Talking about sex with your kids: 5 things I’m learning

July 10, 2017

I can still remember what feelings ran through me as I stared out the window trying not to cry.  My mom was gently telling me how the kid in my class who told me how babies were made was technically right, but not in the way I was thinking. I recall my mom being angry at that kid for giving me information I wasn’t ready for yet. Even to this day, if I say his name, she sits up straight and has to calm herself down.

I understand why she was so mad now that I have kids. If a child told my kids the same thing, I’m not sure I could restrain my anger. So, I decided to do something about that and tell my children before the world could. We should establish ourselves as experts on the subject matter and need to be the ones our kids go to when they have questions about sex. We can do this by giving them the information before anyone else can get to them. I just had the sex talk with my oldest son. Here’s what I discovered:

1. Err on too early/too much, not too little/ too late

Children are exposed to sexually charged programming, information and contact at an increasingly earlier age. So, we need to be intentional in playing offense. If we play defense, we’ll have to deconstruct what they've heard first. We want to be the ones who frame how our kids see the world. From the day they’re born, there’s a race to affix a filter to their minds through which they’ll understand everything they see. Let’s help them put a godly filter on their minds so they can see things clearly—through the eyes of Scripture. It’s better to place the filter of worldview from the beginning, so that they know how to hear everything.

We want to be the ones who frame how our kids see the world.

This means we’ll need to have the talk over and over and over again, consistently giving the same information rooted in the same truths and asking for questions. My son and I have a secret code. We may be sitting at the dining room table eating supper, and if I see his pointer finger placed between his eyebrows (weird code, I know), I acknowledge him and find a quiet place, because I know he has a question about sex. I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to be able to be the one who answers his questions.

We want to be clear, tailoring the information about sex to their age. For example, they don’t need to know about masturbation and prostitution in their first engagement with the material. We can start simple and allow them to process what they have heard. And as they grow, we can help them engage new areas of conversation that are age-appropriate.

2. Root the conversations in the biblical context

We should do some study beforehand and have a good handle on passages like Genesis 1-3, Ephesians 5 and Romans 1 so that we know what sex is for, how it fits in God’s good design for mankind and how it’s been perverted. It’s important to show, through stories like David and Bathsheba and Hosea and Gomer, that the Bible isn’t out of touch with sex. Most importantly, it’s clear in the Bible. Ultimately, sex is designed to teach us something about God, about good gifts and about his purposes for the earth.

3. Ask lots of questions

Every kid will have questions during these conversations, so we shouldn’t be surprised. My son asked questions like: “So, I know what makes babies, but did you and mom do that?” or “How often do you and mom do that”? or “Where do you and mom do that?” or “Do I have to do that one day”? When I start talking about sex, I tell my kids that by the end of the conversation, they need to have at least one good question to ask. That puts them at ease, gives them a goal and encourages them to process the information I’m giving out.

In fact, we should ask for questions at every step in the game. And we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that our kids have already heard some things before. We should be cool, calm and collected and should avoid showing any anger. This world is fallen—we should expect knowledge of good and evil to get in to the hands of those who are not ready for it.

4. Have the first conversation in a familiar place

Do you remember where you were when you learned what sex was? So do I. And so will they.  I’ve found that it needs to be a place they feel safe, because the information will hurt them a little bit. And I like my kids to associate this conversation with something that they like—like ice cream.  

For my boys, it’s a hardware store parking lot. It’s right next to an ice cream place, so we get ice cream, back in to a parking spot at the back of the parking lot, and while we’re enjoying the ice cream, I open up the conversation. When we have subsequent talks, I take them back to that place, and they already have their game-face on, knowing that we’re going to be talking about sex.

The sex talk is important, and it shouldn’t be handled with shuffled feet, blushing cheeks and both parties racing through it just to get it over with. Sex is a precious gift from God, and so is the understanding of that gift in the mind of our children. In a sex-crazed culture wrought with disinformation and lies about sex, good we must get out in front of this unashamedly and confidently.

5. Give clear action steps

No one should find out about sex from my children. It’s worse than spilling the beans about Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. Our kids need to know how to handle this information with children at their schools or siblings in their home. There are also a few situations that our children will need coaching on in order to respond correctly.

For example, they need to know what to do when they see porn. Notice, I said when not if. Children will see some form of pornography very early in life, and we need to tell them how to handle it. Even if they aren’t meaning to, they’ll stumble across it. I told my children that if they see it on a friend’s tablet or on a phone when they’re playing a game, they should immediately drop the device, run and tell an adult. I told them that I won’t be mad if they break the device; I’ll be happy they told me.

Our children also need to know what to do if they hear about sex from other sources. I try to discredit every single other source of this information in their lives before it even gets to them. I tell them the kids down the street don’t know what sex is. They’re 10. I’m 35. If my kids have a question, they come to me with it. If they hear something from some source that doesn’t jive with what I’ve said, I want them to doubt that source, and trust me.

Finally, our children need to know how to protect those who are younger. I want my son who now knows what sex is to tap into his protective instincts as older brother and make sure that the kids that he’s around don’t tell his younger brother/sisters about sex before I do. I enlist his help. He’s with them on playgrounds when I can’t be there, and if he hears anyone trying to disclose information that I wouldn’t want my children to hear, he has my permission to shut down the conversation. And now that he knows what information I’m talking about, he’s better equipped to be a protector.

In this age of sexual confusion and disinformation, God has uniquely equipped parents to speak into the lives of their children. It’s a privilege to point them to a biblical understanding of sexuality. Let’s not squander so great an opportunity as shaping our child’s understanding about God’s good design for sex.

In a changing world, your children will have questions you may not know how to answer. Join us for the fourth annual ERLC National Conference on "Parenting: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World" on August 24-26, 2017 in Nashville, TN, this event will welcome key speakers including Russell Moore, Jim Daly, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Todd Wagner, and Jen Wilkin. Learn more here.

John Powell

John Powell is the senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas. Previously, he served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hamlin, Texas, director of admissions at Southern Seminary, and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. After graduating from Southwest Baptist University, … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24