Parents’ influence on Children’s Sexual Behavior

The body of statistics for topics like this is huge.  In fact, there are websites that are dedicated to publishing this kind of thing on a daily basis; it can be mind-numbing.  This post simply asserts the conclusions of one group of studies.  If you are interested in more of this data, go to and you’ll find it.

Consider these conclusions about parent’s influence on the sexual behavior of their children:

  • “Adolescents whose mothers discussed the social and moral consequences of being sexually active are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse.”
  • “Children whose parents monitor them closely are less likely to be sexually active when they are in their teens.”
  • “Teenagers who feel their parents strongly disapprove of their being sexually active are less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection.”
  • “Teens whose parents watch television with them more frequently and limit their TV viewing are less likely to be sexually active.”
  • “Adolescents whose parents talk with them about standards of sexual behavior are more likely to be abstinent.”

These conclusions mirror those of author Christian Smith in his book, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” by Oxford University Press.  There, Dr. Smith tells us that parents are absolutely vital in the lives of their children.  Perhaps parents begin to believe over time that their children are far more likely to follow the influence of their friends or other adults.  Both the Bible and sociological studies are telling us to think again.

The Boy is…kind to his mother

We have all seen him.  Today, he has most of his hair hanging down crossways over his face draping over him like a valance as he leans against the wall.  He has developed an involuntary twitch that tosses that hair out of his eyes for a brief moment only to see it return (he doesn’t seem to grow weary of it).  He clearly thinks black skinny jeans are suitable to wear with oversized Vans shoes sporting off-colored laces and the tongue flopped way over.  (The potential message in all that apparel is another post.) The other involuntary twitch developed by him is his hand reaching for his phone so he can be ready at a moment’s notice to text that ALL important sonnet to his adoring followers.

In walks his mother.  Like a silent movie, you see her speak to him.  He hardly moves, his hand and face in close communion as he reads an ALL important text just received.  Even without making eye contact with her we see in his facial contortions that he’s heard her words.  Once his fuzzy chin returns to rest, his eyes roll over and you wonder if he’s going to through them at her.  She persists and so does he.  Her facial features harden and his become more sullen.  She raises her hand to gesticulate for effect, he turns briskly and returns to his face and phone-in-hand close communion.  She takes one or two steps as if to follow, then stops.  He does not.

Sad picture?  It is.  I wonder how often it is repeated in the homes of our child-obsessed culture.  Strange isn’t it?  That we create and maintain this culture that turns its head towards us in disdain?  Who’s to blame: the parents or the children?  The culture?  The media?  Engaging in the blame game is a waste.  This boy is wrong for treating his mother this way and I don’t have to point to anything other than him.  Sure this is a potential problem for parent-child relational development; no one wants to be estranged from his son into adulthood!

Yet this is about bigger things.  This series is about the kind of man who may lead and love my daughters in marriage.  So, the real question is at what point did I learn that I needed to be kind to my wife?  How are these things related?  Think about it: where do I meet my first woman?  When?  When, first, do I have to have meaningful communication with a member of the opposite sex?  Where do I learn that men and women are different and that plays out practically?  Where and how may I “practice” living as a man with a woman in honor and dignity?

  • At home with mom.

Fast forward 8 years and what will this young man likely be doing around women?  Will it look differently than when he stood before his mom?  Not likely.  If little changes, it isn’t likely that he’ll have become a man of honor, decorum, attention, love or respect.  He won’t likely have learned to be selfless and giving, kind and patient, reflective and courageous.  It is possible of course, miracles of that order happen all the time (thank God).  Yet, as a parent, am I missing the opportunity to teach my son how to live with a wife because I don’t see his interaction with his mom in that light?  By allowing him to live with his mama in any old way chalking it up to “being a boy”?  Is my “training” only erecting fences around him that say, “Honor your father and mother!” and say no more?  Is parenting only about protection or is there more?

There IS more!  God has given us a great advantage in the presence of a godly, mature, visionary, loving and faithful woman – my wife – in the training of my son.  His wife will reap the fruit of what my dear wife, his mom, is sowing.  Mom’s and Dad’s have to see in their homes the training ground for marriage.  In my home I have daughters who will at some point (Lord willing) be sought as wives.

What do I do when that time comes?  I plan to say, “Honey, if he’s rough with his mom, stay away from him.  He’ll be rough with you.”  “If he’s disrespectful to his mom, he’ll be disrespectful to you.”  “If he mocks his mom, he’ll scorn you.”  “If he lies to his mom, he’ll cheat on you.”  “If he steals from his mom, he’ll manipulate you.”

Boy, learn to be kind to your mother.  Your marriage might depend on it.

The boy is…thankful

Thanksgiving!  Thank God!  It is a simple blessing of God that He would ensure a season of giving thanks remains in our otherwise spiritually-neutered and exhausting annual calendars.  Although the calendar around this time is really busy in my circles, its advent is a blessing.  So much of the year seems like we hold onto this life-raft only with great exertion.  Thanksgiving and Christmas intrude into this bleakness with respites and opportunities to think about other things (mostly).

I wonder if the boys are paying attention?  Boys are not normally thankful.  I know that mom’s and dad’s want to protest that their little charmer is the ONE who is thankful.  I hope it continues.

It won’t.  It won’t last because the boy lives with his parents.  His parents’ lifestyle of consumption will be written on his heart with an iron stylus.  We, parents, consume the resources of life almost without a second thought.  We do, and our children do (dance lessons, Scouts, youth groups, Spanish club, soccer team, choir…).  A kid who lives in a home where mom and dad are treating life as if they own its rights will translate that value to little J.  He will grow up to be a young man who sees life as his storehouse of resources to consume.  I will warn my daughters (and watch my son).

Consumption isn’t our only issue.  Expectations are a close second (if that).  Sure, some parents may pray before meals (which is good), but then live in expectation at every other time.  We expect to be given things, respect, raises, accolades, gifts and vacations.  (This whole financially ruinous season seems to scream lessons at us at this very level.)  What does expectation breed?  If someone asked you to choose an adjective that best describes our culture and you could only choose from “discontent” and “thankful,” which would you choose?

Foolish optimists might choose the latter.  Those who know what they look like in a mirror would choose the former.  I’ve seen discontent as a lifestyle; to some degree I have lived such a life.  We traffic in the sea of discontent riding in the ferry of expectation.  “I was made for so much more….” “I’m bored….” “I wish this tasted better….” “When will it stop raining?….”  We expect to be handed the world on a platter so discontent is easy.  Will that boy look at his aging wife  (my daughter) and be content when she’s beautiful in other-than-physical ways?  Will he live with this “I deserve a sexy and alluring wife” and be like so many I’ve seen who bolt for the door?

  • Will the boy whose families were committed to unbridled consumption learn to be a giver?
  • Will the boy whose parents acted like life owed them learn to serve?

He had better if he wants marry my daughter.

How?  Thanksgiving.  The pathway from the drowning waterfall of consumption is thanksgiving.  He realizes that foremost what he was owed (judgment) is spared by God’s mercy in Jesus Christ.  Then, he learns to look around at all that he has been given and say, “thank you.”  He grows to understand that a life consuming at every turn makes you fat in every way.  But he also recognizes that discontent is creepy and crafty and that it rides along quietly in his heart.  He gets used to asking himself why he gets angry when he doesn’t get what he wants.  He starts to see the people and places and things God gives to him are opportunities for him to invest and serve and build up.

Thanksgiving is a start.  So, mom and dad, get that boy started.