Saturday, December 13, 2014

Raising Brilliant Boys - Equalizing the Sexes

We have spent so much energy, effort, time, and emotion into equalizing women in society. We have lobbied for women to have equal jobs, equal pay, equal credit, equal voice........

This is fabulous! However, seeing how our society is progressing down a path of violence and indifference, a path of people tied to technology, a path of abuse and tolerance for inappropriate behavior, I would like to raise a call to bring men and boys equal to women.

What do I mean by equal here? Equal in their ability to choose. When I think of men's ability to choose, I look for where they may be oppressed. Women have been oppressed in their rights to economical opportunities, like equal pay and career options. Men are being oppressed in their right to show emotion and live virtuously. But, men too can be caring, compassionate, noble, religious, and virtuous.

My husband is a sociology professor. He is surrounded by the ideas of femininity and masculinity. Maybe because he has been so schooled in seeing the differences between males and females and the pressures and opportunities society has given males and females, we see the world in a different way that some people.

I want to raise a call equal to that of women. Men should be equal. Men should be equal to cry when their hearts are broken. Men should be equal to love pink as their favorite color. Men should be equal to be terrified in scary moments, equal to cry when it hurts, equal to be gentle when someone needs compassion, equal to be depressed and get help when it's need to be equal.

God has sent us to earth as men and women. We are different. Equal does not necessarily mean that everything is divided exactly down the middle. Equal means that both parties feel that their share of the workload is sufficient. It's the same in marriage. Sometimes one individual does more of one task at one time. This does not equate with inequality necessarily. Equal doesn't have to be a division. Equal is a meeting point. Men need to be equal in their right and ability to feel and show their emotions. In this way, they will be better prepared to share in a physical relationship. Love is an emotion, after all, and sex is a display of that love.

When your little boy falls down and gets hurt....don't say, "suck it up," "deal with it," "big boys don't cry."
When your little boy has his feelings hurt............don't say, "it's not a big deal," "you're too good for them anyway," "big boys don't cry."
When your little boy is terrified to give his first recital/talk/test...........don't say, "it's not a big deal," "suck it up," "there's nothing to be scared of," "big boys don't get scared."
When your little boy is experiencing the pain and hurt of life...............don't tell him that he shouldn't feel. He needs to feel. Christ did. Isn't that who your little boy is growing up to be like?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Continuing the Conversation

Recently, our almost 9-year-old turned to me and said, "Mom, will I grow facial hair like dad?"

We have recently had a refresher course on sex and he asked if his body would be able to produce children. Since this conversation was fairly recent, I was able to answer using what we had already talked about. Here's our conversation:

K: "Mom, will I grow facial hair like dad?"

M: Instead of just saying yes and leaving him to wonder how that all happens, I was able to give him a little more. "Do you remember when we talked about sex and how your body will start changing in a few years?"

K: "Oh yeah!"

M: "Well, when your body starts changing, one of the things that will happen is growing facial hair."

K: "Wow."

He was genuinely interested in my answer and I could tell he understood my explanation. It wasn't a huge discussion about everything that is going to happen to his body, but he is understanding that his body will change. He will be more prepared for a detailed explanation about puberty when we get there because he is already starting to think about it. He is already noticing differences between him and his dad, not out of curiosity because of differences, but connecting that to his own growth and maturing. There's a lot to cover when we hit puberty, so I'm grateful we're covering little pieces now. There won't be so much new information to discuss when it's time for pubertal details.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Only See the Way You Look Tonight

I was driving in the car the other day when this song came on by Blake Shelton called "My Eyes." It has a very sweet, romantic feel. I was hearing this song for the first time. It sounded like a very loving song, but as I listened to the lyrics I started to feel a little uncomfortable. Even if the song has a nice beat and sweet feel, it can still make the spirit leave. I realize that many teenagers don't think a lot about the words to the songs they listen to sometimes. Other times, they have specific songs they like because of the lyrics. It's important to teach them to pay attention to the lyrics of ALL songs. Let's consider the lyrics of this song:

Those high heels with that sun dress
Turquoise heart hanging 'round your neck
Red lips like wine, wanna drink 'em up
And keep on drinkin' 'til you make me drunk

Tied up hair, wanna let it down
And just let the rest fall to the ground
You take beautiful to the max
Can't help myself when you look like that

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, girl the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, love the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

There's a million stars dancing in the sky
A picture perfect moon so bright
But I don't care, I'm looking at you
From where I stand you can't beat the view

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, girl the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, love the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

My eyes have seen
Some amazing things
But girl, my eyes ain't seen
Nothing quite like you, hey baby

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, girl the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, love the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you

Come a little closer, come a little closer
Come a little closer, love the way you look tonight
My eyes are the only thing I don't wanna take off of you!

The lyrics of the song are sweet, but if you really think about the message, you get a different story. This song is ONLY talking about the way this girl looks. It has nothing to do with love. You can ask your teen a few questions when a song like this comes on the radio:

"This song seems like it's romantic and about love. How do you know he really loves the girl he's singing to?" (Answer: YOU DON'T! He's only singing about wanting to sleep with her because she looks good). 

"How does this song make you feel?" "How do you think this singer is trying to make you feel?" 

"What message are you getting from this song?"

