, “Mom! I know how to make babies!”
Mom smiled, thinking the talk had gone better than she first thought. Then her daughter said, “Our teacher told us today. You drop the y and add ies!
Imperfect in delivery—but this mom’s heart was in the right place because she cared! And you care too. You picked up this book because you care. You care about your child’s, your tween’s, or your teen’s well-being. You care about his or her choices. You care about every part of their lives, even one of the most sensitive, yet most vital areas of their soul: their sexual identity, sexual choices, and future sexual enjoyment. You are to be commended. As a parent, you are a cut above average. You are willing to step out and step into the whirlwind of controversy, questions, and continual avalanche of information (some good and some bad) on this topic. You are reaching out and walking into this unknown place because deep in your heart, you want to protect your child from pain and provide him or her with the happiest possible future. If we could give you a medal for being a brave, concerned, involved parent, we would. You are our hero, but more importantly, you are a hero to your son or daughter.
What Is a Hero?
Because this book was written during wartime, with the media daily flashing stories of the heroic, we want to draw a comparison between you, the parent, and our brave men and women in uniform who fight to defend our democracy and liberty. They put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. These heroes do so because they believe in a greater cause: freedom.
We had the awesome honor of being asked to speak at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the soldiers in the Wounded Warrior unit at a couples’ date night. One of the soldiers there shared a list of his injuries with us: brain trauma, shrapnel throughout his body from an exploding IED, a broken shoulder, and a leg shattered from the knee down. The broken leg wasn’t discovered for months after the explosion because this soldier just kept using it!
I (Pam) was so overcome with emotion, I fumbled for words. “Oh, dear! That is quite a list! I am thankful you are here…thankful you are alive!”
He replied, “I promised my family I would come home. They can try to blow me up. They can shoot my legs out from under me. They can break my shoulder so bad that with every step it sends excruciating pain throughout my body. But if I can move, if I can crawl, if I can drag myself forward, if my heart is still beating in my body, I will come home—whatever it takes—whatever it takes!”
Everyone within earshot—especially his wife—was crying at his heroism. The soldier had hobbled and crawled for miles, every move sending searing pain through his body. He had vowed to make it to safety so his kids and family could be safer too. His desire to stay alive for his children imprinted a heroic picture of love in my mind. But his words “Whatever it takes, whatever it takes,” compelled and motivated us once again to never give up, never give in when it comes to our own children.
Whatever It Takes
The Bible shares a story of a great hero, a hero to our hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and futures. One of the writers of the New Testament, Paul, explained the hero’s actions this way:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-9).
The hero I’m talking about? Jesus. He wasn’t thinking about Himself when He died on the cross. He was thinking about you; He was thinking about me; He was thinking about our kids and His desire to set us all free from the chains of our own sins. We were on His heart and He was so other-centered He did whatever it took to keep us free.
This passage also calls us to follow His other-centered mindset. And this command is repeated numerous times, as in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” We are to walk in the “way of love”—His sacrificial love. Living with others in mind is heroic because it is counterintuitive. We are all born selfish, after all. Heroism goes against our fallen nature. By nature we would rather opt for self-protection. And that self-protective attitude can make us timid rather than heroic. If you’re honest with yourself, when it comes to talking to your children and planning how to best care for and guard their futures, thoughts like these might have already gone through your mind. They’ve sure gone through ours!
• All this sex talk makes me feel uncomfortable!
• What if I give them stupid advice?
• What if I am not the cool parent anymore?
• What if my child doesn’t like what I say?
• What if my child doesn’t like me because of my views?
• What if I look bad because I didn’t do everything right?
All those statements have the word me or I in them. They are self-focused. When it comes to helping your child, you have to decide in your heart that it is not about you: It’s about your kid and it’s about God. When you make that choice, you, as a concerned parent, are placing the needs of your child first. That is a heroic decision.
Heroes Need Help Too
Heroes don’t have to know everything. Here are some legitimate questions you might ask yourself as you teach your child about sex:
• How do I know when to begin talking about sex with my child?
