Having “The Discussion” with Our Children

Having “The Discussion” with Our Children

by Craig Smith
This presents a real problem. Our society is drenched
in sexual overtones Every form of media, entertainment,
advertising, fashion, music and much else in
daily social intercourse, such as the accepted sense of
humour one can use even in mixed company, is sexualised
to such an extent that there is simply no escape
from the subject. I was going to say that much of these
sexual overtones are perverted. But they are all perverted,
without exception, not just the homosexual
stuff. Why do I say that? Because sex outside of marriage
is perverted – that is, it is morally wrong, which
means it is perverted. Sex within marriage is a private
not a public affair. Consequently, as soon as it hits the
public arena, it too is perverted.
When we asked ourselves, “What exactly do our children
need to learn about the sexual facts of life before
they are married?”, we came up with the answer, “Very
little.” Yes, they will need to know the biology of reproduction,
but not just human conception, gestation
and birth. There is an incredible variation of reproductive
systems in the animal and plant worlds, the study
of which can again raise exclamations of wonder and
praise to our most wise and creative Father in heaven.
Sadly, however, when we think of telling our sons and
daughters about these things as they approach or are in
puberty, the cues as to how to proceed and what to say
that we have been getting from our secular society for
the last 40 years or so have been separated from a Biblical
understanding of sex as something holy and sacred.
And so it becomes a subject requiring a cold, unemotional
scientific approach on some occasions or the
casual, non-judgmental approach at other times. It has
become separated from marriage and from the intent to
conceive children and from the intent to co-operate
with God in filling and subduing the earth. Today it is
simply viewed as another activity that one may pursue
for both fun and profit, as long as one becomes aware
of and takes steps to reduce the risk factors. The NZ
government operates and funds at great expense a
number of organisations and websites specifically designed
to pour into our children’s minds graphic and
perverted sexual information that would cause adults to
gag. And they don’t even have to trouble us parents
with the fact that it is taking place.
(The fact that I actually wrote these comments about
“fun and profit” and “risk factors” shows how desensitised
we are to hearing such things. We pretty much
just accept it when we should all find such comments
to be totally offensive and outrageous. And certainly
we would never present such ideas to our children until
after their 21st or they get married, and we can discuss
such things as one adult to another.)
So when we come to think of fulfilling this particular
task in the education of our children, we tend to be reasonably
explicit, using correct scientific terms for parts
and processes. Or we may fall back on the old kiwi
farmer approach of taking the kids to the paddock to
watch the ram in among the ewes with the simple explanation,
“That’s sex.”
But this will hardly do. We are people made in the image
of God. That means we are not like sheep or cattle
or dogs whose reproductive lives are indiscriminate,
promiscuous and public. Neither do we want to be
overly descriptive. Why put graphic images of human
nakedness and sexual intercourse into the minds of our
children? And then tell them it is sinful to think such
thoughts. And then say that such actions are wrong and
not to be done until they are married. While my parents
were not so clear with their explanations and admonitions,
the books, magazines and films they let me see
were very clear, focussed and in colour visually…..
with the appropriately crisp commentary, trimmed of
any excessive adjectives or adverbs. Such things never
helped us when we were kids. They in fact acted as
stumbling blocks for us. These kinds of things made us
unhealthily curious, as youngsters, about what might
be seen under people’s clothing, especially as we
picked up on all the clues on TV shows and advertising
that something there was mysterious and alluring. And
of course our little friends all had their own store of
“forbidden knowledge”, images and experiences. Our
sinful natures already gave us enough trouble in this
area without parents and teachers and friends and porn
merchants putting extra illustrations and images before
us. So we do not trouble our children’s hearts and
minds with such things either.
Let me repeat: when we think of telling our children
about the “facts of life”, “the birds and the bees” or
whatever other euphemism you may use, the tendency
is to speak to the lowest human common denominator,
which includes all the unbelievers, rather than look for
a thoroughly Biblical approach; we tend to examine
things as if we had low goals or no goals at all. Example:
at a camp where we spoke on purity for four days,
the camp mum asked Barbara if she could help out.
Specifically she said she’d had lots of experience talking
to girls about sex….we were going to talk about
sex, weren’t we? As a matter of fact, no, we never did
have such plans. When you talk about sex, out come all
the facts surrounding biology, conception, contraception,
temptation, how far is too far, what happens if
you “get into trouble” and all the rest of it. So young
people, who are always told about their raging hormones
and how we older folks understand how difficult
they’re finding it at the moment trying to rein
themselves in….these young folks are left with these
images in their minds and told to go forth and NOT do
likewise. Instead of this we focussed on how the Lord
would have young people live. The New Testament
hammers this theme over and over once you start to
look for it. Take this from 1 Timothy 6:11-14: “But as
