A few years ago my best friend from college called me in tears. Their six-year-old son typed a “potty word” into a search engine and, for three weeks, watched hard-core porn videos until he was caught.

No one wants to be an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents breed ill-equipped kids. But we must be appropriately protective. Even though boys 12-17 are one of the largest per capita consumers of Internet porn, the threat of porn exposure is very real for younger kids and girls. Almost all kids are exposed to porn in their tween and teen years. The call is clear: We have to both minister to [Catching Your Child in Sexual Sin] and protect this rising generation in the face of such a media-savvy, sexually-broken culture.

I know this will sound alarmist, but it needs to be said. Parents will harm their children if they fail to take steps to first, protect them, and then second, to help them manage their use of media and the Internet as they grow older. [Should Parents Gouge Out Their Child’s Eyes?]

This post is about taking specific steps of protection:  In part one, I will cover an inside-the-home protection plan, and in part two I’ll discuss an outside-the-home protection plan.

What ways can we protect our home from pornography usage? Our family protection plan includes overlapping means of protection. Some of these might seem like overkill, but trust me, they are necessary.

Inside the Home Protection

  1. Filter Your Router

All your wireless devices (laptops, tablets, e-book readers like Kindle, smartphones, gaming consoles, and even newer TVs) can connect to the Internet via your Wi-Fi router. Filters act like walls that prevent users from accessing inappropriate content, and filters that connect to your router block porn at the source. Routers can be filtered by installing software like OpenDNS, but another option is to get a hardware device that filters all Internet enabled devices you assign to your home Wi-Fi network.

In my home, I spent a one-time purchase of $99 on such a device, Circle with Disney. After downloading the Circle app on my wife’s phone, we customized the filter for each child and each device. We can set time limits, view search histories, block specific websites and apps, and set bedtimes, all customized to each of my four children. Other devices like this include Torch and Clean Router.  And there are more devices coming on the market in response to the need for parental oversight.  So far, Circle with Disney is working great for us.

There are, however, two things these awesome router filters can’t do. First, if your child takes her device over to a friend’s house, she can access the Internet on that family’s Wi-Fi but without your router’s protective settings.

Second, even if your child is at home, he or she can go into the settings on a smartphone or tablet and switch off its connection to your Wi-Fi. Then the cellular data plan kicks-in, and the device accesses the Internet via their data plan.

  1. Enable Password-Protected Search Engines

Some may think that if you have router protection, then this step is unnecessary. However, we advise multiple layers of protection. While there are many search engines like Yahoo and Bing, as of now, Google is the only major search engine that gives the option for password-protected parental controls (Google Safe Search).

Our kids are in a war, outwardly assailed by the world and inwardly wrestling with lust, selfishness, confusion, and shame. If we abdicate talking about these struggles, and if we simply neglect to protect them, we leave them isolated and vulnerable in this war.

The big point here:  You must set and guard the password for using any search engine. Why?  Because search engines have become the highway that leads to pornographic websites. Just type in a word and it’ll take you right there. Without a password-protected search engine, even the small image icons will present hard-core porn.

Everything mentioned so far restricts access to inappropriate content on the Internet, but you will need one more, crucial element to your family protection plan.

  1. Install Accountability Software on All Devices

Accountability software is a program that records all the websites a device visits. Accountability software will email a report of Internet use to an accountability partner; it’s the hall monitor of the Internet. Router protection only filters and blocks (and that is not foolproof), so we recommend accountability software as well.

A filter is simply mechanical, but accountability is relational. An accountability report invites discipleship conversations with your kids that you can talk not only about their Internet behaviors, but also about their heart and walk with the Lord, as you see what is most important to them via what they are accessing on the web. Adults need honesty too with peer accountability partners, their brothers and sisters in Christ.

There are a lot of great companies offering accountability software: Covenant Eyes, Net Nanny, and many more. The big point here is to actually check those accountability reports. Accountability software only works when accountability in relationship is in place.

Our kids are in a war, outwardly assailed by the world and inwardly wrestling with lust, selfishness, confusion, and shame. If we abdicate talking about these struggles, and if we simply neglect to protect them, we leave them isolated and vulnerable in this war.

So, use everything we’ve mentioned in this post to move toward your child’s heart and encourage them with the grace and hope of Christ. They need that in the face of their hyper-pornified culture.