• What do I say? When should I say it? And where should it be said?
• How can I balance protecting my child’s innocence yet make him or her savvy enough to not follow the crowd or be abused?
• Who can I trust to help me figure this out?
• What do I do if I made mistakes in the area of sex and dating? How can I give advice to my own kid when I messed up so badly?
• How can I be tactful and tasteful yet specific and accurate?
• How can I handle my own pain or fears if I was abused, yet still hand down a positive view of sex to my kids?
• Where do I find the guts to do this?
You are not alone in your questions, fears, or discomfort. One journal in pediatric medicine explains,
Because most parents do not feel comfortable or competent talking with their adolescents about sexual issues, they tend to limit conversations to “safe” topics, such as developmental changes (e.g., menstruation and other pubertal changes), impersonal aspects of sexuality (e.g., reproductive facts), and negative consequences, such as AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. In contrast, parents tend to avoid or cover in a cursory way more private topics, such as masturbation, the psychological and experiential aspects of sexuality such as orgasm or sexual decision-making, and how to obtain and use condoms. It is, therefore, not surprising that a significant majority of both adolescents and parents feel dissatisfied with such restricted communication about sexuality. In general, teenagers perceive a gap between the topics that their parents cover during sexual discussions and the more delicate topics about which they are concerned.1
It is our goal in this book to lessen your stress—and the stress on your children—by offering some easy-to-use researched information, quick-to-find tools, and helpful conversation starters. And we’ll try to make you laugh along the way, because there’s nothing like laughter to take the awkwardness out of having “the talk!”
A Battle for Love
Why spend so much time reminding you that you’re the hero of your kids’ hearts and lives? Because it’s a battle out there! What with the discourse and dialogue about sexual choices, the definition of marriage and family, the discussion of what is right, moral, pure, good, and healthy, the most intimate, personal issue of all—sex—can become a battlefield strewn with land mines.
There are two opposing ways to view sex: One is God’s, the other, Satan’s. God’s view is that sexual love is made for what I can give. It is to be protected through the context of marriage. Satan tells us that sex is for what I can get. In this view, sex is to be exploited until it uses up everyone in its path.
On September 11, 2001, thousands of men, women, and children died at the hands of terrorists. The terrorists succeeded in their destruction in part because America was taken by surprise. Who would ever think of such a heinous crime as to fly planes full of innocent people into an office building full of more innocent people? Only those who embody evil could hatch that plot. We wrote this book so you will not be taken by surprise as a parent. Be assured, the evil one is hatching plenty of plots to ravage the children we love so dearly.
The enemy of our soul wants to “steal and kill and destroy” while Jesus says He came that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). God also gave us all the ingredients to make relationships function in a healthy manner: The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And God’s definition of love is clear:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
And that is what we all want for our kids, right? We want them to be able to produce an enduring love that protects, perseveres, and provides a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and fidelity. And if you are like us, you pray that someday each of your children will find someone to love them this same wonderful way.
Teaming up with God to help your children reach the goal of loving by God’s design and being loved that way in return will take your heroic love. Your parental love must become a love that always perseveres and a love that does whatever it takes to provide the best for your son’s or daughter’s future.
Statistically speaking, most of the people who read this book will have some chapters they wish they could forget in their past. They wish they had done a few things differently growing up. But it’s time to set aside shame, guilt, and finger-pointing. Some of you didn’t know God’s plan for love, so how could you follow it? Others had a rebellious, wild-oats-sowing season of your life and you might have regrets. We don’t want you to feel any worse than you probably already do. We just want to help you help your own kids. That’s what heroic love does. It sets aside self-interest for the greater good of another.
Commit now to set aside your own issues and do what’s best for your kids. Are you willing to be heroic, no matter how much time, talent, energy, bravery, and resources it takes?
