How do you respond when your child tells you they have seen a pornographic image

I’ve been in student ministry for around eighteen years and have seen the tides of culture shape and change the coming generations. I remember when pagers were for expecting dads and drug dealers. Now it seems like every twelve-year-old I meet has access to a smart phone, I-pod touch, kindle fire or another screened device on which they can watch you-tube videos and movies with frequency. I’m not against change, but this scares me (mostly because I’m a dad now).

viewing pornography

You see I’ve also noticed another disturbing trend. In my generation for someone to be exposed to pornography they had to find a tangible source such as a magazine. Then came the computer and now hand held screen technology. Obviously the technology isn’t to blame for the spread of pornography but it does make pornography more accessible. The question used to be, “have you ever seen pornography?”…now the question is “when did you first see pornography?”

Many of our kids will stumble across it innocently. They will do a search for their favorite Disney character or try and look up something for a report on the president and while search engines like Google have gone through great lengths to protect innocent searches from pornographic results the purveyors of pornography have also gone through great lengths to make their wares visible.

If you have recently discovered that your child has seen a pornographic image, you are probably working through a lot of different feelings. You may be angry at those who make these kinds of things accessible. You may find yourself mourning a sense of innocence. You may feel shame if you yourself struggle with viewing pornography or you may even recall shameful events in your past if you were abused. Whatever your emotions the key is to think in terms of how your child will process this event.

First: Be thankful that you know. Pornography does the most damage when it is viewed in secret. Shame can creep in and have serious and lasting effect. Part of uprooting the shame is removing the secrecy. If you found out because your son or daughter confessed to seeing an image or images… be thankful. Even if you feel angry because you think they sought it out… be thankful.

Second: Express and affirm your love for your child, especially if you think your child sought this out. Pornography can become a cheap and unfulfilling substitute for intimacy. Those who view it often already feel the sting of shame. They need to know they are loved by you unconditionally. Withholding love and affirmation from your child is NOT a biblical form of discipline.

Third: Express your Desire to help them process what they have seen in a way that brings glory and honor to God. This event may open the door for you to have an age appropriate “sex-talk” with your son or daughter. If you find yourself at a loss for talking points check out my notes from the last time I spoke at a “true-love-waits” event.

Fourth: Figure out what they have seen and how they were exposed. Did a friend introduce them to a pornographic image? Did they hear a slang word used at school (or on TV) and look it up? Did they find a magazine somewhere? Did someone send it to them on their phone in a text message? Knowing how your child was exposed will help you protect your child from seeing more images. It’s also important to know what your child has seen. Unfortunately there are many, many obscene images out there from images from soft-core to very violent and explicit material.

It is important that you know your personality and that of your child. If part of you takes this as a personal offense you run the danger of coming across as a prosecuting attorney rather than a sympathetic parent. You don’t want to be overbearing on this issue and close down the lines of communication. Your child needs a parent who is in this fight with them and for them more than they need a parent who wants to fight against them. If at anytime you feel like you are in over your head you may want to reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor for help or advice. If you find out that this isn’t an isolated incident and that your son or daughter may be addicted to pornography you may want to contact a Christian counselor. Make sure that if you contact a counselor that you find someone who shares your understanding of the negative impact of viewing pornography.

Other Resources on helping your children

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: http://erlc.com/topics/C13/

Focus on the Family:
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/love_and_sex/pornography/how_to_confront_children_using_pornography.aspx

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Hurt Feelings, Bad Days, and Little Boys: A Letter to My Daughter About Manhood

You came in the other day and said, “Ask me about my day?” I knew something was up because when I normally ask you say, “fine.” Knowing you had something to share I put my stuff down and quickly got out of my grumpy dad coming home from work routine and sat across from you in the kitchen. You shared about how an older boy kicked a ball at you and called you a bad name. There were tears in your eyes as you relived the moment and felt a shame that wasn’t yours to own.

Fear gripped my heart and I pressed in to give you a hug. I wondered how deep the would was? I wondered if I could mend it with my words, my hugs, or even my tears? Part of me was desperate to mend your brokenness, part of me was wondering how I might break the boy who made you feel this way, and part of me was glad that you had shared it with me.

The part that wanted to heal your brokenness jumped in first. We talked about how this boy was wrong and how you had done nothing wrong. We talked about forgiveness and cleaning the bitterness out of our hearts. We talked about the gospel and how Jesus had loved us and died for us while we were still sinners. We talked about how hard it was to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we knew that if Jesus commanded us to do that, we could do it in his strength and power. So we prayed for him.

Then I came back and let you know that I was jealous for you. As you father when that boy called you a name, he called me a name. That you are my princess (not the word he called you) and that should it ever happen again he would answer to me when I go to have a conversation with his parents. I let you know that you had a bigger advocate who was willing to take on this older boy who seemed so big and brave on the playground but was tiny compared to your father.

Then I was glad that you had shared this moment so we could walk through it together. You gave me the gift of allowing me to be your dad, to hug you, to guide you, to model maleness different than what you experienced on the playground. My prayer is that you forget this incident ever happened and when you come back to read this you have a hard time recalling the event… but that your character has been impacted by it so you are quick to forgive, know deeply you are loved, and walk confidently into womanhood.

