Saturday, October 14, 2017

Playing Doctor to the Next Level

It happened to us. It can happen to you.

Now every one of our children has been caught engaging in some sort of "playing doctor" scenario with a friend. Our older two were about 4 years old and 2 years old when they engaged in this play. They were innocently playing doctor with a 3-year-old friend who was always at the doctor for constant UTIs. She was showing them how the doctor examined her. This was totally age appropriate play (though inappropriate, of course). There was nothing concerning happening. We talked with our kids about their bodies and keeping them private and respecting other people's bodies and keeping them private.

Fast forward 7 years and now our youngest has been involved in playing doctor. However, his case was quite a bit different and more concerning.

Our youngest is 5 years old. He's had a playmate living very close to us for quite a few years and they've been playing together since his playmate was 2 1/2 and Zander was 1 1/2. We love this family. They are good friends of ours. A few months ago, after our son had been 5 for a few months he told me that his friend Benton (name changed) had poked his finger in his bum and he didn't like it so he didn't do it back. This was absolutely NOT something that he would think of on his own. I knew it must have happened, so I asked him where it happened and how he felt about it. I praised him for following his feelings; since he didn't like it, he didn't have to play. I talked with my husband and we decided that our son would not be allowed to play at the other boy's house (because it seemed to have happened there) and they would not be allowed to play without adult supervision at our house. This was because we weren't sure what had happened and if it really happened with this boy because the name of the friend changed throughout the conversation. It can be really hard to glean actual events from a 5-year-old (especially when it happened a while ago). This was the only instance he brought up.

Well, after a few months of nothing happening, my husband and I were still strict about the boys playing at our house, but less strict about following them around when they were alone in a room.

One evening while the kids were running all over the house (we had double the amount of kids in our house than actually live here). Our Z-man and Benton came out of our boys' room and ran upstairs to play with the other kids. I looked at my husband and he could feel the same thing.......something had just happened in the boys room. I called the two boys down and took them in a private room, away from the other kids. I asked what happened. Z-man told me that Benton had licked his penis. Benton was looking uncomfortable and ashamed, but Z-man was giggly and thought it was funny.

We talked about respecting people's bodies. I also asked if they felt like they needed to hide when they played like this (because they were in closets as best we can tell from both instances). They said yes and we talked about how games we play where we feel we need to hide are not good games to play. We can always say no to a game, even if it seems fun if it feels like we need to hide. We sent the kids off to play again and told them to stay with the other kids. We also assured the boys that they were not in trouble, but we also stressed the importance of playing appropriately. Our friends have since moved and there were no other instances of this kind of play.

I was definitely concerned about this kind of playing doctor and talked to Benton's mom because he was pushing the realm of typical behavior into concerning behavior. I didn't like that this happened, but Z-man didn't seem to think it was anything beyond play. Because of Benton's shameful attitude, I could tell something was happening in his life that needed to be addressed. I knew his dad was into pornography and wondered if maybe Benton had seen something that was causing his playing doctor to start crossing over to more concerning behavior.

These are the guidelines for age appropriate playing doctor.

Z-man and Benton were less than 3 years apart (typical). Z-man was giggle, happy, and curious. Benton was fearful and withdrawn. The concerning part for me was that Benton was encouraging sticking fingers and mouths on genitalia. Z-man did not think of this and has never introduced this play with another child. He didn't like it, although he thought it was funny at the time. After we discussed the behavior with both boys, it stopped, at least, Z-man stopped playing like this. I don't know if Benton started this game with other kids. Since 3 of the 4 were typical behavior for Z-man, I wasn't too worried, but I have made sure to ask him about his play with other kids every few months. I have paid close attention to how he feels around his friends. I am so grateful that the spirit whispered to both me and my husband that something was amiss and we could address it immediately. I think that really helped nip the behavior in the bud and prevent further and even more concerning play. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Pornography Prevention Program: Stage 3

In talking with friends, this last stage seems to be the one that is probably skipped the most in parental discussions about pornography. It's much easier to focus on what we actually see when it comes to sexuality than the desires and feelings in our bodies and hearts. 

Stage 3: Sexual Desire is an Integral Part of Heavenly Father's Plan
Our bodies were designed to have sexual desires and these desires are good. It is in these desires that part of Heavenly Father's plan is able to succeed. As children mature and undergo puberty, they begin to experience these desires. This is where the "sexual excitement" part of the definition of pornography comes into play. Youth may find particular books sexually exciting, even if there is little to no description of sexual acts. There may just be an implication. This is different from Stage 2 because children who don't understand desire may not yet understand the insinuation behind a particular scene in a movie, book, or other media and it may not be pornographic for them yet. 

As youth mature and experience sexual desires, their cognition of sexuality also matures and they may see sexuality in places they didn't notice it before. For example, my husband watched the movie "Clue" as a ten-year-old boy. He didn't see it again for many years. When he did watch it again, he was surprised at the frequency of sexual connotations. As a 10-year-old, he didn't understand the body movements or language indicating sexual interest in the movie. As a young adult, he was more cognitively aware of it and noticed the implications depicted in the movie. 

During puberty, youth begin to understand sexual desire as their bodies begin to mature. Pornography discussions should include the way books, music, and other media are designed to make them feel about sexuality. This is moving beyond concrete descriptions of the way people dress or sexual acts in media sources, as those were discussions in Stages 1 and 2. Youth are more able to understand sexual connotations and can define pornography through the adult definition of sexual excitement because they are beginning to understand these desires as they experience them. Since puberty begins at different ages for different children, this stage may begin as young as 9 or 10 years old (depending on your child). This stage continues throughout adulthood, as we all have to combat pornographic images and content through media. 

At this stage, youth need to know:
  • Is something they are viewing/reading intending to cause them to think about sex and/or arouse sexual desires? 
  • Connect masturbation and pornography. Masturbation is often connected to pornography because pornography arouses sexual desire. That desire can lead to physical actions like masturbation to try and fill that desire. 

The Testimony
It can be easy to get pulled into the trap of only discussing the negative in seeing inappropriate pictures, videos, music, books, and other media through pornography. However, Heavenly Father's plan has designated sexual intimacy as the most positive and constructive way for strong families to be built. We need to be sure that we are not only warning our children about pornography and ways to avoid it, but that we are also filling them with knowledge of the sacred role sexuality plays in the Plan of Salvation. 