A Sacred Wedding Is Heroic
Two of our three children are married now, and we are delighted with their choices of a life partner. We prayed for those dear daughters-in-law for many years! And like us, you might already be praying for the person God has in mind for each of your children. We prayed specifically and daily for the young ladies each of our sons would someday marry. I (Pam) remember praying this prayer for our child’s future spouse the day we got the news we were going to have our first baby. We prayed many things for that baby still in utero:
• that the child would form safely
• that he or she would love God completely
• that he or she would follow God wholeheartedly
• that he or she would be protected from the evil of this world
• that he or she would reach the God-given plan for his or her life
• that he or she would one day take full responsibility and decide to make wise choices
• that he or she would someday find a mate who also loved God with a whole heart
And on each wedding day, as that bride walked down the aisle, all those prayers of all those days echoed in our hearts and minds. That beautiful bride, that handsome groom, joined their lives in holy matrimony. It was a sacred moment. They would form a new family and the values we held so dear would pass from our generation to a generation yet to come. That is exactly God’s goal: to pass Christ-centered values and His plan of love from generation to generation:
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
Wedding days are filled with happiness, joy, and love. The wedding ceremony is the vessel that demonstrates that love to the world. As people observe the love shared between the two people exchanging their vows, they gain the opportunity to see God and His love. The closer the couple is walking with Jesus, the better their love radiates God’s love.
We have been trained in all kinds of outreach and evangelistic methods, but it is the simple love we share that has had more people asking us, “What do you have that makes your lives and marriage so different from mine?” At that moment, we have the delightful opportunity of sharing how anyone can receive and be lavished in the love of God. All they need to do is surrender to His plan and His path for their future—plans that God promises will give them “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Sharing a vibrant sexual life in the marriage bed is one of the ways God shares a picture of His love. When it works the way He intended it to, sex in a healthy relationship is a real-life portrait of God’s relationship with us. Sex within marriage is one of God’s strongest tools of connecting a couple so their love best reflects the unity and passion of His love. Since relationships are at the core of how God communicates His love to us, let’s take a look at His view on this gift of sex.
God’s Ladder of Love
When you’re climbing a ladder, you start out with the first rung and then climb to the next—and then the next rung after that. Follow this progression with us.
Sex Was God’s Idea
Sex was God’s secret a long time before it was “Victoria’s Secret.” God initiated the idea of sex to keep the human race going. He could have decided on any technique, but He elected for a relationship; an act of biology so intricate that it worked at its best between two people who were committed to each other for a lifetime. To ensure this model would work, God set up the human race by creating just one man and one woman—two who were literally “a match made in heaven.”
The man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:20-25).
What a great picture of sex in a committed relationship! You could say God performed the first wedding ceremony when he actually created Eve for Adam! God ordained a one-man, one-woman marriage from the very beginning. In that context, this couple could be naked and not feel any shame. There were no others at the creation of marriage—just this one man and one woman. From their union the whole history of humankind would be produced.
Marriage Was God’s Idea
The first place we see God endorsing sex in this new marriage in the garden is at the Creation:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:27-28).
Sex in marriage was created before the fall of mankind. Can you imagine sex with the perfect person God created for you, in an unadulterated environment, natural and wholesome, with no negatives attached because Satan hadn’t yet entered the scene? (It was after Satan tempted Eve that things like PMS and pain in childbirth were set in place.) Sex before the fall had no shame, no guilt, no pain…it was all good!
Marriage Is a Reflection of Christ’s Relationship with the Church
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Did you catch that last bit? God designed sex to be a reflection of Christ’s love and Christ’s commitment to the church. Inversely, it would seem, sex outside the bounds of matrimony, sex not carried out according to those biblical passages, is not a reflection of Christ’s relationship toward us. That is exactly what Satan wants—sex that’s distorted and all about what it can get! Satan wants to rob from your child’s future instead of preserving one of the most special gifts God ever designed for him or her.
