According to recent government studies, 7 in 10 teenagers will have had sex before their nineteenth birthday. Which leads us to a simple fact: if purity is a character trait you desire for your child, you’ll have to be proactive in teaching it, and you’ll have to start early.
The battle for your child’s sexual purity starts with the types of sexual content and messages he’s exposed to. Sexually-charged entertainment can cloud your child’s thought-life with temptation, making what’s already a tough battle with natural urges even tougher. Later on, the struggle for purity will depend on boundaries in dating relationships. So how can you put your child on the right path? Read Teaching Purity: How to Keep Your Kids Pure for some insight, and walk through one father’s strategy for protecting the purity of his daughters. Finally, check out these tips on when and how to talk to your kids about sex.
Teaching Purity: How to Keep Your Kids Pure:
In a world where seemingly anything goes, it’s difficult to teach your children that there is only one way to enjoy the gift of sexuality—God’s way. And what is God’s way? In a faithful, lifelong marriage between a husband and a wife. Overcoming the cultural message that sex is to be enjoyed whenever, however, and with whomever one pleases takes intentional parenting on your part. Here are some ways to protect your children’s purity (not to mention their physical health) and help them understand its value.
1. Be honest about the joys of a great marriage. If your children never get the message that doing sex God’s way—within marriage—brings joy and fulfillment, it will be all the more tempting for them to explore all the wrong ways. When your children are little, be affectionate with your spouse in their presence. As they mature and the topic of sex is appropriate, let them know that married sex is great, and worth waiting for!
2. Protect their thought lives. Research shows that early and frequent exposure to sexual images and messages makes a child more likely to experiment sexually at an early age. Help your children avoid these confusing and tempting ideas by carefully screening movies, TV, and music. By doing so, you’re giving them the gift of a real childhood free from the tension and temptation of unmarried sex.
3. Delay romantic interaction. My father put it to me in middle school this way: “If you start holding hands with boys in 6th grade, by 8th grade it’s old news and you’re ready to try something new. So if you start kissing boys in 8th grade, by 10th grade that’s boring and once again, you’re ready to go a little further…” It’s true that once the ball of sexual interaction starts rolling down the hill, it’s incredibly hard to slow down or stop. Do your child a favor by delaying those “firsts” as a long as you can, so that she has a better chance of making it to her wedding day with her purity intact.
4. Give dating relationships boundaries. Your child will be swept away with butterflies and all the euphoria of a crush or first love at some point in adolescence. To be blunt—her defenses are down. Create some guardrails around her dating life with some rules, a curfew, and other protections you deem necessary to keep her out of a situation that may be more than she can safely navigate. Your teen will complain, to be sure. But deep down, she will be relieved that you’re making some of these decisions for her and helping her to avoid what she’s naturally drawn to, but knows is wrong.
5. Remember and communicate all the benefits. The list of benefits associated with saving sex for marriage is lengthy, including:
- avoiding unwanted pregnancy
- avoiding STDs
- protecting your child’s self-esteem and dignity
- having the joy of approaching marriage without guilt or regret
- enjoying a better married sex life without comparisons or baggage from the past
- a healthier spiritual life free from the weight of sin
Remembering these when teaching your child to value purity seems impossible, or like too much work. So remind your child of these benefits frequently. In moments of decision, it will be helpful for him to know that there’s a real upside to saying “no.”
Teens Dating: Guarding Our Daughters’ Sexual Purity:
A nervous father interviews his daughter’s date.
By: Dennis Rainey
I was seated at my desk, barely able to concentrate. I shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers … I felt like I was expecting an important phone call and was just trying to do something, anything, productive while waiting. But it wasn’t working.
Neither was I.
Finally, my executive assistant informed me that the young man I’d been expecting was waiting for me in the lobby.
Deep breath, Dennis. You’re the adult here. You can do this. I was about to interview the first of many young men who wanted a date with one of my daughters.
I stood to my feet and walked across the room, still amazed at how nervous I was as I stepped into the lobby to meet Kevin—the only person in the building more anxious and ill at ease than I.
“Afternoon, Kevin, glad you could make it.”
“Hello, Mr. Rainey.”
“How about we get something from the Coke machine. I hear you’re a Dr. Pepper man.”
Riding a very thin wave of forced, uncomfortable chitchat, I deposited enough quarters to dislodge a cold can for him and a Diet Coke for me. Then, not wanting to be the Ultimate Intimidator, I suggested we go outside and chat in the parking lot. That’s where he showed me his motorcycle—which wasn’t exactly how I wanted Ashley to go out on her first date!
I popped the tab on my soft drink and looked squarely into the same eyes that enjoyed looking at my 16-year-old daughter. We began with the basics. I asked him about school, his mom and dad and family, interests—just a general get-to-know-you type of conversation.
