Alert: I wrote this for men about their sons. It is a bit blunt and personal in places.
Remember when your dad talked to you about the “birds and the bees?” You don’t? Remember when you talked to your son? You didn’t? It has always been a bit startling to me that many men never remember having a meaningful conversation with their dad about one of life’s most important issues. The key word there is “meaningful,” by the way. I have more than a few friends whose dad tried with illustrations of outlets and electrical connections and so forth. One smiled and nodded at his dad but inside was thinking “what in the world is he talking about?” Another didn’t even know that men and women have different “parts” in the way that God designed us! And the list goes on from funny story to funny misconception one after another. And some aren’t funny at all! Can I tell you a method that has been a blessing in my family? Perhaps you can adapt it and it will be a help to your son as well. Talking with mine has been one great blessing to our family.
Remember these matters as you get started: First, it is awkward and difficult to have these conversations at any time, but especially if you have not prepared or if you have no connection to your son already. Be prepared for the awkwardness. That is normal and to be expected. Second, there was a time when a dad could forego this matter and his son likely be ok. There were other men who would tell their sons who, in turn, would pass it along to the other guys. There were coaches and other good leaders who would help young men with these matters. Today is a different story! Misinformation abounds, thanks to the internet and a plethora of available perversions. The average age of first exposure to pornography is now 11 and that is getting lower all of the time. It is said by some that a young person can see more porn in one night via the internet than most men would have seen in a lifetime only a few years ago. Simply put – DADS, YOU MUST TALK WITH YOUR SON!
When do you start? How do you do it? When do you stop?
When do you start?
For me, I started talking to my sons very, very early. It doesn’t take long until boys become aware of their “boy parts” and will ask questions about them or compare themselves to others and so forth. I decided to always answer their questions – age appropriately, of course. Bethlie and I both made sure the boys knew that some parts of their bodies were “private,” and we encouraged them to treat those parts as private and to be aware that those were “off limits.” No one should touch them there unless it was in a public and permitted-by-us way, like in a doctor’s office at a scheduled appointment. I told them that all guys have those parts and that girls are different from boys. I even told them that someday we would tell them why God made them the way he did. I was preparing them for the day that we would have THE TALK. My sons would notice that daddy had body hair, for instance, and they didn’t. They would comment on stuff like that, sometimes in an awkward way and in an awkward place and time – at the supper table for instance. We always stayed calm (mostly) and stated that someday they would have body hair as well. We told them that when they did, it would be a sign that they were becoming the man God had designed them to be. I even coached my sons about what to do if someone asked them questions they didn’t know or showed them pictures of people with no clothes on. They would say, in answer to the first, my daddy will tell me about that! In answer to the second, we told them that it was always wrong to see those pictures and that they should always say so and then tell us so that we could pray with them about it and help them not to see them again. And one more thing, we always, always, always, let the boys know that they could ask us anything and we would give them answers. And we meant it.
Boys don’t like face to face talks. They talk while they are “doing” things . . . hiking, working, or riding in a car at night. I remember several years ago working outside with one of my sons. We were using a chain saw and it was hot and we paused for a break. My son, out of the blue, said, “Dad, can I ask you a question?” I didn’t look at him, but I calmly said, “Sure! What’s up?” We then proceeded to have a very meaningful conversation about a “delicate” matter and a few minutes later, got back to work. Texting is also a great tool to connect over “delicate” issues. “Will you pray for me dad?” one text said, “I am struggling some with masturbation.” Of course I prayed. And called. And had yet another meaningful conversation with one of my favorite people in all of the world. What I am trying to say is this: Get started and build a relationship with your son. Do it on purpose. Do it today! You will be glad you did.
How do you do it?
How do you talk to a son about sex and masturbation and growing up and all of that sort of thing? It is awkward, but it can be done. Here is how I did it. First, I scheduled special and specific times to get started. I tried to have several talks over a process of time. Several of them were scheduled and planned and my sons knew we were going to have “a talk.” Others, were casual conversations at opportune times regarding matters where I knew some more information was needed. For my Joshua, we went for a lunch and then talked at a nice park on a really nice afternoon. For my Matt, I took him on a trip with me and we talked in the mountains of Colorado late one night after I had preached in a youth service. For my Jake, we also talked while he was on a trip with me. Plan a time and a place where you can talk privately, and then do it! I covered three areas: what they should expect during this time of their lives; the “M” word; and human sexuality from a Biblical perspective.
For instance, when I knew that my sons were entering puberty, I would plan a conversation with them. I even wrote down the things we were going to discuss. I wanted them to know what was happening in their body. I told them they were changing from a boy to a man. We talked about body hair and that it was normal. We talked about how hormones made our “parts” grow and that erections were a normal part of that growth. I told them how God had designed their bodies for the relations they would someday have with their spouse. We discussed why girls are different and talked about eggs and sperm and the beginning of life (not in a crass way, but in an awe-inspiring-God-is-amazing kind of way). I even gave them a heads up about how girls have monthly “cycles” and why they do and how as men we should be very sensitive and loving and caring during that time. I prepared them for the way God had made them to begin producing sperm and that sometimes in our sleep we can have “wet dreams” and I told them what they should do when that happens.
