We live in a culture that in many ways is amazingly good and at the same time can be terribly destructive. I believe that most of us would agree our culture has grown increasingly sexual. Advances in technology continue to bring more opportunities for sexual encounters and experiences that could quickly derail any one of us, especially children. Parents wanting to become an ally to a child in this culture may not be aware of many of the dangers. They may ask “Is culture that bad?” But there’s a better question, and I can’t answer it for you. It’s this:
Am I willing to keep learning just enough about our sexualized culture that my kids see me as informed, trustworthy, and for the most part, unshockable?
God loves your kids too much to leave them without a lifeline as they step out into the world. Are you willing to learn just enough to be a nonjudgmental, savvy ally to your kids? Are you willing to trust God to lead you and give you courage to step into some difficult, perhaps even disturbing revelations, in order to become someone they trust and turn to? Are you willing to forego other things to free up time to become informed about the culture and better equipped to lead your kids?
Childhood is incredibly short. Your season with kids at home is very short also. Are you willing to take this next step to become the ally your loved ones need?
I’m not asking you to watch Game of Thrones, access a porn site, play Grand Theft Auto (yes, there are very mature themes on GTA), or search #boobs on Instagram. (PLEASE don’t do that. You know what they look like!) But I am asking you to pull back the curtain just enough to see what your kids and their friends are talking about, to get a glimpse into the world they face every day, a world that becomes even more toxic as they mature.
Think back to your childhood or teen years. What kept you from talking honestly with your parents about your peers, your struggles, your failures, or your fears? Then prayerfully consider how you currently react to things you hear about your kids’ peers, your child’s personal struggles, failures, and fears. Beyond that, how do you respond to media that is blatantly immoral, distasteful, or crude? It’s quite likely that your kids or their friends have no problem with many of the things you may deem totally inappropriate.
It’s not that you shouldn’t instruct your kids on godly values; it’s just that lectures seldom work. They can actually backfire if you’re too quick to judge or belittle a person or a situation. You’re not always right. You don’t always have all the information. You can’t see inside of your child’s head or heart.
If we truly want to win our children’s hearts, we have to have a heart for them, and that means learning about their world. The world by which they can easily be shaped. The world they may quickly turn to if their emotional and spiritual needs aren’t met in healthy ways.
Here are some practical tips for those who are willing to pull back the curtain a little.
- Carefully examine the amount of time you’re spending on devices or outside activities, time that is keeping you from building emotional capital with the ones you love. Determine to make any necessary changes. Kids spell love T-I-M-E. And make sure you’re also praying for and with your kids.
- Commit to spending a couple of hours a week keeping up with the latest trends in Hollywood and media. Follow my friend Tina Griffin of Counter Culture Mom (https://counterculturemom.com). Tina is a bold and brave warrior doing a lot of homework for you. Learn from her! Scroll through her blogs to catch up on all you’ve missed. Listen to audiobooks while running or commuting. Ask your spouse or friends about resources they’re finding helpful.
- Get together once a month with other parents for the express purpose of sharing information (not gossip). Have a common goal to keep each other informed about the cultural influences that your kids are learning, experiencing, or will soon face. Be on the front end of culture, not scrambling to repair damage from what you never saw coming. Use this time to share countercultural resources like our blogs, or the latest filtering software, or books on teaching biblical sexuality to kids.
- Talk with your kids, not to them. But not to the point that hearing “I need to talk with you.” triggers “Lecture Warning,” or they dread getting into the car with you alone. Adopt a 99/1 ratio for talks with your kids. 99% of the time you talk with them about what’s important to them… Legos, Hatchimals, American Girl dolls, Minecraft, trucks, ballerinas, sports, whatever! Be curious about their current world. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Set yourself up as someone who really listens. One percent of the time talk with them about things you NEED to talk with them about. Becoming a good listener now will pay huge dividends later when the topics get a little racier and you have to wear your poker-face. And use these times to affirm good character qualities you notice in your child. “I admire the way you concentrate when you’re working on a new Lego car. You stick with it and figure out new ways to make it all work.”
If you take these simple steps, instead of falling into a heap of despair or panic when a terrible revelation hits your ears, you’ll shoot up a quick prayer and begin to ask better questions. You’ll talk with your kids rather than to them as a trusted ally should.
Is culture that bad? In some ways it is, and learning a little more about it could be uncomfortable.
But the culture inside your home trumps the culture outside of your home most of the time. Home is where hearts are strengthened and biblical truths are shared. Home is where your children are loved unconditionally. Home is where parents and kids become allies.
Next week we will address some of the natural obstacles you may face as you work to become an ally to your child in a sexualized culture. Soon we will start to unpack some very practical ways in which you can connect with your kids and begin to help shape their sexuality in God-honoring ways.
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia
For great resources on walking alongside others in a sexualized culture, check out TrueNorth Freedom Project. We’re a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Want to help our message go further? Donate here.
Photo by London Scout