Remember when the most important manners we taught our kids were as simple as: share your toys, play fair, be nice, and don’t pick your nose in public?
These might have cut it in on the playground, but when adolescence hits, everything gets more complicated. In their tweenage years (<– that works, right?) our kids need more guidance than ever. Interestingly, however, these are the years a lot of parents become the most quiet.
Don’t be that parent.
Our kids continue to need us well into their teenage years. And, believe it or not–they want to hear from us. They really do care what we think.
Today we arrive at the third “conversation” in our new series.new series. (<–click on that to read the intro.) Today I encourage you to talk to your kids about how to treat the opposite sex. I’ve been looking forward to/dreading this for weeks. (ha!)
As parents we need to talk to our kids about how they look at, value, and interact with the opposite sex. Because if we don’t, (you know what’s coming, don’t you?…) someone else will. Whether they pick up cues from culture, music, television, or their peers, at some point during their growing up years our kids will develop a mindset toward, and way of relating to, the opposite sex.
And I think you should be a part of all that.
Once again I am not going to tell you what to tell your kids as you have these conversations. I’m just here to nudge you to have them. I’ll offer a few talking points and share some of the ways our family approach these topics. Also, to clarify: Though I touch on it at the end, this post is not so much about dating as it is about general interactions with, and attitudes towards the opposite sex.
Let’s get into the conversations…
Begin with your core values: Having an established set of core values will simplify and guide you in all of these conversations. If we base our life choices on a clear value system, conversations are way (way!) less confusing. For our family, the Bible is our authority. This clears the muddy waters of shifting cultural views or subjective opinions. As we talk through just about anything, we return to our foundational values which are based on the unchanging Word of God. This simplifies things and makes communication a lot easier.
Whether or not you share our spiritual beliefs, I encourage you to take time to identify what your family’s core values are. It might help to write them down, and then talk about them as a family. Some families create mission statements, outlining their core values. As you have each of these conversations with your kids then, each topic you cover ought to reflect your core values.
With that said, here are a few talking points for this conversation about the opposite sex.
Gender issues: Our kids are being raised in a time with many competing voices on gender issues. I encourage you to take the time to talk to your kids about this. Share your values, and what you base your values on. (Teenagers need a “why.”) Give them a safe place to discuss things they have picked up from others, and a chance to ask questions. Please keep in mind: it’s a confusing time to be a teenager. They need you now. If you are uncomfortable or don’t feel equipped to go into depth on this (or any topic), I encourage you to be honest about that, too. Kids appreciate your honesty and will respect you for it. Offer to explore the topic more together, perhaps finding books or turning to someone you respect to help you sort through things.
As for our family…With the Bible as our authority, we believe that God made man and woman in His image and that we all have equal value to Him. We do believe, however, that men and women were made different from one another, and with that have different strengths, weaknesses and roles to play. Without going into a full discussion on Biblical gender issues, these core principles give us a foundation for all of these conversations.
Thinking/asking questions is good! Dave and I encourage our boys to be thinkers and to ask questions. We believe the Truth can stand up to questions, and our faith is only made stronger when we search it out for ourselves. It is important for kids to take the time to compare what they might hear from peers or media with what they have been taught as right and wrong, and that can make for great talks with you as well. As they get older then, we can act as mentors for our kids, encouraging them as they begin to make choices based on their personal convictions and core values.
Talk to your kids about how they value the opposite sex:
To objectify or to honor…Just over a year ago I was driving my boys and a couple of their friends to the beach. As we passed a couple of girls by the road one of their friends said something about a girl being “hot.” The car got strangely quiet as I could feel my boys trying to figure out what to say. Finally one of them said something along the lines of, “it’s not cool to call girls ‘hot'” then quickly moved on to a new topic. He said it quietly, not at all trying to shame his friend, but clearly wanting to put a lid on things before they went any further. I sat there in my own head, first of all very proud of my boys, but honestly thinking, “Hmm. We have never specifically taught our boys not to call girls hot. I wonder what gave them such a strong conviction about that.” I silently concluded two things: 1. It is likely their youth leader has taught them that it’s wrong to objectify girls (thank God for great youth leaders) And 2. My boys have never heard their father or any of the other major influences in their life objectify women. It didn’t sit well with them because it’s just not how we roll.
I encourage you to bring up this subject with your kids. Ask them how their peers at school or on sports team talk about the opposite sex. Ask them if they are a part of the conversation and if so what they contribute. You can coach them in how to take a stand for what is right (or how to bow out altogether) if conversations they are in are disrespectful or hurtful in any way.
As for our family…It’s pretty simple. We teach our boys to honor girls and speak well of them. Never say things that could hurt feelings if it got back to a girl, and always value girls as people, not objects.
Talk to your kids about how they treat the opposite sex: Once our kids have established convictions about valuing the opposite sex, it ought to naturally spill over into how they talk to, and treat them.
As for our family…Call us old school, but we hope to raise our boys to be gentlemen; To consider themselves protectors of the girls they are around. When they walk near a street, they should put themselves between a girl and the cars. They should open doors for girls and pull out a chair for a girl if they are eating together. If a girl is offended by any of this, then they should kindly (gentlemanly 🙂 ) back off and respect the girl’s wishes. But if the girl doesn’t mind, they should do what they can to make all girls feel safe, and valuable.
As they interact with girls, we tell our boys to relate to them like they would a sister. (not that they know what it’s like to have a sister, but they can imagine.) You wouldn’t make physical advances at your sister so don’t treat girls that way. You wouldn’t refer to your sister as “hot”, so don’t use that kind of language when referring to them. Be respectful and keep it pure.
Talk to your kids about how to handle it when they have feelings for someone: Our conversations should of course also cover how to handle it when our kids have feelings for someone beyond “just friends”. This conversation will look different for each family depending on any rules you have about dating, and that of course is another topic for another post (I touched on it in this post a while back.) You might coach your kids in how to communicate interest appropriately, and then on to what dating should look like: boundaries, respect, and so on.
As for our family…Since that previous post on dating, our boys have continued to choose to only have friendships with girls during their teenage years. (so far 🙂 ) They have each chosen to wait on romance until later, (and fortunately their busy lives make that decision pretty easy.) Josiah went to prom with a beautiful girl, but they were just friends. He had a blast, and has no regrets.(yay.) With that said, we have had conversations about what it will look like when they feel like it is time to date or want to begin a relationship. It’s actually a fun subject to talk about, and because they have remained pure during their high school years, there is no baggage or to sort through when they are ready to date.
The more open the conversation, the more likely they will come to you when they need someone to talk to later.
Final words: Texting/emails/social media/etc: An important part of all of these conversations should be to
scare-them-to-death with gently remind them of the fact that every interaction on cell phones, social media, and the internet counts. Please remind your kids that nothing is safe online, and that the way they communicate to or about other people can (and often will) be held against them. Not just socially but how it can affect future opportunities in education, work, and more. Make sure they know not to put things out in any way that could potential hurt someone else or themselves. Even a small mishandling of these things should result in taking privileges away for a lifetime longtime. (I take this stuff pretty seriously, if you didn’t notice.)
(Post publish–YOUTUBE VIDEO)– Josiah and I published a Youtube video where we chat about how to treat girls, what it means to be a gentleman, and how his friendships now are preparing him for dating later! Click here to watch it!
And with that I’ll close. Sorry it’s so long. I tried to be brief. I really, really tried.
Wanna comment!? I love to hear from you! (as always, please keep it positive in this community!)
Now go talk to your kids!
Aloha and hugs,
PS Would you share this with everyone you know that has teens or tweens? thanks!