Some time ago, while driving through Houston with my almost 12 year old son, we stopped at a red light, right beside a billboard of a young woman who had way too much revealed. The light seemed to take forever. I shifted in my seat, trying to distract from it glaring right at us. Finally, my son said to me, "Um, Mom, she needs to get some clothes on."
Yes. Truth. Since that day, I've thought much about how this world might change for the better if we, as parents, could raise a generation of boys who learned to value and respect women as individuals, and not see them merely as objects. If we could raise a generation of girls, who respected themselves, believed their lives were valuable, and knew their real worth was not based on outward appearance.
Our world has a tendency to see things differently. Giving excuses for certain behaviors, “Well, boys will be boys.” Attempting to over-sexualize our girls through fashion, music, and style. Emphasizing whatever sells in a mass media onslaught. Encouraging women to use their bodies instead of their brains, and luring young people to follow pathways with little restraint, respect, or self-control.
God has more for us than that. Much more. We can choose to show grace to those who need to see it, speak truth to those who need to hear, and raise our kids to know that what is popular is not always what is true. There’s power there. And it’s a battle worth fighting. For our boys. For our girls. For our families.
10 Vital Steps for Raising Kids in a Sex-Crazed World:
1. Listen - Keep communication open and honest. Sometimes as parents, we’re great at talking, but not as good at listening. But we can be. Ask open ended questions. Give them time to respond and talk. Help them learn how to work through tough problems without trying to solve everything for them. Maybe offer words like, "what do you think might be the best thing to do?" Hold your own emotions in check, resist the urge to react, judge, or use anger to get your point across. Stay approachable.
2. Be aware. We can never just assume all is safe and well. That doesn’t mean we live in fear, but it does mean we walk in wisdom. Know where your kids are. Know who their friends are. Know their friends’ families. Know what they’re watching. Know who they’re texting. Know what they’re listening to. Know what they’re wearing. Know what they’re reading. Know who their social network followers are. Know what games they're playing. Know what apps they have downloaded (Here are the 9 most dangerous). If you're not good at technology - get good. Surprise your kids with how smart you really are. Keep the computers and TV's in common family areas. Know the passwords on their accounts and electronics. Establish appropriate boundaries, such as checking in cell phones at night, screen time limits, and curfew times.
3. Be present. Invest time with them. Avoid getting so busy with life demands that quality time with family is cut too short. Share meals together. This becomes more challenging as kids grow up and head in different directions, but make it a goal – maybe one meal a day- that you share together. Create one-on-one time, just with you. Dads, show your daughter how she should be treated by any young man - open her door, make her feel special, honor her. Teach your boys how highly they should value and respect a girl. Spend some time doing boy stuff. Sometimes the best conversations flow while doing the things they most enjoy.
4. Speak encouragement. Speak words of blessing over their lives, words of grace and acceptance. Look them in the eye and say it out loud. Tell them you love them. Unconditionally. Forever. No matter what. Tell them they are strong. Tell them they are beautiful. Remind them that God made them for a great purpose, that they are valuable to Him and to you. Tell them their significance is never to be found in the approval of others, their outward appearance, or some measure of success from the world’s perspective. Remind them they don’t have to be perfect. Take the pressure off. Choose to talk about the hard stuff before temptations are staring them in the face; equip them with wisdom ahead of time.
5. Protect them. Set boundaries. Let them learn to make age appropriate choices as they grow older, yet also remembering that you are the parent and have the final say. There are days that our children may not “like” us much, but there will be many more days that they may thank us for saying “no.” Kids need boundaries. We all do – no matter what our age. Though sometimes the word “no” is hard to swallow and we’re quickly labeled as the “meanest mom ever,” there is much security and confidence in knowing we are protected by boundaries.
6. Keep your family strong. Whether you’re married or single, be on the same team. Be willing to work through conflicts together. Though no marriage is perfect, we can be an example of showing mutual love and respect within our families. Love your spouse. Protect your marriage and family. That in itself brings huge confidence to the life of a child in a crazy world.
7. Encourage healthy friendships. Teach respect for one another. Choose not to focus so much on the girlfriend/boyfriend thing. Limit time spent with just one person of the opposite sex. Encourage hanging out in groups, rather than one on one dating. Be aware of bullying or aggressive behavior. Teach them that their true identity is found in Christ, not in another person.
8. Inspire greatness. Teach them to dream big. Challenge them to think outside the box. Encourage them to do hard things. Give them opportunity to do what they love most in life. Help them to find what they’re good at. Provide opportunities for serving others and giving to those in need, especially those who cannot repay. Inspire a heart of gratitude that isn’t based on what you own. Empower them with strength and courage to know it’s OK to stand for what they believe.
9. Teach them Truth. Let them know how important it is to you. Make sure they have their own Bible. Help them find a devotional book or app they can relate to. Lead them to know the One who will keep their steps firm in a shifting world. Find a place of worship you trust, where you can grow. Don’t try to look for the perfect church. There’s not one. But there is great strength in finding connection with other believers.
10. Pray for them. Every day. They need us to pray. Our kids are faced with daily temptations, battles, traps, just as we are. Ultimately, our children belong to God. And He has given us the chance to care for them during these years. We have the potential to leave deep, lasting impressions in their hearts by praying, teaching His Truth, and giving them guidance to know the God who loves them so incredibly much.
The good news is - it’s not all up to us. He is able. To give grace. To forgive. To set free. To redeem. To keep safe. To lead in wisdom. To guide in truth.
And He is with us. Always.
Make sure to tell your kids.
“Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Debbie McDaniel is a pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids and a few too many pets, dramatist and writer. She has a heart to communicate God's hope though the everyday moments of life - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ones that take your breath away. A lover of every sunrise, forever needy of His grace, this Texas girl finds joy in the simple gift of each new day. Debbie invites you to join her at www.freshdayahead.com, and Facebook and Twitter.