When children understand sexual intimacy, what it is, why it's used, and where it's appropriate, this knowledge empowers them to do what is right. They will recognize why they need to be turning away from pornography. The why is not only because it hurts the brain and can lead to addiction and bad feelings. The why is because sexual intimacy is an incredible bonding experience in a marriage and the way to bring new life into the world. Having a testimony of Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation, and sexual intimacy's role in this plan will give children the best internal filter for determining when they have encountered pornography and how to avoid or get rid of it. It will also help them realize the good in proper sexual intimacy and infuse them with desire to use sexual intimacy in the way God has designed.

Throughout the entire process of teaching children about sex and pornography, remember that mistakes and repentance are an integral part of our Earthly existence. Whether children accidentally happen upon or actively seek out pornography, they need to know they can rely on the Savior and his Atonement to help them heal and build their testimony of sexual intimacy's role in Heavenly Father's plan. A testimony is the greatest thing we can foster in our children to help them become resistant to sin.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pornography Prevention Program: Stage 2

I already mentioned Stage 1 of teaching children about pornography. There are some great books out there with some wonderful helps, one being "Good Pictures, Bad Pictures" by Kristen Jensen. She also helped the LDS Church put out a film for children to help them know what to do if they encounter pornography. You can view it here.

Let's move to stage 2, which is probably going to start around ages 6-8 (depending on your child and their circumstances).

Stage 2: Sexual Intimacy is a Positive Part of Heavenly Father's Plan
Between the ages of 6-8 years old, children are ready to know the facts about sexual intimacy. You've already set the stage by teaching them about their bodies. They know that a body is an essential part of Heavenly Father's plan. They know how most of the parts of their body function. Now, they can know the purpose of their genitals (beyond waste management) and how sexual intimacy fits into Heavenly Father's plan for creating strong families and for creating bodies for other spirits. 

There are many stories of children being exposed to sex or pornography at young ages. Electronic devices are exposing children to much more than just inappropriate 2-dimensional pictures. Even if a child has been made aware of staying away from inappropriate pictures, they also need to know about videos, music, books, and other media. 

Children also struggle to be able to apply the knowledge they've learned in one setting to another (see Jean Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development). For example, a child who knows to not look at inappropriate pictures may not realize that a video on YouTube is also inappropriate. The actors may be clothed, but stimulating inappropriate emotions or feelings through their actions. Another example is that a child may be able to tell you they should keep their body covered and that they shouldn't look at other people without clothes. Yet, this same child may also "play doctor" with a friend or relative without clothing. They don't apply their knowledge of not looking at others without clothes to their play. Children need guidance to help them apply what they are learning to a variety of situations. 

Often, parents want to instill the dangers of pornography so much that the negativity associated with pornography spills over into sexual intimacy in general. Sex becomes something dark, rather than the light Heavenly Father intends it to be for a marital couple. If you discuss sexual intimacy, what it is and the reasons for it, along with pornography, children are more likely to understand the reasons why pornography is so dangerous without those negative feelings for pornography affecting their view of sexuality. 

Children at this age need pornography defined in more detailed terms. We know all about trying to keep our kids safe on the internet, but the best filter is an "internal filter" (Linda S. Reeves). To have an effective internal filter, here are things kids need to know in this stage:
  • Connect sexual intimacy and pornography! Pornography is all about stimulating sexual feelings, not just pictures of people with little or no clothing.
  • Continue discussing avoiding pictures of people with little or no clothing, but they also need to know that sexual acts or descriptions of sexual acts in videos, books, music, and other media are also pornography.  Again, to truly understand this, they need to know the definition of sexual intimacy. 
  • Teach that pornography can make them feel uncomfortable, as it can in all stages, even if it interests them.
  • Teach them how to repent, often. 
  • Most of all, teach them that you are willing to talk to them about anything, including sex and pornography. 
  • Sexual intimacy is a positive part of Heavenly Father's plan, along with being sacred. Teach them the difference between sacred and secret. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pornography Prevention Program: Stage 1

I recently had a conversation with a friend about her son. She felt that she and her husband had done a good job teaching their son about respect for bodies and the dangers of pornography. Yet, she discovered her son had been involved in an inappropriate activity with another child and stopped only after he learned the definition of sexual intimacy. As we talked, we both realized something very important. Her first discussion with her son about the actual definition of sexual intimacy was 11 years old, yet she felt she had been teaching him about pornography for longer than that. She realized that in teaching him about pornography, she had missed teaching him about sexual intimacy. There was a huge gap in her Pornography Prevention Program. Most, if not all, parents I talk to understand the importance of teaching children about the dangers of pornography. However, many of these same parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about sexual intimacy. This seems ironic because the definition of pornography is, "erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement" (Merriam-Webster online). The one crucial thing we often miss when teaching children about pornography is that it cannot be separated from teaching children about sexual intimacy. If we are defining pornography for our children, we also have to define sexual intimacy and how it fits into Heavenly Father's plan. I find that this teaching occurs in 3 stages as children mature. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting the three stages of teaching children about pornography. 

Stage 1: The Body is A Temple
This seems to be the stage parents are most comfortable teaching. This is also the stage in which most parents remain in their efforts to teach children about pornography. Young children should learn correct names for all body parts and that all parts of their body are good, including the genitals. They also learn the functions of most of their body parts.  The body is a house, or temple, for our spirit while on Earth. Gaining a body is an essential part of Heavenly Father's plan. While children are preschoolers and in the early elementary school years, gaining a respect for their body and others' bodies is a beginning for understanding sex and pornography. They learn to keep their body private from others and that they should allow others to keep their bodies private. This helps them understand why some pictures are inappropriate to view. 

At this age, from birth through about 7-8 years old: 

  • pornography is defined in more broad terms, such as not looking at pictures of other people without clothing. The term pornography may not even enter vocabulary yet.
  • teach correct body part names and functions (of most body parts, not genital functions beyond releasing waste)
  • encourage privacy (like closing doors when changing, going to the bathroom, and so forth)
  • talk positively about every body part
  • teach the importance of the family in Heavenly Father's Plan

This information may seem pretty obvious. Yet, it's a critical beginning for children's proper understanding of pornography. Just don't get stuck here. Next week, we'll move on to Stage 2, usually ages 7 or 8 to puberty. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Why View Pornography After Marriage?

Our 11-year-old son is beginning to transition from reading the Friend magazine to reading the New Era. He was reading an older issue we had at the house one day from February 2017.  You can view the article he was reading here.

He came and asked:
K: "Mom, why would people look at pornography after they are married?"
Me: "Wow, that's an excellent question. I'd like to answer that one with your dad. Can we wait to answer that until tonight when he's home?"
K: "Sure."
Me: "Can you tell me where this question is coming from?"
K: "Yea. I was reading this article about a father who viewed pornography. I just don't know why a married adult would want to look at pornography when he has sex with his wife."

