As Christian Parents, Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Sex

Untitled designIt happened at dinner the other day.

The sex talk with my kids. I expected it to go differently.

My 7-year-old daughter posed a question about babies, and somehow the stage was set for me to explain what Mommy and Daddy do to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy.

After the blurting out of key body parts and necessary actions, I felt my stomach do a near back-flip and the color leave my face, but I felt proud of myself. I had conquered the Mt. Everest of parental duty: I had explained the birds-and-the-bees to my offspring.

I had even accomplished this feat in a fairly timely, age-appropriate manner. Granted, my 4-year-old was listening in on the conversation, and I hadn’t exactly intended for him to be part of the audience, but overall, I felt it went pretty well.

After my explanation, I waited for screams of shock, my daughter fainting from the trauma of hearing me speak of, gasp, sex. But no such moment happened. My daughter wrinkled her nose and said, “Ewww!” with a giggle. My son chimed in an enthusiastic comment which doesn’t seem appropriate to repeat here and then finished up his plate. A minute later, both kids pushed back their chairs, got up from the table, and noisily requested permission to play the Wii.

I shrugged. Well, OK. That wasn’t so bad. Is it possible that as a Christian parent I might be able to navigate the topic with grace and ease? I had assumed otherwise.

The Decision to Talk Openly About Sex With My Kids as a Christian Parent

A few years ago, I decided that I needed to be open with my children in discussing sex and body parts. I myself was a child of the 80s, and sex wasn’t talked about openly in my household. In fact, my first introduction to the topic was on the bus ride home from school one day. I was in second grade and a much older boy threw out the details to me, though I didn’t ask. I was thoroughly horrified by his description, and after that initial introduction, I pieced together what I knew from anatomy illustrations in books, romantic scenes in movies, and finally, the information they gave us in the public school sex education program.

Because of my own rude introduction to the topic, I knew that I needed to initiate the conversation with my own kids and make myself available when the questions came — because if I didn’t, they were going to find the answers elsewhere. It was only a matter of time before they heard about sex on the bus or saw a raunchy image in a magazine or noticed an ad pop up on the computer.

However, navigating the discussion of sex as a Christian parent is not without its challenges. We may not know how to approach the subject. Therefore, we may just avoid it altogether or bumble our way through it in a way that is awkward for ourselves and our kids. However, kids need to have honest discussions with their parents about sex. Therefore, even though I am learning as I go, here are a few things I plan to do with my own kids when it comes to talking about sex:

1. Make it an ongoing conversation.

Obviously, I described a big moment at the dinner table where I explained sex to my kids using correct anatomical terms. However, I had decided before that point that I would make sex and growing up an ongoing conversation with my kids. Rather than white-knuckle my way through one big uncomfortable conversation (or avoid it completely) well past the time my kids had heard it from someone else, I decided I would answer my kids’ questions when they came up and give the information that was age-appropriate as they progressed.

Therefore, even though we did have a conversation that was big at the table in terms of me revealing with honesty what happens to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy, there were several small conversations before that point where I told them a fraction about sex and baby development that contributed to the dinner conversation. As my kids grow, I want to continue to provide them with information and materials that will help them to know what is happening to their changing bodies, as well as God’s plan for sex. Although not every parent needs to have the exact same approach, I believe that it’s far more effective to have a series of small conversations about sex and the body as our children grow rather than one enormous conversation that we never touch on again (or no conversation at all).

2. Take shame out of the equation.

Because I didn’t hear many adults in my life (other than the educational figures at school) talk about sex when I was growing up, sex had an air of secrecy to it. I got the impression that sex was bad. It was too bad to talk about. There must be something dirty about it. It wasn’t until I watched a Song of Songs series as an adult that I realized that it’s OK to talk about sex in the appropriate context. God talks about sex, and it’s not shameful to mention certain body parts or acknowledge that they exist. God spends a lot of time talking about His design for intimate relationships and sex in His Word. We should follow His model and not make our kids feel bad or ashamed when they come across a word that they are curious about or have a question about sex or their bodies. Answering their questions and engaging their concerns without shutting them down or looking at them in horror when they bring up a query helps our kids to have a healthy view of sex and takes shame out of the equation.

3. Discuss sex in terms beyond just “Don’t do it.”

As Christian parents, our discussion of sex needs to be in the context of “Here’s God’s Framework for Sex and Why,” rather than just “Don’t!” Unfortunately, for many of us who grew up in the church, the main message we got was just that: “Don’t do it!” I received this particular message of “Don’t” in a myriad of ways: through talks at youth groups, the encouragement to sign a purity contract at church, articles I read in Christian teen magazines, etc. Although the message of purity needs to be one that is given to young people, it is far more effective to tell our young people why, not just don’t. If we take time to explain to our kids that God has created boundaries for relationships and sex to protect us from forming unhealthy soul ties and hurting ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually, kids might be more inclined to get on board with God’s plan for sex, instead of hurting themselves by engaging in promiscuous behavior.

Breaking the Silence: Talking About Sex With Your Kids

Not being open about the topic of sex with kids can cause them to receive confusing or misleading messages about sex and God’s plan for intimacy. Never telling your child about sex in the hopes that he or she won’t do it isn’t realistic. Similarly, acting embarrassed or alarmed when your child asks questions about sex may cause them to view sex as shameful.

