We can speak about sex the way God does in the Bible and we can do so in an age appropriate way.
Q: As a father, how do you shepherd your children in our hyper-sexualized culture?
The issue of how you shepherd your children in a hyper-sexualized culture is what keeps me up at night, quite literally. I have three kids: a nine year-old boy, a four year-old boy and a six year-old daughter. I walk into their rooms and pray for them almost every night before I go to bed. And there are many things I pray for them. I pray that they will love the gospel, will love the Bible, will walk with Jesus; yet the thing I pray for almost every night is that the Lord would protect them from this pornographic culture that has a bull’s-eye on their head. I think the first thing you have to do is pray for your kids. There are so many forces after our kids and we have no control over most of those forces. As far as ministering to our children is concerned, there are a few things my wife and I do. And I don’t think I have all this figured out, so ask me again in ten to fifteen years and maybe I’ll have something more to say. But, here are the main things we are doing:
First, we talk about modesty all the time. When we are in our house, we dress modestly. I am modest in our house, my wife is modest in our house and we make sure our kids are modest in our house. We do that on purpose not because we are being prudish, but because we want to occasion the opportunity to talk about the godliness of modesty—the godliness of being covered up. It’s a way to express care to others.
When we talk about modesty, it gives us a starting point. It will keep you from having to talk explicitly about pornography. In fact, we should not wait until the issue of “hard core” pornography is on the table to start a conversation about modesty. The problem begins with immodesty. So, we start at modesty in our own house and if we go by a store that has an immodest picture of a woman in the window, we look away because we don’t look at immodest people. We don’t behave immodestly, and we are starting early. If we are watching television and there is an immodest person on a commercial or in a movie then we turn it off, because we don’t look at immodest people. That keeps us from having to think about something as awful as pornography with a little kid.
In fact, my nine year-old, who was six at the time, once asked me about pornography. There had been so much talk about my book, Finally Free, and the kids heard us talking on the phone about words they haven’t heard before and my son was curious. So he asked me, “What is pornography?” I answered him, “Well, that’s when people get immodest together and they take pictures of it.” And he responded, “Why would anybody want to do that!” I didn’t have to give him a graphic answer because we had been talking about modesty. So, we talk about modesty with our kids a lot.
Second, we are committed to answering our kids’ questions as best we can when they come up. This is my personal opinion, but I think that the days to wait for “the talk” are over. That’s my sense. In the good ole’ days, you could wait until they were ten, twelve or fourteen—dad would sit down with the boys and mom would sit down with the girls and we would explain everything. I am not trying to hit anyone on the head who still does that, but my sense is that it is not a wise practice anymore. It was practiced in an age when the parents held all the cards regarding information about sex. It was also a time when the culture valued modesty more than they do at present. Now, our kids have access to so much more graphic information.
My children have nine year-old friends who have cell phones. And their friends are going to other friend’s houses and looking at heaven-knows-what and then talking about it. So, in my estimation, we need to make the uncomfortable decision that we are not going to wait until some theoretical age to have a full conversation. We need to make a commitment that when our kids ask a question, we are going to be as honest with them as is age appropriate.
When my son Carson says, “What is pornography?” I am going to say that it is people getting immodest and taking pictures of it. There is more I could say about that, but for a six-year-old, that’s age appropriate. That trains him to think that Dad is going to shoot straight with him. And at all costs, I don’t want my son thinking, “Dad told me he wasn’t going to talk about that right now.” For a kid that does not mean he won’t find out about it. It means he will find out through someone else. I do not want that. And I say uncomfortable because I have had questions about sex and sexuality that I don’t want to have, but there they are.
So, we have made that uncomfortable decision. But, just to encourage parents who are nervous about this, my son and I are on a Bible-reading-plan and we recently got through Deuteronomy, which is tough sledding for an eight- or nine-year-old. We made it through the first five books and I said, “Hey Carson—let’s look at this as a whole—what do you think of Genesis through Deuteronomy?“ He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Well Dad, if God wants little kids to be reading the Bible, then he must not care if they read about sex, because he sure does write an awful lot about it.”
So, I think there is a lesson in that. If we want to teach our kids the Bible and want them reading it, that includes the Pentateuch, which is not for the faint of heart as far as sexuality is concerned. So take note, parents. We can speak about sex the way God does in the Bible and we can do so in an age appropriate way.
For more information about Radical and David Platt’s new book Counter Culture, visit Radical.net.