"If you think this song is about love, what does he love about this girl?" (The way she LOOKS!). 

"What do you think is going to happen after the girl in this song does what he wants because she thinks he loves her?"

For boys, you might want to try and ask what this song would feel like if it was a girl singing about a guy. You could also do this with your daughter as well. It gives them something to think about. Ways to talk with your children about sex and relationships are abundant in the world. They saturate your child's life every day. If there is something you want to talk to your teen about and you aren't sure how to bring it up, find a social medium you could use to illustrate the point you want to make. Then, ask more questions than give answers!

Friday, September 12, 2014

What about a Spaghetti Strap Shirt?

I recently had the beginning of the school year sex reminder/pornography talk with our 8-year-old son (soon to be 9-year-old). Besides going over the basics of pregnancy, how a baby is born, and how it gets in the uterus, we added a mini-discussion where we mentioned the term "pornography" for the first time. I'll share our discussion here in hopes that it will prompt you to pray about what your child needs to know right now.

Note: I've had some friends express their disappointment that I have abridged my discussions with my children to omit a lot of the content that expressly deals with how the act of sex occurs. I've left it out because I figure you know the process. But, I realize now that many of you want to know how someone else is saying the words to their child. That said, this is the UNABRIDGED version of our discussion with our son. You can tell he's familiar with talking with us by the questions we asked. This was the first time he seemed a tad bit embarrassed to be having this discussion, but about 45 seconds into our discussion he was totally at ease. 

MD (for mom and dad; it doesn't matter who was saying it): Here's that book we've discussed before. Can you tell me what you remember about how a baby is created?

K: Well, I already know all about the baby growing. You just want to know what I remember about the other part, right? 

MD: Yes, what do you remember about how a baby got started? 

K: I remember what happens, but I can't remember the names. 

MD: Dads have what?

K: Speck or something. 

MD: Sperm. 

K: Moms have an egg.

MD: Yes, called an ovum. 

K: Dads put their penis in the vulva.

MD: A part of the vulva called the vagina. Remember, it's the birth canal where the baby is born. What is this called?

K: I can't remember.

MD: Sex. 

K: Oh yeah. 

MD: Remember, the uterus is like a balloon. There's only one opening. Dads use their penis to get sperm in the uterus through that opening. Then, the egg and sperm can meet and a baby can start. The uterus gets bigger, like a balloon, as the baby grows. Then, when it's time for the baby to be born, it comes out that opening. 

K: I remember that. Can my body do that right now?

MD: Excellent question (and what a surprise too)! Your body has all the pieces it needs to be able to make a baby, but it can't quite make a baby yet. There are some things that will happen with your body as you mature that will make it more like daddy's body. When this happens your body will be able to create a baby. 

K: Oh. 

NOTE: This was a very brief introduction to puberty. He is almost 9 years old, so this is a very appropriate time frame for him to be curious about his body. This will also be my lead in when I start having discussions with him about puberty. I'll probably say, "Do you remember when you asked if your body was able to make a baby right now......." It's a great set up for future pubertal conversations that we'll have next year at the beginning of the school year. 

MD: Sex is a very good thing for moms and dads. It's a special way for them to show they love each other. It's only for married men and women. It's a wonderful thing, but many people talk about it like it's bad. We want you to know it's a very good thing, but it's something that happens at a special time in your life after you're married. What do you do if a child comes up to you and says, "She wants to have sex with you?" (I was pointing to a pretend person.)

K: Say, I don't like that. 

MD: Yes, you could tell them you know that's not appropriate and tell an adult. What should you do if someone wants to show you pictures of naked or inappropriately dressed people, men or women? 

K: I would not look.

MD: And.....

K: Tell mom or dad.

MD: Yes. We definitely want to know if this happens. They might even try to make you look or make fun of you. But, they are not good friends if they make fun of you for a making a wise choice. Even if you are interested and take a look before you walk away, we want to know. We won't be mad at you. We just want to be able to help you make wise choices. 

K: What about Spaghetti Straps? My friends wear spaghetti straps and that's not modest. 

MD: Great question. Do you find yourself always looking at your friend's straps, or paying to what she's saying and doing? 

K: What we're doing. 

MD: Then you don't need to worry about it right now if you're paying attention to your friend and not her clothes. If you find yourself paying attention to her clothes more than her, you should probably find something else to do. You nicely tell her you need to go home now to play. Or, you can invite another friend to play and see if that takes your mind off her clothes. 

K: Okay. 

NOTE: We want our children to not judge other children for the clothes they wear or things they do. That, of course, doesn't mean they should do and wear the things their friends are wearing and doing. We want them to learn to look to themselves for how they can change their environment to be comfortable and invite the spirit. We live in the south, which is HOT. This means that we are surrounded by inappropriate clothing. It's impossible for our young children to not have friends that wear immodest clothing. It's a good opportunity to teach them about how they are reacting to their surroundings. If it doesn't bother them yet, they can just continue playing. They are not sexually stimulated by it, so it hasn't become possible pornography. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Boys will be Boys, Right?

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Recently I was talking with a woman who had two boys that were wrestling nearby. In the middle of the conversation, one of the boys started saying, "Stop. Stop. Stop." The mother said, "Hey!" to the boy. Then, the boy continued wresting despite the pleas of the other boy. The mother then turned to me and said, "Boys will be boys," and sighed........... Like. There. Was. Nothing. She. Could. Do!