Sex in Marriage Was God’s Idea
That is exactly why Satan hates the entire notion of love, marriage, and the pure, holy use of sex within the context of marriage. It gives God glory, and the devil hates that! Satan wants the glory all to himself, and that is why he is literally hell-bent on distorting sexuality, twisting love, and mocking the value of integrity, fidelity, holiness, and obedience to Jesus. And Satan will do anything to win, even if it is destroying the love life, physical wellness, or future of your child.
Which leads us back to why you are so heroic, Mom and Dad. You are standing in the way of Satan’s plan for ruining your child’s life and future. You are the precious protector and guardian of his or her destiny. Your goal is to protect your child while you equip him or her to protect their own life with good choices and decisions.
You Hold the Keys
Mom and Dad, you hold the key to your child’s future. Our friend Dave told us a beautiful story about this that penetrated me to the core. When his daughter Jody was a very little girl, she came home and announced her love interest in a little boy. Dave said to her, “Honey, when you are much older, there will be a day when you will want to give your heart to a man. He will have to be really special, and you will need to feel confident that he is the one God wants you to marry. Until then, I will keep your heart. I will keep it safe.”
Dave’s wife made a heart that hung in their home. On it hung two gold keys, one for each daughter. Anytime Dave prayed with his daughters, tucked them into bed, or performed any of the other daily interactions a loving father would have with his daughter, he’d say, “And who has the key to your heart?” His daughters would answer, “You do, Daddy.” Anytime he had to set a rule or make a correction he would begin with, “Remember who has the key to your heart?” And the girls would answer, “You do, Daddy.” Then Dave would explain that because he, their daddy, had their best interests on his heart, he had to make decisions and choices to protect and provide the very best path for his daughters. Dave would explain, “God has called me to do this because God and Daddy love both of you little girls very much.”
Dave shared, “One day Jody met and fell in love with a fabulous man, Chris. She came to me and asked if she could have her heart now because she had found the man she wanted to give it to. I agreed and prayed and released her heart.”
On the day of their wedding, Dave asked Jody one last time, “Who has the key to your heart?” But this time the answer was different. It was the name of her new husband.2
You, Mom and Dad, hold the key to both protect your child now and provide a hope for a happy future in his or her marriage. It is as if you are a security guard for an invaluable treasure.
Emergency Broadcast—This Is Not a Test!
We’re all aware of the emergency warning systems alerting us to things like flash floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. I wish that same sound would go off when adults shirked their calling—I know I would like that kind of obvious signal!
In the area of sexuality, moral integrity, and fighting for the purity and futures of our children, we are in a state of emergency. This is not a test! Consider just a few of the more startling statistics:
• Nearly half of U.S. high school students surveyed in 2011 had had sex, a third of them in the previous three months. Of these, almost 40 percent did not use a condom and 77 percent did not use birth control. About 15 percent of these students had had sex with four or more partners.3
• Eighty percent of evangelical young adults (ages 18 to 29) say they have had sex before marriage. Of these, 64 percent have done so within the last year and 42 percent are in a current sexual relationship.4
• In 2009, more than half of births to American women under 30 occurred outside marriage.5
• Worldwide there are approximately 42 million abortions every year.6 In 2008 there were 1.21 million in the United States alone—that’s 3,321 abortions every day.7
• One woman in four will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. In a survey, one in twelve college men admitted to raping women. Thirty-five percent of college men indicated that they would rape a woman if they could be assured of not getting caught.8 (Getting caught is helping: DNA evidence has lowered the incidence of rape in the United States.)
• Adolescents and young adults are at the greatest risk for acquiring an STD such as AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and genital herpes. About 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among people aged 15 to 24.9
• 50,000 new HIV infections occur each year in the United States. In 2009, young persons accounted for 39 percent of all new HIV infections in the US.10 There is still no known cure for the death sentence of HIV/AIDS. Medicines only lengthen life and lessen symptoms.
