Raising children to Christian morals in today’s society isn’t easy, especially when it comes to sex. Probably more often than not, the messages that our culture sends about sex don’t reflect a modicum of common sense, much less biblical morality. It seems increasingly common for family-oriented shows and news reports to teach the wrong lessons about sexuality. That makes it both important and difficult to have these conversations with your children.
No matter what we teach at home, our children will receive other messages. Other parents, other kids, television, the internet, the government and even the schools can act to undermine our parental authority and corrupt our kids. You may know (or think you know) what your kids watch at your house, but you don’t know what they are exposed to elsewhere. For example, in California, parents are not allowed to withdraw their children from instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity per Snopes. Even Bert and Ernie have been dragged into the debate about sexual politics. Who knows what your kids are exposed to when they go to a friend’s house?
In today’s society, avoiding sexually explicit material and unbiblical teaching simply isn’t possible. That means that as parents it is our responsibility to teach them the truth.
Sex is difficult topic for many parents, but it really begins with being a good role model long before you actually need to have the sex talk. You can prepare your kids to look at sex in a healthy way by setting a good example.
If you’re a father, show your kids how to respect women in the way you treat your wife. The Bible verse telling women to submit to their husbands is frequently trotted out, but Ephesians 5:25, the verse that immediately follows tells husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” and “as their own bodies.” This sort of purposeful, sacrificial love is rarely held up as an example of how to treat a woman in popular culture. Women should also set a good example by loving and respecting their husbands. Children won’t know what a loving, healthy relationship looks like if they don’t see one in their own home.
Likewise, do the things that we watch and what we say about sex reflect what we are teaching our kids? Children are excellent at detecting hypocrisy. If we tell them one thing about sex and then do something else, like sleep around (whether you’re married or unmarried) or spend your time watching porn or even just laugh at shows that undermine our own values, then our children pick up on our duplicity.
We started talking about sex and gender with our children at an age-appropriate level early on. We began by teaching that marriage is for one man and one woman and that husbands and wives should be committed to each other and to their families. We also taught them that “swimsuit areas” were personal body parts. They shouldn’t touch anyone else’s private areas and they should tell us if anyone touched them there.
As they got older, I told my kids that the entertainment industry (and increasingly society as a whole) get the issue of sex exactly backwards. Television and movies teach us that when you like somebody you should have sex with them to find out if you love them. That attitude has led to untold emotional damage and generation in which 40 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers.
While the biblical teaching that sex is reserved for marriage may seem prudish, following the Bible’s advice helps prevent the feeling of brokenness and betrayal that come from unfulfilling sexual relationships. The biblical teachings also guarantee that there won’t be an unintended pregnancy before marriage that would force a choice between abortion and the hardship of single-parenthood.
When it comes to homosexuality and transgender, two very controversial topics these days, we teach our children that homosexuality is morally wrong and that there are only two genders, but we also teach them to respect others. While the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin and biology teaches that gender is not just a social construct, the Bible also teaches us that loving others is a commandment that is second only to loving God. Love is not exemplified by people who mock and persecute gays and transgenders.
With respect to pornography, which has become mainstream and commonplace, we teach our children that it is dangerous. Porn today is not the porn that many fathers grew up with. Porn today is not a Playboy centerfold. Instead, today’s porn is online videos that leave nothing to the imagine and that can be accessed from the privacy of one’s own room, leaving few traces that parents can find to police their children’s behavior. Online videos go far beyond naked women or traditional sex and contain very deviant and even illegal acts.
Pornography is addictive and can have detrimental effects on brain chemistry and emotional health, particularly among adolescents. In addition to rewiring the brain, pornography can make it more difficult to have stable and healthy relationships with real people, not least because it teaches kids, especially boys, to have a totally unrealistic view of the opposite sex and the act of intercourse. When Pamela Anderson teams up with a Jewish rabbi to warn against the dangers of porn, it should get your attention.
We teach our kids that a relationship with another human being is far more fulfilling that living vicariously through strangers online. We also tell them that most girls would be put off by boys who spend their time watching porn.
We also teach our kids that if they make a decision that results in a pregnancy that they need to be responsible. Whether intended or not, an unborn baby is a human being and deserving of life. The responsibility for caring for life that they created applies to boys as well as girls. If they aren’t ready for the responsibility of raising a child, they should use birth control or delay having sex.
America used to be a place that taught traditional values, even if it didn’t always live by them. Today’s post-Christian culture, however, is increasingly hostile to biblical teachings, especially with regard to sex. That makes it more important than ever for Christian parents to be open and frank with their children and teach them the truths that society won’t.