You can watch Dan talk some more about this on his accompanying video: Protecting Your Home from Porn – Part 1. These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.

The Internet is wonderful, but it’s also a dangerous wild-west of pornography and other inappropriate content. Just as you wouldn’t send your young child on a trip all alone, you shouldn’t do the same for when they log online. They need appropriate guardrails. Dan Wilson talks about three keys steps every parent needs to take in this two-part video and blog.

Click here to read Dan Wilson’s blog on this:  Protecting Your Home from Porn—Part 1

In the last blog, we explored how to weave the biblically weighty word faith into conversations when we talk to our kids about their sexuality. Using the language of Scripture, such as the word and concept of “faith”, elevates our conversations with our kids from merely addressing rule-breaking to matters of the heart and their relationship with God. But what do we do with other biblical words, such as “repentance” and “love”?

Using the word “faith” is not hard, but here’s a question for you: Would you use the word “repentance” in conversations with your kid? Would that just be too weird, and would you fear sounding like a Puritan who just got off the Mayflower?

Despite how old-fashioned the word may seem, repentance is central to knowing Christ. In Mark 1:15 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Faith and repentance go hand in hand. Martin Luther’s first of his famous 95 Theses was, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

I’d like to encourage you to use not only the word “faith” but also “repentance” regularly in your parenting, and not just when one of your children stumbles into a sexual sin. To incorporate repentance into your language as a natural part of your conversation, let’s look at two things repentance isn’t, one thing it is, and why using the word is so good despite its puritanical associations.

 Two Things Repentance Is Not

First, tears, remorse, and regrets are not repentance. Many of us are looking for the signs of repentance in our kids. And we can be fooled by tears, but those may be the signs of what Paul calls “worldly sorrow” in 2 Cor. 7:10. Your children may be extremely sorry they got caught, but their sorrow might be selfish: “I no longer get to enjoy this,” or “I’m frustrated that I got caught.” Worldly sorrow is not repentance.

Second, begrudging “repentance” isn’t true repentance, either. This is where repentance gets a bad public relations image. It has all the allure of a dentist drilling cavities without Novocain. This view of repentance is principally about having to give up something you enjoy. You resent God whom you see as a killjoy instead of a good God who wants what is best for your life. This is a religious (moralistic) mind-set, where one repents to gain favor with God, to obtain a ticket to eternal reward. If we approach repentance as a necessary evil, we have failed to truly repent.

What is Repentance?

So what is genuine repentance?  Repentance is a turning from sin and turning to God. True repentance is a change of heart and mind that results in action. Romans 2:4 says that it “is the kindness of God the leads (us) to repentance.” Genuine repentance leads us to see that the “fun” of sin is slavery to an awful idol. In turn, we see knowing God as the great reward and His blessings as the truly good life.

Scripture speaks of the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), and we still need to remember that sin does not magically become un-tempting in the heart of a repenting believer–particularly for a child! Repentance is often a series of steps that move toward God; it’s not often an immediate, complete turnaround. And it is in these steps that we can experience joy, peace, and a delighting and soul-satisfying fellowship with God—a fellowship in the love of God. A Christian kid can, indeed, experience this loving fellowship and grow in newfound desires, as David writes in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Since genuine repentance always displays itself in practical steps in faith and obedience, we can enter into conversations with a sexually struggling child by asking two questions:

 How can I help you turn from this?

If your child’s sin struggle was facilitated by a device (say, looking at online porn), parents need to help students install a filter/blocker or replace a smartphone with a dumbphone. If the sin committed was with a person or peers, we need to step-in to oversee, limit, or stop the relationship.

How can I help you turn toward Jesus?

The second question goes further and deeper with our kids. Here we want to guide our children into the means of grace. Or, in other words, we want to shepherd them into ways they can seek the Lord and learn to delight in him. We can help them do this by praying with them, getting them a devotional book or Christian music for them. You might even suggest, “Would it help if we went out for breakfast once a week to spend some time in prayer and Scripture together?”

 What About Our Repentance?

The language of repentance won’t seem like such a foreign language if we are actively sharing about our repentance. You might say to your kids:

Kids, recently I’ve needed to repent of … how angry I was getting stuck in traffic … of how much time I have been spending on Facebook … looking at the news … participating in fantasy football … binging on Netflix

 And I have been asking the Lord help me turn from my idols of … entertainment, comfort, worry, etc.

