Teach your child to respect the human body
Part of giving your child a healthy attitude about sex means teaching him or her to respect the body. The best way to do that is by example. Tease and tickle only in appropriate ways, not by pinching buttocks. Never tease a child when he or she asks you to stop or seems uncomfortable.
Play hard, wrestle some and cuddle, but remember that each part of the human body has a special purpose. Hands are for creating and doing tasks. Mouths are for talking and eating. The genitals are for excretion and ultimately for reproduction. They are not for finding excitement through the exploitation of a child.
Most people were horrified by the melee in Central Park in New York City. Some 50 young women were horribly mistreated and sexually abused in full view of the public, and no one came to the rescue of the victims.
A major part of the tragedy lies in the conduct of some of the young women. They were dressed provocatively, and initially they laughed and joined in the “fun.” But then the conduct of the young men got out of control. A “mob spirit” surged through the crowd and tragic atrocities were committed.
Sex is no longer discussed only behind closed doors and in privacy. Television, movies and talk shows have brought the discussion out in the open. In the sexually charged culture in which we live, parents can help abuse-proof their kids by teaching them what it means to be sexually responsible.
Sexual responsibility means that one never exploits another person for sexual excitement. It means that sex is saved for marital commitment and that one must show respect in this area to friends and, later, friends of the opposite sex.
What else should parents teach their children about sexual responsibility? Here’s a list to consider:
- Teach girls to dress respectfully. Parents need to help their daughters understand, before they reach age 12 (puberty), that spaghetti-strap tops and skimpy shorts are “turn-ons” to boys. While dress never justifies sexual assault, part of being “abuse-proof” means dressing wisely. Many attractive styles are not a “turn-on.” Wise parents will start early and help their girls dress in cute but not scanty clothes.
- Teach girls to be kind, considerate, friendly and fun without being seductive. And when your daughter starts dating, she needs a cell phone or pager in case she needs rescuing!
- Teach your sons that they are responsible to protect others, not to exploit them. They are never to push a girl to do sexual things with them. Before they reach puberty, boys need to know that they will be tempted to explore adult ideas and behaviors in the sexual arena, but they must overcome such temptations.
- To discourage your children from trying to act sexy in order to be liked, point out to them how many kids of the opposite sex pay attention to and flirt with them when they are just being themselves. This will help build their self-esteem.
- Teach your children how to recognize and refuse a date’s attempts to use them for selfish gratification, which is blatant sexual abuse by peers. Kids must be taught about the incredibly powerful sexual drive that explodes when petting goes too far.
- Keep open the doors of communication about sexual issues. When you feel uneasy about discussions or certain questions your children ask, say so. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure I know the answer to that. I’ll look it up and get back to you.” Then do that. If your children are too young to understand or cope with certain in-depth concepts, it’s okay to say, “That’s as complicated as Greek! Give me time to think about the answer.” Just be sure you always get back to them.
- Teach your kids to wait until marriage for sexual intercourse. Teach them that in the marriage union, sex is a wonderful pleasure. Most of us who teach this idea are ridiculed, but experience over time verifies that medically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, postponing sex until after marriage is wise.
Years ago, a young friend told me how he approached every date: “I stand in front of my mirror and I say to myself, Steve, you stand in the shoes of Jane’s father until you take her home to him.’ With that in my mind, I have always been able to resist the strong temptation to get sexual with my date.” How I wish every young man thought and acted like Steve!
Just do it
I know that providing good sex education for your kids is a challenging assignment, one that will take much time, energy, and vigilance on your part. Watch for those golden, teachable moments. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; kids will forgive mistakes. Just be faithful in teaching your children about sex, and especially in teaching the sacred value of sex and the need for respect and dignity toward all sexual issues. Later on, if not now, your children will love you for your efforts.
Parents, you can do it. You can do it best. So do it!