I have heard this SO MANY TIMES. Let me tell you what this communicates to me. Also, keep in mind that I am referring to a particular comment, so I will be discussing BOYS. This does not mean that this does not happen with girls. The information is relevant for both, so keep this in mind......

First, it communicates that the parent has NO control over what their child is and does. It's like saying, "Heavenly Father sent us here to earth to learn and grow, but he sent boys here with an unchangeable character so why should I even try."

Second, it communicates to the boy that no matter what other people say, he can continue doing what he wants and no one SHOULD stop him (because he is a boy, of course).

Third, it communicates that others should turn their head and ignore, or watch when someone is being subjected to something they don't like.

Fourth, it communicates that words are less powerful than behavior. Therefore, behavior needs to speak louder than words, meaning behavior should be loud, aggressive, and draw attention.

Fifth, it communicates that boys are exempt from following rules and direction (because they are uncontrollable boys, of course, so they shouldn't be held to a higher standard).

Are you catching the irony here?

And now let's relate that to sexuality.

Let's say a boy has a girl on a date and they start kissing. The girl was kissing him back (just like the little boy was wrestling the older boy with consent at first). Then, she starts saying, "whoa, hold on."

But, he just continues kissing her. To him, no one should stop him. He can't help himself because, of course, he's just a boy. She was kissing him back, so her behavior is speaking louder than her verbal expressions that she's done with the kissing. He wants to follow the rules, but they are just too hard. And he is, after all, just a boy.

Again, are you catching the irony here?

As parent, if you ever say, "He's just a boy; She's just a girl; He's such a boy; She's such a girl; Boys will be be boys; Girls will be girls." What are you teaching them about their character? You are essentially throwing up your hands and saying, "I can't discipline you because of your gender," or "Your behavior is just because of your gender." True, boys are generally physically stronger than girls. True, boys are also generally more active than girls. (Note: I say generally because it's not always the case). But, Heavenly Father has not dictated a Ten Commandments for Girls and a Ten Commandments for Boys because we're so different we need held to different standards. We are held to the SAME standard because everyone should act Christlike (who is, of course, a BOY).

We have two boys. Our oldest is incredibly kind and thoughtful. Our youngest is a toddler and we're working on kindness. I make sure they listen when they have someone tell them to stop or that something is hurting or someone doesn't want to do something. These are not "manly" traits. But, I tell people all the time: "You can call my son a sissy right now, but you're going to want your daughter to marry him when she gets older."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

STOMP Out Pornography

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I created an acronym we will be using to teach our children what to do when they encounter pornography. I am not going to bury my head in the sand. I expect that my children will be exposed to pornography in one degree or another. I want to take a proactive approach and teach them an easy way to remember how to deal with it when it happens. Of course, first they have to know what pornography is. I've already touched on what pornography is in another post. To sum it up quickly here, young children need to know what modesty is to be able to know what is immodest/pornographic. We don't look at or watch people with immodest clothing or no clothing. Then, as they grow you add the component of people's actions, like lying on top of one another or rubbing one another in inappropriate areas (even with clothes on). When they understand sexual desire, you add the component that anything that is intended to stimulate sexual arousal is pornographic. In all of this, the difficult and most vital part is helping your child understand that sex is not bad. Sex is amazing in the right context. It should be a private and beautiful thing that is not paraded around for all to see. Pornography cheapens the relationship between a husband and wife, which is why we want to avoid.We want to keep that part of a relationship private and magnificent for its intended purpose. 

I use a foot stomping on pornography as a visual for a couple of reasons. First,  the weight of the foot will cover the object being stomped on (usually a spider at my house). Also, when you stomp on something, the object is still under your foot.  You have to leave your foot on the object to keep it out of your view. Because the brain is wired to remember visual images, any pornographic imagine will remain in the brain for later retrieval. The remnants of pornography will still be in your mind, but you can effectively keep it "covered" if you have something else to focus on. If your child knows STOMP, they can go through the different ideas and choose the one they think will work for them. If it doesn't work, they can try another one. Teach them the acronym and what each of letter stand for. Then, when they encounter pornography, they will have a tool to help them STOMP it Out!

Sing a Primary Song

Think of a scripture (we're working on memorizing a couple scriptures and the articles of faith with our children)

Open up with mom and dad (Your child may not understand what they've really seen and need help processing why they were uncomfortable seeing or hearing something. Also, you want them to know they can come to you at any time with a concern about pornography. Even if your child was actively seeking out pornography and not just accidentally viewing it, if they know they can come to you for help, they are more likely to do it. Then, you can help them beat the pornography plague. It's important to not expect your children to seek out pornography, but to not be surprised if they do. They will need your help, not your lectures or punishment.) 

Make a change (You need to let your child know that they are in control of their environment. We are working on this with our children. If they don't like the way their sibling eats, they need to find a different place to sit, or not watch. They need to be the one to fix whatever is bothering them. If your child sees something on the computer or television, they need to get up and walk away, or turn it off, or call home for a ride. They can be in control.)