I spent the day thinking about the best way to explain this concept to an 11-year-old. I took the main idea about feeling/thinking brain from the book, "Good Pictures, Bad Pictures." Then, I sat in the shower and stewed over how to explain this. I talked with my husband a little when he got home. This is what we came up with and our conversation with our son.

I had him ask his question again, then dived in to the conversation.

Me: "So, I was talking to dad about this. Do you know a little about how the brain works? Do you remember that video we watched about pornography that the church put out about your thinking brain and your feeling brain?' (You can see the video, What Should I Do When I See Pornography?)
K: "Yeah."
Me: "So, in your brain you have all sorts of different pathways. So, you have a thought and it goes from one part of your brain to another, like your brain is constantly moving and connecting ideas. Or, a thought can create a feeling. So, there are these little pathways in your brain and I'm not going to give you technical terms because that's a lot to remember, so I'm just going to say this is a pathway in your brain. (This picture shows my "pathways" using Qwirkle blocks upside down.) So, Heavenly Father has given us the desire to have sexual experiences, right?
K: "Yeah."
Me: "We know why? Is that correct?"
K: "Yeah, for babies and bonding."

M: "So, we're not going to talk about sex for babies right now because your question focuses on desire and bonding. I'm going to put this Lego guy here (the bottom boy). We'll say this is your sexual desire. We have a connection from your sexual desire to the actual experience you are having. Bonding is a chemical reaction in your brain. When you bond with someone you connect with that person and that's called bonding. So, when we talk about sex being a bonding experience in a marriage between a man and a woman it means that there are these chemicals that are released in the brain that allow you to feel a connection with that person. Those chemicals are released during those experiences. So, there's a pathway in your brain that goes from the desire (Lego man) to the thing you are bonding with (Lego girl). Does that make sense?"
K: "Yeah."
Me: "So, when you view pornography, we're going to make a pathway that goes off this way. Pornography you usually view with a screen, so I'm going to put this little Lego screen right here. What happens is you have your sexual desire right here and you are moving off this path, having a bonding experience with a spouse, to bonding with a screen or a picture. If you are viewing pornography before you get married then you can get used to this track (pointing to the pathway to the screen). Have you ever had the experience at school where you have to write a date in your planner and the year changes, what happens when you get to January 1st?
K: "You have to write a new year?"
M: "Do you find yourself still writing 2017 instead of 2018 without thinking?
K: "Yeah."
Me: "I do too. That's because it's a habit and your brain pathway has been trained to write 2017 for 12 whole months. You have to consciously think about writing the new year. What happens in your brain with sexual experiences is that if you keep using this pathway for sexual experiences, whether it's a screen or pictures or videos, things like that, then your brain wants to go this way (again, pointing to the path to the screen). So, even after you are married and able to have this kind of bonding experience (pointing to the path to the Lego girl), your brain is still trying to go this way because it's so used to going this way. Because of that, you can still be married and have a hard time with pornography.
K: "Oh. I see."

Me: "Now, even people after they get married may have something pornographic introduced to them. Our brains like new stuff, so if something pornographic is seen, your brain is seeing something new and wants to look at it. So, even though this pathway is available to you (pointing to the path to the Lego girl), you may find your brain going off on this path (pointing to the path to the screen). Does that make sense?
K: "Yeah."
Me: "So, it's better before you are married to not even have this pathway because the habit to take that path is hard to break. And, after you are married you have to be careful about what you allow yourself to watch and see because this path is easy to form since the brain likes new things. That's why we're teaching you about pornography now so you don't have to worry about fighting to stay on the right path in your brain. Right now and during puberty your brain is going to be used to just having that desire, and when you are married you get that bonding experience and build that pathway and connection to your spouse. You're not trying to fight it going off on a different pathway. It just stays here because that's the path it knows. 
Dad: "It's one of those things that people say is hard to give up because males especially are visual. They like images, pictures. Girls are more emotional. They like the touchy, feely stuff. It's one of those things that once you view pornography it's really hard to stop. 
Me: "It rewires the way your brain thinks, so this pathway doesn't even have to be there if you never start viewing it (pointing to screen path). You told me that one time you saw images when you were looking up information from that Brandon Mull book about "naked agony" that you couldn't get them out of your head."
K: "Yes!"
Me: "That's because your brain wanted to start going on this pathway. It immediately wanted to start going on this pathway. That's why I was glad you told me about it because we could work on ways to stay off that track before your brain get too used it. We can push it out of the way. You can keep on this pathway (to Lego girl) so your desire stays right here until you're ready to have those bonding experiences in marriage. Do you have any questions?
K: "No."
Me: "Well, if you have any questions later, you can always come ask. Did we fully answer your question?"
K: "Yeah."
Dad: "Notice in the article that it says this girl's dad wasn't a bad man (referring to the article he read that stimulated this question). He was a good man. This is just a challenge that he has."
Me: "And he was trying to do what's right. And that's why we have repentance."
Dad: "That's true, and if you ever have this issue with what you're seeing don't beat yourself up. You can always ask Heavenly Father for help and He will help you. It's just better not to get into it at all. It's just everywhere."
Me: "Yeah. It's good to talk about it and let us know when you do see things because we can help you."
Dad: "Yes. We love you."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What Was Corianton's Sin?

Our oldest son had the lesson in church a while back about Corianton. One of the students in the class asked what Corianton's sin was. Well, you can totally expect that question from a group of 10-year-old boys. The lesson specifically states, "Note: Do not teach the specific content of Alma 39:3-6. Simply summarize it by explaining that Corianton committed a very serious sin while on a mission among the Zoramites. If the children ask about the nature of Corianton's sin, suggest that they discuss it with their parents." So, the teacher followed the manual and told the children to go home and ask their parents. Of course, our oldest came home and asked......(see the lesson manual here)

K: "Mom, in the lesson today, Alma's son did something really bad, but the teacher told us we had to ask our parents what he did. What did he do?"
Me: "Well, let's read in the scriptures." We read from Alma 39:3-6: 
"And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel. 

Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted. 

Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost? 

