Jul 18, 2014

Raising Sons in a Sexualized World (Q and LA)

Welcome to our third session of Q and LA (questions and Lutheran answers). As you may recall, "This is just a discussion that we wish we were having over tea and coffee in someone’s living room. There would probably be kids yelling in the background. There would probably be cookies, and spilled tea." I have really appreciated reading the questions and answers, and it sounds like our readers have, too.

Feel free to chime in with your own advice, input, or anecdotes (we love anecdotes) in the comments.

If you want to send us questions for a later addition of Q and LA, you can add them below in the comments or e-mail them to sister-daughter-mother-wife (at) googlegroups.com.

Today's Question:

How do you raise your sons as godly young men with all the temptations that the world throws at them? I'm thinking particularly of pornography and masturbation, etc. How can you keep vigilant in this (trying not to be suspicious, hovering, or overly protective) while also letting them learn and think for themselves?

Drusha Mussmann (mother of seven children from high-school aged to adult)

Having a goal or mental picture of the results you want is the key to deciding what to do. As Christians, we look to Scripture to see how God deals with sex to learn what we are to imitate. So how does God treat sex in His Word? The Bible addresses it frankly, respectfully, and as a good thing. It is something special and sacred that needs to be kept private, and yet it is also part of ordinary life. The Bible also doesn’t whitewash the effect that sin has had on sexual relations or hide from sexual sinners. My husband and I decided we ought to raise virtuous adult children who were not easily shocked by the behavior of the world (how can they minister to unbelievers if their jaws are on the ground?) and who would be equipped to love their spouses sexually.

We tried to teach them that sexuality is not merely the marital act. It’s about so much more. It’s about how you treat the opposite sex, for instance. Teach your children to approach others as people instead of objects. Your sons should look girls in the face, not the chest. Your daughters shouldn’t objectify the members of boy bands and gush over their cute haircuts as if nothing else about them mattered. This kind of behavior is learned by watching others—it’s your job to model love and respect for the humanity of everyone you meet. Save the warmth and excitement in your voice for talking about character, not just looks. It’s good to admire beauty honestly, but just not as enthusiastically as hard work, kindness, perseverance, and etc. Don’t overemphasize gender in a way that de-emphasizes individual, human worth (for example, don’t make a big deal about talking to or playing with someone of the opposite sex instead of one’s own).

Some people try to instill chasteness by keeping their children ignorant about sex, as if that will protect their children from being able to sin. I even know a couple who entered marriage so uninstructed that they were not able to figure out how to have intercourse for two years. However, the issue that the Bible stresses is lust, and even the most naïve individual can sin in that way. Besides, ignorance is a flimsy protection, because the world can strip that away in about five minutes. We didn’t want our children to be naïve, but instead to be virtuous—actively desiring to do what is right, and trained in a proper understanding of sex and human value. We were more concerned about the attitudes of lust and selfishness that lead to acts of sin than the acts themselves (and I think this is the focus that we find in Scripture).

Our culture communicates a very different message. This means that you have to be deliberate about modeling and teaching a healthy attitude. Don’t make virtue harder for your children by surrounding them with an unrealistic image of life. Realize that all media is oversexed at this point and limit it. That will probably mean severely restricting movies, games, television and music. We used to turn off the TV during commercials when watching sports events because of their double meanings and sexy images.

Start this modeling and discussion younger than you think is necessary; certainly by ten years of age. Don’t ignore the stuff that comes up in daily life: instead, use it to teach Christian values by offering a brief commentary and moving on. De-emphasize sex by being up front and respectful. Talk about the times in the future when marriage/love will come, but follow Solomon’s advice “not [to] stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 3:5 ESV). You don’t want to make it more tempting by freaking out. For instance, we did not stress about nude statues or naked women in art, as if our children couldn’t handle exposure to the human body.

As the mom, you have the opportunity to create a home atmosphere that supports and demonstrates healthy love and respect for others. However, as the mom, you are also a woman, and so it’s a good idea to let dad handle the male-specific conversations that are only one tiny part of this big picture.