Pray for help

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hear Evil, See Evil.......Speak to God

I had a friend ask me how to teach her son about pornography, including the types of pornography. I would again refer to The Drug of the New Millenium by Mark Kastleman as a start. He includes a section on what he calls “Three Power Principles to Protect Your Family from the Plague of Pornography.” Because many of us feel that we can’t take the time to read an entire book, I will add a few of my thoughts about teaching children about pornography.

There is really only one type of pornography. Anything that is intended to stimulate sexual arousal (outside of the sanctioned marital relationship) is considered pornography. I know some people talk about “soft” or “hard” porn. Dallin H. Oaks said, “Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing ‘soft,’ not ‘hard,’ porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as ‘not as bad as’ or ‘only one bad scene.’ But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect” (Ensign, April 2005). Pornography is just pornography.  

Now let’s consider how to teach our children. We need something tangible to teach younger children who do not understand a lot of abstract concepts (and sex is semi-abstract to a child because they do not understand the desire part). Let’s think about how pornography enters our minds. The way to feed our mind is through our senses. Pornography generally enters through our eyes, ears, and touch.

Teach your child:
1.      Eyes – What enters through the eyes that is pornography? Immodesty, or seeing positions of the body that include men and women lying on top of one another. This can be pictures, movies, television, anything you can view with your eyes. Teach your child about modesty – what is looks like for boys and girls. There’s a simple way to teach all ages and both sexes about modesty:
a.       Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Head - If you touch your head, does your belly show? If so, there's too much show.
Shoulders - If you touch your shoulders, do you feel fabric covering where your fingers can feel? If not, add a layer or cover/cardigan. 
Knees - When you bend to touch your knees, do you feel fabric? Does your cleavage show (for girls)? If you don't feel fabric, you need more length. If you see cleavage, you need an insert of some sort or layer (for girls). 
Toes - If you touch your toes, does your skirt/shorts go up too high in the back? Does your cleavage show (for girls)? If so, add some length to your shorts/skirt and height to your shirt. 

You can use this to let your child know how to tell what is immodest. Then, when they see someone dressed immodestly, they can recognize it and look away.

Also consider, what shows are you watching and your child watching? Is there immodesty or sexual behavior? What is being brought into your home that could be considered pornography, but isn’t always recognized because it’s on a family time television show or the side of the screen on your computer?

2.      Ears – What enters through the ears that is pornography? Music, like Katy Perry, enters the ears. Teach your children to listen to lyrics. Teach them how to look up lyrics, or know where to go to read lyrics. I used to listen to music with a couple swear words here and there, but don’t anymore because I realized that my children wanted to listen to my music (which usually has a good message). But, they would be singing those words with me. I might know how to skip a word, but they don’t. Then, I would have to explain why we listen to the word, but don’t say it. It’s still there in your mind……even if you don’t say it. What is said on television or movies also enters ears.

3.      Touch – What touch is considered pornographic? Obviously, genital touching (here I mostly mean masturbation or seeing others touch people in private areas). Dancing with others too closely and other behavior like this can be pornographic for those watching.

We know all this about our eyes, ears, and touch. But, this is a way to teach your child to look for clues as to what is pornography. Teach them to tune in to what they see and hear, and what they feel in their hearts.

This takes persistence. I was at Hancocks the other day with our oldest son who is 8. He was helping choose fabric for his new scripture case. As I was looking at fabric he said, “Mom, don’t look at that.” He was looking away and pointing in the direction of the end cap. Of course, I looked. I didn’t realize he wasn’t teasing until I saw what he was pointing at – a puzzle with a picture of a boy with his pants down (back view). Now, this wouldn’t be considered pornographic to an adult. But, it’s a start to understanding pornography for a child. It didn’t stimulate sexual arousal and wasn’t meant to. But, it was disrespectful of a body of a child of God. That is the message I am trying to instill in my children, to be respectful of bodies. Then, they will have a testimony of the gospel to anchor them and help guide them through the spirit. They will know what feels wrong. Linda Reeves gave a great message during General Conference this last April. She reminded us that filters can help with technology and such, but the most valuable filter is within your child’s heart. Help them recognize that spirit so they can avoid pornography in some cases and get away from it quickly when it presents itself in other cases.

And, don’t lie to yourself……this WILL happen to your child. They WILL see pornography. The outcome may depend on the training you give them now.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Teaching Kids about Sex: Adam and Eve's Story

I believe the story of Adam and Eve is one of our greatest parenting tools in scripture. It is one of the only instances where we actually see God interacting with his children in what I would consider a direct "parenting" manner. Usually, there are pieces of stories in other scriptures, but we have one continuous story with Adam and Eve. So, as parents, what we can learn from this story about teaching our children about sex?

Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it..."

Fruitful means, "producing a good result; productive; an abundant yield."
Multiply, of course, is to greatly increase in number.
Replenish: "to build up again" AND "to make good"
Subdue: "to bring land under cultivation"

The first commandment God gave Adam and Eve was to bear children, increase their numbers. He gave them this commandment BEFORE they partook of the fruit. Heavenly Father was teaching them about sex being for procreation first. This is the first reason given for sex (note this is just a reason and we are going to determine which reason is more important because they are BOTH important). 

Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

Cleave means, "to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly" AND "to separate into distinct parts." Cleave has two meanings that seem almost like antonyms. It's close, yet separate!" A man is to separate from parents and become close with a wife.

