It was the middle of the night. Or day. Or whatever that fog of time is called when your jet-lagged family is in-between flights at an airport in Paris, on the other side of the world.
We had an extra hour and we were on a mission to find Chapstick for our windburned lips. We stumbled into one of those airport stores that has everything from duty free cigarettes to luggage and split up to start our search. My husband walked one way, but I thought I spotted the familiar red and white tubes and headed the other with my little one following behind me. The label was in French and I wasn’t sure if I’d found what I was looking for and turned to look for an English speaking attendant.
That’s when I saw my two older kids. My teen daughter had a shocked look on her face and was just turning to look for me. I heard her say her brother’s name sharply after she noticed what he was staring at and his head snapped up just as I walked towards them. He looked at me. “Mom?” he said confused. I looked at the row of magazines in front of him and realized my son was standing in front of a half dozen magazine covers in the center of the store. Pornography.
It was Europe after all.
“I didn’t mean to look,” he said. “I just…’
“It’s okay, son. Looking once is unavoidable. It’s what we do after that first look that matters.”
Everything is filtered in our home: we have protected Internet, our Netflix account has a parental password, we opted in addition security on Google images, and Net Nanny on our phones.
We aren’t paranoid, we are proactive. Plus we are highly sensitive to this topic since it nearly destroyed our marriage nearly ten years ago.
We are also prepared. We talk about the dangers online. We have a stack of books we’re working our way through from living in purity to fighting lust. We are open about what our kids are exposed to from peers.
Protecting our children from our sexually-charged culture is something we work hard at. And in one unavoidable moment, it happened. My sixth grade son saw pornography right in front of me.
And that’s when I realized something gravely important: It’s impossible to filter the entire world. I can’t do it forever. It’s not realistic or even my job. Instead I have to equip my kids.
You can’t turn on the TV during a half-time football game and escape breasts and tiny shorts or checkout at a grocery store and miss Miley Cyrus hanging nude from a wrecking ball. My kids don’t have smart phones to receive sext messages or view explicit images online, but friends at church and school do. And really, we’re all just one click away from something we can’t un-see.
The most important thing we can teach our kids is self control. Because let’s face it: no matter how well we parent, our kids are going to be tempted. It goes with being human. Self-control is the ability to control our emotions, abilities and desires. It’s the power to stop spending money we don’t have, to tell our kids no when entitlement rears it’s ugly head. It’s exactly what we need to teach our kids to stop eyes from looking the second time.
Without self-control, we are absolutely defenseless against sin. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28. When the word self-control is used in the Bible it describes a person who is willing to get a grip on their lives and take control.
Self-control is the key to living in our sex-crazed world without giving into it’s lustful appeal. And as hard as it is to accept, our kiddos are sexual creatures and at some point in their lives, it will appeal to them. That’s why we can’t wait. Here are three things we can do to help our kids (and ourselves) exercise self-control in their lives:
- Model it. Our kids are watching us and we are their example. And when you blow it, apologize and try again.
- Ask God for it. Self-control is a gift from God. The more we get work on our relationship with Him, the more empowered He makes us.
- Teach it. It’s easy to feel unprepared. Don’t be afraid to rely on solid resources like Passport2Purity; Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle; Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle; Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World
My husband pulled my son close as we paid for the Chapstick and walked towards our gate. “Whenever you see something like that, look away immediately. Bounce your eyes and try really hard not to look again. You might be tempted to look again, but ask God to help you have self control not to.”
I’ll never forget that day in the airport on that cold day in December. But instead of remembering it as a day of failure, I see it as a day of opportunity to teach my kids the importance of self-control and second chances.
*Updated to add* If you’re not a regular reader here you might read this post out of context with the way we live our lives for God (and what I’ve written for years). While I’m encouraging parents to teach self control and fleeing sin to their kids, that’s only part of it. It’s mostly about pursuing Jesus and showing our kids how satisfying it is to have a relationship with him. The closer we are to God, the less we want the things of this world. That’s the foundation we base our lives on.