When we incorporate repentance language when describing our life, it can become a normal part of our conversation. Even more, when our kids observe us turning from our familiar sins, they see evidence that we are fellowshipping with God. When they see us delighting in the Lord, then they will see the value of a life of repentance as something good.

I hope you have caught the vision of building your kids faith by using the word repentance accurately. This is how we can rehab its negative reputation, and show that it is the path toward enjoying God and experiencing his blessings.

In the next blog, we will put faith and repentance together with love, to form a triad of crucial terms for living the Christian life and helping our kids be conformed more and more into the image of Christ.

Did you ever want a glossary of biblical terms to use in raising your kids, like faith, repentance, or love? This is a new blog series on how to weave biblically weighty words that our kids hear in worship and read in Scripture into the ways we speak about matters of sexuality. Like all of us, our kids need to be marinated in the language of Scripture so that those very words can transform their hearts and minds (2 Timothy 3:16).

The language of the world teaches us to “love the world or the things of the world,” but all that is in the world is “passing away” (1 John 2:15, 17). Curated Instagram accounts and witty tweets won’t make it past Jesus’ second coming. Furthermore, Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Our kids need to know Christ, and the language of Scripture is there to help them discover Him. The Spirit grows the mind of Christ within our kids as they encounter the Scriptures and its language (1 Cor. 2:16b). Let’s start with the lofty term of faith.

What is Faith?

To use the language of faith with our children, we’ve got to know what it is ourselves and how it plays into sexuality. Faith has three inseparable aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.

Knowing about God is foundational to grasping what faith is. This why Scripture commands us to teach our kids about God and the content of the Bible. Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Kids can’t put their faith in what they don’t know. This is a call to us as parents to work towards teaching the content of Scripture to our children regarding life including sex and sexuality. And we must teach more than the letter of the law, the “do’s” and “don’ts.” Take the seventh commandment against adultery for example. We need to go deeper to “why’s” (we are to faithfully love our spouse as Christ loves us) and the “why not’s” (we shouldn’t selfishly use others sexually because it destroys others, and because it does not honor Christ).

Assent moves forward on the basis of knowledge. It is not just when our kids intellectually understand something as a fact but when they agree with that fact as true. It might even be helpful, from time to time, to ask our children, for example, “Do you believe that a husband and wife ought to stay together even if it is hard?”

The third part of faith, trust, seems like it is very similar to assent; however, trust is more personal than assent. When our child trusts God, he or she is banking on God, and the assurance that faith brings results in gratitude, love, and willing service. And what started as mere intellectual knowledge culminates in knowing God in fellowship and intimacy; it becomes an active relationship that changes one’s life.

In its fullness, faith is not something we can manipulate but something only God can create in our hearts (Matthew 11:27). This truth, above all, drives us to pray for God to transform our kid’s hearts.

Because of our sin nature, humans naturally put their trust not in God but in created things, god-substitutes, or idols, and this results in sin upon sin, idolatry upon idolatry. Because our faith is exercised daily, either in turning to God or god-substitutes, how can we integrate the language of faith into how we talk about sexuality?

Integrating the Language of Faith: Cultural Moments

I strongly suggest having intentional conversations with your children about what exactly faith is. God is pleased when we have faith (Heb. 11:6,) and God highly values our growth in faith (“more precious than gold … though it is tested by fire,” 1 Peter 1:6-7). Talk about how faith — knowledge, assent, and trust — play out in how we live our lives. One way to do this is to use a pop-culture moment or song as a discussion starter. Check out our friends over at CPYU (CPYU.org) for great resources on cultural analysis and how you can use that to effectively talk to your children.

Integrating the Language of Faith: When Our Kids Sin

Another important way to integrate the language of faith into parenting is to talk about faith when our children sin. Let’s say your late tween or young teen willfully used porn, sent a sext, or got caught kissing someone. Instead of accusingly asking, “Why did you do that?!”, we can directly engage their misplaced faith by asking:

What did you believe doing that would do for you?
Did it satisfy your expectation?

Of course, our kids are not cognitively aware they are rejecting faith in God’s loving wisdom and providence in favor of using their own “wisdom” to take care of themselves and whatever situation they find themselves in. But, by asking good questions, we can point this out.