For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable ; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness ; yea, I say unto you, my son,... "

 "Do you understand what any of that meant?"
K: "No."
Me: "A harlot is someone who has sex for money or other things. Corinaton was having sex when he wasn't married to this girl. The ministry also means he was on a mission."
K: "Oh, that's bad."
Me: "Why was that bad?"
K: "He shouldn't be having sex when he's not married."
Me: "You're right, but why shouldn't he be having sex if they aren't married?"
K: "Well, sex is good for a marriage. That's what God made sex for, right?"
Me: "Right, that's one of the reasons. Corianton was not doing what he was supposed to be doing, teaching the gospel as a missionary. Instead, he got caught up doing inappropriate things with a girl named Isabel in a place he shouldn't have been." What does that mean for you? What do you think this scripture is trying to teach you? You aren't on a mission right now. 
K: "I guess I should stay in places I'm supposed to be."
M: "Right, when you stay in good places, or places you are supposed to be, God will help strengthen you to do what's right."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Confession of a Public School Parent

I hear so many reasons about why parents home school their children. I rarely hear why other parents choose to put their children in public school. But, it is a choice. For my husband and I, it's an important choice that we don't take lightly. I'm sad to see my children leave me for hours every day when summer ends. But, I feel like they are also gaining the experiences they need for their own growth and development. Our daughter has had opportunities she wouldn't have at home, like helping a peer with their morning work. She was also able to present information in front of her class about research she had done. She learned how to deal with a student who was stealing things from her. Our son has learned to stand up for what he believes in front of his peers. Sometimes it's easy to give that answer in Family Home Evening, but it's altogether another things when actually faced with doing it. 

There are great reasons to put children in the public school system, but there are also drawbacks. 
There are certainly great reasons to home school, but there are drawbacks as well.  There is no perfect system for educating our children in a well rounded way. I am very grateful for the wonderful teachers my children have had in their schooling. I may still home school at some point if it ever feels right. But for now, I have a confession...............I am a public school parent!

I hope you realize that these are very personal for me and my husband and our children. Every parent needs to decide what is best for their child and some children may have different needs than our children. 

Six Reasons My Husband and I Choose to Put our Children in Public School

6. Exceptional Examples

In the school system, there are a lot of children who often make poor choices and/or have poor behavior. Then, there are children who regularly make good choice and have good behavior, but make poor choices regularly as well. Last, there are children who rarely exhibit poor behavior and make good choices often. Our children are not perfect. However, they generally have good behavior and make good choices, especially when they are at school.

As representatives of Jesus Christ, we encourage our children to make choices that reflect our beliefs. Our oldest son had a peer in 3rd grade who was often in trouble with his teacher. He was also not very nice to other children. My husband and I talked with our son and decided that maybe the boy was jealous he didn't have any friends and didn't know how to appropriately make friends. Our son befriended the boy. Over the course of the year, the little boy's behavior in class improved, as did his interactions with his peers. He did not become an incredibly great child in class. He still misbehaved and taught our son a few things we had to discuss. But, ultimately, we felt like our son had been a good example for this boy. Our son was also able to see the effect of his example on a peer.

We want our children to understand what it's like to be a good example for others and recognize bad examples. We talk about it at home and church, but we feel our children's experience with example is most noticeable in the school system. They can be an example to their siblings, but our children mostly get along. They also see only a limited number of behaviors that their siblings may emulate (whether good or bad). They interact with many children at church who are all making an effort to exhibit similar examples. In the school system, our children have been able to see a wider variety of bad examples and choose not to follow those. They have seen a wider variety of good examples and learn from those. They also have been able to be a good example and see how they can affect those around them for good. The examples they set for their peers are also different every year as they have learned and grown. In the public school system our children see how a variety of people are examples, whether good or bad, in a variety of circumstances. We want our children to understand how they can learn from those around them and influence those around them. We feel this experience is more salient for our children when they are surrounded by a wider variety of ideas, a wider range of people from different backgrounds, thus a wider variety of examples to provide our children with a practical understanding of how to interact with and learn from others.

5. Balancing Boredom

I have never been in a job in my life where I have been entertained or busy the ENTIRE job, including meetings. I have been incredibly bored at times in my life. When I worked at Subway as a youth, there were slow times with no customers and an already spotless kitchen, serving area, and dining area. I am a busybody, too. I have to be working. I don't know how many times I scrubbed the floor at Keva Juice when I worked as a night manager there because I was bored. Meetings, though necessary, can be incredibly boring at times. Some classes in college were boring................very the point where I celebrated when I was able to stay awake the entire class period. There are even times when............gasp..............I'm bored at HOME! Certainly there are things to be done, but I'm bored of cleaning and laundry and cooking and planning............

We want our children to learn how to be effectively motivated by boredom. Some children may get in trouble more often if they are bored, but I don't find that to be the case very often. Our children have rarely been in trouble at school, but often have times they tell me they were bored. I've also seen children in classrooms (I volunteer a lot in my children's classrooms) where the teacher has something for the children to do that is important learning work, but the children are off misbehaving. They weren't bored, just misbehaving because that's the choice they were making at that time. We want our children to realize when they are bored and be able to refocus if they are in an important learning time. We also want them to be able to figure out how to effectively use their time. If they get all their work done at school, they are able to read or find something to do to keep themselves occupied. They are much less likely to get bored at home because they are more free to move from one activity to the next when they feel done with something, thus giving them significantly fewer opportunities to figure out how to deal with boredom effectively. This entire summer I only remember our children occasionally saying they were bored.  

When our children get a job, we want them to be able to be self-motivated to find things to do if they find themselves getting bored. We feel that at home, it's harder for them to be self-motivated. At school, they can't always ask the teacher what they can do when they're bored. They have to figure it out for themselves! They also learn to think ahead by bringing a book from home or looking around at school for something effective to do, like getting ahead on homework. 

4. Incalculable Intelligence

My husband and I, like most parents, want the best for our children. We want them to be smart and successful. We do feel like our children would progress more quickly through the subjects they are learning if we home schooled them. But, intelligence, or IQ, is not the greatest predictor of success. Check out this 6 minute video from Angela Lee Duckworth - Ted Talks on "Grit." One of the greatest predictors of success in life is "grit." This is perseverance, passion, stamina, and so forth. Our children may progress more quickly at home in their intellectual understanding of subjects, but I don't know that it's the place our children are learning the most "grit." 

Our oldest son is a natural at perseverance. He does what it takes, how long it takes, to reach his goals. He doesn't quit when things get hard. He tries harder. Math especially does not come easy for him, but he works hard until he understands. At school, he has to use more perseverance as he learns math because it's not one-on-one. He struggles with math in a group setting. When I teach him at home and help him with his homework, he catches on more quickly. Of course we want our children to grasp difficult concepts more easily and have one-on-one time, but we also feel that they need to be able to learn how to work hard and persevere when things are more difficult. This last school year, math became a strength for our son. He really struggled with it in the beginning of the year. I helped him a lot. As the year progressed, he began to learn how to pay more attention to the teacher at school during math instruction. He had to learn how to learn in a new way. Once he figured out how to learn from this teacher, he excelled. He has been able to figure out how to learn from many different teachers in his life and that will help him adapt in a career, college, and other pursuits. 

