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.