Parents supplying condoms to their teenage sons or parents who buy the beer and collect the car keys are operating under the assumption of “they’re going to do it anyway, better safe than sorry”. The parents who make all the decisions for their teenagers and who work harder at preparing the road for the child instead of the child for the road operate in a bubble. Both of these scenarios are extreme for me, yet fairly common from my seat in the bleachers.
Over the years I have really thought hard about the “ya’ can’t stop ’em” mindset and I’ve heard some compelling arguments and I’ve also heard some weak ones. Here are a few thoughts to this mentality;
1. Eliminating Success: Just by saying “they are going to have sex or get drunk anyway” we have eliminated any chance for them to succeed. I have heard parents say this to their children and it is absolutely permission giving. If we take this approach, then we could also say “Hey Ryan, you’re so immature and don’t have the backbone or capability to make a good decision so I’ll just make it harder for you to actually choose the right thing by enabling you to keep doing the wrong thing”!
a. Caveat: What about those teenagers with broken frontal lobes? The exception and not the rule is that there are some teenagers over the years that are reckless with their sexuality. If this were my own child, you’d better believe that I would have every type of birth control available and I would have to move from a stance of abstinence to the less safe stance of protection.
2. A Healthy Curiosity: If we know anything about adolescents, we know that they are curious. When I teach on Sex and Dating I get questions like “what does sex feel like?”, “can you get pregnant in a pool?“ and my all-time favorite from a boy “does it hurt to put in a tampon“? These are great questions from curios souls and the avoidance of such questions will have huge repercussions. Contrary to some, just because a teenager is asking some of these graphic questions does not automatically mean they are on the verge making some awful decision. As a parent or a youth worker, if our children or students in our small group would never ask us tough questions, a) do they have someone they could ask? and b) what about you might be unapproachable?
Scripture has much to say: Just because there were no condoms or kegs in the Bible doesn’t mean that God has left us hanging on these specific issues. We often run off our teenagers by being so black and white on certain issues without asking them to actually think through and own the decision. “The Best Question Ever” is a book by Andy Stanley that centers on one HUGE biblical principle: Wisdom. So the question becomes, “what is wise about having sex as a teenager?” or “is it wise or unwise to have a keg for the senior prom in my basement?” Ephesians 5:15 says be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise.
I have actually had a number of students over the years write their answers on a board in my office to “is this wise or unwise” and watching them discover biblical wisdom is one of the perks of my job.