7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

Sex Education

I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with our oldest son. The “talk” occurred at my office at the company we owned at the time. It was after hours when no one was in the office but him and me. It was a very scary moment — for me and him — but I’m glad I did it then.

He had already started to make comments and ask questions that indicated he needed an “education”. He was about 10 years old at the time. (I understand that sounds young to some, but it may be old now for others.) I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.

I began with a few principles, which helped me to continue to have open and honest dialogue with my boys, even in their teenage years and adulthood.

Here are 7 suggestions for having the sex talk with your child:

Start Early - The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the correct information about sex. With the oldest it was about 10 years of age, but with the youngest it was about 8 years. It will depend on their surroundings at school, the dialogues they are having with you and others, and their maturity level at the time.

Share in Stages – A four-year-old needs to know that there are boys and there are girls and they are each different, but that’s about it at that age. Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. I don’t believe one “talk” will be enough for most children. Make sure children feel freedom to discuss anything with you as they have concerns or questions.

Answer questions – If your child is willing to ask a question it is because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of telling children they “don’t need to know yet”. There are no bad questions. Again, they will search for an answer and the wrong ones are the easiest to find.

Teach according to truth, not culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture has tried to redefine what sex is and the purposes and values of sex. Sex is not to be seen as dirty, cheap, or easy. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different from everyone else in culture. Help them understand the healthy role sex can play in building a strong marriage. Help them also understand that in the right context, sex is a wonderful gift from God. (It’s okay for them to look forward to something…even sex!)

Deal with the emotional as well as physical – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage, which can be caused by sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain caused by early sexual experiences is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.

Teach grace along with truth – The fact is, teenagers (even children) will make mistakes. They’ll go too far. They’ll wish they hadn’t. They’ll regret. Probably just like you do at times. Make sure they know they can come to you if necessary. To protect my influence and an open dialogue, I tried to be careful not to only share truth. I wanted to keep the door open for future conversations, rather than send my boys underground to avoid my wrath.

Get help – There are plenty of resources on teaching children the Biblical perspective on sex. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is another great reason to have a mentoring couple in your life!

My two boys called it “The Talk”. We even began to label it with parts. I think by high school we were on at least “The Talk, part 31”, because they kept having questions as they matured. I don’t believe my boys would be as open talking about such a difficult subject regularly and honestly if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.

Are you delaying the discussion because of fear? They will talk about it somewhere…go first!

What was your experience with this delicate parenting responsibility, either as a child or an adult?  Did your parents give you the “talk”?

7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

happy family

A couple recent posts struck interest with readers beyond my normal audience. Both posts dealt with ways one spouse injures another. You can read the husband’s post HERE and the wife’s post HERE.

One suggestion I had multiple times was to consider a similar post for parents.

It’s true. We often injure our children unknowingly. No parent sets out to injure a child. Most parents go overboard to give their children all they need or want. We do the best we know to do. We want them to have more, do more and live better lives than we have experienced.

But, the fact remains, and I know it from dealing with hundreds of people who struggle as adults, because of things their parents did — even great, loving, wonderful, well-meaning parents cause injury to their children unknowingly.

Is it life-threatening? Thankfully, most of the time not. Does it destroy the relationship? Again, most of the time not. I’m not addressing extreme situations, such as abuse or neglect, I’m addressing the well-meaning, well-intentioned, loving parents who may simply not realize how some of their actions (or lack of actions) are not the best decisions for their children. And, how they may actually cause injury to the child — not necessarily a laming injury — but injuries most of us would avoid if we knew to do so.

That’s the point of this post.

Granted, my children are grown. For the most part, my daily parenting days are completed. I’m still parenting, but it’s different now. I am in the influencing stage fully. I can’t send my children to their room. I can’t keep their car keys from them. I can only offer advice as they are willing to receive it.

I have two amazing sons. I can see some things we did right and offer them as suggestions for other parents without reservations. But, looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.

Here are 7 ways we injure a child — without even knowing it:

Unrealistic expectations – Ephesians 6 tells the father not to “exasperate the child”. I was guilty of breaking this command at times. Unrealistic expectations often build perfectionistic tendencies in the child and often creates co-depency traits. I sometimes expected more of my boys than they were old enough to do at the time. I expected perfection from them too often. A 10 year old boy is a 10 year old boy. Now, there should be some non-negotiable standards of behavior for a 10 year old, but at 10, kids make mistakes. Why should that surprise me? I’m still making mistakes at 50 years of age. Sometimes I wish I would have lightened up a bit on my boys.