Our daughter is more easygoing. She doesn't quit easily either, but can sure learn more about perseverance. School work comes more easily to her. At home, with the student-teacher ratio of 3:1, our children wouldn't have to wait so long for help or try to figure as many things out for themselves. When I teach them at home, I try my best to let them do things on their own. But, if they came across a problem that is difficult to solve, they are more likely to come to me more quickly than their teacher at school, who has 18+ students to help. They learn to try harder on their own at school before they ask for help. When they really can't do it, they ask their teacher or bring it home for me to help them. 

We don't feel like our children are geniuses or better than average in their intelligence. But, I do know that our kids have a greater likelihood of success in life as they learn to persevere. Our children are learning to persevere in greater degree in the course of a regular day at school than they would at our home. We feel that if we believed our children were too smart for school and we wanted to focus only on their educational intellectual-IQ type growth, we would be depriving them of other types of intelligence, like social intelligence and other behaviors exhibited by resilient children. We feel our children's success is measured not only by IQ, but also by social and interpersonal skills, and other valuable characteristic traits like perseverance. It's much more difficult for our children to develop some of these traits at home because neither my husband, nor myself, excel at everything and can only be an example for a limited range of characteristic traits. 

3. Empowering Exposure

Our children live in a society rich in inappropriate things. Some children are very disrespectful at school. Some talk about things that are inappropriate in a school setting. Some use inappropriate language. Belonging to a church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) with a unique perspective on appropriate and inappropriate adds extra challenges. Our children often hear language that is okay with many families, but not with ours. They hear discussions about sex or other topics we believe are appropriate in a family setting, but not in a public setting. They see children being incredibly unkind to other children. They hear endless talk about things we believe are a waste of time, but are fine with other families (e.g. video games for hours and such). They hear students talking back to adults. There are a lot of inappropriate things that happen at school.

We don't like it. But, we also believe it's been beneficial for our children to see the world as it is. We have been commanded to be in the world, but not of the world. We want our children to be able to know how to navigate the world around them and decipher which roads and voices to follow, or how to lead. Now, if the environment they are in is too pervasively negative that they aren't able to function, we would certainly pull them from that environment. But, some negativity and inappropriateness are opportunities for our children to develop positive qualities. Heavenly Father even tells us that he allows bad/hard things to happen to us for our growth and learning. We certainly don't want to put our children in situations where bad or inappropriate things can possibly happen, but we know as we're prayerful about the decisions we make in behalf of our children Heavenly Father will help us. Heavenly Father allowed Satan to do some awful things to Job. These trials made Job stronger. Last year, our oldest son had a kid in his class that was highly inappropriate. He was discussing such inappropriate things about sexuality that I was concerned for the child himself and wondered if his mother knew what was going on. It felt like he was involved in pornography or someone had abused him in some way. Our son didn't like the way he was talking and just tried avoiding him at recess and lunch. When that didn't work, he finally told the boy not to talk that way around him. Our son is incredibly non-confrontational. He doesn't like conflict and it's very difficult for him to stand up to his peers. He usually sits quietly on the sideline and doesn't get involved, or tries to ignore. He came home so excited that he had found the courage to stand up and state how he felt to this boy. The boy stopped talking that way around him too. He realized how empowering it felt to stand up for his beliefs and feelings. Our son came home so excited that he was able to stand up to his peer, even though he didn't even know yet that the boy was going to stop talking about inappropriate things. He also learned that through speaking up, he can make changes in his environment. 

Last year, I posted about another event where our son learned something about himself. It was hard for us to allow him to suffer through this 4th grade year, but we felt he needed to stay where he was. During the course of the year, a friend in his class did something inappropriate. Our son stood up for the right and told the teacher. He lost a friend for a time, but he also learned something important about himself. He learned that he could do the right, even when it wasn't popular, and the consequence was feelings of confidence and joy. He also learned what a true friend was. (If you're interested in reading the whole story about this event with our son click here.)   

Even if our children are exposed to some pretty terrible stuff at school, we feel like the things they have gained from these experiences have made their spirits stronger. As I watch our oldest son begin middle school, I can see a change in him from things he learned last year. He's already being proactive in his search for appropriate friends. He also recognizes when he should help someone in need that is being mistreated by another student. Our daughter has gained confidence as she has helped those that needed an extra hand. With all the inappropriate exposure our children experience at school, they are also exposed to the true nature of who they are and what they are trying to become. 

2. Discover Diversity

My husband and I try hard to be open and loving to those around us. We befriend our neighbors and truly enjoy our neighborhood and community. However, even though we try hard to be involved with a variety of individuals, our circle still seems to lack some diversity. We have a few friends that believe differently from us and even fewer friends of various races. In essence, we are surrounded by like-minded people. We don't believe this is bad. We like to surround ourselves with people who enjoy the same things we do. But, we feel that our children also need to experience more diversity: of religion, race, language, ethnicity, thought, political views, socioeconomic status, teaching style, personalities, and so forth. The circle of people we surround ourselves with provides only minor opportunities for our children to interact with people in varying circumstances. Chances are, they will have to interact with a wider variety of individuals as they go to college, serve missions, and begin a career. It will be much easier for them to integrate into diverse situations if they have experience interacting with a variety of individuals.

It makes me think of Christopher Columbus. He was surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals. They all thought the world was flat and he was crazy. No one would fund his quest for a long time. If our children believe the world is flat and are surrounded by people who think the world is flat, they are missing something! Our son had a black teacher for first grade. He'd hardly had any interaction with blacks until that moment in his life and was quite afraid of her for a short while. She turned into one of his favorite teachers. Our daughter just had the same teacher without any of his initial fear because our circle was widened and she saw her brother's experience. As our children encounter different ideas at school, they bring them home and discuss them with us. We're able to regularly talk about respecting other's ideas and beliefs. We are also able to discuss what we believe and how what they learn fits into the circle of their widening world. Our children also have to learn about different teaching styles and how to learn in a variety of ways. They also learn how to interact with a variety of personalities as they are placed in groups for group work. Our daughter had to learn how to work in a group with a child that misbehaved. Our son had to learn how to work in a group with a child that didn't want to do work. These kinds of things will happen in the workforce as our children grow and get jobs, or they may have these experiences in college. These experiences in grade school will give our children experience to know how to handle these types of situations. We believe our children need this diversity and we just don't have ample opportunities within our regular circle to provide that for them. 

