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 familyfacts.org 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.

Not as Children

Ahh…the Kingdom of Christ.  I’ve had the opportunity to interact with children who consider themselves kings.  (They live in our homes, attend our churches, play soccer together – you get the picture.)  They may know about discipline, authority and obedience; maybe even that those things come from God and return to Him in worship.  Yet, inevitably (when a sibling perpetrates a self-defined no-no) the real views of the little regents become clear: my rules, my judgments, and my kingdom.  So much of their experience of joy in this life is wrapped up in their comforts, their peace, and their prosperity.  Of course, they are just like the rest of us only it’s usually easier to see in them.

What makes them childish in their thinking is they lack the vision to see how temporal joys and discomforts fit into the bigger picture.  I find grown-ups who think this way.  The John 10:10 Life is the here-and-now life.  We’ve seen how this thinking extends to our parenting: our efforts and goals with our children do not extend beyond the planes of the here-and-now-plus-maybe-high-school-graduation.

The gospel directly affects kingdoms.  It brings one that we didn’t know anything about right into the throne rooms of our kingdoms – it swims the moats and scales the walls subduing all the guards.  Its presence there is beautifully crushing: over time, all the vestiges of our former reign melt under the weight of the glory of the kingdom of God.  Its effects transcend time and space unlike our own pitiful realms.  Whereas its approach was unexpected and unknown, in Christ, we have been given this kingdom via the indwelling Holy Spirit.  In Christ, it is as much yours as your two lips!

I was reading in John Calvin’s Institutes about Christ as King (book 2, chapter 14, paragraph 4).   Here’s a sample of what he wrote:

…the whole course of our lives [is] to war under the cross, our condition here is bitter and wretched. What then would it avail us to be ranged under the government of a heavenly King, if its benefits were not realised beyond the present earthly life? We must, therefore, know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ does not consist in external advantages—such as leading a joyful and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all injury, and having an affluence of delights, such as the flesh is wont to long for—but properly belongs to the heavenly life. As in the world the prosperous and desirable condition of a people consists partly in the abundance of temporal good and domestic peace, and partly in the strong protection which gives security against external violence; so Christ also enriches his people with all things necessary to the eternal salvation of their souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unassailable by all the attacks of spiritual foes.

We should not be child-like in thinking that this new realm’s reach is only as small as our own peace, comfort and affluence; that the keys are no worry, no pain and no effort.  While in this life trouble might be a large portion of our lot, it will always be mingled with the grace of God in the face of Christ.  And beyond?  Trouble we will leave behind and all that we longed for here and now (that make terrible gods) will be ours because He will manifestly be ours.  Praise God for His steadfast and enduring love!

You with Us, We with You

I continue to be provoked by a discussion about parenting in light of eternity.  The affect it has had on me as a parent has been to clarify the things of parenting.  I will (and do!) still struggle in making mountains out of molehills and vice versa, but I definitely believe that the picture of my destination as a parent is clearer – under the specter of eternal judgment, all things are clearer.  Interestingly, Paul wrote this way in his letter to the Thessalonians (1:9, 2:16, 3:13, 4:13-17, chapter 5).

Just the other day, I found out that one of my children had been participating in mean-spiritedness against another child from our church: covenant children victimizing others, who’d have thought?  Nonetheless, once I found out I was surprised by how much more quickly we moved to handle this (Judgment day still fresh in our minds).  I whipped out the church directory, found the relevant phone number, made the call, connected with the parent and passed the phone along to my child who asked for forgiveness from the other.  The mom told me that my child had acted courageously.  I responded, “It takes courage to do the right thing.”  I might’ve said it differently, “It takes a Judgment-Day perspective to do the right thing.”

In a resource designed to help parents bring the gospel to their covenant children, I read a quote from Richard Mather, English-born American congregationalist preacher (c. 1600) in answer to the question, “What might covenant children on their way to hell say to their parents?”

All this that we here suffer is through you.  You should have taught us the things of God and did not.  You should have restrained us from sin and corrected us and you did not.  You were the means of our original corruption and guiltiness, and yet you never showed any competent care that we might be delivered from it.  Woe unto us that we had such carnal and careless parents.  And woe unto you that you had no more compassion and pity to prevent the everlasting misery of your own children.

I have said in class before that even among those of you who do not have children, your commitment to your covenantal vows at the many baptisms you witnessed in our worship obligate you to help parents with children in their tasks of parenting for Judgment Day.  I pray that in and through our faithful covenant parenting (you with us and we with you) in light of eternity, our children will have no opportunity to speak words like these.  May God grant us the grace and strength.

Pastor Gabe