Lack of priorities – When everything and everyone else in life has more value than the time a parent spends with a child they know it. And, it hurts them. They may not even know how to verbalize what they are missing. They aren’t always wise enough yet to look at their life and see how important they should be in a parent’s week. They only know they wish they had more time with the people they admire the most. Someday they’ll know what they missed.

Sharing more than they can handle – Children do not have the emotional capacity to handle everything an adult deals with in life. Whether its an upcoming weather situation or a tragedy in the news or it’s not being able to make monthly personal expense, we create unnecessary fear and anxiety in our children when we share too much information. I’m not suggesting we shelter our children. Actually, I lean more the opposite way. We were very open and honest with our boys, but we were careful how, what and when we shared with them. We thought through the way in which we shared information, being very careful to share only what was needed and in a way that provided clarity not fear.

Giving everything – We sometimes set children up for disappointment in the real world when they never have anything remaining on their want list. Years ago I heard a statistic that most children get the majority of what they want these days — that wasn’t always the case, but as adults, few of us get all that we want. If we aren’t careful, we cause children to struggle with contentment in life, because they don’t know how it feels to wait for what they want.

Over protecting – Children need to learn to fail. There will be a day when can’t shelter them from the world. The more we let them make mistakes when we are still able to help them recover, the better they will be prepared when they no longer live under our roof.

Under protecting – This world is evil. Children don’t have your experience. They aren’t ready to make all the decisions that come their way. Many parents delegate too many choices to their children. There’s a time to give them freedom to choose, but when it’s a matter of moral right and wrong, especially in the earlier years of a child’s life, parents sometimes have to be the bad guy.

Missed teaching moments - We sometimes ignore the power of a moment and we may never get it back. Devaluing the importance of “now” causes many parents to miss the best opportunities for teaching life-changing principles. That moment of discovery is huge for a child. It starts by knowing what you want to teach your children — the values you want them to hold — and constantly looking for life situations that allow you to plant them in your child’s heart.

I realize I’m stepping into dangerous territory when I enter into someone else’s parenting. My only aim is to help. I know parents desire to parent well. But at my age, I’ve made enough mistakes I’m starting to learn from some of them. Before I start to forget them I thought I’d share. Apply as necessary.

Let me also say that grace is always available in your parenting — and it’s never too late. Even adult parents can make changes for good in their parenting. I’ve shared before that my father wasn’t always there when I was growing up, but he taught me how to finish well better than anyone could have done.

What are other ways parents unknowingly injure a child?

By the way, there will be a companion post to this soon with some suggestions to avoid some of these injuries. Feel free to offer some suggestions in the comments.

4 Easy Reminders to be a Great Parent

Couple giving two young children piggyback rides smiling

Parenting is hard. I have two wonderful adult children, but I’m still wondering why God blessed us with such grace. But, looking back I’ve learned there are a few principles that actually work.

The title says these are “easy”…and they are in some ways. None of these are hard to remember. None of these are hard to implement…with personal discipline. But, living them daily, in addition to the normal stresses of life…can seem very difficult at times.

But, great parents are continually working at them.

Here are 4 principles to be a great parent:

(Or the best parent you can be…)

Be present. Be there for your kids. Stay committed to them throughout their life. Be willing, especially in the formative years, to sacrifice your time for them. They’ll know whether or not you really want to be with them. And, something positive happens when they have your full attention. They model. (So also live a life worth modeling.)

Be intentional. Make a plan for each individual child based on their needs and work the plan. Introduce them to Christ. Involve them in church regularly. Help them with their school work. Teach them Biblical principles. Do what’s best for them…even when it isn’t popular with them.

Be relational. Let love reign. Keep grace flowing. Provide healthy discipline…because you love them and they need it at times. Be patient, recognizing they are learning….even when it seems some days they are not. Don’t ever let them think they have to earn your love. You may not always approve of their actions, but be sure they have no doubts that you approve of them. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy doing. Sacrifice your time to play with them…even at the end of a long, hard day. It will be worth it.

Be consistent. Keep doing the right thing…always…continually. Over and over again. That’s what the great parents do.