Add to this all the gender identity confusion fueled by homosexual activists like Daniel Villarreal, who admits that gay activists actually do want to indoctrinate America’s children: “We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality,” he says. “In fact, our very future depends on it.” He bragged that their agenda was even broader than mere indoctrination. “I and a lot of other people want to indoctrinate, recruit, teach, and expose children to queer sexuality and there is nothing wrong with that” [emphasis his]. Writing in response to opposition of the same-sex marriage bill in New York, Villarreal said, “Recruiting children? You bet we are.”11
What is the outcome of all this? Rebecca Hagelin, author of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, notes, “A sea of teenagers are living with regret. 55 percent of the boys and 70 percent of the girls who had sex now say they wish they had not.”12
Mom and Dad, they need your help to rescue them from becoming a statistic.
Respond to the Emergency
Obviously God wants us to respond to what is going on around our children and in this culture. But what are we to do? First, be a watchman. In Ezekiel 3:17 God rouses the prophet: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” You are like the sentry or watchman making rounds or stationed on a wall as a lookout—and your task is to be vigilant. But vigilant doing what? What’s a watchman supposed to do?
Watchmen work around the clock. “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night” (Isaiah 62:6).
Watchmen patrol the streets to preserve order. “The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city” (Song of Songs 3:3).
Watchmen sound a warning. “When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, ‘I see some troops coming’” (2 Kings 9:17).
Watchmen submit their duty to God. “Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Watchmen are vigilant at all times. “Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees…let him be alert, fully alert” (Isaiah 21:6-7).
In the Old Testament, God shows us how seriously He takes the role of the watchman:
When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me (Ezekiel 33:1-7).
Now God set this principle in place in the Old Testament because in addition to the spiritual battle zone they found themselves in, Israel was waging a physical war for their very survival as a nation. That is not what we are dealing with (at least not yet!), so the consequence for slacking is not death, but the point is clear: The watchman’s job was so vital that a stiff penalty was in store for those who shirked on their duty. Today, if you make an error as a parent, God is not going to wipe you off the face of the earth.
However, if you miss something important in your son’s or daughter’s life or surroundings, chances are you will have a bigger battle on your hands. Anytime anyone steps out of God’s design for living, things get confusing, messy, and sometimes traumatic. Being a watchman is work, but not watching out will just lead to more work! So being a watchman is a prudent choice for a parent to make.
Our kids need a watchman in us because there are really only two ways to live: smarter or harder. Following God’s path is smarter (though you and your child will need to be diligent to learn then walk God’s best path). And not following God’s plan is definitely harder. It is hard to deal with your child’s pain after someone has used him or her for their own sexual gratification. It’s hard to manage an unplanned pregnancy. It’s hard to watch a heart slowly harden toward a walk with Jesus. All those things are much harder than being vigilant up front. Being a watchman is definitely the smarter way to go.
In the book of Isaiah comes an intriguing question: “Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?” (Isaiah 21:11 NASB). We’re deeper into the night than we think.
Here’s one example from the book You’re Teaching My Child What?
I’d been invited to speak at a small private college outside Philadelphia. The auditorium was filled to capacity…After [my talk] I asked for questions, and a number of hands shot up…A dark-haired girl in the front row raised her hand. “I’m a perfect example of what you talked about. I always used condoms, but I got HPV anyway, and it’s one of the high-risk types. I had an abnormal Pap test, and next week I’m going to have a colposcopy…But I thought it over,” she continued, “and I decided that the pleasure I had with my partners was worth it.”13
This is a mind that has lost its ability to reason, or has never learned how to reason at all. Either way, it is far into the night. The risk of death was not as important to this young woman as a few moments of sexual pleasure. The author goes on to write, “She’ll never know—is the virus gone, or just dormant? Had anyone told her that having one sexually transmitted disease makes her more vulnerable to others, including HIV? That being on the pill could increase her risk, and that pregnancy can re-activate the virus?”14
The night is getting darker. People young and old are losing their bearings, their ability to make vital, life-saving decisions. That is why God is looking for heroes—ordinary moms, dads, leaders, teachers, and youth workers who will hold the torch of His original plan for love and intimacy. God is looking for you! Be a watchman, and be able to say, “Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post” (Isaiah 21:8).