The Contrast

Here, we can bring the truth of Jesus to bear on their situation, contrasting the empty promises of sexual sin with the reality of Jesus. So, as we ask questions to try to uncover their heart’s motivation for their actions, we can weave in some suggestions on how they might think and choose faith in Christ rather than sin. With the sexting example, you might ask, “Don’t you think it would be better to talk with me about how you are feeling pressured by your friend to send pictures of yourself that are inappropriate? That would be a way to follow Jesus during a real difficult time.”

Faced with a myriad of temptations, faith in God is hard to implement; it must be Spirit-given. It’s always good, then, to let kids know that putting our faith in Christ will be difficult in this world. But it’s helpful to come back to the truths of Scriptures, to match them up with the empty promises of what the world, in its “wisdom,” offers.

When we employ the language of faith, we get to turn a sinful situation into a gospel opportunity by having intentional conversations that also ground our kids in the language of the Scriptures. When we do this, we prepare them both to live the Christian life in the reality of God and to understand how the foundational building block of faith makes a difference in everyday life.

That’s it for now; the next installment will be the language of repentance.

In part one of this blog, I laid out a multi-layered plan to protect your family from porn while they are at home and connected to your home Wifi network. Now, let’s get to the outside-the-home protection plan.

How can I protect my kids when they leave my home or access their data plans?

Outside-the-home Protection

One great way to eliminate the temptation for your kids to use their phone for sexual sin is to get them a basic phone. Do they really need a hand-held device that is more sophisticated than the information technology that sent the Apollo Space missions to the moon—especially when an unfiltered smartphone can connect to porn in mere seconds? We at The Student Outreach know of brave teens who’ve asked their dads to let them trade in a smartphone for a “dumbphone,” because they were sick of being tempted by porn.

But if your kid must have a smartphone, how can you protect them?

1. Install Filters and Accountability Software

First, you need to buy filtering and accountability software for each Internet-enabled smartphone, tablet, or laptop that leaves your home protection.

Most of the Harvest USA staff favor Covenant Eyes, but there are other good options out there like Net Nanny, Safe Eyes, and X3 Watch.

Remember Circle With Disney from our first post? Circle with Disney filters every device using your WiFi router. Circle with Disney just recently released an app called Circle Go that applies those very filter settings used on your router to devices as they leave the home. This might be a great way to kill the proverbial two birds with one (and a half) stone(s).

2. Disable the Downloading of Apps

It used to be that one had to use a browser to find a website. Today, apps are the new web browsers. As you might guess, kids can use many apps to access porn. You need to go into the settings of your child’s smartphone or tablet and disable the downloading of apps so they can’t add apps on their own. If you install a filter/accountability app but don’t disallow adding new apps, your child can load an app that works around the filter/accountability app or delete the one you just installed!

The parental settings, including disabling the downloading of apps, should be password protected. That way, when you kid wants to load a new app, they have to have a conversation with you about it. In other words, we don’t lock down the apps so that kids with a smartphone can only make calls. We lock down apps so that, when they want to download one, they have to come to us to do so. All this, like receiving accountability reports from your kids, facilitates dialogue.

3. Research and Dialogue about Devices, Apps, and Media

Your child says, “Can Johnny drive us to the game tonight?” Before we say, “Sure,” we parents ask some questions and even do a bit of private investigative work, like calling another trusted parent for the inside scoop. So don’t take your kid’s word on how appropriate an app, artist, or movie is. Research it yourself.

Use Google to your and their spiritual benefit. Go to Google and type in, “Is (blank) safe for kids?” or “Can (blank) app be used to access porn”? We recommend Common Sense Media, too. It is the best place I can find for new apps, websites, TV shows, movies, etc. Iparent.tv also includes many “how-to” videos, reviews of apps, etc. Pluggedin.com is also a good resource.

All of this research facilitates a running tech-dialogue. When your child has to come to you for the downloading of an app, it gives you time to research it. It also helps you begin to ask good questions of your child in the meantime: “What do your friends use this app for? What are some benefits of the app that you can see? What might be some downsides to having this app? What would you like to use this app for?”

4. Test Your In-the-Home and Outside-the-Home Protection Plans

You won’t be doing anyone any favors by failing to check to see if things are running smoothly. Randomly test the protection systems you’ve put in place. You may find yourself on a site that you don’t want to see, so do your checking together as a married couple or with a trusted Christian friend. Check all the devices. Something almost always doesn’t work from time to time. Nothing is foolproof.