Even if you do everything you know to do, children are unique individuals…with wills of their own. They will make choices in life…and mistakes…just as you do.

Parenting IS hard, but you’ve got this. And, the reward of seeing adult children thrive…worth every sacrifice.

5 Tips for Teaching Children Cooperation

Ants Carrying an Apple

My boy’s can “fondly” remember the time we drove from our driveway heading to an undisclosed location on vacation. I decided in advance not to tell them where we were going, but to let it be a surprise. We were actually heading to St. Louis, but to complicate the situation, I decided to drive all side roads. We went through what seemed to be every back road between our house and the hotel. What should have been a four and half hour trip ended up being an eight-hour trip. The boys complained frequently, which I expected, but when the trip was over, they realized we had experienced a great time just being together.

Why did I put my boys through such misery? Am I a bad dad? Well, the jury may still be out on that answer, but my logic was simple. I wanted us to enjoy the day together as a family and I knew if I told them in advance what I planned for us to do and how we would do it, there would have been no cooperation on their part.  As it turned out, we had a great trip, saw things we wouldn’t have seen on the main roads, and enjoyed the time together. In addition, it gave us a lasting memory and joke of a time when they were “miserable”.

How many times as parents do we wish our children would just go along with the plan? Are there days we simply wish they would cooperate, because we know in advance that if they will, everything will be so much better? Do we want our children to cooperate with others, maybe even others with whom they do not agree on every issue?

We are each born with natural tendencies towards selfishness and independence, but families work better when everyone gets along and cooperates. Teaching your children to cooperate should begin at an early age, as they first begin to play with other children. Once a child reaches elementary school there is a certain expectation, that he or she knows how to cooperate with other children. Learning to cooperate with others, however, is something in which each of us continues to mature throughout our life.

If you are struggling with instilling the value of cooperation in your children, here are some suggestions:

Do not make your children think they are the center of the world.  Sometimes we mistakenly give our children everything they want, refuse to see their faults, and never allow them to fail. The danger is that when they become adults they expect equal treatment from the world.  How is that working for you as an adult?

Model cooperation with others. Let your children see you getting along with other people, including people different from you. Be kind to the waitress who serves you. Don’t always have to have your way or prove your point. If you are constantly complaining or arguing with your spouse or other family or friends, your children will be more inclined not to cooperate with you or others and they will have learned it from you. Do you need to reconsider how you talk to people around you?

Do not provoke your children.  Ephesians 6:4 is our encouragement here, which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”.  I was probably pushing that limit with the illustration above, but I kept it light-hearted and I knew my limits. Don’t make your expectations for them be so high they can’t live up to them. Don’t set unrealistic goals for them that are really your goals and not theirs. Remember they are children you are teaching how to be mature adults. Are you placing too high of expectations on your children for their age?

Be a giver. Let your children see and participate in opportunities to give to others.  Find ways they can observe you being generous with others and look for family activities where they can help you bless other people. Do a service project together. Be a giver. What is a way you could lead your family in a project to give back to others?

Live life with other people. One of the benefits of being in a healthy church or playing on a local sports team is your children get to be around other people and are often forced to figure out how to get along with each other. Find ways to allow your children to experience different cultures. Take a family mission trip. How have you exposed your children to people different from them?

What ways have you taught your children to cooperate?

5 Suggestions for Teaching Children Honesty

boy and father

When our boys were in middle school, we did not allow them to roam the mall on their own without an adult in the building. I know, call us bad parents, but we believed their safety was more important than their coolness with other children.

Once when our school system was closed because of snow, one of our boys spent the night with another boy his age. He told us they were going to a gym and would be home afterwards, but before he returned home, we received a call from another friend that had seen him at the mall. He was BUSTED! What was worse for him was when he found out that we would have been fine with him going to the mall, because the parent was going also. That was a huge lesson for him in honesty. Years later, when this same son had another situation that required honesty, he told the whole truth and nothing but the truths…so help him, God. As an adult now, I would “honestly” say that honesty is one of his best qualities.

Scripture is very clear for the believer about how we are to approach honesty. We are told to “let your yes be yes and your no be no”. Honesty is a value, however, that is shared by believers and non-believers. It’s sort of a baseline moral standard of expectation of society. Raising our children to be honest, therefore, is an important part of our parenting.

With that desire in mind, that is the purpose of this post.