We also talked about the “M” word. I approached it pretty casually by explaining that guys sometimes touch themselves in such a way that the sperm can be released. I suggested that they did not have to do that and likely shouldn’t – but if they occasionally did – it likely wasn’t that big of a deal. I approached it in this matter after studying the teaching of Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Douglas Weiss and also to make it easier for my sons and me to talk about it. I even prepared them for the joking and the talking many guys do in relation to these matters. I shared with them some of the “slang” terms they would hear and encouraged them to stay away from the jokes and the innuendoes and to ask for help if they needed it! I warned them about porn and the dangers of going down that path. A bit heavy? Sure, but life changing for my sons. And for me too!
We then talk about human sexuality. I cover three thoughts with my sons. First, I tell them how God designed us biologically and why He did. Second, I try to show them why Satan attempts to pervert human sexuality. He wants to destroy God’s plan and the security of the Christian home and to lead us to life-long struggles and addictions. We then talk about how God designed human sexuality to be shared with one life-long partner and how that it is a physical act with incredible emotional, mental, and spiritual blessings attached. It will bring incredible satisfaction and incredible trust and joy to their future marriage relationship.
And that’s about it! Just a few “small” conversations with my sons . . . (humor intended)!
I always leave the door open for questions and sometimes I open the door by giving them opportunities to ask! The first conversation is a big one and the hardest. It is primarily to protect purity and innocence (and I do believe it protects innocence) by giving factual information and teaching them to process and handle that information with wisdom. My sons received it and asked no questions at all! One didn’t “get it” much at all (that might have been my fault) and we had to have a subsequent conversation. The other two got it immediately. One of my best friend’s sons didn’t have any questions either, but did point out that “this is the freakiest thing I have ever heard!”
And he was right! Yes. It. Is! And yet, it is very important for your sons to hear it and to prepare for this part of their lives.
Giving proper and Godly information does not destroy their purity. Rather, it empowers them to handle these important areas with dignity, confidence, knowledge, and wisdom. And, it opens the door for dads and their sons to become very close during this important time of their life.
Once the initial conversation has happened, I am always looking for new opportunities to talk and to teach. A movie might have an innuendo, and rather than ignore it, it is a good time to bring it up and instruct my sons as to what that was about and why it was wrong and how it should be handled. A ball game will have cheerleaders who are dressed immodestly and who easily attract a guys attention. I teach my sons that it is normal to notice a beautiful girl but that we should look away and keep a pure and clean heart. Life is filled with opportunities to connect, teach, and help our sons to be the men God has called them to be. We use Job 31:1 and call it “dial 311!” Look it up. It is a great memory verse to use with your son.
When do you stop?
Simply put, you never do. My youngest son is 15 and is still learning and growing. My oldest son is getting married this summer and as we get closer to the wedding he and I will talk about sexual intimacy and how to prepare for both his honeymoon and for his life with his bride. We even talked about a few matters yesterday. He asked! I am the accountability partner for each of the boys and we often connect as to how they are doing and where they are battling. They allow me access to their phones and to their hearts. We believe that the enemy thrives in secrecy and as a result we reach out frequently to check on each other. We are able to pray together and walk together through the mine-fields of temptation that abound in our generation. What amazes me is that as my sons learn the truth, it brings us closer and gives them great confidence in their masculinity. I am having the time of my life watching them become Godly men who are leading themselves and those around them. I am a proud dad!
So dads, get started. If your sons are younger, talk to them. Answer their questions. Prepare them for life and for the landmines that are everywhere today. If your son is entering puberty, plan an event and have a talk with him. You might be surprised that he knows more than you thought or that he has already viewed porn, whether by accident or on purpose. If your son is already well into his teens, connect with him and begin building a relationship with him so that you can take him by the hand and lead him toward manhood and all of its blessings and responsibilities. Treat everything calmly and matter-of-factly and help your son! Put up fences that will make it easy for him to succeed – such as limited use of the internet and smart-phones, wise choices about entertainment, guidelines about his interaction with girls and with other guys too, and so forth.Teach him how to do manly things. If you will teach him, he can change a tire, cut down a tree, mow the yard, run a 5K, and serve those around him. Help your son to succeed.
Is there anything else you can do?
Of course. Read books about these matters and talk about them with your sons. Use accountability and filtering software on all devices connected to the internet (yours and your sons). Surround your son with Godly men who will reiterate and model the things you are teaching. For our sons, Evangelist Micah Self became that man. He joined our ministry (and family) 6 years ago and our sons overnight had a built in older brother who modeled and encouraged them in all of these matters. Dr. David Teis was another. He has been a long-time friend of our family and our children love and respect him greatly. Several years ago we listened to one of his sermon series on marriage as we traveled together as a family. He was a bit frank, but very helpful in pointing us to truth. And the truth sets us free! In the process, have fun. Enjoy being a dad and enjoy helping your sons to grow and mature. My three “gang-up” on me now and tease me about getting old and about older-age issues. We laugh a lot and my heart smiles that I have the privilege of begin so close to such amazing sons. I hope the same thing happens to you!
I have asked my friend, Pastor Joshua Teis, to write an addendum article so you can see how he took my idea and is using it with his son. My process was a few on-purpose-talks here and there and a whole lot of casual conversations. Pastor Josh really has done a great job with this matter and I know you will be helped and encouraged by him. I can’t wait to make his article available in a few days. Look forward to it.
Do you have questions? Need help? If I can help, I would be honored to do so.
Thanks for reading,