Recently, Josh Duggar was outed for having an Ashley Madison subscription. In response to that, Josh confessed to “several years” of porn addiction while lobbying against immorality in America. First there was the revelation of molestation, and now this. You very well might be tired of Duggar scandals by this point, but there’s one piece of this story that is both heart-wrenching and revealing and should be taken as a warning to all parents.
Upon hearing the news of Josh’s confession to porn addiction, his parents Jim Bob and Michelle released a statement saying their “hearts were broken.” Some publications indicate they are “shocked.”
Why wouldn’t they be?
If you followed 19 Kids and Counting you saw evidence of the safeguards put in place by the Duggar parents in an effort to protect their children. Screen time was limited. Their dress code was modest. Courting was the norm, with very strict physical boundaries encouraged.
By all accounts, they did everything parents are supposed to do to protect their children from careening down the path of sexual sin and infidelity. So, it should have “worked” right?
Obviously, in this case, it did not.
It is important to understand that, ultimately, Josh’s choices were his own. He knew full well what he was doing was wrong. So this is not an underhanded way to blame his parents or his wife for his choices.
It is also important to acknowledge that we do not know everything that happened in the Duggar family. We do not know what kind of conversations they had about sex beyond what we saw on TV. We do not know if their children were ever warned about pornography.
What we can take away from this, though, is that it is not enough to simply protect our children.
Should we protect them? Yes.
Someday, though, they are going to grow up. They are going to get their own computer or smart phone. They are going to go hang out with friends or go off to the movies. They are going to go to college—where pornography might even be shown in class. They are going to move away, get jobs, get married. Bottom line: you cannot protect them forever.
Which is why it is important not just to protect them, but to prepare them. Prepare him for the moment his buddy grabs a magazine and says, “Hey, check this out.” Prepare her for the moment her dad-approved boyfriend tries to slip his hand up her shirt. Prepare them for the moment a site pops up showing their favorite cartoon character in a sex act. Prepare them for the moment when the marriage will get tense and they’ll want to run to someone else.
Talk About It
Keep an open dialogue with your children when it comes to sex, pornography, and temptation in the culture we live in. You are not only preparing them for when they are tempted, you are teaching them vital communication skills. You are preparing them for when they need to confess a failure or even for when they need to sit down and talk with their future spouse. Sex should not be taboo.
Keep Talking About It
One mistake parents make is boiling all of sex and purity down into one talk—the talk. What it typically ends up being is a 30 minute crash course in puberty, reproductive health, sex ed, and purity.
Parents, ask yourself this question, “Have you honestly only ever talked with your spouse about sex once?” Hopefully the answer is no. Why? Because sex happens within relationships with people who are always changing. Sex post-baby is going to be different from honeymoon sex, and if you expect them to be the same, you are going to be frustrated. You have to keep that conversation going.
The same thing is happening to your child. In elementary school, you may be more concerned about your son or daughter falling victim to a molestation. In Jr. High, you may be more concerned about exposure to pornography or pressure to have sex. In high school, as your son or daughter flexes their independence, you may become increasingly more concerned about peer pressure and the desire to fit in or be accepted. Dating will come up as will things like post-prom parties.
You cannot sit down with your elementary school child and hit them with all of that. You also cannot wait until the car is packed for college to have “the talk.” This should not be a talk; it should be a conversation that changes and grows as your child changes and grows. Start young and do not stop.
Remember the days of training wheels? Your child rode up and down the driveway with two little rickety wheels attached to the bike. Why? Because they were not ready to ride an actual bicycle yet. Sure, you could have handed them the bike and said, “Here you go, good luck” and left them to their own devices. However, you knew that would end in a lot of scrapes, scratches, and not less than a few broken bones.
To help prevent that, you install training wheels until they can get the feel of the bike. Then, you take the training wheels off and what do you do? You walk behind the bike because they are still learning and do not quite have the hang of it yet. Eventually, they get it and they start to ride faster than you can keep up with them and you have to let go (and hold your breath and pray they do not crash into the neighbor’s tree).
That same technique can be used when it comes to navigating the dangers of our sex-infused culture. You cannot hide them from it forever. Instead, teach them how to use technology wisely, from how much time they spend on it to what type of information they share to how to know if a site is good or bad.
Install something like Covenant Eyes on your devices so you can see what they are up to. When they are younger, use it as a filter to protect them. As they get older, though, transition to it being more of an accountability measure. Think of it like training wheels for computer use. If they start to veer off course and into the dark side, talk with them about it. It is better to have those conversations now than years down the road after an affair.
Teach them what it means to be accountable to someone. Those are such important lessons for young people to learn.
In the end, whether the topic is puberty, sex, pornography, or assault, it is about the conversation. Sin hides in secrecy. Pornography thrives in it. The most powerful arsenal you have as a parent is not your silence, but your actions and your words.
Do not just protect your children, prepare them.