After being as faithful and savvy as we can to protect our kids from the sexual corruptions of the world, we must trust the Savior and Redeemer with our kids. Only He can save our kids from the sexual corruption, self, and sin within. We must trust Jesus to work in our kids’ hearts and in the sexually broken world they inhabit until His kingdom comes in fullness. Knowledge of and trust in Jesus’ power helps us parent out of dependence, trust, and faith. And that’s a good place for any of us to be.

In all of this, we want to keep the dialogue open with our kids about technology in the home. We want to be talking to them about the measures we are taking to steward technology well. We want to be talking to them about both the dangers and the benefits of the technology we have. And most importantly, we want to approach them as fellow sufferers, not just sinners, in this crazy world, who can approach the throne of Jesus together for help and strength in our moments of weakness.

A few years ago my best friend from college called me in tears. Their six-year-old son typed a “potty word” into a search engine and, for three weeks, watched hard-core porn videos until he was caught.

No one wants to be an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents breed ill-equipped kids. But we must be appropriately protective. Even though boys 12-17 are the largest per capita consumers of internet pornography, the threat of porn exposure is very real for younger kids and girls. Almost all kids are exposed to porn in their tween and teen years. The call is clear: We have to both minister to (Catching Your Child in Sexual Sin) and protect this rising generation in the face of such a media-savvy, sexually broken culture.

This post is about protection: In part one, I will cover an inside-the-home protection plan, and in part two I’ll discuss an outside-the-home protection plan.

What ways can we protect our home from pornography usage? Our family protection plan includes overlapping means of protection. Some of these might seem like overkill, but trust me, they are necessary.

Inside-the-Home Protection

1. Filter Your Router

All your wireless devices (laptops, tablets, e-book readers like Kindle, smartphones, gaming consoles, and even newer TVs) can connect to the Internet via your WiFi router. Filters act like walls that prevent users from accessing inappropriate content, and filters that attach to your router block porn at the source. Routers can be filtered by installing software like OpenDNS, but another option is to get a hardware device that filters all Internet enabled devices you assign to your home WiFi network.

In my home, I made a one-time purchase of $99 on such a device, Circle with Disney. After downloading the Circle app on my wife’s phone, we customized our filter for each child and each device. We can set time limits, view search histories, block specific websites and apps, and set bedtimes, all customized to each of my four children. Other devices like this include Torch and Clean Router. So far, Circle with Disney is working great for us!

There are, however, two things these awesome router filters can’t do. First, if your child takes her device over to a friend’s house, she can access the Internet on that family’s WiFi but without your router’s protective settings. Second, even if your child is at home, he or she can go into the “settings” on a smartphone or tablet and switch off its connection to your WiFi. Then the data plan kicks-in, and the device accesses the Internet via their data plan.

2. Enable Password-Protected Search Engines

Some may think that if you have router protection, then this step is unnecessary. However, we advise multiple layers of protection. While there are many browsers and search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and Internet Explorer, as of now, Google is the only major search engine that gives the option for password-protected parental controls (Google SafeSearch). The big point here: You must set and guard the password. You can, of course, block access to other search engines through your filtering programs, but this step is not foolproof.

Everything mentioned so far restricts access to inappropriate content on the Internet, but you will need one more, crucial element to your family protection plan.

3. Install Accountability Software on All Devices

Accountability software will email a report of Internet use to an accountability partner; it’s the hall monitor of the Internet. Router protection only filters and blocks, so we recommend accountability software as well. This report will actually enable you to see the websites your family is visiting and will give you an opportunity to see where your family is using their time.

A filter is simply mechanical, but accountability is relational: An accountability report invites discipleship conversations with your kids that you can talk not only about their Internet behaviors, but also about their heart and walk with the Lord, as you see what is most important to them via what they are accessing on the world-wide web. It needs to be said: Adults need honesty too with peer accountability partners, their brothers and sisters in Christ!

There are a lot of great companies offering accountability software: Covenant Eyes , Net Nanny, Safe Eyes, and many more. The big point here is to actually check those accountability reports. Accountability software only works when accountability in relationship is in place.

