Talking to a son about girls, sex, and pornography can make even a dad’s face blush. But dads can help their sons understand the difference between healthy relationships and the pathologies of today’s sex-soaked culture.
Helping Boys Grow into Healthy Young Men
This is the second of a two-part Q&A with Dr. Dave Currie, a counselor and president of Doing Family Right. He encourages dads to give a gift to their sons that they likely never received. Talking to their sons about their sexuality, their emotions, and their culture, can help boys grow into healthy young men with strong relationships. Opening an ongoing dialogue that answers questions about sexual slang and anything else allows dads to be the “go to guy” for any of their sons’ questions, Dr. Currie said. And Dad can be a much better source of information than their sons’ friends or the Internet.
Covenant Eyes asked Dr. Currie tough questions that will help dads have better conversations with their sons.
Q: A boy can find himself in positions where pornography is shoved in front of him by others. If a boy says he doesn’t look at porn, peers may tease and tempt him all the more. How can a boy cope with that pressure?
Dr. Dave Currie: A wise parent will actually talk through those exact scenarios. They won’t say, “I hope it doesn’t happen.” They will assume that it will happen, that their son will be over to someone’s house at a sleepover and someone will say, “Hey, you’ve got to see this.”
You’ve got to actually tell them this is going to happen sometime and talk with them about how to handle it.
I would challenge the kids [with the concept that] you’re going to get lots of people coming at you with different values, and you’ve got to know who you are and what’s important to you. You’ve got a right to choose what your eyes see, and what your hands do, and where your feet go. You have to decide what’s right for you, and that’s why in our family we talk openly about the dangers of pornography…
And so we warn [our kids], whether it’s illegal drugs, or warning about the dangers of smoking, or the dangers of drinking, or whatever.
[A courageous young man can say]: “You know if you’re really my friend you’ll back off, because I’m not into that. You can be into that, that’s your call, but if you’re really my friend you’re not going to pressure me.”
Q: How can a dad help prepare a way for his kids to escape peer pressure or a bad situation?
Dr. Dave Currie: Here is a great tip for parents to help kids handle peer pressure. We had an agreement that we called the Ugly Dad Agreement.
If my daughter would get into a place where she was uncomfortable, she’s at a party…and all of a sudden there is drinking, or there are drugs, or someone is pressuring her or whatever, she could invoke the Ugly Dad game. The agreement was if she needed to get out of there, I would feign being an ugly dad so she would have an excuse.
Let’s just say it’s 9:45 and her curfew is 11:30, and she calls me. And I go, “Hello, what’s going on?” And she goes “What?!” I knew it was time to become the Ugly Dad. That was the agreement.
Once she goes “What!” then I went into [Ugly Dad mode]. “You didn’t make your bed,” or “You didn’t finish your homework, you can’t be out tonight. I’m going to come get you. I can’t believe you disrespected me.” And I went into like I’m some kind of unreasonable, stupid, ignorant dad. And then what happens is she actually kind of half pulls the phone away and rolls her eyes at her friends like “Can you believe my dad, he’s acting up like this?” And then she says, “Oh, I have to go home.”
And my agreement was any time you need to get out of a party, we can evoke the Ugly Dad anytime you need to, and I will take the blame for you getting out of there. You can say, “I’ve got to go and my dad is actually coming to get me, I’m so embarrassed.” I can be the worst dad in the world if you want.
And I promise you if I have to pick you up from one of those things, I will not ask you, “Why are you there?” “What is going on?” I will just say, “I am so proud of you for calling me.”
And it was really cool. Twice in my younger daughter’s teenage life, she called and I did the Ugly Dad. She got in the car, and it was a hard thing for me to bite my lip, because I just wanted to teach and talk and find out what’s going on, but I just kept my mouth shut and all she said was “Thanks dad, I love ya.”
And that’s the Ugly Dad. And that’s one way to face peer pressure, because you’re on a team with your kids.
Q: I think a lot of boys get confused in today’s society about what qualifies them to be a man. Do you agree with that and why so?