If Not You, Then Whom?
If we as parents neglect to instruct, lead, guide, and dialogue with our kids, then where will they get the information to make decisions and form their views? They will be swayed by the media, by friends, and by the educational system.
American children spend more than 38 hours a week using media. That includes television, videos, music, computers and video games. One study showed that 75 percent of all music videos include sexual images. More than half are also violent—usually against women. The average teen will come across nearly 14,000 sexual references in the media each year. Only about one percent of these will talk about birth control or the risk of pregnancy and STDs.15
Dr. Dave Currie of Doing Family Right Ministries shares a story of how even well-meaning parents and grandparents can be forced to clean up the mess media so easily can make:
A father had approached me with the tragic story of how well-meaning grandparents had given an iPad to a much-loved grandchild. This 11-year-old, with her curiosity and a push from her peers, had googled the word “sex.” She was traumatized. Thankfully, she came to her parents about her extreme confusion to talk and pray through the defiling impact these sexual images had had on her.16
If not the media, what about the influence of friends? Dr. Currie continues his story:
Don’t say it can’t happen to your family. It did ours. When my youngest daughter was at a sleepover for a friend’s thirteenth birthday party, the girls, in daring and unsupervised group fashion, managed to get on an adults-only dating website. They thought they would have fun creating a fictitious profile but used their pictures. It went from innocent though stupid to dangerous when one girl went back later and put real contact information for our daughter—our phone number! I am so glad God protected us as I was the one who received the call from an older man wanting to speak to her. He back-peddled hard when he found out she was just 13 and I was her dad!17
That is a picture of the mayhem media can cause—but also how valuable it is to have a hero for a dad!
You will hear much more about media, its influence, how to manage it, and how to monitor it in your kids’ lives in coming chapters. We’ll also discuss the role of good and not-so-good peer choices. Stay tuned!
We might think we are safe to delegate sex education to the school—but is that actually the best choice? Dr. Miriam Grossman pulls back the curtain on what schools are really teaching our kids:
Parents, if you believe that the goals of sexuality education are to prevent pregnancy and disease, you are being hoodwinked. You must understand that these curricula are rooted in an ideology that you probably don’t share. This ideology values, above all—health, science, or parental authority—sexual freedom….
…Do you want instructors, whose personal values might be at odds with yours, to encourage your kids to question what they’ve been taught at home and at church, and to come up with their own worldview based on taking sexual risks that endanger their health and wellbeing? It seems reasonable to question the ethics of this practice.
What these “experts” are hiding is their goal of bringing about radical social change, one child at a time…From a review of many of today’s sex ed curricula and websites, it would appear that a “sexually healthy” individual is one who has been “desensitized,” who is without any sense of embarrassment or shame (what some might consider “modesty”), whose sexuality is always “positive” and “open,” who respects and accepts “diverse” lifestyles, and who practices “safer sex” with every “partner.”
This is not about health, folks. This is about indoctrination.18
In coming chapters we will look more intently at sex education, who should do it, and when. We’ll look at what parts (if any) you might want to delegate and, if you outsource any pieces, whom do you trust? And what do you say and when to help your son or daughter make wise, godly choices in the future?
Your job as a watchman is to work yourself out of a job. While your children are younger you are the watchman on the wall, but in their tween and teen years you will be giving them on-the-job training to become a watchman over their own lives. As they gain the heartbeat of God, they will take over their own lives, choices, and decisions. They will develop their own inner moral compass. The long-term goal is that you will raise children who will grow so strong, articulate, smart, and capable that they will positively influence the culture around them, and the culture will begin to better reflect the heart of God and His plan for this world.
Can We Talk?