for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness,
gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the
eternal life to which you were called and about which
you made the good confession in the presence of many
witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who
gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his
testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,
to keep the commandment unstained and free
from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus
Christ.” Instead of looking at the area that is causing
the problem – human sexuality in developing youngsters
who we want to live as holy and pure disciples of
Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse and sexsoaked
society – let us look instead at the uncharted
virgin territory of godliness and holiness and love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control; for as it says in Galatians 5:22-23,
this is the fruit of the Spirit, we obviously should be
aiming at this, and against these things there is no law!
Here we do not say, “Now, don’t do this,” but instead
we say, “Go for it 100%!!!” Instead of describing everything
that is just over the line we don’t want our
young people to cross, let us describe and lead the way
IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, away from the line
and toward this bundle of Christ-like characteristics.
The strategy in our family for dealing specifically with
sex was perhaps tinged with idealism, thinking to say
as little as possible and to train the children up to value
modesty. Consequently both Barbara and I stopped
swimming in public long ago, for it meant baring most
of our bodies in front of others. We never bath or
shower with our children, nor do we allow them to see
us dressing or undressing. We instructed them in what
constitutes modest dress for both males and females,
and why it is desirable:
1) Baring yourself is one of the precious gifts you will
save for your spouse once you are married. The Scriptures
teach us that our bodies are precious and wonderfully
made and to be treated holy for they are the temples
of the Holy Spirit. Since the Scriptures tell us that
the two become one, the young man and the young
woman, anticipating marriage, should be striving to
present their future spouse with a holy and pure body
as well as a holy and pure mind and heart. And I will
venture to say, all of us parents have, since our own
weddings, found out that the newness, freshness,
brightness, purity and expense of the rings, gowns,
flowers, suits and presents are as nothing in comparison
to the holy and pure hearts, minds and bodies we
found – or wish we could have found – in each other.
2) As our children surely will have noticed, it is the
unbelievers in our society who advertise their unbelief
by dressing immodestly, showing what little respect
they have for their future and even present spouses. We
mention how nakedness has been one of the sure signs
of rabid paganism all through history, and that the
other mono-theistic religions (Islam and Judaism) understand
this and always cover up well. It is only the
post-Christian West among the mono-theists who have
taken to public immodesty, clearly as a result of turning
away from God and His laws.
3) We explain to our daughters that males in particular
have a problem with seeing too much of a female’s
body exposed, leading to the lust of the eyes and in the
heart which the Lord specifically condemned. Here is
one way the girls can be of great assistance to all males
and their Christian brothers in particular: by dressing
modestly. We did a whole weekend talk on purity a
while back, and in the session Barbara took with just
the girls, it was very sobering to them as she explained
just a little of what exposed midriffs and cleavage and
curve-accentuating clothing does to their Christian
brother’s mind, heart and physiology. Many had never
considered this. It was scary as they considered this in
relation to all the unbelieving men they passed on the
street and what message their dress standards were
sending to some of these onlookers….it didn’t bear
thinking about. The idea is to train our daughters to
have a long-term vision on this, so that “She does [her
husband] good, and not harm, all the days of her
life” (Proverbs 31:12). Would her future husband want
her dressed in such a way that other men perved at her
walking down the street? No. Then she will dress even
now, at age 12, 13 or 16, with that future husband in
mind, doing him good even today!
We tried to explain to our children how the marriage
relationship is unique and special in many, many ways,
one of which is how a husband and wife need little privacy
between them as “the two become one”. This is
done by talks around the table, when the subject comes
up in our Bible reading, by the way we have switched
off the TV and fast forwarded videos and take all junk
mail straight to Barbara for her to screen before anyone
else sees it. We don’t watch any TV now, as it is just
too sensuous virtually any time of the day, whether it
be the ads or the show. We’ve walked out of two G
rated movies recently. We’ve also found that most videos
are not to be trusted.
And we’ve said to the boys that we don’t think they
need to know anything about the husband-wife sexual
relationship until just before they get married. You see,
all knowledge carries a degree of responsibility as to
how you handle that knowledge. In today’s society,
given the way it is running full speed toward immorality
of all kinds, such sexual knowledge is too heavy
and burdensome for their shoulders at present and has
proved to be a source of much stumbling for many.
Later on it will be part of the responsibility they will
need to assume upon marriage. We’ve said simply that
all sexual activity is to be within your marriage. It is
wrong, immoral and harmful outside of marriage. Just
like fire: it is great within the fireplace, but a total disaster