God made men and women different.
“Kevin,” I said, hoping I’d also remember the rest of the words I wanted to say, “God did a wonderful thing when he made women.”
The color fell from his face. This was going to be worse than he had thought. I wondered if at any moment he might hop on that motorcycle and bolt!
I continued. “And, Kevin, God made men and women different. You’ve probably noticed some of those differences.”
Kevin was getting paler by the minute, but he had the presence of mind to nod.
“Actually, God made us different so that men and women would be attracted to one another. Now, Kevin,” I paused for dramatic effect, “you have probably noticed that God made Ashley quite attractive. She’s a really cute girl. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that she has a cute figure.”
This was less of a statement and more of a question. If Kevin said no, he and I would both know he was lying. If he said yes, however, he was admitting to the obvious: that he had the audacity to notice my daughter’s figure!
After a brief pause, I spared him the agony and continued.
“I mean, you’re a young man and Ashley is a young lady, and God made men and women to be attracted to one another. It’s good.” Kevin seemed to be relieved at my pronouncement. I went on.
“And, Kevin, I just want you to know that I am a man and I understand this attraction. I was once a teenage boy, and I know what teenage boys think about. I’ve even read some research on this, and the studies show that teenage boys think about sex every seven seconds.”
At this point Kevin’s eyes darted, wondering where I was going next.
“And, Kevin, you and I both know those teenage boys were lying about the other six seconds.”
At this point Kevin’s eyes began to dilate! There was no dodging this one. “Yes, sir,” he said, with a nervous little laugh.
“Are we communicating?”
“Kevin, I don’t know how to put this any plainer: I want you to keep your lips and hands off my daughter. And I’m going to help you with that. Because whether I see you at the door after your first date with Ashley—or after your fiftieth date—you can expect me to ask you, ‘Kevin, are you dealing uprightly with my daughter?’ And I want you to know what I mean when I ask you that question. Are we communicating, Kevin?”
“Yes, sir.” His eyes were fully dilated at this point.
I continued. “Kevin, more than likely Ashley is going to be somebody’s wife someday. And I don’t want you touching her body. Would you want someone touching your wife’s body?”
“That’s what I thought. So you and I, we know what we’re talking about when I ask you to be accountable for protecting the emotional and moral purity of my daughter, right?”
He nodded enough to let me know my vocabulary was in his dictionary.
“And, Kevin, I want you also to take this challenge: If God ever gives you the privilege of being a husband and a dad, especially if He gives you girls, I want you to take your role so seriously with them that you’ll talk to your daughters’ dates the way I’ve talked with you today. Will you promise me that?”
At that point both Kevin and I were relieved that the conversation was over. I grinned and patted him on the back. I told him I was proud of him for coming to talk to me and allowing me to interact with him around such important issues.
As he was putting his helmet on, he answered one last question by assuring me he’d take Ashley out in a car!
Young men need to be challenged
That was it. Took maybe 20 minutes.
And over the years, I did a version of this same thing dozens of times as I interviewed young men who wanted to date my four daughters.
I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone through this. I’ve learned that there are some very specific things I need to know about each young man, and I try to tailor each of these little talks to the particular situation and the young man I’m dealing with.
In the process, I’ve met some fine maturing men and seen some interesting things happen along the way. In one case, another dad came with his son to sit in on the interview, to observe and be trained. I’ve also had younger brothers sit in (probably just to see their big brother squirm).
I even had one young man come to me and say, “Mr. Rainey, I’m not interested in asking any of your daughters out on a date, but I was wondering, would you be willing to take me through the interview?” I did. He wanted to go through it so he would know what I said. It reminded me that young men today yearn for older men to enter their worlds, talk straight with them about how to treat a young lady, and call them to a high standard.
Listen, I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about this. The statistics don’t lie. Despite more than a decade of “Just Say No” and countless sermons on “Love, Sex, and Dating,” the sexual conduct of Christian youth growing up in Christian youth groups, worshiping to Christian music, and sitting in Christian Bible studies, is virtually no different than the sexual conduct of any other teenager.
These young men who like what they see in our daughters enough to want to spend time alone with them need us to hold them accountable and call them to restrain their sexual passions. They need older men, dads, to challenge them to protect our daughters and do what it takes to guard their moral purity.
Let’s do it.
Teaching Children About Sex:
We need to talk to you about sex. Kids today are learning more information faster than ever before, so fast it’s scary. And without some good teaching on this subject they are in for a difficult time in their lives.
If you aren’t talking to your kids about sex then you’re the only one who isn’t. They’re hearing about it on TV, in music, at school, from friends, and through advertisements of every kind. But parents find this one of the most difficult subjects to address with their kids.
