Technology can be a telescope that helps you zoom in and focus on something in a way impossible without it. However, in some cases it can be more like the four legged chair that the lion tamer uses in a circus as one of his primary tools in working with lions. The points of the four legs of the chair bobbing around tend to perplex the lion, and the dilemma of which of the four legs to focus on mentally paralyzes the lion, and distracts him from thinking about the tasty lion-trainer. All of us know of many of the downsides of the technology we enjoy. However there is one surprisingly simple thing that you could change to get back more than 21% of the relationship quality you might be losing.
I still remember it like it was last week. My older sister and I were sharing my dads lap. The inquisitiveness of a dog about to be fed was all over my face as my dad explained the meaning of a bizarre word. The word ALLOWANCE. The business savvy I had been able to accumulate over the seemingly long seven years of my life was still a bit underdeveloped, but it was sufficient for me to ascertain from my dad’s explanation that this “allowance” thing was a really good deal! Free money! And there was no fine print. Well, after a few years of doing my part in keeping 7-Eleven in business, and then fast forward another twenty years or so, my wife and I had been naturally granting our two older kids allowance for a couple years; at least until I read a book called Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money. It was written by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachael Cruz. This is when we changed things around a bit and decided to no longer give our kids money as allowance. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom we learned from the book and have applied in our family.
From the moment our children are born, we have undeniable positional authority over them. We’re bigger than them. We’re stronger than them. We’re smarter than them. And most importantly, our children are entirely dependent on us physically and emotionally. The problem is that this positional authority that we so enjoy, diminishes proportionally as our children grow up. If positional authority is all you’ve got, then eventually you’ll end up filing for influence-level bankruptcy at some point down the road.
Recently I found myself just standing there. I was watching my kids play with each other. And I felt like a ghost. I could see them and hear them, but I couldn’t connect. I wasn’t on their radar. It’s a paradox that bewilders me. My kids are by far the most precious thing I have in this world. And yet in the rigor and chaos of life, they often end up with the scraps left over.
Wouldn’t we all be more set up for success in managing our sexual purity if we started off with a healthy, foundational view of sexual purity before we get slammed with all the slime that the world throws at us?
I had some interesting conversations about sex with my children who are now 10, 8, 5, and 3. I think one of my biggest fears was always that it could be dangerous for my kids to know too much about sex too early. What if they decide to try it? Yikes! I’m sure you’ve had thoughts like that if you’re a parent.
Trust can be a scary thing. Raising kids is like teaching someone to drive. It can be a little nerve racking when you let someone get behind the wheel for the first time.
My children know perfectly well what a kitchen knife is. And matches. They even know where we keep the keys to the car. Our five year-old boy even knows how to start the car.
Practically speaking, our kids have access to all of these danger-packed objects in our house.
But we trust them. Letting them know what a knife is, explaining its purpose and setting some guidelines is probably a better plan than hiding it, and making sure they don’t know of its existence.
1. Lay a strong foundation.
Imagine growing up in an environment where most of the money you ever encountered was counterfeit. That could be disillusioning and confusing when you finally came across the real thing. Which one is the real thing? Who determines that? In teaching a cashier to spot counterfeit cash, the key is not studying counterfeit money. It’s knowing the nuances and characteristics of a genuine dollar bill so well, that spotting the counterfeit is easy. Now to my point. Most of us never heard much about sex from our parents in a pure, safe environment.
My hope is that if my kids have a healthy, accurate view of sexuality before they start getting hit with the counterfeit, they will have a solid lighthouse in their hearts and minds. That lighthouse will guide them away from the dark rocks of destruction.
Psychologists will say that what parents teach their children typically trumps what children hear in other settings. That’s good news. As long as we’re intentional and strategic about what we teach our kids.
2. Take advantage of teachable moments.
After listening to some funny and awkward stories from some smart people and reading some great books, I’ve learned a few things. A few books that come to mind that I’ve learned quite a bit from would be Moral Revolution: The Naked Truth About Sexual Purity, Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making A Heart-To-Heart Connection, and a book by Rob Bell called Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality. One of the conclusions I have made is that simply having “the talk” is not a good plan. Things are learned best when questions naturally arise. This is so much more effective than trying to answer questions nobody is asking. I tend to do that occasionally. If I still do it with my wife I’ve been married to for thirteen years, then I’m sure you’ve don it. I’ll be passionately explaining something to her that she doesn’t really care about until I realize, I should change the subject. Dave Ramsey likes to call these occasions “teachable moments” that he and his daughter talk about in their latest book Smart Money Smart Kids. (I highly recommend that book by the way!) Time and time again taking advantage of these teachable moments has proven to be the most effective way to teach our kids lessons for life.
Adrenaline pumping teachable moments
So we have stumbled across several of these teachable moments so far.
First teachable moment. How a baby comes out. When my wife walked through the door, our seven-year-old daughter started expounding on how a baby comes out when it’s born. And most importantly where it comes out from. My wife’s shock subsided after a little explanation. Two or three years later was the next time we had a great teachable moment. We were finishing having dinner when one of my sons used the term “nuts” referring to an important part of a man’s anatomy. I decided to educate them all a little, and taught them a scary word called testicles. I thought “hey, why not know what they’re really called.” Apparently, the way teachable moments work is that one teachable moment leads to another. At that point it seemed to make complete sense to explain the purpose of these mysterious body components God gave us boys. That led to some conversations that revealed the fact that my second and third grade kids were starting to get their share of hearing about sex in school from other kids. “One girl at school said that for babies to come, a mom and a dad have to lay on top of each other naked! But I told her that’s not true” my daughter told me. It was then that I felt the adrenaline start pumping. I realized that regretted time had come. I would have to let them know what sex is and somehow explain it in an appropriate way. The first thing that surprised me was how easy it was once I finally spat it out, and we got going explaining and answering questions.
I purposely avoided the negative aspects and dangers of sex. Fear not. This was intentional, as I wanted to give them a chance to have an optimistic view on sex before we start talking about the challenges and dangers. I focused on the fact that sex was Gods idea, and how awesome it is. And how it’s only for when you get married to the person you love the most. How the person you marry is the only one in the world who gets to see you naked, and all stuff like that. It was surprising how easy the kids took it all in. There was a little shock, but a fraction of what I expected. My older son was a bit shy about it, but in general I expected a far more dramatic experience than turned out. It took a chunk of courage to finally just flat out explain how everything works. I think Holy Spirit gave me wisdom in the moment to explain it all in a holy, wholesome and fun way. Here was the most scary part. As we were finishing the conversation, my daughter said “wow, I can’t wait till I get to have sex!” Yes, that was a bit of a shocker. I considered it a victory however. It was just purely sincere, and honest. I’d much rather have a relationship of trust with my kids where they can talk about their feelings with me and mom than find out about some struggle when it’s too late.
There’s only so much one can cover in one blog post, so as I have some time to organize some thoughts and discoveries, this theme is surely to be continued…
What has your experience been like in teaching your kids about this topic?
I’d love to hear any thoughts y’all have. Even if you don’t have kids. :)