running through the rest of the house.
We don’t just leave it at that, of course. We help them
come to grips with the applications of I Timothy 5:1-2
where it says to treat younger women like sisters, in all
purity; or I Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your
youth, but set the believers an example in speech and
conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”; and other Scriptures.
Our rule of thumb is: “Attention to all, intention
toward none.” We help the boys understand that girls
are motivated by emotions, colours, textures, scents,
sounds and especially the sound of words that are kind,
complimentary and personal. So they must be careful not to toy with a girl’s emotions, either on purpose or
by accident, by using flattery or “buttering her up” to
get your way. They need to keep their own emotions in
check and realise that pairing off and dating is a very
unwise course of action. When the time comes to court
a maiden, a young man would ideally state his intentions
up front to her father first. (A great book dealing
with guy/girl relations at this level is Emotional Purity
by Heather Paulsen.) And in the meantime, young men
especially, keep your hands to yourself.
Of course they will want to know more; of course they
will be curious about all kinds of things. We explain to
them that all will be revealed when they get married,
that they will have total freedom at that time to ask,
explore, question, experiment to their heart’s content….
and that they will have a willing spouse….and that they
will have all the rest of their married lives….and that
then – within marriage – all they do will be totally
righteous, totally moral, totally healthy, totally joyous!
We explained how this was part of living by faith: that
taking our word for it now would pay great dividends
later. And let me tell you, being products ourselves of
the sensuous ‘60s with lots of friends who did not survive
it well or at all, we can speak with conviction
about these things; we know what we’re talking about
from front-line experience, not pie-in-the-sky theory.
There is a time and place for most things: the time and
place for investigating all the details of human sexual
intercourse is after marriage with your spouse in the
privacy of your own home.
Now this is all very fine, except that our children and
your children have friends whose parents or schoolmates
or teachers or whatever do not hold to this same
approach. Consequently they’ve picked up all kinds of
stuff from other sources. We’ve tried to warn our children
that they would hear stuff and be in conversations
they’d need to suddenly walk (or run) away from. This
is what we call “internal insulation”. We cannot isolate
our children from the world, but we can train them to
insulate themselves by learning to flee sexual talk and
developing a conviction about the necessity of doing
so. This is especially necessary because of the curse of
pornography so freely available on magazine racks and
on the internet. We parents must declare total war on
pornography, for it causes permanent brain damage by
the images it forever burns on the mind within two seconds
of time. And it can be as addicting as heroin.
Never compromise. Train your children to be uncompromising,
to trust your warning here if nowhere else
and to flee at the faintest hint of the stuff. Once trained,
by the grace of God, your children will be internally
Then there is the “external insulation” where we ourselves
protect our children from the junk. When visiting
friends, they’d always ring if the friend offered to
screen a video for them. We would say no usually so it
was us, not our child, who was the spoil sport. (Today
we rarely let our younger ones visit away from home
on their own the way our older ones did when they
were young.) We discovered another principle of child
rearing in this regard: sleep-overs are no good. Youth
camps are worse. Young people in tents or a bedroom
at night, with no adults around, being all revved up
from a day of fun will often turn to topics of conversation
that are not normally brought up, just as their present
situation at the camp or sleep-over is not a normal
one. We now do not allow sleep-overs, no matter who
it is, even the most trusted friend’s children. Nor do we
allow overnight camps with youth groups of any kind
unless we are going to be in the same tent as our children.
The danger is not the sleep-over or the camp: the
danger is being unsupervised.
We discovered these principles after the damage had
been done. A couple of our children came to us in tears
months after events of this kind because the things of a
sexual nature their good, lovely, Christian friends had
told them had played so much havoc on their minds.
These friends were asked by our children to stop telling
them these things, but the friends had only just been
told themselves and were burning up inside with the
desire to tell someone else. Our children proved to be
easy and perfect targets: they had not heard such things
before; and lying in a tent late at night made it hard for
our children to flee. It is better not to put our children
into situations where such things can, and will, happen.
We are talking about unsupervised children of whom
the Bible says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of
a child” (Proverbs 22:15). Two or more children together
unsupervised simply means concentrated foolishness,
not a good recipe.
The key is to have your children’s hearts: that they
would want to discuss these kinds of things with you
first and foremost. That they would trust your judgement,
whatever it was, in these areas, and if you said
they needed to know so much and no more, they would
accept that and try themselves to keep it that way.

From Keystone Magazine

September 2004 , Vol. X No. 5
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig@hef.org.nz

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