1. Spiritual Sense

This is the NUMBER 1 and MOST IMPORTANT reason my husband and I have chosen to put our children in the school system. Every year, we pray about what is right for our children. Should they stay in the public school system, or should we home school them? Every year we have felt that they need to be in public school. This year is hard because our son is entering middle school! Our daughter had an incredible year last year with an incredible teacher, but we also feel she could progress more quickly at home. Every time I've prayed this year about our children going back to school, I have felt peaceful. Our kids have something else they need to learn within the public school system. So for now, I am a public school parent. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Swayed by Swearing

For summertime, we are those crazy parents that set a limit on how much television/screen time our children get. They get 1 1/2 hours a day and can save up if they want for a bigger movie day, or veg out rainy day.

Our 11-year-old son has always been into documentaries, especially dangerous animals. He loves dangerous reptiles. On Netflix, he has watched just about every appropriate documentary available.

He was watching something a couple days ago and I came up behind him to ask him a question. He snapped at me. He can get testy sometimes, but this was a little strange. Later, he was watching another episode and his dad walked in. He snapped at his dad. I asked him what was wrong.

Of course, he said, "Nothing!"

I pointed out that he was only snapping at us when he was watching the show. I told him I wondered if there was something in it that was driving the spirit away. I left it at that and walked away. He has always been very trustworthy on his electronics. Plus, I can always check what he's watching in the netflix viewing log.

He wasn't watching anything that would cause me concern. 

A few hours later, he came to me and said:

"Mom, you know when I snapped at you while I was watching that show?"

Me: "Yes."

K: "Well, it said some cuss words and I was worried that if you heard the cuss words in it you would think it was bad. It was rated G."

M: "Oh. What did you decide to do?"

K: "Well, I figured if I was worried when you came in and didn't want you to see me watching it that I shouldn't watch it. I found another documentary that doesn't swear. I like the ones from the Smithsonian Channel. Those are always really interesting and don't have anything bad in them."

I had a peaceful feeling, like this was why I didn't worry about his choices in movies. I told him that this morning. I felt like he was very responsible in what he chose to watch. 

My kids have heard cuss words, LOTS. They are at school, the park, with friends........Not everyone we hang around keeps their language as clean as we expect our children to keep theirs. In fact, we have watched movies with the kids that have an occasional cuss word. The fact that he could recognize that his choice was making a difference in his spirit was wonderful.

It may seem that this is extreme, to worry about cuss words in movies when that is the norm now. This was NOT ME as a parent telling him to not watch something because of the language. We have taught him to use clean language and try to ignore or request others to use more respectful langauge if needed. HE was the one that figured out what the problem with the movie was that was affecting his thoughts and behavior. 

This kid has so much more understanding than I ever did at his age.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Naked Agony

So, I really like the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. Our oldest son, 11-years-old, loves them too. He recently read "Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary." One day, he came to me:

K: Mom, I was reading that Fablehaven book and I came across a couple words I didn't understand.
Me: Oh good. What did you do?
K: I tried to look them up, but I couldn't figure out what it meant. When I typed them in, inappropriate pictures came up. I closed them out really quick. I'm telling you because I can't get those pictures out of my mind. I've tried all those things we talked about before, singing a hymn, saying a prayer, listening to a song I like. I still can't get them out.
Me: I'm glad you came to me. Remember how we talked about the mind always wanting to think about something?
K: Yeah.
Me: We should do something that keeps your mind busy for a while to keep your thoughts away from those pictures.
K: That's a good idea.
Me: I would love it if you would tell me next time this happens, even if you don't have a problem getting pictures out of your head.
K: I will.
Me: So, what were the words you didn't know?
K: "Humid stench" was one. I know what humid is and stench is smell. I don't know what they mean together. (He showed me in the book.)
Me: Literature sometimes uses different words to describe something in a particular way. Humid stench in the story means a really heavy, sticky smell. It's a smell that surrounds you and you can amost feel it because it's so strong.
K: Okay. I get that now. The other that pulled up inappropriate pictures was "naked agony." I know that naked means no clothes. What's agony?
Me: Agony is a lot of pain. Naked agony would mean that everyone can see your pain. It shows on your face and in the way you walk and talk.
K: Okay. I get it now. Why do authors use language like that?
Me: It's to use really descriptive words. They want you to feel like you're there, so sometimes they use words in a different way than we expect to give you a better feel for the scene in the book.
K: Okay. I really like this book. It's a good one.
Me: I'm glad you like it. If there are more phrases you don't understand, you can ask me if two or three words together don't make sense to you.
K: I will.
Me: Oh, and try to use the dictionary app instead of the internet next time you just need a definition of a word. That might prevent this kind of thing from happening.
K: I didn't think of that. I thought that app was only on the other iPad.

At first, I sarcastically said to my husband, "Thanks to Brandon Mull our son was exposed to pornography." After a day for me to realize that our son was highly resilient and this opportunity gave us a chance to talk about pornography in a real setting, rather than hypothetical, I was grateful. I would rather have him exposed to a quick picture and learn how to deal with it than leave him to experience videos that pull him into addiction later.

We had another conversation later.

Me: I know that pictures of people without clothing can be interesting because we usually keep those parts covered. When you were looking up those phrases from the Fablehaven book and saw those pictures, were you curious and interested in looking?
K: No; I knew what it was, so I just wanted to quick get rid of it.
Me: All right. If you are ever tempted to look, you can let me know. I love you.
K: I love you too.

I didn't realize the significance of this conversation at first because I was assuming I was going to have a conversation about how pornography can be interesting. I was prepared to talk about how pornography can be engaging and tempting. I was surprised at his answer. Then, I was pleased. I remembered the talk by Joy D Jones at the most recent conference entitled, "A Sin-Resistant Generation." She said, "Being sin-resistant doesn’t mean being sinless, but it does imply being continually repentant, vigilant, and valiant. Perhaps being sin-resistant comes as a blessing from repeatedly resisting sin. As James said, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." This is a situation where our son demonstrated that he is learning how to become sin resistant. He's certainly not perfect, but I felt inspired by his determination to do what's right.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 4

After a bit of a haitus, I am finally finishing my last point with keeping children innocent or igorant. I had kids with the flu (the real stuff, not the stomach bug). Then, I got sick with it. Then, it was Spring Break. Then, I just got busy. 

Here is another thought in my continuing quest to explain keeping children innocent or ignorant of sexual things. I've discussed the definitions of innocence and ignorance and the idea of "robbing" children of innocence. I've also even included a point about the inadvertant messages children get about their bodies from keeping them "innocent." Now............

