There are always things we need to improve on as parents, but before I get to that I want to talk about what we’re doing right. Parents are doing a lot of things right these days, something we may not hear a lot. Fathers in particular have improved in their parenting skills in the last 50 years, and this is something to celebrate.
Dads Are Giving More Time
Before we talk about what needs improvement, it is only fair to point out how much modern fathers are doing right. Dads spend way more time with their kids than they used to, taking time out with individual children even from the time a child is born. It is a very common sight in my neighborhood to see a young father pushing a baby or toddler in a stroller, no wife in sight. When I was a kid, I never saw a father pushing a baby stroller, alone or with his wife.
Both parents give more time to their children than in recent generations, but while mothers have approximately doubled the amount of time they spend with children in the last 50 years, fathers have nearly quadrupled the amount of time they spend with their own kids.¹ Mothers still spend more time with their kids than dads, but dads would win the prize for “most improved.”
Dads Are Giving More Depth
Fathers are also willing to be much more open with their children than our own fathers or grandfathers were. Fathers are much more likely today to talk about their feelings with their children and ask their children about their feelings. Dads admit failure in front of their kids. Dads talk with their kids about all kinds of things that most dads in the past would never be open about. Except one thing, which is the problem I’m addressing today.
What Scares Dads
My son and I wrote a book called Father-Son Accountability several years ago. I bring it to any conference I attend to sell in a booth. When I go to a men’s conference, even one specifically focused on sexual integrity, I sell very few. When I go to a women’s conference, I sell five times as many books, and the book is not for women. When I go to a couples conference, nearly 100% of sales are when a couple visits my booth and the wife buys the books, hands it to her husband, and says, “You’re doing this with our son.”
What’s going on here? Why are the same men who are taking babies on a stroll and talking to their kids about emotions afraid to talk about sex and sexuality with them?
I used to think it was because the men must have their own issues related to sexual integrity and they feared being exposed. I have discovered that this is not usually the reason men back away. Instead, men tell me they are afraid to talk to their kids about sexual issues because no one ever taught them as a child. They don’t know what to say because no one ever taught them. This is understandable, but it doesn’t excuse us men from our responsibilities to prepare and protect our children.
The Dad Challenge
We’ve come a long way in 50 years, and that is great. But it’s time to take the next step as men and prepare our children as God intends for us to do. I know we may not have been trained and have few examples to follow, but that doesn’t excuse us from trying.
I’ve noticed that once men get started, they find it’s not as hard as they imagined talking to their kids about sexuality. Here are a few helpful tips to get started.
- Pick a time when you will start talking with each child and stick to your plan.
- Consider starting the first conversation with, “No one ever taught me any of this as a kid, so I’m not really sure what I’m doing. I’ll just do the best I can.” Kids seem to appreciate such honesty anyway.
- Use a book or video to get started rather than winging it on your own. There plenty of resources and more are being created every day to help parents address issues related to sexuality.
- When just talking with your children about sex or sexual issues, try talking in the car. That does not require eye contact and makes it a little more comfortable for everyone.
- Don’t try to cover everything at once. Take on one small subject at a time. This should not be a one-time conversation but a series of many conversation throughout childhood.
- Don’t parent alone. Ask other parents what they do, compare notes, and try out their good ideas.
Let’s work together as men to inspire each other to be the fathers God wants us to be. We can do this.
For a list of parenting resources from Pure Community, visit our Parent Resource page.
¹Educational Gradients in Parents’ Child-Care Time Across the Country. Journal of Marriage and Family, April 19, 2016.