Our kids are in a war, outwardly assailed by the world and inwardly wrestling with lust, selfishness, confusion, and shame. If we abdicate talking about these struggles, and if we simply neglect to protect them, we leave them absolutely isolated and vulnerable in this war. So, use everything we’ve mentioned in this post to move toward your child’s heart and encourage them with the grace and hope of Christ. They need that in the face of their hyper-pornified culture.

Jan asked her fourth grader, “How was school today?” James said, “We played Never Have I Ever, and I said, ‘I’m never going to become a girl.’” And then he added, “Mom, that’s something you don’t have to worry about with me.”

Transgender issues are not only in our faces as adults, but they also confront our kids. This raises the question, what should we teach our kids about transgenderism and gender identity?

1. Teach God’s wise and loving design for sexuality

Before we deal with transgenderism as a particular aspect of sexual brokenness, we need to give our kids the positive teaching of God’s design for sexuality. They need to grasp the wisdom of God’s design for sexual wholeness to have a context in which to understand sexual brokenness and sin.

Let me encourage you to take opportunities to talk in age-appropriate ways about sexual topics. You can discuss how great it is that God made them male or female and how God made marriage to be a blessing. For a good place to prepare for such discussions, check out our six-part “Sex Talks” blog series.

Also, discuss with your kids some of the reasons why people don’t follow God’s design for sexuality. We talk about sin not to raise legalistic pharisees but rather to have gospel-centered conversations. The good news of the Gospel doesn’t make sense without the bad news of sin and the Fall. So when we talk about sin in others, it can help us point our kids to their own need for Christ.

We can build on the example of a sibling selfishly stealing a cookie to bridge into discussing how selfishness can motivate someone to have sex before marriage or use porn. Gospel-centered conversations about particular sins are not about denouncing a sinner but about empathetically understanding the temptations “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). We can help our kids trace the connection between someone’s unbelief in the goodness of God to his or her sinful choices.

2. Educate yourself about transgenderism from a Christian worldview

Our culture believes that gender is merely a human idea or a social construct. But the truth is that humanity is not free to come up with its own self-definitions precisely because we have a Creator and Redeemer who authoritatively defines all things. He reveals His truth about gender, sex, and marriage, and His boundaries are good and laid down for humanity’s flourishing.

The terminology of transgenderism is confusing. One key concept we need to understand is gender dysphoria. This phrase describes an individual’s experience, usually in childhood, of developing feelings that one is uncomfortable with, or even hates living as, his or her birth gender. Some gender dysphoric children become convinced they were born in the wrong body and try multiple ways of living out the other gender. Later, some gender dysphoric people pursue hormone therapy and even gender reassignment surgery.

We must teach our own kids to have compassion for those who struggle in this way. Yet this compassion needs to produce redeeming love, not affirm desires that lead to self-harm.

Here’s a link to Harvest USA’s Fall 2016 Magazine that has four articles covering several important, biblical perspectives on transgenderism.

3. Find out what your kids know and think (or think they know)

Some younger, churched kids may not be aware of transgenderism, but how can our tween-aged and teenaged kids not be? Therefore, ask questions to discover what they know. Perhaps they’ve seen celebrities like Catlyn Jenner or ads for the TV show I am Jazz. Ask them what they think about these celebrities or why someone would be desperate to change his or her gender.

Their opinion may surprise you. Considering the distress of transgendered people offers our kids an opportunity to learn about people’s hearts in general, their own hearts specifically, and how the gospel applies to us all.

4. Teach them about God’s gift of gender and the temptation of gender transitioning

Talking to our kids about gender takes us back to the Garden of Eden. God made us either male and female in His image. Both genders are awesome, wonderful gifts to be celebrated and great responsibilities to be stewarded for God’s glory.

But what did Adam and Eve do with the gifts and the Giver? When tempted to trust their own wisdom, they rejected God, sinned, and experienced the Fall. If Genesis 3 was made into a movie, the serpent would have told them “Trust your heart!” and “Follow your feelings.” So things haven’t changed; we are still up against Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh.

Therefore, we must teach our kids the dangers of trusting our hearts and following our feelings. While your children may not be tempted to change their gender, they all know what it is like when desires of the heart become dictators of their lives.

That’s the key to understanding someone’s desires to transition. But a gender dysphoric kid is not the only one to have disordered desires and deluded thinking. These desires and thoughts are “common” in our kids who are tempted by more socially accepted sins, like dressing immodestly, using porn, or going too far sexually when dating.