4. Does your child use the internet AT ALL (for school, homework, computer games, etc)?

The average age for first exposure to pornography was age 11 in the 2005-2010 research range. It has now decreased to age 9. How old is your child? Did you know that 90% of children ages 8-16 have seen pornography (and that it happens most often when doing research for school work)? That means 9 OUT OF 10 children have seen pornography by age 16, which means ONLY 1 in 10 has not seen pornography (possibly). It's hard to get real statistics about this stuff because some kids won't admit to seeing it. With all the new technology and social media, research also doesn't catch up to "real" time. A study published this year would have been doing the actual surveying or whatnot to get the statistics a couple years ago. This means, I believe, that the percentage of children exposed to pornogrpahy is actually higher. Also, the age could be younger. Hmmmm, scary thought.

You may pat yourself on the back and say, "that's my child, that last 1 out of 10 that's still 'innocent.'" But, I'm not willing to risk it. If my doctor says I have a 1 in 10 chance of living from a disease, I would be pretty scared. Would you get a flu shot if it was only likely to be effective in 10% of the population, 1 in 10? That's ridiculous. I want my children armed with knowledge (did you know that is one of the ways to put on the armor of God, with the girdle of truth? Well, you can't have truth if you don't have knowledge). The prophets and apostles have told us to be prepared. We can't be prepared if we don't know what we're preparing for. I'm preparing my children to understand the proper place for sex in a marital relationship. I'm preparing my children to enter the temple. I'm doing the best teaching I can because I know when my kids are teenagers they need to be prepared for the world. They also need to be prepared for it NOW. Even if you try to hide your kids in a box, something can break that box. I want my kids to live outside the box and learn how to navigate properly, to find the right roads. Then, they are able to freely move and know which roads are safe to travel to escape if needed.

Our children are growing up in a world where homosexual marriages are allowed by law, transgender individuals are fighting for use of any bathroom, and cohabitation is the means to marriage or how you live with your loved one. Not matter how you try to put your child in a box, they will have to live in the world. Even if you homeschool, they will one day be working with someone who may be very different from the values you want for your child. You may think, well, my child will be able to deal with that when they are older, but for now they need to be innocent. That is not innocence; that is ignorance. If you don't start a dialogue young, you are missing your opportunity. Keep them innocent by teaching them the gospel and sexuality's role in it; NOW. Innocence is not a measure of not knowing, but knowing enough to understand their own values and follow them, to shun the world!

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance
2. Not Robbing Childhood, but Giving Wisdom
3. Not Closing Communication, but Being Accessible
4. Not Taking a Chance, but Developing a Plan

Monday, March 13, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 3

Here is another thought in my continuing my quest to explain keeping children innocent or ignorant of sexual things. I've discussed the definitions of innocence and ignorance and the idea of "robbing" children of innocence. Now............

3. What messages are you sending about your child's body when you don't talk about sex in an appropriate time frame?

Ummmmmm, who wanted to talk with their parents about sex for the first time after about age 11 or 12?????? It was uncomfortable, like TOTALLY EMBARRASSING! My parents never talked with me about sex and I remember being mortified to ask my mother about anything when I thought I had started my period (I had learned about periods at school in a special health lesson, so I wasn't ignorant about what it was).  I finally went to my older sisters and they helped me. I was 12.

Lack of teaching to keep kids "innocent" is still teaching something. When you don't teach your children about sex, they are learning that it's not okay to talk with you about their body and bodily functions. They also learn that there is something secret and mysterious about sex that makes their parents clam up. This usually leads kids to believe sex is bad. Most things kept "secret" are things that are bad. I want my children to find me totally ACCESSIBLE. I want them to also realize that sex is okay to talk about in the proper context. I want them comfortable enough with talking about sex that they can talk to their future spouse about sex and feel comfortable with their body and all its functions.

Lack of teaching also inadvertently teaches kids that sex is all about babies. By not saying anything, parents are missing opportunities to teach kids about sex's role in a marital relationship as a strengthening and bonding agent. By the time you get to adolescence and try to talk to them about sex, even just talking about sex as a creation process is going to be uncomfortable. You aren't even going to get to the part about relationships. You may think your kids are different and you will be able to talk with them, but, to be honest, they aren't. Even teenagers I know that have great relationships with their parents don't feel comfortable talking about sex with them when the conversations started after age 11 or 12. These parents thought they were keeping their kids innocent too. Most of these kids respond to sex as "eewwwwww gross," rather than respecting it's sacred role in our lives.

One final point here.......talking about sex is not a one time occurrence. To truly establish a habit and pattern of OPEN COMMUNICATION about sex, conversations have to start before sex becomes totally relevant in a child's life (ie the body changes and is ready for sexual experiences.....puberty; also note that puberty readies the body for sexual experiences, but there is still a proper time for it). For example, before you send a child off to kindergarten, you prepare them. They already start learning how to count and recognize letters. They learn patterns and shapes. You want them to attend kindergarten ready for the experience of blending sounds into words and other skills. Now that your child's cognitively ready for reading, the preparation you have done ahead of time in teaching them letters gives them an advantage to understand how to read. You can't skip learning letters and try to teach a child to read by just giving them words. The pieces come together when the time is right. In teaching sexuality, you have to give your child all the pieces, one at a time. Then, when puberty hits, the pieces come together. Children learn pieces about sexuality, like body parts, respect for the body, pregnancy and birth, sex for making babies, sex for pleasure and bonding........and so forth. As an adolescent, when puberty hits, they understand each piece well enough that they are able to comprehend the whole.....desire and how to channel that and how to act.............choices about sex and those affect your spirit and future................more salient things than just the pieces. If you wait to teach the pieces until adolescence, understanding about the more salient things will suffer as they try to learn both at the same time. It's like learning letters and learning to read words at the exact same time......pretty difficult.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance
2. Not Robbing Childhood, but Giving Wisdom
3. Not Closing Communication, but Being Accessible

Friday, March 10, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 2

Dear family and friends,
Are your children innocent or ignorant about sexuality?
I am not usually this bold, but have felt prompted to share. It seems that when I am in a group setting, teaching a workshop or talking with friends, I have often come across a phrase that causes me some concern. The phrase is something similar to, "I want to keep my children innocent from sexual things," or "My kids are innocent."

I continue in my quest to explain another way of thinking when we consider keeping our children "innocent" from sexual things. Yesterday, I brought up how many parents feel they "rob" their children of innocence by teaching them about sex in a timely manner.

Here is Part 2......

2. How is teaching children about sex "robbing" them of their innocence?

What are we robbing? Childhood? Do we rob a child of their childhood by teaching them about sex? Was your child robbed of their childhood because you taught them about smoking? Was your child robbed of their childhood because you taught them about bullying? No. The act of smoking and bullying or being bullied robs a child of their childhood innocence, NOT TEACHING.