"One" flesh: "being in agreement or union" and "constituting a unified entity of two or more components" and "being a single unit."

One flesh is talking about sex in marriage and becoming one physically, but it's also symbolic of becoming one as a unit. We make decisions together, do the dishes together, take care of a household together. Sex can't be separated from a marital unit because then we'd be taking out part of the meaning of "one!"

Heavenly Father is teaching Adam and Eve about the other reason for sex. He talks about "cleaving" and being "one" flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is the relationship part of sex. Sex is put into place for oneness, closeness, and loyalty in marriage. It's to bring a couple closer together.


Genesis Genesis 2:25: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

Take note that Adam and Eve were naked, but didn't feel guilty about it. Also note that this scripture takes place BEFORE they partake of the fruit. They were married, yet they were still "innocent." By innocent I mean that they did not have sexual desires yet. They were like little children in the Garden of Eden. They were naked, but only saw bodies as bodies, not something to be desired sexually.
They didn't understand nakedness by their physical desires yet. 

So, Heavenly Father created Adam. Then, he created Eve. After he had created them both, he talked to them about sex, both reasons. He told them to have children. This is the first part of sex we discuss with children, sex in the context of having babies. Adam and Eve were innocent. They could be naked and not have sexual desires yet. This is the time to begin our discussions with our children about sex and the creation of life, when they are young and innocent and have not begun to have sexual desires.

Here is one of the reasons we teach children about sex before they are baptized. They are still "innocent" and don't understand nakedness in an adult way. The adult way of understanding nakedness usually equates nakedness with physical desire. Children see nakedness as, well, nakedness.

FOURTH - After they partook of the fruit.....
Genesis 3:7: "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."

Fig leaves are a symbol of fertility. Also, an apron is a Symbol meaning fertility, reproduction, priesthood, and work (Alonzo Gaskill, The Last Language of Symbolism).

After Heavenly Father's instruction to Adam and Eve, they partook of the fruit. The fruit gave them "knowledge." This was an increase in understanding about life and mortality. Now, they not only knew the importance of having children and their relationship as husband and wife, they also began to see it as an adult. They now had physical desire and were able to feel self-conscious about their nakedness. They understood their bodies needed to be covered to keep them precious and sacred. Then, also knowing the importance having children, they sewed aprons (symbol for fertility, priesthood, and work) of fig leaves (another symbol of fertility). They could have sewn these before because they knew sex was for having children, but they were innocent to the naked-sex connection. Now that they had more knowledge and understanding about mortality, they were ready to begin their physical relationship that would actually lead to marital happiness and oneness and children.

Adam and Eve were like all of us: they could only handle so much new information at once. Thus, Heavenly Father talked with them multiple times about sex and relationships so they could understand and have time to think about the information in between instruction times. This is our model for how to talk with our kids. There is no "BIG SEX TALK." We make it an attitude and part of our conversations with our children as needed. Also, if you notice in the story of Adam and Eve, Eve partook of the fruit because she saw the wisdom of the choice (Genesis 3:6). She did not partake of the fruit because she was tempted. She saw her two choices, remain in the garden with no opposition or become mortal to experience life and know good from evil (2 Nephi 2:19-23). She made a choice based on knowledge. Heavenly Father had given her the knowledge she needed to make a correct choice. She decided to become "the mother of all living" (Moses 4: 26), which she could not be if she had stayed in the garden.

The story of Adam and Eve has been such a wonderful opportunity to see the evidence in scripture of our Heavenly Father's plan. It reminded me of a quote in "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple:"

"We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the might realities for which the symbols stand."

As I've thought about the story of Adam and Eve, I've been amazed at the wonderful insights I've gained. The story has so many beautiful layers! I'm sure I've missed some points and there are many other meanings to this story, but maybe I"ll be more prepared later to see them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing Sex in Your Child's Heart at the Right Time

Sex experts say that children hear about sex by the time they are in third grade, whether you have talked with them or not. Most of the time, they hear about it at school from other children. They can also hear about it from television or other media sources.

Let's consider:
What do you want your child's first exposure to sex to look like?
What do you want them to hear?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to know?

Well, if you don't tell them first, you are leaving it up to someone else to answer those questions. I'll give you an example:

My friend's little first grade daughter, Ann (not her real name) came home from school one day very upset. She had been sent to see the Vice Principal and felt that she was in trouble. She is the kind of child to do everything she's supposed to, ALL the time. She never got in trouble at school. She is polite and kind. After a lot of crying the story finally came out. Another first grade boy was standing at recess with a friend (also a boy). Ann was talking to them. One of the boys said, "I want to have sex with you!" Ann had no idea what that meant, but she figured it was something bad by the way he said it. She didn't know what it was, so she went off to find some other kids because the boys made her feel uncomfortable. Another little girl had heard the exchange and told her teacher. Ann was sent to the vice principal's office with the two boys. The vice principal was trying to find out what had happened. The boys kept denying they said anything. Ann didn't understand what "sex" meant, so she didn't understand what was really happening and why it was so important. She just understood that it was BAD! She thought she had done something wrong. She got sent to the principal's office and that was associated with bad, especially because the boys that made her uncomfortable were there. No one called her mother or father to tell them what was going on. Ann got off the bus from school sobbing. It took a long time for her to calm down and explain to her mother what had happened. As you can imagine, her mother was FURIOUS (wouldn't you be?). The most maddening part was that the school had not called to inform her what was going on so she could help soften the bad feelings Ann was receiving.

