The Most Important Thing We Can Teach Our Kids in an Over-Sexualized World

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.

The most important thing we can teach our kids in an oversexualed world

“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.

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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:

  1. Model it. Our kids are watching us and we are their example. And when you blow it, apologize and try again.
  2. 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.
  3. Teach it. It’s easy to feel unprepared. Don’t be afraid to rely on solid resources like Passport2PurityPreparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle; Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s BattleSex 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.


Comments

  1. 1

    Robyn says

    I love every single parenting piece you write! You always get right to the heart of the matter, with direct steps on how to handle the situation. This one really hit home, as I now have a 11 & 10 year old who are getting more and more tech savvy. I, like you, screen and protect as much as possible, but I love how you really advise to prepare for when it does happen. Thanks again for sharing from your heart.

  2. 2

    says

    Thank you! Our kids are still young but we deal with this in seemingly small ways right now and sometimes I feel lost. I love your advice and appreciate it so much.

  3. 4

    says

    I’d say that was a wild success! He wasn’t happy with what he saw, so you must be doing something right!

    I lived in Israel for a year, and it’s a lot like Europe that way. There was porn sold at every street corner kiosk, and it was advertized by putting the actual magazines on racks below the counter, just like gas stations in the US sell candy–right at eye level for my little boy in a stroller. Luckily, he was too young to pay attention, but I still didn’t like it. The women’s magazines weren’t much better.

    And then there was the nude beach in Tel Aviv, and the regular beach that might as well be for nudists. Those were right across from the fast food restaurants. On top of that, our favorite ice cream parlor was near the beach, and in Israel, prostitution is legal, so the streets near the shore are littered with cards advertising women and their “services”–just like in Vegas. I don’t know how anyone manages to raise kids in that kind of environment!

    Whenever I see that kind of thing start to crop up in American culture or hear someone make light of it, I try to explain to them what I’ve seen. Because the real deal isn’t attractive or alluring–it’s really quite a sickening experience–and I think a lot of more libertine-minded Americans just don’t understand what it is they advocate because they are too sheltered to know.

  4. 5

    says

    OH.MY.GOODNESS…. This is so spot on. I have such a heart for this as well. The average age of exposure is between 8-12. I have 11 year old twin boys. Talking about this is likely one of the most important conversations as a parent. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for putting it so well here for so many other moms (and dads) to read and process. If we link arms and talk about these real things, perhaps we can raise a generation that is attracted to purity and modesty!

  5. 6

    Kathryn says

    You are so right, we can only protect our children so much, but eventually we have to know that they have to make the right decision. I just love the end of your post when you talk about your husband pulling your son to the side and talking to him. It starts with the dads and works down from there. What a blessing your husband is to your son <3

  6. 7

    tia bennett says

    We too teach “bouncing our eyes”. It is so not easy when you are ambushed at every commercial it seems. You’re not responsible for the first look, but you are responsible for what you do with it.
    My husband did a study with a group of middle school boys last year from the book “Aggressive Girls and Clueless Boys”( http://www.amazon.com/Aggressive-Girls-Clueless-Boys-Conversations/dp/1602005230)
    It was great and some of the boys in the group had never heard any kind of information like that.
    Thanks for continuing to bring up these hard topics, you’re making a difference!

  7. 8

    Megan says

    I think you are right on with this, and I know it is a huge issue. I must say, though, after 5 years of living in Europe (France), I feel like the US is a much more sexualized country. I never saw pornography in the middle of a store. Europeans seem to have a much healthier view of the human body than Americans do. You just don’t see the obsession with boob jobs and facelifts and all the plastic surgery that there is here. Yes, it is absolutely more liberal and free spririted, which we talked constantly with our kids about. On the beaches in France, you can ALWAYS tell the Americans, because they are the only ones staring at the topless women-because to Americans it’s about sex. Europeans don’t obsess over it.
    I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on it, but it’s frustrating to see Europeans demonized for it. After all, even though many European countries are identified as Christian or Catholic, less than 2% have a relationship with Christ. Wouldn’t you expect the lost to ACT lost?

    • 8.1

      kristen says

      You’re absolutely, right. And I didn’t mean any offense by my “it’s Europe, after all” comment. We love Europe. I just meant nudity is something expected on TV and newsstands and beaches. I grew up in America where this was all suppressed and you didn’t talk about it. That’s the last thing I want to do. It’s a balance. Thanks for helping me see more clearly.

  8. 9

    Catherine O. says

    Thank you for voicing a concern of so many parents! Your advice on how to handle the situations we cannot shelter our kids from is spot on…I will for sure be using this with my 8 and 10 year old boys. I love that you do not shy away form the tough subjects and that you back up your words with God’s word.

