We recently received this question from one of our readers. It’s a good question and we pass it on to you. Feel free to weigh in with your own comments.
I'm seeing that my husband and I need to formulate a position on preteen/teen physical interaction, specifically kissing, hand-holding etc. Instances are creeping up when my kids are being exposed to examples of this; and I find myself being silent because I have no clear plan. I've noticed that parenting goes better when I can set clear boundaries before troubles begin brewing, instead of doing damage control later.
What is your position on this issue? How is it enforced?
Here are some thoughts:
As our children were growing up, we would read from Proverbs each night, matching the date with the Proverbs chapter. We didn't read the whole chapter, but we read a portion. For example, I would read through one month selecting verses 1-10. The next month, I would go for 11-20. [We found that too much Scripture becomes tedious and causes children to feel negative towards Bible reading. Our principle has been to give little doses throughout the day.] Anyway, in the course of reading, we passed through Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. My initial reaction was similar to yours. I wanted to skip those chapters. I felt that my sons were too young to deal with those issues.
Over the course of my interactions with my children, various school situations, and life, the Lord helped me to see that I could not shield our boys from natural processes and dynamics. What I needed to do was to help them prepare. Preparation comes from the investment of the truth, lots of talking and listening, and a definite position of openness [stated often].
I remember standing in the school breezeway with Patrick as school was dismissing. He was about seven years old. Kids were running around everywhere, being kids. I was talking about a situation with another mom that had occurred that day in school--not an immoral situation--just the boy-girl thing beginning at such an early age! In that moment, the Lord spoke to me about using those very Proverbs as a springboard for discussions. I understood that I couldn't shield my children from this natural part of life [not that we encouraged it!], but they needed a foundation for discerning what was right, what was wrong, what was appropriate, what was inappropriate, and what are the consequences.
Keith added this:
Timing: Eccleciastes 3 says that there is a time for everything. Teaching our children to wait for the right time involves all of life. In our day, most people teach their kids that they can have things when they want it; they don’t have to wait. Wait for dinner, wait to open gifts, wait to drive, wait to hold hands, wait to have sex until you are married. All of these “waitings” are connected. They strengthen each other. Waiting intensifies the joy when the right time comes.
Setting: God established boundaries for boy-girl relationships; the clearest boundary is “sex within marriage.” Stay in groups and do not be alone as a couple; the temptations are greatly lessened. Until you begin to get ready for marriage, the boy-girl things are best just kept as friends and not boyfriend/girlfriend. These boundaries also include areas on the body not to be touched.
Purpose: Kids need to understand as early as possible that the purpose of marriage and romantic love is to have children and a family. There is too much childhood to enjoy, too much fun to have when they are young. Encourage them that God has a good plan for them when the time comes for marriage. Protect their childhood.
We hope that this is helpful. Feel free to comment or to ask more questions.