Raising Kids in a "Pornified" Culture

"Dad, why is there a picture of a woman in underwear up there?" The question my (then) 9 year old son asked as we passed a lingerie store in a mall. So began my long talk with him about marketing and morals. It is strange that Canada has made such in-roads as regards gender rights, etc., and yet, we still see women objectified in every mall in the country. Perhaps there is a more learned person out there who will tell me that pictures of airbrushed women in their underwear in a store window are actually empowering, but I doubt it. Regardless, our boys will/are all growing up in a highly sexualized culture. While we can stick our kids in Christian private schools or homeschool them, there is no stopping the influence of the world's perspective on sex from impacting them. Pornography, once more difficult to access, is now available to anyone with +a wifi connection. There is no shortage of studies that show the terrible effects of pornography in the lives of men and women. How do we raise our kids in a "pornified" culture? The suggestions below come from Zach Nielson at the Vine Church in Madison, WI.

1. Aim to give our kids a huge view of God who is gloriously delightful. We can't simply tell our kids to stop doing certain behaviours, but we must also teach them to delight in what God has made. I have been trying to make a discipline out of pointing out all the good in God's creation. This week while we have been on vacation it has been a blessing to watch my two older kids spending hours picking the wild raspberries that grow in Grandma and Grandpa's huge back yard. They need to be reminded that God is so good to give us such amazing created blessings, such as raspberries! If we are not careful we can become functional Gnostics (flesh and matter is bad, only that which is "spiritual" has value) in our communication about ethics with our kids. 1 Tim. 4:4 is a good verse for them to memorize.

2. Teach them the gospel. Our kids are spring loaded to be default legalists. They have to see us model the truth of the gospel through active repentance and forgiveness. They have to know that their acceptance before God is not based on their performance, but on Christ's performance. They have to know that their standing as a family member is not dependant on their obedience as if they could earn that status, but rather, their standing as a family member implies a certain type of living. For example, when we are disciplining our kids we often say, "Since you are a member of this family and since I love you so much, you will not do....". This is far different than saying, "If you want me to love you and if you want to keep living in this house, you better stop doing...!" The indicatives of our faith HAVE to precede the imperatives. If we reverse that order we'll be in a heap of trouble.

3. Teach them that boundaries bring freedom and obedience is a blessing. One of the greatest means that I have observed in my sanctification is believing that obedience is a blessing. When I was a kid I thought that if I screwed up, God was going to whack me with a big stick. No one ever taught me this (that I can recall) but it's simply what I gravitated towards. Obedience was not motivated by love, but rather by fear of punishment. This didn't get me very far.

When my kids are age appropriate I plan to communicate the truth that sexual sin will never prove to bring freedom. They can choose to reap the harmful consequences of disobedience, but will warn them from God's word and personal experience that they don't want to go down that path.

4. Talk to them sooner than later about sex. Twenty-five years ago, when I was 8, I remember going next door to our neighbour's back garage. As any curious kid would do, I liked to snoop around a bit. I soon discovered that he had boxes full of Playboy magazines. Sometimes a friend and I would sneak out there and grab a few of the magazines and go sit in the bushes and look at the naked women. Back then, that was a risky endeavour that filled my stomach with butterflies for fear of getting caught by my parents or the neighbour man, but today all you need is a closed door and an internet connection.

I'm not sure yet how this will go down, but I know I will need to help my kids know what is out there and why it is so destructive. Some would say that this will just serve to stir up their curiosity, but what is the alternative? I would rather have them be warned by me, so that I can give them reasons and means to fight it, than have them just stumble upon it someday on the internet.

5. Begin to train your kids on how to interact with the opposite sex. We have already started to "date" our two older kids. Once a month (on the number of the month of their birthday) we rotate taking them on dates. We feel that it is very important for them, at a very early age, to begin to experience what it looks like to be treated well by a member of the opposite sex. Especially for girls, having no healthy male attention from Dad will often lead them to seek it out in unhealthy ways from younger men who are more than willing to provide it. My boys need to learn that women are not objects to be consumed but that God will someday provide them a helpmate that they will have the opportunity to lay down their lives for through loving service.

6. Guard who your kids spend time with. Since sexual exposure is so much more accessible today than it was 25 years ago, we are much more aware of who are children spend time with. There will come an age (sooner than I want to think about) when we won't be able to guard them as tightly, but hopefully the above points will have taken root in their lives so they will be able to make wise decisions.

7. Put Your Computer in a Public Place and Turn Off The T.V.
We don't plan to let our kids spend unsupervised time on the computer and it will be limited. Certainly this will change as they get older, but again, hopefully by then, they will have tasted of the blessing of obedience and have internalized the gospel. Victory over porn is definitely a heart issue, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have structures in place to help us have victory over sin. Since all victory over sin is a heart issue, does that mean I should just place myself in dangerous situations all the time to prove the point? "I want to know that my obedience is motivated by more than just following the right rules, so I am going to dive into unwise situations that could lead to sin, just to see if I am strong enough to withstand it!" That is absurd. We need right hearts so as to not be legalists, but right boundaries can help us experience God's blessing of obedience.

The T.V. will show your kids functional soft porn all the time. There are so many better things to do with your kids than watch T.V. Read with them, play sports with them, experience creation with them, tell them a story, or just serve them in an activity that they dictate. The key phrase here is "with them". If they spend more time with the T.V. than they do with you as a parent, you know you are in trouble.

8. Seek to cultivate a relationship with your kids such that they feel as though they can be open with you about anything. As a young Dad, I am not totally sure how to pull this one off, but I know that it will come through modelling this kind of openness with them. I will seek to draw out their hearts and show them that if they are honest with me, Dad will be fair, loving and offer a listening ear to them. I will need to initiate honest discussion with them and take risks of communication with them. If they see me as guarded and reserved why would I expect them to be any different?

Carl Sept 20, 2018

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