Now, think about these questions again.
What do you want your child's first exposure to sex to look like?
What do you want them to hear?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to know?
Most important: What spiritual message are you going to convey that they will not get elsewhere?

If Ann had already known about sex, she could have said, "That's not appropriate. I know what that is." Then, gone and got a teacher's help if she felt it was necessary. If you are consistently praying about when it's appropriate to talk with your child, or staying in tune with your feelings about the right time, you will be able to talk to your kids before they have an experience that will convey a worldly attitude about sex.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Eenie Meenie Miny Mo, Teach Pornography by Your Clothes

I will clarify some of my thoughts and add some more detail to the idea of teaching pornography to children. Modesty is all about respecting our bodies that Heavenly Father has blessed us with (this is unstated because that is behind the idea of modesty anyway).

Let's start with the nature/nurture debate. There is none. Scientists long ago agreed that it wasn't a debate at all. Nature and nurture both interact at various levels throughout the course of someone's life to shape who they become. For example, biologically, a child hits puberty and certain hormones change the child's body and brain functioning. This biological phenomena can take place at different times in different individuals because of their environment (diet, race, stress, etc.). Instead of boring you with minute details, suffice it to say that this is an interaction of an individual's biological makeup with their environment.

Let's relate this to our pornography discussion and modesty. Modesty is for both BOYS and GIRLS. There is no debate. Pornography and the way people dress is like the nature/nurture interaction. By nature, we are drawn to look at people's bodies. The way someone dresses can either encourage more looking, or encourage a different type of interaction (nurture). BOYS and GIRLS are BOTH responsible for their thoughts, actions, and dress. Let's state the obvious, boys are less likely to dress immodestly than girls. Part of the reason for this is because when you go to the store, how many parents have a hard time finding a modest swimsuit for a boy? Not very many. However, it is significantly harder to find modest swimwear and other clothing for girls (especially when you consider special events like dances). Therefore, because there is a higher chance for immodesty among young women, and pressure to do so in our society, it is imperative that parents take the time to explain modesty and encourage their young girls to be modest. This does not mean that boys are excluded from this conversation. They also need discussions on modesty.

Next, let's consider the biological/social (nature/nurture) interaction. Boys and girls are drawn to bodies. It is unfair to expect that only girls or only boys be responsible for someone else. However, you do need to consider the consequences of some of your actions on other people. If a girl dresses immodestly, is only the boy responsible to "keep his thoughts clean" by always looking away? That leads to less effective interactions because the young boy is concentrating on keeping the biological balanced with the social (this is the interaction). He is concentrating, not on the girl and person she is, but on trying to avoid something that is distracting him biologically. The social suffers, which is imperative for finding a worthy, eternal mate, or practicing to find one (Dating). If a boy is dressing immodestly, is only the girl responsible to "keep her thoughts clean" by always looking away? Of course not, and for the same reason! We do need to be responsible for our thoughts, but in boy-girl interactions we need to consider how our actions and decisions affect other people. Then, we make wise choices based on our considerations. Modesty is in place so that the biological interacts in a balanced way with the social. Again, check out "The Drug of the New Millenium" about how pornography affects brain functioning. There are also a few other wonderful books about pornography, but few that deal so thoroughly with the brain process.

Pornography is all about lusting and viewing someone that is not dressed or acting modestly. So, modesty is a tool parents have to teach their children about these wonderful, amazing creations that Heavenly Father has given them. It's the best tool we have to teach ALL of our children about respecting bodies, whether theirs, or someone else's. Then, it will be easier for them to avoid pornography as they clearly understand the principle of modesty.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Magazine Moment: Another Pornography Lesson

I have a great friend with a 7-year-old son. He is at that age where pictures of naked people are not just interesting because they're funny. They're interesting because the child is more curious about how the body actually looks. He is taking notice of curves and clothes.

My friend's husband is military, so he works out a lot. He has a subscription to Muscle Man Magazine. The magazines have never been an issue before, even though they've always contained pictures of women in scantily clad clothes. But, his little boy is growing up and starting to notice more. Plus, he has older male friends that have pointed some things out to him. Now, my friend is faced with a dilemma. How do you deal with the magazines? Hubby really likes the workouts and doesn't want to cancel. Do you hide them in the office? Do you hide them in the nightstand drawer or under the bed? Do you force hubby to cancel the subscription?

If you hide the magazines, whether at home or work, there is always the chance that the child will find the magazines. Then, if the magazines are hidden and he finds them (and chances are that he will at some point), what message is that sending? It's sending the message that it's okay to look at pictures of scantily clad women, and it's okay to do it in secret. He won't understand that daddy just wants work outs because that's not what stands out to him.

