Even the most conscientious kids struggle in a battle with their flesh. These battles are accentuated when they fall in love—especially if they feel they’ve met the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. The grace we show them through this time can play a huge role in helping them make the right decision when it comes to their mates. It can also help them get there in the best possible shape morally.
Helping your children set the goal of being sexually pure on their wedding night is desirable, and doable. But many parents unwittingly make this goal an excruciating burden. This happens when we articulate the goal but do little or nothing to help them reach it. We usually do a good job of trying to enforce their purity, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that they still have a desperate battle raging around them as well as in them. If all we give them are lectures about purity and guilt trips when they struggle, their chances of achieving this goal go way down. We need to be engaged in a continual, grace-based dialogue with them throughout their childhoods and adolescence.
It might help to know that the average teenage boy thinks about sex all the time! The average teenage girl thinks about sex a lot of the time. You can do your best to minimize their exposure to sexual stimuli, but don’t be fooled into thinking this has won the lion’s share of the battle.
I spent my younger years of childhood in western Pennsylvania. There was a truck stop my father often took me to for breakfast. When we pulled up, there were always a couple of Amish horses and buggies tied up outside. On occasion, when we’d walk by the magazine rack, there would be one or more Amish teenage boys looking at the Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Even one of the most cloistered spiritual societies on the globe can’t keep their boys’ raging hormones from getting the best of them.
That’s why the prolonged cocooning of kids from the harmful culture around them often yields disappointing results. The reason is simple: the biggest battle for teenagers’ purity rages within them, not around them. Their hormones are as potent as heroin, and they want to overtake and dominate your children’s thoughts as well as their choices. Kids in controlled environments sometimes struggle more than kids who have moderate exposure to the world’s messages.
I’m not suggesting that parents should throw their sons and daughters to the wolves. Conscientious parents realize that there is a balance that needs to be maintained when it comes to protecting and preparing their kids. We just need to know, however, that there are negative trade-offs if you stray too far in either direction. That’s why we have to be savvy about understanding what effect the model we have chosen for our parenting has on our children.
We do our children a huge service if we walk them and talk them through their battle with their culture as well as their hormones. We shouldn’t be surprised our daughters struggle with fantasy; we should assume it. The same thing goes when it comes to our sons. We shouldn’t be shocked that they struggle with masturbation; we should assume that it is an ongoing battle. Notice that I used the word shocked. This is the absolute worst response we can have to our teenagers’ struggles. If anything, it shows how naïve we are about how they are wired and how selfish we are about our image.
Most parents don’t want their children to surrender their honor to these battles (I know I sure don’t). But at the same time, we must have a realistic and grace-based view of what we’re dealing with. When a mom can be a safe sounding board for her daughter to discuss some of her erotic thoughts, and when a dad can provide a steady and safe haven for his son to discuss his struggles with lusts and masturbation, then these parents put themselves in the best position to coach their children through these struggles. Our kindness, love, and understanding enable them to gain not only wisdom but strength for the battle they are having.
All I’m suggesting is that we deal with our children’s struggles the way God helps us deal with ours. We can always go to God with our battles, our guilt, and our shame. The more our children find a similar response from us when it comes to their moral struggles, the easier it will be for them to take these same struggles to God and gain victory over them through His power.