Question: Did you address any potential or real issues with masterbation or pornography with your kids? If so, how was it handled? What advice do you have?
Kenneth (and Catherine)
Masturbation and pornography were topics I discussed occasionally with our children during our monthly fast day individual interviews that began with them praying and ended with me offering the prayer to reinforce them. My most extensive dealings regarding masturbation were with some of our missionaries [when serving as a mission president]. I would ask them to search the scriptures to find all of the places where we are taught to pray always that we enter not into temptation and to use that direction when they felt tempted. They could find as many as fifty references on this subject. Then I invited them to call me regularly to report their progress. I let them know that this habit would take a lot of commitment and personal effort to overcome and to repent of and replace with positive actions of prayer and that every time they won it would be easier to win the next time they were tempted and that their resolve would get stronger and stronger and the temptation less and less until they were totally in command of their actions as their spirituality grew. I admit that I was surprised that I needed to deal with this temptation with some of the sister missionaries but I was gratified to see the personal progress our missionaries achieved and how their personal spirituality increased as they faced and dealt with this temptation. I believe the same would apply with the temptation of pornography.
We have a son with disabilities. This became an issue for him, even encouraged by some caregivers. We requested and still do that there not be seductive and explicit movies shown in his home and that care givers dress modestly. He has a picture of Jesus ( whom he loves and seems to be close to) in his bathroom. We have encouraged him to remember that Jesus has asked that he think clean thoughts and that he not be touching himself unneccessarily. When I worked with sexually abused preschoolers we would tell them that "no one should touch my private parts except to keep me clean and healthy." "A real doctor may need to touch your private parts to keep you clean and healthy and your parents might need to and as you are learning to keep yourself clean and healthy you need to wash and wipe yourself.." When little children stimulate themselves we give them something else to do. I think it is really important not to shame or blame them but to listen to them and to think of what that action is meaning for them.
We did have an issue with porn. The kid who got caught up was a young priesthood holder. He realized because of a family discussion that this was important and he went privately to the bishop and they handled it together. I was so pleased with the way he handled everything. We didn't do much of anything and I think that helped maintain our relationship and leave the communications open for other opportunities to help him.
The important part of the story is that we moved the computer back to the kitchen/dining area in the house. That's where it had been until we had some extra room because a foster kid left us. By moving it back to the public part of the house there was absolutely no privacy for anyone on the computer. I also learned to read the history. (And there is more than one history on most operating systems.) I also held the password to the TV. The prerogative was mine as to what could and couldn't be watched. Prevention is always the best choice.
Karen and Lance
Not much of these subjects came up as we didn't have a lot of electronic media to deal with. So we don't have a lot of advice to give on this. Just keep computers where you can see what's being accessed. There are a lot of parental controls offered so that might be something to explore. Teach them correct principles and they have to govern themselves. While children are away that's when you have to learn to trust or not. It's hard to know without watching them day and night. Best wishes.
I took this question to a now sober, wonderful man who has battled with a pornography addiction for many years. I asked him what advice he would have for parents and I typed as fast as I could. . .
“Father and mother both need to have discussions about sexuality with their sons and daughters. Talk about reality and fantasy.
Kids need to learn to listen to still small voice. If you ignore it just a little it becomes that much easier to be affected the next time. Increase self-worth, and their ability to socialize. Help them to connect with a friend or friends.
Most porn is male oriented to appeal to loneliness, and fantasy. Since we tell kids no, no, no there has to be outlets where they can have relationships, that are positive, an adolescent boy needs an outlet for healthy discussions, and discoveries. He is going to have maturation dreams and there has to be a healthy open dialog, cause porn is the secret solitary alternative.
Mom can’t be little miss prissy – she needs to be open with her son, explaining what women want- it is not at all what porn tells him. He needs to know women want an emotional connection, and to be cared for. That they are more aroused by kindness and affection than what he sees portrayed on TV – seduction, physicality and the size of his -----.
Most all the 22 – 26 year old kids who come thru the addiction programs started at 10 -13 it is perpetuated by loneliness, shame, and taboo. Parents have to understand that these kids don't have work, a wife, or acceptable outlets for what they are feeling.
Treat the cause not the symptoms – much of it springs from loneliness and insecurity, but it is controllable (they can choose not to click ie.), usually not deep psychological trouble from rape or such. Popular kids also have addictions. They had sexuality flaunted at them constantly – with pressure to be one of the beautiful people, to have many dates etc.
If a child is looking at porn and the parent is uncomfortable talking about the problem -it will be magnified. It cannot be swept under the rug - it will not go away. The rest of world thinks it is okay. It is absolutely necessary to get counseling and find professional help for this addiction!
You cannot wait to help them, or think it was just once. Help them before they are 16 – and it becomes full blown addiction– they clean up for missions do well and come back to the real world to find it haunting them again, then for marriage and it is back again with the stress of life, now affecting their spouse.
Only thru acceptance and love can parents help, but parents must be just as open and tech savvy as their kids and know as much about websites, as they do.
Check out Elder Bednar’s talk about virtual gaming – it’s fantasy, chat rooms, and places kids turn to socialize, to develop self, sense of humor. The internet has warped reality and preys on the young. Why is it free? Exhibitionism where they can see how many hits they are getting
In the 50's it was the trench coats perverts in the alley, now it is at home in a wood paneled office. Utah has the #1 rate of web subscriptions in the country. The world has changed. Satan is winning. Porn is available without premeditation- just a click. It promotes deviant behaviors towards all- much more than just opposite sex, also same sex relationships.”
The friend who provided this advice found S.A. –a Christ centered twelve step program for adults which helped him the most. He found a group which was mostly of his faith and brought their depth of knowledge about the love of the savior to their weekly meetings. Unlike some church sponsored programs, SA is specific to sexual rather than for any kind of addiction and provides accountability, sponsors and support outside of meetings.
As I talk to him it seems that being accountable on a weekly basis to someone who accepts him and is cheering for him to succeed without piling more guilt and shame on him has made it possible for him to stay clean for years now. Can a parent do that without help?
Cynthia and Brad
The internet or cell phones did not exist when we were raising our children. we kept the books and music clean. what was on tv was very clean, so no issue there. They were aware of bad things and we talked about them, but never were we aware that pornography was a problem. As far as masturbation, they received the bishop's interviews and it was talked about a little with each child, but not very much. Lots of discussions about chastity in general, however.
Next week's question: Did you bring toys, etc. to Sacrament Meetings when you had young kids? Why or why not? Any advice?