Here was the suggestion I gave my friend. It's what I would do at my house. I suggested that her husband take the magazines and, with her son, color modest clothes over the pictures of the immodest models. Or, father and son can together rip those pages out and throw them away. Or, father and son can tear out the work outs daddy wants and throw the rest of the magazine away. Having a father work with his son is teaching the son an incredibly valuable lesson: daddy believes in modesty and respecting women and will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep himself clean. He is also avoiding temptation by getting rid of the temptor. He is being PROACTIVE! By allowing his son to take part in whatever he is doing to change his surroundings to fit his beliefs, his son is learning to avoid pornography. He is learning how to do it by changing his own environment. During the activity of coloring or ripping is also a prime opportunity to explain pornography and why it's important to avoid it. And, his son is SEEING his dad in action, avoiding the pornographic plague.

I also love this type of approach because a seven-year-old exposed to scantily clad women in a magazine is pornography, but not, what I would consider, hard-core porn. It's a great opportunity to help your child learn how to avoid pornography, or run away from it, before it gets addictive or more explicit.

Here are a few questions a parent can ask a child during this kind of activity:
How do you feel when you see pictures like this?
What do you think this picture is trying to make me feel?
How does modesty look (especially when coloring over the pictures - the child can understand what constitutes modest dress)?
What do you think this model does when she's not taking pictures? Do you think she has children, a husband, a dog? What do you think her hobbies are? (This is humanizing a person and taking away the idea that women in pictures are objects to be desired.)
Do you know why we're doing this (ripping or coloring)? (You'll want to be clear that this can be a temptation for you and you are doing this to get rid of the temptation. Young boys need to know that you have desires too, but you know how to channel your energy).

There are many more questions you can ask, but you know your child and can tailor questions to best fit your child's needs. Now, LOOK for opportunities to teach them. You can find them anywhere. There may be a billboard you pass regularly that shows a woman or man in seductive/immodest attire or poses. There may be a JCPenney catalog with pictures of models in bras. You can find an opportunity!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Best Night of a Teenager's Life

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In talking with some youth, and a comment made by one of my husband's students, I have come to see the reality that the "sexual revolution" where parents are taught that youth should have sex when they feel ready is absolutely misstated. Current sex experts say that you should teach your youth to know when they are ready to have sex and then let them explore when they feel ready. But, I see a problem, and not just because I'm religious.

Let's use the "Best Night of a Teenager's Life" (for some) as an illustration: Senior Prom. Many teenagers look forward to Senior Prom throughout high school. There are elaborate means of requesting a date. Then, more elaborate means of answering the date. There is the choosing of the "perfect" outfit and corsage/boutonniere. There are activities to engage in during the day, before the dance. There is a lot of food, fun, dancing, laughter, and excitement.

Then, after the dance, there is the "hotel room." Couples get together and pay for a hotel room and take turns using it. The sad part is that many youth don't really know whether they are ready to have sex yet. Senior Prom has become an initiation into the world of sex, whether youth are ready or not. Because of this attitude that youth SHOULD have sex when they are "ready," many youth don't really have all the tools they need to say no when there's peer pressure. If they have "decided" that they will wait to have sex until they are ready, they begin to question their readiness if they are placed in a situation like Senior Prom night. It's expected. It's part of the experience. They are almost out of school and so close to being an "adult." This is evidenced by the phrase, "I think I'm ready." But, youth who have decided they will wait until they are married to have sex have a very definitive readiness. They will not be swayed because they already know how long they will wait. If a youth makes the decision to "wait until they are ready," they are constantly trying to figure out "readiness" and may make a mistake. They are young. They are inexperienced. They do make mistakes. I would rather my youth not make that kind of mistake, just because it's Senior Prom. I want my kids to say, "I KNOW I'm ready." Not, "I THINK I'm ready."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rub A Dub Dub, A Boy and Girl in the Tub

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We came home from the hospital with our new baby girl and almost 3-year-old son in tow. Of course, said baby needed a diaper change. I laid her out on the floor and began to change her. Big brother just stared........and stared.........

K: "Where's her penis?"
Me: "She's a girl. Girls have vulvas. Boys have penises."
K: "Oh." Keeps staring.
Me: Pause. Long pause........Is he just going to keep staring? What should I say?
K: "Oh." Like he finally accepts that she's different from him. He ran off to play.

After the novelty of figuring out that his little sister looked a little different from him, he never really brought up the genitals again. It didn't come up during diapering, bath time, or her potty training much. But, inevitably, there came a time when
he was getting old enough to take baths without his little sister.......
and old enough to bathe without mom leaving the door open.......
and old enough to not want mom seeing him naked anymore at all......

The general rule is that opposite sex children should stop bathing together when one of them becomes too giggly or uncomfortable. Young children do not see naked bodies the same way adults do, so bathing opposite sex siblings together is totally appropriate. There will come a day when it isn't appropriate anymore. You will be able to know when that day comes if you pay attention. Usually you will notice that the older child is starting to want more privacy. It could be just with changing, or going to the bathroom. It generally starts with a measure of privacy and then requests for more privacy follow. This is usually when the natural desire for modesty begins (about ages 4-7), although some children may not ever really desire much privacy (most do, though). This is a good time to transition bathtime. This is more a rite of passage than a discipline (so if they've been giggly in the tub and you are upset and think it's time to separate, don't bring up that you're going to separate them in the heat of the moment). Before the next bathtime, sit down with the children and explain that the older child is now big enough to take baths on their own. We transitioned from baths to showers with our older son. We told the kids our son was now old enough to take showers on his own and didn't need help anymore with washing his hair. Little sister didn't mind so much because little brother was now taking baths with her and she had someone to play with. Older brother took a little while going back and forth between baths and showers before he was able to comletely transition to independent bathing. He was seven years old. He probably would still be bathing with little sister at 8, but my husband and I felt like he was getting old enough and wanted more privacy in other areas. It was time to make a change. Remember, it's may take a little time, too. They may still need mom's help with washing hair for a little while if they are younger when you transition them.