The truth is that we all know something is not right with us, that we are flawed, needy, and trapped. Christians and non-Christians have real sufferings. The gospel truth that we can teach our kids is that no one can save himself or herself from suffering. We can’t transition ourselves into a state of peace, fulfillment, and bliss. But we know the One who will one day in His kingdom, and we can trust Him with our sufferings here and now.

“Is it OK for my son to play dress-up like a princess and dance like a girl?” asked Bob, a father, after one of our parenting seminars. Bob, who had the look of a former college athlete, and his wife were concerned for their five-year-old boy and some of his behaviors. At the same time, Bob didn’t want to squash his personality or crush his son’s spirit. He also worried that his son might be bullied because he did not fit into cultural stereotypes.

Here are the two points of advice I gave these parents:

Affirm and Validate

True gender differences and gender roles come from God our Creator. But every culture expects certain stereotypical behaviors from boys and girls, men and women. The problem with this is that, since Genesis 3, every culture’s ideas on gender contain fallen elements. So, before we guide our sons away from certain behaviors that our culture deems unacceptable, we have to ask if a clear, biblical line is really being crossed.

All our little guys, whether or not they present any gender atypical behaviors, need us to envelop them in love and affirmation. We need to affirm them first of all for who they are. They need to hear, “I’m so glad God sent you to us,” and “I love you!” before we affirm what they do by saying, “You’re great at ________,” or “I’m glad you do ___________.”

Oftentimes parents are worried when their sons have different temperaments, talents, and interests that are not stereotypical for boys. Dads need to honestly deal with the idol of having a son just like them — a chip off the old block. Therefore, affirm and validate to your son that his personality and gifts are from God. Tell your son that God will raise him up to bless the world and build up His Kingdom through his unique giftings.

Dad, whatever you’re into, from football, baseball, basketball, or anything from NASCAR and monster trucks to investing stocks and the golf channel, you’ve got to let “it” go as a must for your son. Instead, find out what your child’s personality, gifts, and passions are, then support them, develop them, and cultivate an appreciation of them. This means that a godly football coach whose son loves art, dance, and drama needs to supportively show up for recitals or performances, appreciate the inner complexities of his son’s fine art with him, and celebrate his efforts and successes.

Protect and Guide

Bob and his wife have an idea of their young son’s personality but not a clear sense of his giftings and passions yet. Dads like Bob fear that other boys may bully their sons when they see their gender atypical behavior. And this is a very valid concern.

We have to protect our little boys, and that means having our radar up for bullying and shaming. So we have to be engaged, observant, and step in to stop verbal or physical abuse by other boys. And yet we must beware of a “helicopter parent’s” tendencies to overprotect.

The way to protect your son from being bullied is not to isolate him from other boys and boyish activities. This is where gentle guidance comes in. We want to help our little guys find safe ways to integrate into the world of boys, which eventually becomes a world of men.

With my son, we’ve tried most of the major sports, dabbled in some martial arts, put him in a choir, started trumpet lessons, and tried some art classes. At nine, we are still discerning his top gifts and cultivating his passions. Try and sample lots of boy-related as well as general kids’ activities, but be wary of demanding or requiring your son to remain in an activity he doesn’t like or stay in a setting in which he does not feel safe.

Now, remember, Bob had a specific question about dress-up and dancing. And in helping your son grow up, there are times when you need to gently guide and redirect his behaviors and help reshape some of his attitudes. My son held my hand and clung to me like glue when I first started taking him to Cub Scouts. He was probably feeling overwhelmed and anxious in a loud, crowded place. But, like Bob, I didn’t want him to be the brunt of ridicule.

I started to gently break his habit of holding my hand and hanging back when we went to Scouts. I simply said, “Guys don’t usually hold their dad’s hand all the time unless they are in a dangerous place.” I would even leave the room to go to the water fountain so that he had interact with the boys. He is more reserved and less rambunctious than some of the other boys, but eventually he found his place, figured out some social cues, and began to enjoy the loud, large group meetings.

Note that I didn’t shame my son with any “Man up!” commands. I did not say, “A real man doesn’t ______” to ‘toughen him up’. When a dad says, “We guys do _____ or don’t ______,” we are guiding and redirecting rather than isolating and shunning. This way we can help our sons feel like they’re on our team and that they belong in our tribe of men.