  9. 10

    says

    I like how you say to a ask God for self-control. I might go further and say ask God to hedge our eyes that we wouldn’t be put in the situation. Like the song ‘be careful little eyes what you see’ if we are asking God to keep our eyes from evil and it is our hearts desire… less will come in our paths.

  10. 11

    Joanne R. says

    Thank you for this insight – it is helpful. My youngest (9) is very observant and asks lots of questions. When he heard a reference to a strip club (in church) about a year ago, he wanted to know all about what they were, what people do there and WHY people would go there. Where do you go with that?

  11. 12

    Michael C says

    I think there is a lot in this article to like when it comes to dealing with the impacts of our culture. The one thing I would love to see added on top of the self control mantra is that even more than the importance of self control is the importance of a transformed heart. I have two young sons and an infant daughter and my wife and I have felt the impact pornography can have on a relationship. One thing we have discussed deeply is that instilling self control is critical for moments of weakness and temptation, but working towards reshaping for our children the ideas of biblical manhood, womanhood, marriage and sex is even more important. That my sons would understand that girls are daughters of God made in His image. That they would understand that sex is a great gift from God, but one he wired to specifically bring joy in marriage. That they would understand that women are not creatures to contrast and compare, but are rather people tenderly made by God in his perfect sovereign will. What I desire most for my sons is for them to long for the day God shows them the women (1 for each) he has created to be their wives. That they would crave this godly designed environment for sex, and that as they are exposed by peers and society around them to our oversexualised and woman objectifying culture they would grieve over God’s broken creation and ask God to continue to mold their lives to the life of Jesus. Thanks so much for bringing up and discussing this critical topic.

  12. 13

    kristen says

    I couldn’t agree more! Yes, this exactly. This is the key. I’ve written a lot about it before and I wish I’d added it to my already wordy post. Thank you so much for your comment.

  13. 14

    says

    We have taught the same. It’s about teaching them to look away, to not look back, to turn the cover, to glance at the floor. We teach them to give the girl the modesty she doesn’t know she needs.

    • 14.1

      says

      I like that you teach them to think of the girl, Becky. I think when we only focus on the temptation boys experience, it makes the women in porn into villains, when most likely they are victims of abuse, exploitation, or at the very least a desperate need for attention.

  14. 15

    says

    This is a beautifully written article. I am only beginning to imagine the years ahead and these conversations with my future kiddos. I hope to be as level-headed in such endeavors as you demonstrated in this story. Thank you for sharing!

  15. 16

    Cari says

    It’s shocking the impact pornogrophy has on this society. Young and old, male and female. I wish all encounters our children have with pornography or, for that matter, any temptation or sin would be right in front of us so we could teach and protect. Oh, God, thank you that You are always there. Guard our hearts, guard our children. In Jesus Name!

  16. 17

    says

    Thank you for sharing your heart, always. I have adopted kids that were sexually abused and it rocked our world and penetrated our home in ways we’re still recovering from. Our “normal” is probably not like anyone else’s “normal.” We can’t fix the secrets but we can live out grace and forgiveness……and prevention in every way we can. This is hard stuff but our kids need to hear it. Keep on preaching, Kristin!

  17. 18

    lisa says

    Thanks for such a great post! Could you please share what you use for an Internet filter? Ours keeps proving unreliable. Thanks!

  18. 19

    Lynn says

    I agree with much of what you have said here….and I’ve long contended that if we have to lock things up and have watchers on everything and it’s because our children want that sort of exposure…there is a much bigger problem there. The junk will always be there. What we want to raise is children who DON’T WANT to be exposed to it. There is such a difference between those two things.

  19. 20

    Rebecca Peterson says

    This is very well written! I am saving this article to continue reading through the years as my children get older.
    Thank you!

  20. 22

    says

    I found out just the other day, that no matter how diligent you are: things will be seen.
    we have all the filters and parental controls too. I even have it on my own phone – because…eeewww – I don’t care to see it either. So I was on my iphone on Instagram because my son wanted to find a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog for his iPod homescreen. I did not want him on Google images alone, so I figured Instagram was safer, as they are actually quite strict about anything inappropriate. And well whatdayaknow but smack dab in the middle of all the nice Sonic images, a teen girl had uploaded a naked picture of herself. Full frontal. Great. Nice going mom.
    But, like you did, I had to deal – so the only thing I could think of was to show him how to report the image as inappropriate and exit out of the app.
    Thankfully his response was “what is she stupid mom? you’re supposed to keep your privates private.”
    Good reply son!

  21. 24

    says

    I knew it already, but you kids are incredibly lucky to have you. I have two little boys (and a baby girl), and I am nervous every day about these things. I love the dialogue you shared because it helps me practice NOW in my head for those moments.

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