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.