5 suggestions to encourage your children to be honest:

Model it – If your children see you being dishonest, even on the telephone with the telemarketer or with your employer as to why you are not going to work, they are learning bad habits. Be honest with your words and your time.

Teach it – The Bible is full of great stories about honesty. Spend time reading and discussing them with your children. A few suggestions are stories such as Joseph and his brothers, Esther and her situation with Haman, and the story of Jacob and Esau. Obviously, you will need to study them first so you can discuss them with your children. Ask questions to see if they understand and what their values are towards the issue of honesty.

Enforce it – There are some issues that should be handled more strongly than others in parenting. Enforcing honesty is one of them. If you allow even little actions of dishonesty to go unchecked, you are building a negative principle into your child’s life that you will one day see again and regret. Of course, the punishment should always fit the age and the severity of the wrong, but the issue of honesty is one area where zero tolerance should be a part of your disciple plan.

Encourage it – Honesty should become an aspired value in your home. Find examples of honesty around you and talk about them with your children. When you see good news of this value being demonstrated, whether in the news, the church or community, make sure your children are made aware of the positive effects of honesty. Again, ask questions to make sure they understand the importance of being honest.

Reward it – When your children are found being honest, reward them. Our boys were told consistently that if they told us the truth we would respond much differently than if we had to figure out the truth on our own. Make being honest a big deal to them, even something to celebrate.

Working to establish honesty in your children early will help ensure they live honest lives as adults. Even though honesty is a shared value, most of us would agree, our level of trust in others has diminished in recent years. As parents, we play a large role in raising the level of honesty in our society, one family at a time.

What tips do you have for teaching children honesty?

5 Tips to be a Better Dad This Week

boy and father

Five tips to be a better dad today this week:

Review your calendar for the week now – Make sure your family is getting some of your best time. Plenty of it. Children often spell love T I M E. They want yours. Rework your schedule if needed and possible.

Plan a date night with your wife – Protect your marriage…ultimately your family…by regular investments in it. Model for your kids what a good marriage looks like.

Make a prayer list for each of your kids – Write them on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often. What are their greatest struggles? Their fears? The parts of their character that need the most development? Pray for this list daily. Several times throughout the day if possible.

Plan long term – Take an hour this week to plan an intentional retreat with you and each child sometime in the next six months. It could be a day or a weekend, but make it intentional. Make it fun and character building. Plan questions ahead of time to stir meaningful discussions with them.

Turn off the television – I saved the hardest one for the last suggestion. But, seriously, it is hard, isn’t it? You work hard. You come home tired. You just want to veg in front of the tube. I get it. But, I speak from experience, these moments will pass so quickly. And what if you used that time to play a game with your children? What if that spurred a conversation? What if that changed the way a child looks at life? What if that created a moment the child never forgets? Those memories start…as all memories do…in a moment.

I realize this list is impossible for some. You have work commitments that have you out of town this week. Your children may object at first to a change in schedules that interrupts their schedule. You can’t force it. You may be separated from your child for custody reasons. You may have to build slowly to complete some things on this list.  You may have to be more creative.

The key is to be intentional as a dad. This is a great week to start.

(By the way…this works for moms too…I’ve just never been one :) )

What tips do you have to improve your dadship this week?  

10 Easy Steps to Spoil a Child

Angry child with crossed arm

Have you ever wanted a spoiled child?

It is easy.

Here’s a 10-step quick formula guaranteed to produce results:

  • Give children everything they want.
  • Never tell them no.
  • Fight with your spouse over discipline.
  • Put children first, even over your spouse.
  • Strive to make every moment “the greatest moment of their life”.
  • Teach them they are the center of the universe.
  • Take their side every time…even over the teacher.
  • Make excuses for them.
  • Ignore their “minor” discipline problems.
  • Let them talk to you however they want.

Try that for 30 days and I guarantee you a spoiled child or your money back.

Good parenting is hard. It means saying no when the easy thing to say is yes. It means molding character that will yield maturity for a lifetime. Don’t take the easy route. Go for best!

I’m praying for you!

Any more suggestions to spoil a child? 

Random thoughts on spanking or not spanking as a parent

family lifestyle portrait

To spank or not to spank…that’s probably one of the most frequent debates I have heard about parenting. Parents ask me frequently for my opinion on the issue. It is an important, but seldom talked about by those who teach on parenting. Many think the government should address the issue. Others think this is only a matter left for parents.