As parents, and especially dads, we need to pray for wisdom in raising little guys up to be men who follow Christ, our savior and ultimate model for manhood.

I’ve been on staff with Harvest USA for over ten years, and almost all of the adults I’ve spoken with have said that their parents didn’t talk to them about sex. Yet many of these same adults say that they try to keep sex and sexuality on the table for discussion all the time with their kids.

What is the best way to do this with teens? In earlier posts, we talked about the grammar stage with children 8 and under and about the logic stage with tweens. For teens, the key component is rhetoric, and that means dialogue — building on what they already know. We will only exasperate our teens if we try to give them basic, informational “birds and bees” lectures.

Dialogue and Persuasion

The rhetoric stage of mental development is when a teen, who is a young adult in the making, becomes able to make arguments to persuade others of their convictions on how life works and what they want to get out of life. In their tweens, ages 9 to 12, most kids can tell you what their parents believe. Teens, however, can tell you what they believe and can offer reasons why they differ with their parents about style, economics, ethics, politics, religion, and, of course, sexuality.

Can you remember being lectured by your parents when you were a teenager? Lecture, in the form of concise, kind-hearted, logical and biblical teaching, is needed in the tween years. In the teen years though, we have to engage our teens in dialogue and discussion. This is most effective when we parents do so calmly, respectfully, reasonably, and without yelling or pinching their heads off.

Prepare and Practice

Some teens love to press our buttons to make us mad. Other teens avoid any and all substantive conversation with their parents. A great way to fruitfully dialogue with your teen is to prepare: read, think, and practice ahead of time.

Especially when we’re tired and driving in traffic with our kids, none of us want to get ambushed by our teen asking the question, “What could be wrong with two gay people who love each other?” So, a word to the wise: prepare by figuring out the biblical truth to the sexual issues and topics your kids face, and practice by dialoguing with your believing spouse or a trusted mentor at church about those topics. Our blogs and Harvest USA mini books are great resources for preparation.

Springboard Off the Media

The media offers us powerful insight into understanding what the world is teaching our kids and what they are likely beginning to believe about sex and sexuality. These sexual ideas, values, and narratives from TV, movies, music, and news are often unbiblical. But, nonetheless, they offer us an inroad to converse with our teenagers about the implications of Christ on sex and sexuality.

AXIS.org offers free weekly updates, and Walt Meuller’s CPYU.org and our own StudentOutreach.org offer monthly updates on the latest tidbits and trends within youth culture. These email updates allow you to both know what’s going on in pop-culture and provide a springboard to converse with your teens.

The big point here is not to simply point out all the wrong and sinful stuff going on in their culture. The point here is to engage your teens in conversation and ask questions that let them reveal what they have come to believe about God, other people, and their own selves. Then you will know better how to pray for their hearts, desires, and beliefs.

It would be great if we could simply correct their fallen beliefs and desires by dialoguing with them. But for persuasion to be deep and fruitful, the Holy Spirit must be the One who does the persuading. Sure, our part is to be winsome, authentic, and share the love and truths of Christ. We sow gospel seeds and pray fervently because only God makes them grow.

Wisely and Kindly Investigating Their Reality

Dialoguing with teens is about getting them to think about their opinions and convictions. And asking good questions that leave them thinking is helpful. Here are some questions for wisely and kindly (your manner and tone are important) investigating their reality.

When your teen says he believes something about sex that is unbiblical, here are a few questions that can help you get at his heart and help him to consider otherwise:

  1. Could you clarify what they mean by that? (Perhaps you are misunderstanding them or perhaps they don’t really know. This is loving dialogue, not a hostile lawyer’s cross-examination.)
  2. Would you explain the reasons for your view? (This question is asking them to unpack their reasoning for why their opinion seems true.)
  3. Where did you get your information? (This drills deeper to ascertain what facts, truths, or authorities uphold their reasoning.)
  4. Do you see any legitimate alternatives to this view? (This invites them to consider the consequences to their position if they got their reasoning or facts wrong.)

A natural question flowing out of the fourth question is, “How does this square with the gospel?” It gets to ultimate matters — the big picture, since Jesus Christ is relevant to every issue.

Wrap all this in prayer, asking that God would graciously use your questions to turn your teen’s heart toward the grace, worth, and glory of the Lord.