Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

17 June 2010

Going out on a Limb with Biddulph's Stage Three

So, there has been a little conversation happening in the comments section here and more so here in response to the Raising Boys posts.  And over the course of these comments I have basically declared my hand.  My personal expertise, when it comes to raising boys (or girls for that matter but we don't have any of those around here), stops on their thirteenth birthday and just for now, having only just reconciled myself to the fact that Stage One is behind us and we have entered Stage Two, I am burying my head in the sand like any good ostrich would do with regards to the teenage years.  Apparently the ostrich believes that if it can't see its attacker, then the attacker can't see it.  I'm good with that!

But seriously, over the course of the above comments I have also come out saying that I am not convinced about all that Biddulph has to say about teenagers.   A brave call really, especially for one who has just made the claim to having no expertise with teenagers!!  (Brave...or inconsistent.  You choose!)  My issue is this...what Biddulph has to say about Stages One and Two is reasonably universal and it seems easy enough to run with his principles over a foundation of teaching children to love Jesus and to trust and honour God's Word.  But some of the material for Stage Three doesn't sit well with biblical principles.   

Biddulph's major emphasis for teenagers, as previously mentioned, is that they need a mentor and I heartily agree with that.  However his other dedicated chapter for raising teenagers is entitled "Developing a Healthy Sexuality" and I have to say that I felt pretty uncomfortable with some of what he had to say.  The bottom line (if I can seriously use the word "bottom" at this point) is that Raising Boys is a secular book written for secular times and there are parts of it that just don't support the Christian world view that the right and exclusive context for sex is in marriage.  Which is fine. It would be COMPLETELY wrong of me to apply my Christian principles to a secular text.

Biddulph addresses teenage sexuality in a balanced, open and honest way - just like the rest of the book.  He helpfully highlights all sorts of potential danger areas and his honourable aim, as it says on the back cover,  is to help boys learn a caring attitude towards sex.  To a point this is all well and good.    But along the way things are mentioned that just don't fit with my Christian view of the world.  Thinking about this part of the book raises a problem. 

And the problem is this...the physiological reality of hormones, growing bodies and growing sexual awareness during the teenage years are not going to go away just because we will tell our boys that we believe the right place for sex is in marriage.  So what do we do about it? Furthermore, our boys will be at school and out and about with others who won't share our views.  We won't be wanting to keep our heads in the sand (well, I won't be wanting to keep my head in the sand...I'll own it) for too long.

Obviously I have been thinking about this a bit lately, even though we have only just entered Stage Two.  Yesterday I have the joy of sharing an impromptu breakfast (after school drop off) with two friends from church - one a little under twenty years younger than me (single, no children) and the other a few years shy of twenty years older  than me (married with children all grown up) - and I introduced this topic of discussion. 

We were all agreed that some of preparing children for their teenage years and then guiding teenagers through those years comes about through talking to them.  Talking to them about the physiological reality of hormones, growing bodies and growing sexual awareness...and about self control, respect, honouring God and honouring and respecting one another.  We also agreed that talking to God with and for our children and teenagers about these issues is paramount.

And we decided that a lot of learning happens by observation and osmosis.  If children and teenagers see others relating to one another in honourable and respectful ways, this speaks volumes.  This starts with boys observing their father treating his wife with love, respect and kindness. And then how dad (and mum) treat others in their sphere - relatives, friends, people at church, people at work, tradesmen, people in service industries...  Boys will learn about self control, respect, honour and godliness through observation and this will help to inform their own views on many aspects of life, including sexuality.

Now when the time comes I may need some finer detail and support.  I do well with books but on this issue, Raising Boys is not going to be enough.  So I need to ask, does anyone out there have any suggestions about good reading material from a Christian perspective about raising teenage boys so that come the time I want to get my head out of the sand, I've got somewhere to go? 

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