I had to have the first sex talk with my son when he was 4.
Call it divine inspiration but we had just had a lesson that day in Sunday School about how to teach our kids about morality. Coincidentally, that night at the dinner table, my son said something that blew both me and my husband totally out of the water. We looked at each other, I said a silent prayer, and I said, “Misa, we need to talk about that but not at the dinner table. We’ll discuss it later ok?”
He could probably tell by the look on my face that I was horrified by what he had just told me. He kind of sunk down in his chair and I said, “It’s ok buddy, I know you don’t understand all about that stuff and it’s ok because you’re still little. We’ll talk about it later tonight ok?” He said, “Ok.”
After continually praying until “later” came, I finally sat down with him and explained a few things, obviously very basic. I tried to keep it at a 4-year-old level but really? Is there even a 4-year-old level when it comes to sex? From our little discussion I discovered a couple of things.
First, his friend who is barely a year older than him, is where a lot of this was coming from.
Second, it was reinforced by things that he passively saw on TV.
The reason I bring up this story is because I want to point out some differences in parenting trends over the years.
Recently I read a couple of blog posts about how parents are getting the raw end of the deal and how we are doing too much and worrying too much about our kids. While it’s a great read and I totally agree with most of the points, there are some things I want to point out.
If we compare how we parent to how we were parented, we can probably see a change in trends. Back in the day, even before my childhood days, children were to be seen and not heard. Most of them learned about life through the hard knocks and most of them turned out fine. Now our generation is being ripped apart because we’re all helicopter parents and we’re ruining our kids from becoming competent adults. We’re too soft and we shelter them too much.
I grew up with responsibility. I get it. This whole “entitlement” thing is definitely a problem. Helicopter parenting is definitely a problem. It’s kind of like we’ve swung from one side of the pendulum to the other. From letting our kids raise themselves to not allowing our kids to learn anything for themselves. The problem, I think, is in the extremes.
The truth is, we can’t allow our kids to roam the streets all day with no idea of where they are or what they’re doing. The world isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago. We can’t allow our TV to play constantly as background noise and not pay attention to what it is teaching our kids.
We can’t let our kids learn about sex from the media because I guarantee you, it will be a very warped version of it. Pornography and sex are everywhere. You don’t even have to look for it. If a 4-year-old, who was uncomfortably open with me, can be aroused by something as “innocent” as cable TV, then we have a problem folks.
So no, we can’t parent old school. You know why? Because our world isn’t old school anymore. We have to learn and adapt, sometimes by trial and error. And that’s a painful process.
I have this constant dilemma in my head about whether I’m doing enough or too much for my kids. Every situation is different and I try to be strategic about every teaching opportunity.
I’m still not cemented in my parenting approach because there absolutely is no “one size fits all” approach. Every situation is different, every season is different, and Heaven knows every child is completely different.
However, I have found something that has given me a little direction and just “feels right” when it comes to how I want to approach parenting.
He stood at the crossroads all alone, The sunlight in his face;
He had no thought for an evil course, He was set for a manly race.
But the road stretched east and the road stretched west,
And he did not know which road was the best;
So he took the wrong road and it lead him down,
And he lost the ace and the victor’s crown.
He was caught at last in an angry snare
Because no one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better road.
Another day at the self-same place a boy with high hopes stood;
He, too, was set for a manly race; he was seeking the things that were good.
And one was there who the roads did know,
And that one showed him the way to go;
So he turned away from the road leading down,
And he won the race and the victor’s crown;
He walks today on the highways fair
Because one stood at the crossroads there
To show him a better road.
by Sadie Tiller Crawley
A leader in our congregation has shared this poem many times with us. He did it again a couple weeks ago and I saw it, for the first time, as it relates to parenting.
We don’t have to run the race with our kids. We don’t have to be there every step of the way, in fact, we can’t be. We don’t need to argue with the judge of the race if our child chooses the wrong path and loses.
But we certainly don’t have to sit at the finish line and just hope they make it there somehow. We can stand at those places where we know they might make the wrong choice, where maybe we made the wrong choice at some point in our life, and show them the better road. Then all we can do is hope they trust us enough to take it.
I vote for an involved style of parenting that still allows margin for our kids to grow. I vote for parents to be teachers. I vote for kids growing up with someone to guide them, not to do it for them, but also not to leave them alone to figure it all out for themselves.
My hope is that we can continue to evolve as parents and find a happy medium between doing everything for our kids and not doing anything.
Times have changed my friends. We are parenting in a world our parents never even imagined possible. Heck, we never even imagined possible. I thought sex talks were for pre-teens getting ready to go through puberty, not 4-year-old boys who still wear batman capes.
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What is your opinion on the best approach to parenting?