Dr. Dave Currie: Yeah, matter of fact, one of my wife’s friends had a son going through insecurity problems and [he] went to a secular psychologist, who told him to look at pornography and masturbate every day and he would get over his insecurities with girls and all. It just didn’t feel right to this mom, so she contacted me. It was just hell to think that was what someone was telling him to do.
Q: Why is that so dangerous?
Dr. Dave Currie: Well it’s all about what happens in the mind of a young boy, and right now I’m working with about seven or eight married men who are battling with pornography and the effects on their marriage.
What happens is an early pairing of sexual stimulation with pornography. It becomes the norm…people don’t understand how it orients sexuality. We know the Bible talks about how it is better to give than to receive. And pornography and masturbation is all about receiving. It’s all about creating a perfect aura; “I’m never wrong, I’m always successful. It’s always a win for me, it’s always according to my needs, and it’s always instantaneous gratification.”
But what happens is that pairing creates the neurological pathway… So when a person does get married down the road, this is now a new thing. What is this? If it’s a 12-year-old boy that gets into [porn], it could be 12, 14 years before he is married and the pathway to sexual fulfillment is not the one that God created. It’s been abdicated by this new thing called pornography and masturbation, and so it’s a self-rated thing, very selfish… it is totally different than a three-dimensional real person, live event, and there’s this problem related to that.
Q: What can our sexualized culture and the culture of pornography teach boys about manhood or what it means to be a man?
Dr. Dave Currie: It’s about conquest. It’s not about respect.
Instead of a woman being a treasure, they’re seen as being a trophy or like a notch on a gun, instead of someone certainly of equal value. So that’s been lost in our culture because of this push for pornography to say, you get what you can as much as you can, and the more you conquer, the more variety you have, the better it is.
And of course that is just creating a completely dysfunctional marital and family network. This generation that’s getting married now, the 24- to 26-year-olds, they will be the first generation that has been raised on Internet porn. And we’re going to see what’s going to happen. And I’m seeing it already in my counseling.
Q: You spoke about how our sexualized culture views women as trophies. So how can a dad confront those messages head on? What should he tell his son?
Dr. Dave Currie: Well, a father needs to first of all normalize the interest, not vilify it. All too often we sense our boys start to get interested in sexuality and we go, “Oh my goodness! Oh no, not this already, like couldn’t you wait until you’re 14 at least, you know, give me some time.” But the danger is to vilify it, or say, “Well you know you want to stay away from that, that’s no good.”
His whole body screams that it’s good. And I think that we mess it up when we don’t help the kids understand that this really is God’s thing.
If we make it kind of dark, and sinister, and dangerous, two problems [develop]. They won’t talk to us about it again. And secondly, they’ll actually be drawn to it more, because they’ll say, “What is this that Dad says is so dark and so dangerous? I’d better snoop,” because there is that sense of discovery…
When puberty comes, there is this strong sexual interest that comes around and they don’t even know how to explain it. They don’t know what is going on in their body yet, and so I think it is really important to normalize it.
What happens is we teach them about this sport of baseball or we teach them the sport of football and we don’t teach them the sport of relationships. We don’t teach them how to do relationships. We just say, “Well you know, just basically stay away from the sport of sexuality. Don’t go there. You can’t do that.”
Instead [we should] teach this sport of sexuality. It’s a game that couples play in marriage. Now the culture is telling us to play it anytime we can, anywhere we can. The problem is it’s going to cause a lot of damage. You better not play baseball on the edge of a cliff, because you might go for a foul ball, and you could fall 200 feet to your death. The danger is in our culture is they are telling you to play with sex in a way that someone is going to get really, really hurt. And we don’t want it to be used like that, so…we talk very openly. We give them guidelines and instructions. We give them open debate, and not “Oh my goodness, don’t go there.”
See the June 2012 edition of Pure Minds Online for Part 1 of our Q&A with Dr. Dave Currie, or read a transcript of the full interview.