One day your child will ask, “Can we talk?” (At least that is what we hope and pray they will do—ask you!) You’ll need to have some basic principles in place to help you best respond to the questions he or she poses. In each chapter, we will give you some helpful sidebars, real illustrations, useful lists, vital statistics, and other “need-to-find-quickly” information. And for those talks with your son or daughter we will provide a checklist of bullet points in the “Answers to Have Ready” section. This way, as you are discussing each particular area you will have the broad brush strokes that you can then personalize and mold into your own words.
We will also provide what we call Parent-to-Parent talking points so you can form valid, sustainable conversation with other moms and dads—some of whom may not always agree with you. In the world we all live in, with a majority of the population lacking a solid internal moral compass based on a biblical worldview, it is vital to prepare yourself well. This way you can, in turn, prepare your children well to defend your beliefs, values, and morals and represent them to the glory of God in the public arena. Often these conversations just appear on the soccer sidelines, as you work on a school project with other parents, over a dinner out, or at a family gathering. You may also be called to represent Christ’s worldview on sexuality, gender, or moral choices in the public square, on social media, in the boardroom, or in the classroom. We hope these bullet points and some of the resources we point you to will help you as you prepare your words.
Whether you are debating and dialoging with adults, seeking to explain the birds and bees to a child, or formulating your thoughts for a vital talk with your teen, know that no matter how much you prepare, at some point you can (and need to) relax and trust God. He promises He will be with you:
You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters (Luke 21:13-15 MSG).
If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you (1 Kings 11:38).
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:2-3).
Answers to Have Ready
Here are the basic talking points for that first conversation (and all the rest yet to come). More details will be in future chapters, but keep these principles in mind as you prepare to dialogue with your child or teen.
Talk about body parts, touching, and the fundamentals of how babies are made. Cover the basic biology before they hear about it on the playground. Talk about body changes before they happen and feelings for the opposite gender before they are interested in the opposite sex. Talk about healthy, God-ordained sex in marriage before you have to deal with distortions of sex by Satan.
Give them 20 percent more information than they ask for. Be tactfully explicit—not abstract. Answer the question with a short answer first, wait for a response, and then offer more details as you need to.
Positive messages are better than negative. Instead of saying “don’t do this or that,” try to reframe it into an affirmative. For example, instead of telling a tween or teen that premarital sex is bad, so don’t do it, tell them that sex is a good gift and that is why it is to be protected until expressed in marriage.
Use accurate medical terms instead of nicknames for body parts. Be straightforward and tell your child why you want to talk about the next layer of sexual information. And if you lacked in judgment in an area growing up, share this information at an age-appropriate time.
Talk, Then Listen
Learn to listen, not just lecture. Practice questions like: Have you heard the term _____? Do you know what _____ is? What have you heard from friends about _____? How do you feel about what I just shared? Do you have any questions about what I shared with you?
Help your child gain a moral compass, good decision-making skills, and the confidence to act on what God whispers to his or her heart. Place sex within the context for which God created it. Get your ducks in a row and be prepared for what you think might be the next sexual question or topic that might come up. If surprised, feel free to say, “Wow, that’s a great question. Let me get some information together for you and we’ll chat about this later (today, tomorrow, over a burger, etc.).”
Don’t freak out. Some topics might come up before you want them to. Try to talk with your child gently and reasonably, without getting emotional or frazzled. Take a few breaths, pray, take a walk, or whatever you need to do so that your emotions are in check and stable.
Talk in a Positive Place
If you make the place and experience a positive one each time you discuss sexual matters, your child will connect sex talks to feelings of closeness with you and/or your spouse. He or she might link these moments to happy, joyful, or positive emotions if they take place in a calm location: sitting on your bed or the child’s or over ice cream, a burger, or other favorite food. (Our sons preferred all our talks to take place over steak or carne asada burritos!) For those “big talks” we often would link them to a fun family activity, like boating, skiing, a day at the beach, or a family picnic.