As parents, we need to teach our kids what God’s Word says about sex, but also prepare them for the reality that the boundaries for sex and marriage given to us by God will be challenged by the culture. If we create a safe place for our kids to talk with us about sex when they are young and continue the conversation with them with age-appropriate information as they grow, they will be less likely to find out their information from erroneous sources that do not have their best interests in mind — and develop a healthy view of sex they will carry into adulthood.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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What Potty Training Taught Me About Christian Parenting

potty training as a Christian parent

I read in a recent devotional by Mark Batterson that most people have a lot of ideas about how to parent until they actually become parents.

I know that statement has been true of me. I was the person (pre-children) standing in line at Wal-mart watching a father struggle to keep his shrieking child contained to the cart, thinking, “My child will never act like that!”

And then I had kids and discovered my kids are often like that. Parenting is not as easy as it looks, and my kids behave in ways I never thought they would. I am often baffled by my daughter’s sassy mouth and my son’s refusal to eat his dinner. (He would prefer to live off of Goldfish.) I often feel like a failure. Totally ill-equipped.

Take potty-training for instance. When it was time to potty-train my daughter, I really was quite optimistic. I invested in an Elmo potty video, sticker chart and princess potty seat. I talked to her about the process and demonstrated in my most enthusiastic way how to sit on the potty. I remember thinking, “I got this. I was a teacher. I took human development classes.” I am Mommy lion. Watch me roar.

Or watch me wince. Shortly into the “initiative,” my daughter grew very resistant to the process and despite my coaxing and nagging, or perhaps because of it, she announced one day with a scream, “I won’t use the potty!”

Whoa! Where did that come from? Could it be that my incentives, videos, potty seats and altogether awesome parenting just wasn’t working? Part of me just wanted to force it — just make her sit on the potty, punish her when she didn’t do the business. But another part of me felt a little warning. Since the Bible doesn’t have much to say about teaching one’s child to use the commode, I decided to pray and ask God how a godly parent should approach this potty training nightmare. What was I doing wrong?

When I prayed, the word “control” popped into my mind. Control. I was so busy dominating the situation that I wasn’t even really even noticing that my daughter wasn’t learning. She was shutting down.

And I noticed something else. Somewhere along the line I had adopted the philosophy that Christian parenting meant I was big, bad parent disciplinarian at all times. However, this isn’t really Christian parenting at all. While a godly parent may take a stand when her teenager announces he is dropping out of school, say no when the kindergartener asks for an iphone, or insist that her three-year-old eat chicken and rice rather than a Pop-Tart for dinner — it doesn’t mean a totalitarian approach that does not take into account the needs of the child.

A Christian parent is one who constantly considers the special make-up and temperament of her child and works to create an environment that best encourages this child to grow.

What the Bible Says About Effective Parenting

Because I was not aware of what the Bible says about how I was to conduct myself as a parent, I had to do a little study of Ephesians 6:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

You know what I found? Ephesians 6 emphasizes not only that children must honor their parents but that parents are not to “exasperate” their children. “Exasperate” in the Greek means “to provoke to anger” (Strong’s Concordance). Parents have a tremendous responsibility to keep their power in check — not to force submission just because they can. They have a responsibility to not discipline in anger or abuse their God-given authority. And while children have a responsibility in turn to honor parents, parents can make it easier for them to do so by being the kind of patient, loving example God intended.

I will be the first to admit that I am not very patient. It takes a lot to work to be patient, especially when children do careless, irritating things. And quite frankly, children always seem to be doing careless, irritating things. When my daughter simply informs me that she won’t use the potty (not because she can’t but because she won’t), or when my son sneaks cookies when I just told him he can’t have more, I lose all sense of resolve to be patient. I find myself yelling and blaming and threatening.

Here’s the thing: I am not going to be perfect, but I can continually work toward the goal of asking for God to help me be the kind of parent who doesn’t use my power in an unhealthy way. I can work to understand and unravel each of my children and strive to figure out how God hardwired them, using self-control when they don’t react to situations the way I would want them to and keeping my anger in check so they know that I am correcting wrong behavior — not telling them that there is something wrong with them — when I discipline. I can apologize when I blow it and admit that I make mistakes.

Ephesians 6 emphasizes boundaries but also relationship with the child. This style of parenting takes a whole lot more work than screaming incessantly at the kids from the recliner. It requires walking alongside kids as they encounter the various milestones of life, listening to their concerns and allowing them to have a voice. And that is maybe why some parents (myself included) fall so easily into the other method. Tyrannical parenting doesn’t take much work.

With God’s Guidance, I Finally Potty-Trained My Daughter

My first attempt at potty training my daughter failed miserably. I had to give up the endeavor entirely for several months until some of the negativity that had built up around it subsided. We didn’t start again until after her third birthday. This time, I approached it differently — with less pride in my parenting skills and more dependence on the Holy Spirit. I explained to my daughter that we were going to try wearing underpants, but this time I didn’t force her to sit on the potty or get upset at her when she didn’t. I told her the consequences of not using the potty: she would be very uncomfortable in her underwear.

But I let her make the decision. We brought back the incentive system, but this time I tiered the rewards — she got a sticker just for sitting on the potty at first to give her encouragement. This in turn gave way to other rewards for actually doing business. And when she was terrified to go #2, we prayed with her and talked her through it and presented her with a doll as a reward. But we didn’t force it.

The potty training lesson for me was never a lesson about how to potty train my daughter. It was a lesson in how to give up my control and look to God for the best ways to guide and instruct my daughter as she acquired this important life skill. I still struggle to know at times how to parent my children without unfairly manipulating my power. However, my greatest lesson has been to learn that my children are really not mine — they are God’s, and I am being held accountable for how I parent them.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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