Adults have a funny way of believing that everyone sees the world the way we see it. Children DO NOT see the world the way we see it. When I taught my oldest about sex at age 8, he STILL CONTINUED TO BE AN INNOCENT CHILD........gasp! NO WAY!!!!!! He doesn't understand sex the way his dad and I do. He sees it in its context in Heavenly Father's plan. He understands the purpose of it, but he does NOT feel that we TOOK SOMETHING AWAY FROM HIM! Robbing is taking something away from him. Conversely, he feels that we actually GAVE him something. We gave him the gift of knowledge so he understands the plan of Heavenly Father. We gave him the gift of knowledge so that when he has encountered inappropriate things he has known what to do. It's an awful feeling to know that someone is talking about something you don't understand and could be making fun of you for it, but you have no idea what you are supposed to believe or how to act because you JUST DON'T KNOW (aka ignorance). We gave him the gift of knowledge so that he has confidence and understands sexuality's purpose so well that he can't be swayed into believing worldly views. We did not ROB INNOCENCE, we GAVE WISDOM.

The first three years of a child's life are critical for cognitive, social, and physical development. The first eight years of a child's life are critical for spiritual development because they ARE NOT able to be tempted by Satan. They CAN'T be confused by the mists of darkness. You are actually teaching them doctrine during these years in pure form. If you wait to teach them when they are able to be confused by the mists of Satan, especially many years after those mists can begin (at the age of accountability), you are taking a risk that those mists have already started forming around your child. You may feel you keep your child well protected from the world. I am NOT taking that risk. I am not a thrill seeker or risk taker. A wonderful stake president I talked with shared with me that he felt he had protected his son, only to find that he had been introduced to pornography at age 9 and was having to do damage control. It CAN happen to you. Prepare like it is going to happen and your child will be protected. Don't prepare and you will be doing damage control.

One more example: a wonderful mother and friend of mine once had a conversation with me and was shocked when I told her that children should be taught most of the mechanics of sex, babies, and relationships by the age of 8. She felt her children were still innocent and that she would teach it later. I respect parent's right to decide for their children. I provide knowledge and conversation when it comes up and ask questions at times, but I absolutely respect that every parent decided what's best for their child. I let this conversation go and we didn't talk about anything related to sexuality for a few months. I guess our conversation must have made her think and consider things that were said by her oldest, who was 9, almost 10 at the time. She talked to me later and told me she realized the wisdom in starting conversations now with her children because she was starting to realize how much her son already knew by comments he made. When she assumed he was "innocent," she was not realizing what he was actually learning from his peers. The comments he made she immediately pushed into the "he doesn't know yet" compartment in her brain. When she really listened to what he was saying without automatically assuming he didn't know any of that because she hadn't taught him, her eyes were opened to what he already knew.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance (Part 1, read here.)
2. Not Robbing Childhood, but Giving Wisdom

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 1

Dear family and friends,

I have often posted material that is based on my experiences with my children. I mostly post dialogues about conversations regarding sexual topics. Usually, my intent as the author of this blog is to inform through personal experience. Sometimes, though, I feel compelled to do something more....This post is about something more.

I love talking about sex with other adults (in the teaching sense, how we talk to our children about sex and what other parents are dealing with in their children's experiences with exposure to sexual topics). It it fascinating for me to see how parents respond to their children's experiences and exposures and what these parental responses might be teaching their child.

It seems that when I am in a group setting, teaching a workshop or talking with friends, I have often come across a phrase that causes me some concern. The phrase is something similar to, "I want to keep my children innocent from sexual things," or "My kids are innocent." On the surface, this appears like a really good desire. I understand the premise behind this desire for innocence. Many parents, especially religious parents, want their children to just experience childhood and to not be introduced to adult things until they are adult. These parents also want their children to remain untainted by worldly influences. Many parents also feel they are burdening their children with adult responsibility if they talk with their children about sex. They feel they are "robbing" their children of their innocence if they talk with them about sex. I understand these reasons for wanting to keep children "innocent." I've also met a few parents that are still assuming their children have not encountered inappropriate sexual stuff, or that their children don't understand what's going on in an inappropriate situation and that protects them. BUT, you knew there was a but, here are a few questions to consider:

1. What is innocence?

First, I think we often misuse the term innocence. We assume that innocent means our children DON'T KNOW about something. They don't know about sex, therefore they are innocent. However, innocent means "freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil" (merriam-webster). Is sex evil? You better answer NO! Knowledge of sex is NOT being acquainted with evil. Sexual SIN is what robs us of our innocence, not KNOWLEDGE of sex. Knowledge is actually being acquainted with God. He is the one who created our bodies and spirits. He is the one who commanded us to have sex in a marriage for procreation and pleasure, the greatest connection with our spouse. Children are absolutely capable of knowing about sex and continuing in innocence. I'll give you an example; our son has complete knowledge of proper names of body parts. He has respect for these parts because of the way we have taught him. A couple years ago, kids at school were teasing about their penises and using made-up names that were inappropriate and unfamiliar to our son. He asked me about these names. He was INNOCENT because he wasn't engaged in a sin by disrespecting his sacred genitals or acquainted with the evil of disrespect. AND, he still had KNOWLEDGE about body parts and sexuality that allowed him to truly understand why we don't talk that way about our body parts. Read about the whole story here.

On the other hand, ignorance means lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. The scriptures clearly state in D&C 131:6, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." How can a child properly combat the world and worldly influences if he or she doesn't even have knowledge of godly principles? They are actually MORE open to losing innocence because if parents aren't acquainting them with godly principles of sexuality, then the world can acquaint them with worldly principles of sexuality. Assuming your child is not going to hear things or wonder about what they hear because they are "innocent" is leaving them WIDE OPEN for the world to fill them with tainted and sinful views. Children crave knowledge and are learning every day. Are you filling them with the proper knowledge to keep them truly innocent, rather than encouraging ignorance?

Another example: Our children know that smoking is harmful to their body. We have been teaching them this since they were little. First, we were just teaching them that smoking hurts your body. Now they are old enough to talk about addiction. Are our children not innocent anymore because they know about smoking and what it does to a body? Absolutely NOT! They are innocent because they haven't been tainted by the sin of smoking. In fact, this KNOWLEDGE about smoking is helping them STAY INNOCENT! This is exactly how teaching children about sexuality keeps them innocent. They learn proper names of body parts, then add more information as they grow older (seriously, by 8 for intercourse). This knowledge will help them STAY INNOCENT as they encounter pornography and homosexuality and other sexuality topics at home/school/work/play/internet/with friends...........

Just a note: I hate using the smoking analogy because unlike smoking, sex is something good, but that is the best illustration for staying innocent.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance

Stay tuned for part 2.....