There is a kind of boy who pushes shame on others through his words, his actions and even his stares… There is also a kind of man who removes shame that is not yours to carry, who loves you and will give his all for you. I’ll never stop being your dad, but when another man like that enters your life it will be my joy to walk you down an isle to him and give you away. You are my princess.

How to Raise a Daughter: 15 Small Steps for Dad’s that Make Difference in the Lives of Their Daughters

 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  (2)  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (3)  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  (4)  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  (5)  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127

 

Children are like arrows, they have to be aimed and let go. Below are a few practices that I have set out to keep up with my daughter that take very little time, but will shape her whole life and prepare her for the future.  I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am intentional.  I hope this list provokes your thoughts on the simple things we do as parents and how they can make a world of difference for your children.

1. Tell her you love her every day of your life (say it multiple times and in multiple ways each day)

2. Teach her that character, not make-up brings out her true beauty.

3. Tell her everything special that you like about her mom on a regular basis (especially in regards to her character)

4. Teach her to give her best effort on every project

5. Tell her you are proud of her (and highlight the things you are proud of, especially when you know she gave her best effort).

6. Give her a hug everyday (even in the teenage years when things get a little awkward and you realize that she’s closer to being a woman than a little girl).

7. Tell her that she is beautiful (just like her mom… give her a womanly role model worthy of emulation and affirm her mother in front of her often).

8. Teach her to be thankful for everything (Thank God for simple pleasures like apples and other fruit that God gave us for our pleasure).

9. Give her responsibility and hold her accountable (nothing says love like trust, expectation, and a little help along the way).

10. Hit Pause on the Disney shows and talk about real life issues (though “family friendly,” most kids shows are centered on someone telling a lie, a weak or non-existent father character, and kids running the show… you are your daughters filter, but you won’t always be… help her discern truth for error even in her entertainment options).

11. Pray for her everyday of your life.

12. Pray with her every day. (and let her hear you pray for her)

13. Teach her to pray.

14. Read the Bible together every day. (Starting with a reliable Story Bible and working into a good translation. Start reading to her and then work into her reading to you, especially if she is younger.)

15. Memorize scripture and Spiritual questions and answers together often (at lease weekly).

 

3 Christmas Meditations on Being a Parent (Part 2)

2. Mary and Joseph Knew they would have to let go.

I wonder if knowing the destiny of Jesus (at least vaugly) effected the way that Mary and Joseph went about parenting? In a very real way they were forced to come to terms with letting him go.  Letting go can be one of the hardest parts about parenting.

I see parents who are clinging to their children and holding on too tight.  Sometimes this comes from a natural desire to protect their children from harm (there are other reasons).  No one wants to see their children hurt and or know that their child could be in danger.  Yet, some parents take this to an extreme by hampering their children from being able to  spread their own wings.  Sometimes we grow so accustomed to making decisions for our children, that we forget the goal of parenting is to train our children to make their own decisions.

Just like an archer has to let go of the arrow before it sails into the air and finds its mark, Parents are called on to release their children.  I think this happened in a very real way for Mary and Joseph.  They knew their was something special about Jesus from the start.  How do you raise the savior?

How would we parent differently if we knew the destiny of our children?  What if God called them to the heart of darkness a world away?  Would we be prepared to send them? Guide them? even direct them? My prayer is that he does call them there and that we are willing to let go and even send them.

To be honest each day I function on the edge of insanity.  Every time the road is wet and my wife and kids are in a car somewhere without me, I keep the phone close, praying that they are ok.  I could easily become compulsive about the safety of my children.  “No” could easily become the most dominant word in my vocabulary for no other reason than that “No” is safe.  But the joy of parenting isn’t found purely in seeking safety but in the risk of providing direction and  letting go.

Review: The Well-Behaved Child

THE Well-Behaved ChildThe Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works! by John Rosemond is a great resource for parents who are looking for practical advice, tips, and proven strategies for disciplining their children with in the ages of three to thirteen.   The premise of the book, and consequently Rosemond’s disciplining strategies, is simple: children are bad.  That is, their default nature is to misbehave.  He proposes that obedient children are happy children.   According to Rosemond, it is essential that parents recognize this and address the errant behavior in children rather than trying to rationalize it or understand it.  His no nonsense parenting as leadership approach is a breath of fresh air in a world where parents are scared to effectually discipline their kids for fear of scaring them mentally.

Throughout the book Rosemond dispels many popular myths that are based more on misapplication of popular psychology rather than on factual studies with real children.  One such myth he exposes is that the reward system often employed by parents is good dog training, but poor child training.  In place of popular myth, he offers tried and true techniques and practices that will help your child be a better behaved, happy, and ready to meet the real world one day outside your home (where the boss isn’t likely to jump to the reward system for poor behavior).

The one thing this book really misses though is the spiritual teaching side of discipline.  From a Christian parent’s perspective, I find it crucial to discuss matters of the heart, grace, forgiveness, and restoration as part of the disciplining process.  Though the book does contain a few scripture quotations, it is largely missing the heart component, which in my estimation, makes all the difference in the world.

For parenting there are better tools available, but this book serves its purpose well in providing effective strategies for discipline.  The Well Behaved Child is an excellent resource. The retail price is $24.99 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon for $16.49. I gave it four stars.

Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a free review copy from the Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program  (http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ ).  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it.