There are three reasons parents don’t talk to their kids about sex. First, they’re too embarrassed. Second, they don’t know how. And third… they’re too embarrassed.
Here are some questions that will help guide your parenting decisions when it comes to sex education in your family.
How early do we start talking to our kids about sex?
Recognizing that children are at different stages of maturity, it’s important to discuss sex and related issues in a way that’s appropriate for a child’s age and development. Parents set an open atmosphere with their kids by talking even with preschoolers about differences between boys and girls, privacy, and God’s design for families. This open dialogue answers a child’s question only as far as they need to know but teaches kids that they can talk to their parents about these issues and that differences are part of God’s design.
As children move into the elementary years it’s good to talk more about biology and the growth of a baby inside of a mother and that God designed the process of pregnancy and birth.
By preadolescence it’s important to talk about intercourse, privacy, the biology of pregnancy, and sex within the confines of a marriage relationship. It’s also important to talk to kids about how to relate to the opposite sex. Differences are fun but need to be handled carefully.
During adolescence it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your kids about sexual intimacy, biology, and reproduction. Although kids are often hesitant to talk with their parents about this subject during the teen years, parents can do a lot to initiate an open dialogue with their teens.
What are the areas we should talk about?
Although the material you cover is partly determined by the child’s age and interest, here are some basic things you want to consider as you talk with your children.
First, use the correct anatomical terms for body parts.
Second, talk about social relationships between boys and girls. You want to encourage healthy dialogue between guys and gals within limits. The reality is that girls and boys think and act differently and that makes for interesting interaction. That’s not only okay. It’s good.
However, sometimes the interaction turns into flirting and experimentation. Privacy, sexual jokes, teasing, and touching games are part of the social interaction you’ll want to discuss. Be careful about your own teasing in the area of relationships. Young people can become quite sensitive and self-conscious. You’ll want to be honoring and affirming as you talk about this sensitive subject.
Third, talk about values that influence sexual decisions and God’s design and plan for marriage, sex, and family. It’s important for children of all ages to realize that living within God’s guidelines for sexual purity produces the healthiest and strongest marriage relationships and avoids many emotional problems that come with sexual promiscuity.
What if my child has shown an early interest in sex?
Sometimes children touch themselves or experiment and explore with other children, exposing themselves to more information and experience than you’d like or that is helpful for them.
An increased exposure or interest in sex at an early age is important to address. Here are some guidelines. By all means, keep your fear and anger in check. You can do more damage to your relationship with your children by your intensity than by the experimentation itself. You want to set firm limits without making kids feel ashamed or guilty about their own sexual interests and desires.
Be firm in setting limits with kids regarding their involvement with other children. Kids need to know that sexual exploration is not acceptable. When children engage in sexual stimulation at a young age, work to distract them, keep them busy, and gently encourage them away from that activity.
Children who use privacy to explore sexuality need less alone time. Keep them in common areas and in places where you can keep an eye on them. Children who have a greater interest generally need more discussions and teaching about sexual issues.
Which parent should do the talking to our kids?
Some people believe that dads should talk to their sons and that mothers should talk to their daughters about sexual issues. It’s important, however, that both dads and moms have significant discussions with their kids. The reality is that men think differently than women. When a mom talks to her son about sex she’ll emphasize different things and have a different perspective on the subject than a dad will.
Likewise, when a dad talks to his daughter about sex he’ll approach it differently. Furthermore, when sexual issues become more important and correction is required you want to have both parents involved. Also, the reality in most families is that children often gravitate to one parent over the other as the parent they confide in. This isn’t wrong. It’s a reality. So, who does the talking may be determined by the unique family dynamic.
Should we talk to our children individually or together?
The answer to the question is “both.” Open conversation about sex within the family dynamics includes group discussions about the social issues, and maybe even some conversations about pregnancy and birth. Certainly developing personal convictions in children requires individual conversations. The ages of the children in the family must be considered.
You may discuss more with an older child in private so as not to expose younger children to more information than their development is ready for.
Open honest conversations in family life both individually and together require that a parent feel comfortable with the dialogue. This takes work but it’s worth it in the end.
Imagine your unmarried daughter pregnant at 17 or your unmarried son fathering a child. You want to have done everything you can now to prevent that. Recognizing that your kids are in danger in our sex-crazed society will fuel your desire to overcome any personal issues and allow you to be proactive in this area with your kids.
Read the book How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex. This book will give you practical ideas for addressing these issues with your children.
Get an age-appropriate book from our Learning About Sex curriculum. These books provide you with a resource, taking the focus off of you or your child and placing the focus on an informative book. At the National Center for Biblical Parenting we are committed to helping you be the most effective parent possible. We work with moms and dads every week and we know that parenting is the toughest job in the world.
Used with permission from Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.