This general rule also applies for seeing parents naked. Admit it, you don't close the door when you go to the bathroom if it's just the kids in the house. Or, you take showers with the door open. Or, you shower with your kids. There is a point where kids see their mom or dad naked or partially naked. When you get uncomfortable with your child seeing you naked, start closing doors. Tell them you need privacy. Our son was about 3 1/2 years old when I felt ready to start closing all doors, all the time. It began with a desire to not have to explain sanitary napkins to him........yet. You decide what feels right for you and your family. If you just keep an eye on the clues, you'll know.......

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pornography: The Mormon Gateway Drug

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Pornography seems to be the "gateway" drug for the LDS community. I say gateway because I mean it's an easy access point for Satan to get into good people's lives and ruin individuals and families. I say drug because it's an addiction, literally changing brain pathways and connections and creating a dependence. It's also something that is naturally within our bodies, a chemical reaction that doesn't require an outside substance to be taken in and broken down by our bodies before a reaction occurs. It is within each of us. Satan doesn't have to tempt us to take a pill for our body to react. We already have the reaction programmed in us based on stimuli in the environment. If Satan can't get us to take a pill/powder/drug, he can get someone else to post an inappropriate photo that we may innocently come across.

A great read on how to prevent pornography in your families (and a very enlightening discourse on how it affects the brain) is "The Drug of the New Millenium" by Mark Kastleman.  He writes a section on "power principles" to protect your family from pornography. The biggest one is teach that intimacy is a POSITIVE thing, something to look forward to at the right time. Your ultimate goal is to teach your child about intimacy in such a way that when they are confronted with worldly ideas and images, they will be turned off. They will know there's something better and invest in waiting for it. For children, "Good Pictures Bad Pictres: Porn Proofing Today's Young Kids" by Kristen Jenson is also fantastic.

How do I prevent/teach pornography?
          The word pornography may not even enter your child's vocabulary yet and you are hopefully already teaching about it. By teaching your child to respect others, their privacy, their words and requests, you are already teaching them about pornography. You are teaching them that looking at other's bodies is interesting, but not appropriate. They need to respect the beauty of the body by covering it. You are teaching them that potty humor or inappropriate (aka lewd) comments about the body are disrespecting it.
         I believe modesty is the greatest tool we have for teaching our young children about pornography. Modesty in dress and attitude should not wait until children are hitting puberty. Our 8-year-old and 5-year-old know that certain types of clothing are not modest and why they aren't modest. When our son was confronted with an inappropriate image (a male's plumber's crack I mentioned in a previous post), I could easily ask why it wasn't appropriate to look at. My son's ready response was that it wasn't modest. I asked him why modesty was important. It was a great discussion. Later, if he's confronted with full nude images, his immediate response will be that it's not modest and make him uncomfortable. He will know to walk away and tell me about it.
         For teenagers, modesty takes on a new meaning because it's starting to connect with hormones and behavior. Teach your child that sexual desires are GOOD! The desire is good, but right now they need to,"hold that thought." Give your teen ways to distract themselves when they feel sexual arousal. Often arousal comes because of the way someone is dressed.  Acknowledge that it's not always easy to turn off sexual desires when the sensations feel good.
         Last, teach your teenagers WHY modesty is so important (because our bodies are awesome, wonderful creations that Heavenly Father gave us). Young pubescent girls do not always understand how powerfully boys are affected by visual cues. Girls also are drawn to sexual visual stimuli. When I teach a youth class I use an object lesson. You can do something similar with your youth at home to teach them this lesson. I begin teaching the class with a horrific, hairy, obvious wart on my face (or other type of obvious visual flaw). I begin teaching as I would any other class, ignoring the stares. After a little while, I ask if any of them noticed anything on my face. Why did they notice it? How often did they look at it? Did they find that they had to consciously keep their eyes away from it? Did they remember much of what I had been teaching, or did they miss some of what I'd been teaching because they were focused on the wart? Modesty is like the wart. When we reveal too much (it's something different and interesting to look at), our eyes are constantly drawn to these places. We have a hard time noticing any other body part. We have to consciously keep our eyes in other places if we are trying to be good. We also don't pay as much attention to WHO the person is that we are dating. We are more focused on the LOOK. Most youth want to LOOK attractive, but be loved for WHO they are. What are your youth's clothing saying about them? What statement are they trying to make?

We all know that we need to keep an eye on media sources and other places our children frequent. The problem is, we can't monitor it all. You have to start young and teach your child to respect the body, so they will avoid pornography because they want something better. Don't be afraid to say pornography. Don't be afraid to ask your child about what they see and how it makes them feel. Pornography is anything designed to stimulate sexual attraction. Children about ages 8-11 need to learn the definition of pornography and what to do about it, although you are teaching them about it less explicitly while they were young. Keep in mind that if you put if off, you might not get to them in time.