I suppose I should not be surprised when I am addressed with this question, since I frequently teach on issues such as parenting, marriage and the family, but I never know exactly how to address it. This post addresses some of those reasons.

Here are a few of my thoughts about the issue of corporal punishment:

  • This is a personal issue, a difficult one at that, and one I do not feel comfortable solving for parents. A parent can and will only enforce consistently those discipline strategies he or she agrees with personally.
  • This is an important question, but not at all the most important question about parenting.
  • The bigger issue is having an overall plan for parenting. I know too many parents trying to solve this question, but they have never fully thought through a strategy for where they are leading their children and how they are going to get them there. I would rather we spent more time talking about the adults we want our children to be someday and how we can better steer them in that direction. Discipline deals with the issue of discipleship. Building character in our children.
  • The goal of parenting is far more important than the methods used in parenting. In our parenting we tried many different methods; some worked and some didn’t. The key of our parenting experience was that we were intentionally thinking through the goal and working towards realizing that goal in each of our boy’s lives.
  • Each child is different. The strategy and methods for disciplining each child must be different.
  • You should never spank, or do any discipline, in anger. Cool off first
  • The child should never be able to question your love after the moment of discipline has passed. That’s with any discipline.
  • I did spank, but it was rare and always intentional. It seemed to work at the time. At a certain age it was the best method for one of our boys to discipline him through a strong-willed period. The cliché “this hurts me more than you” was really true for me, but it worked with this child. It wouldn’t have as well with the other.
  • The Bible verse that is often questioned is Proverbs 13:24, which says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” This verse is often interpreted as referring to spanking, thinking the Bible uses the imagery of the rod and staff of a shepherd. The shepherd’s methods to train the sheep were always for the sheep’s best interest, and always what worked for the sheep and its predators.The verse, however, as are all the Proverbs, is a principle, and, therefore, I think it refers more to the principle of effective parenting than it gives us a mandate to spank.
  • The mother and the father should agree on the form of discipline. If they do not, they should perhaps get help to come to a sense of agreement. Mothers and fathers should recognize that each plays a unique role in the process and one handles discipline differently than the other. I was much sterner on my boys than Cheryl was and she was much more of a nurturer than I was, but both were necessary.
  • For me the end goal of my discipline was spelled out in the Bible, in principles such as Proverbs 29:17 which says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” I was less concerned about process and more concerned about progress. Discipline is to disciple the child…prepare them for life and adulthood.

Again, I don’t have all the answers here. Most parents are doing the best they know how. My best advice is to be intentional. Have a goal and have a plan. For each child. What parent would not want to see the principle of the verse above come true in their child’s life some day? Good parenting should do what works best to accomplish the goal of parenting.

Those are my random thoughts. Anything to add?

(Last thought. This is the kind of post, dealing with controversial issues with strong opinions on both sides, that seems to bring out the mean people. Let me be clear I’m not looking for a fight or argument. And, if you’re mean…be nice here. :) )

25 Things Mom Used to Say

20130718-215331.jpg

Moms are great! Gotta love ‘em. But, seriously, they say funny stuff. I was remembering on vacation recently some things my mom said…some of them I’ve repeated.

Which of these are familiar to you?

Here are 25 things my mom used to say:

“Whatever floats your boat”

“If I had a dollar for every time”

“I’m always a day late and a dollar short”

“You’re cruising for a bruising”

“And if you don’t quit it you’re gonna get it”

“Use your head for more than a hat rack”

“You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached to your shoulders.”

“These socks won’t pick up themselves.”

“If you keep looking like that your face is gonna freeze.”

“Cut it out before someone gets hurt.”

“When I was growing up…”

“Starving children in Africa…”

“Get outside and play”

“A little “birdy” told me!”

“Am I talking to a brick wall?”

“I don’t care who started it, I said stop!”

“If you don’t stop crying, I am going to give you something to cry about!”

“If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.”

“You will eat it, and you WILL like it!”

“You can’t find it? Well, where did you leave it last?”

“Keep crying, and I’ll give you something to cry about”

“Because I said so”

“I’m not made of money”

“Don’t give me that attitude.”

“…talk until I’m blue in the face….”

What is something your mom used to say? Do you say them to your kids today?