Allison Kieselowsky (mother of four young children)

From the youngest age, our children need to hear sexuality express in terms of vocation.  God bestowed the pleasure of sexual intimacy upon husbands and wives, those who have vowed to serve Him in specific vocations.  We need to emphasize that sexual is not merely about personal fulfillment or identity or expression of our own personality.  Our desires are clouded, distorted, and twisted by sin, the world, and the devil, and so left to our own devices, sexual desire becomes convoluted.  We need Christ to re-establish the order of creation and to live in repentance and return each day to our baptisms.  This language needs to become embedded into the hearts and minds of each family member.  We need to talk to each other in terms of repentance, forgiveness, and the order God has established. 

This and prayer are the greatest safeguards we can establish.  I also think parents need to dedicate themselves to answering questions and speaking of sexuality using proper anatomical terminology and without embarrassment.  I do recommend Concordia Publishing House (CPH) curriculum for sexual education, by the way, which is leveled for appropriate conversations and information for specific age levels. It also includes DVDs, but I think these should be viewed together, parents and children.  If you cannot afford the series, it is worth asking your church to help purchase the lot to keep in the church library for the whole congregation to use.  

I also think that while children live under their parents’ roof, their technology should be limited to public spaces.  For example, computers are only used with doors open or in the family room or in a space that people regularly walk through, which helps to focus their use on real work and not inappropriate entertainment.  Also consider that there is a difference between having a cell phone and have a Smartphone with full access to the internet.  Decide what children need, not what they want.

Having said all of that, there is no way to absolutely ensure that children and young adult will not be exposed to temptations, especially as they become more and more independent.  We commend our children and their care to Christ in prayer, we continually talk to our children (especially teenagers) about current events and about articles we’ve read on the sexual culture of our time, and use these to form and shape godly character.    

Leigh Spittel (mother of four adult children)

Raising your sons to be godly young men who respect themselves, women in general, avoid overt sexual behavior, and can think for themselves begins with two essential elements: understanding the relationship of Jesus Christ to his Church, and living by example. Jesus is the Bridegroom and His church is the Bride. The Bridegroom gives His life for His Bride, and the Bride respects, adores and serves her Bridegroom. This is the perfect model of a godly marriage as described in Ephesians 5. If husbands and wives remain in God's Word and  follow Christ's example throughout their marriage, then leading by example becomes a natural extension of their faith to their children and others. Luther's explanation of the Sixth Commandment in the Small Catechism is a godly view of God's gift of sexuality and a wonderful tool for teaching, beginning around fourth grade. Teaching your sons (and daughters) at this young age will help them to develop a godly understanding of human sexuality before they learn it from peers with a more secular perspective.

Children learn about relationships with others from watching their parents Their father's attitude toward their mother is key in forming  future attitudes toward, and relationships with, women.  Make no mistake about it,actions speak louder than words. If Dad does not respect Mom, then it will be negatively reflected in his words, gestures, and actions. Negative or condescending attitudes that devalue women as objects, may lead to future pornographic tendencies or the excessive need to masturbate.  Boys will express natural curiosity towards sexuality as they mature. If they grow up with loving parents who regularly say " I love you," display gentle expressions of affection, and communicate effectively and respectfully, then boys will be more likely to  model this behavior with their future wives and less in need of excessive sexual expression both privately or openly. Talking honestly, answering your sons questions as they occur, and inviting discussion,will help them to learn to think for themselves and make good decisions when faced with challenges.

Surrounding your sons with positive male role models and wholesome activities is vital to maintaining vigilance. When your son is a very little boy, his father, grandfather(s)  and uncle(s) are his most active role models. As he grow up, teachers, principles, clergy, youth leaders and neighbors become influential role models too. Since boys learn best by physically engaging in new skills, getting them involved in a service organization for boys, like the new Trail Life USA, is a wonderful idea. Through wholesome outdoor activities and service to God and others, your sons will learn essential life and survival skills, leadership, teamwork, and character building that will teach them to think, bring out their best, and positively impact their future! Parents who are involved in their children's lives and activities have more impact and enjoy better communication with their sons as well.

Have another answer or anecdote to share? Chime in in the comments!

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