Talk after Praying
As you pray for your child, God will give you insights either through His Word or through the leading of His Holy Spirit. He will help you find the words to use and the best time to lead your child to make wiser choices. Don’t worry: He’ll give you all the specifics to best prepare you for success as you lead your child to make wise choices.
Talk Expecting Your Child Wants to Talk
Your son or daughter wants to hear from you. Here’s what one survey tells us:
More than half of 12th grade girls (53%) said that during their high school years they wanted to be able to talk to their parents about love and relationships. Nearly four in 10 (39%) wanted to be able to talk with their parents about sex…As they look ahead to the years immediately after high school, those numbers remain largely unchanged. Half (50%) still want to talk to their parents about love and relationships…Forty percent say they want to be able to talk about sex with their parents once they’re out of high school.19
It might seem easier to talk to Mom, but the united two-parent approach has the best outcome.20 In addition, those teens who live in intact homes with Dad involved are much less likely to be involved in premarital sex and risky behaviors.21 In our work as youth pastors, in the senior pastorate, and as the parents of three sons, we have seen that having the father involved makes a tremendous difference. If Dad is available as a positive, active role model for his sons and daughters, the children will make better choices. It is in your child’s best interest (if possible) to involve both parents in discussions on love, sex, and dating.
Bring God into the Talk
Moral and religious convictions do make a difference. One study indicated that girls were less likely to have premarital sex if their mothers cited moral or religious reasons in their discussions. (Conversely, the more liberal the daughter perceived her mother’s values to be, the more likely she was to have sex—and have it younger and with more partners.22) In a recent study, 45 percent of boys ages 15 to 19 cited religion to be a factor in their sexual decisions.23
Talk Because It Makes a Difference
According to authors Stan and Brenna Jones, “The closer the child says his or her relationship is with parents, the less likely the child is to be having sex. A close relationship between parent and child appears to instill in the child the desire to want to live out the values and moral beliefs of the parent.”24 In a national survey more than nine of ten teens agreed that among the benefits of waiting to have sex is enjoying the respect of parents.25 Mom and Dad—you do make a difference!
God is with you. God is with your child. Together you can be a winning team—a heroic team—building a future to look forward to.
Parent to Parent
You will be a better role model for a healthy attitude toward sex if you have a clear view of just why God created sex. We thought we’d share a thumbnail sketch with you of the five reasons God created “Red-Hot Monogamy”—because if we as parents are comfortable and well-centered in our sexuality, it will be easier to have those much-needed discussions with our children and teens.
God Gave Us Sex for Procreation
Be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:22).
The human race is perpetuated through sexual union: One egg is fertilized by one sperm.
God Gave Us Sex for Recreation
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife (Genesis 26:8 KJV).
Sex within the context of marriage is to be enjoyed.
God Gave Us Sex for Reconnection
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Sex is meant to keep couples emotionally, physically, and spiritually connected.
God Gave Us Sex for Rejuvenation
Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love (Song of Solomon 2:5).
Sex within marriage is good for our emotional and physical wellness.
God Gave Us Sex for Proclamation
He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-32).
Sex is a picture of the complete love and commitment intended for marriage. Marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church.
Answers for Your Heart
Before you have answers for your child, you need to ask yourself a few questions and get some answers. You may want to get a journal and answer these or grab a cup of coffee and discuss them with your spouse. You can also use them for a discussion group of moms or co-ed parent study to help prepare for a lifestyle of building a great relationship with your child or teen.
• Looking back, how comfortable are you with your own sexual choices growing up?
• The best thing you can do for your child’s future is to provide an intact two-parent family or, if single, an extended family that will partner with you to provide the much-needed role of the absent parent. What can you do to either strengthen your marriage or create an extended family support network?
• How do you feel about talking with your child at the different ages:
as a toddler/preschooler
as a grade school student
as a tween
as a teen
as a college student or young adult
as an adult
• What would best prepare you to feel ready for conversations with your child or teen?
• How can you move forward in getting your own heart, mind, and emotions ready for the parenting God has in front of you?