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Tue, Sept. 17

What happened to teaching abstinence? The survey says...

Parents underestimate their influence. According to a national survey, only 34 percent of parents believe they are most influential on their teen child's decisions about sex.

Parents underestimate their influence. According to a national survey, only 34 percent of parents believe they are most influential on their teen child's decisions about sex.

Not long ago I sat at a table where parents were discussing teen sex and pregnancy. The conversation drifted toward which method of birth control parents would prefer their daughters to use, and how their sons needed to understand the importance of using condoms.

As I listened, I debated whether to join the discussion because I did not fully agree with the assumption that all teens will have sex before marriage. It feels like most parents today have just decided their teenagers will be involved in sexual activity and they should not try to suggest any other options — therefore unintentionally condone premarital sex.

As a young couple, my wife and I watched wise, experienced parents as they nurtured their children. We saw many dedicated parents striving to create a culture where teens were expected to cherish their virtue and wait until they were married before sharing in the act of procreation.

As the table discussion continued, I decided to share the hope that our children would remain abstinent until marriage. The first response came from a mother sitting next to me. She said, "What planet do you live on?... they're teenagers, that's not going to happen."

Why? Why shouldn't we expect our youth to choose the best and safest way to avoid heartbreak and despair? Why shouldn't we tell them how wonderful it can be to save themselves for the right person who will be their companion in marriage? Why shouldn't abstinence be offered as another option?

A recent nationally representative survey of teens by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has confirmed what many of us hoped: teens say that when it comes to decisions about sex, their parents have the most influence in their lives -- not friends, not movies and not their hormones.

But parents underestimate their influence. According to the survey, only 34 percent of parents of teens believe they are most influential.

Parents and grandparents should decide now to use their influence to present abstinence as more than an outdated, unrealistic option; but rather the best form of birth control for happy and healthy teen years before marriage. It could even be called "life control."

What message will our teens receive if we don't speak up? According to the survey most teens (62 percent) and adults (75 percent) believe that teen boys often receive the message that they are "expected to have sex." Teens (59 percent) and adults (74 percent) also believe that teen girls often receive the message that "attracting boys and looking sexy is one of the most important things they can do." We can send a better message.

Abstinence used to be the right thing to do. Let's make it right again.

Archived Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Article comment by: Mature Adult

There is nothing wrong with teaching children morals and abstinence. There is also nothing wrong with teaching children to protect themselves. Human animals have sexual urges. Teenage pregnancies have always occurred throughout history. The world wasn't any better 40 years ago, it was just different. Back then, pregnant girls were "sent away" or had abortions and everything was kept hush, hush. It bothers me when some of the older people pretend like things were perfect back when they grew up. That just simply is not the truth. I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father and a mentally disabled mother. One time she told one of my friends that I needed to get laid. I avoided having a boyfriend because my mother would encourage situations. I knew the difference between right and wrong and I made that choice myself. Each person has a choice to make for themselves. If anything needs to be taught, its that people need to take responsibility for themselves and what they've done. The problem I see is that people keep making excuses for their mistakes and don't own up to them. Teaching others to lay blame elsewhere accomplishes nothing and that is why the problem keeps growing. Obviously, teaching abstinence and contraception are not working that well, because the problem is still growing.

Posted: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Article comment by: Chris Bergman

I was working in the hospital OB department some time ago. In one of the rooms was a young girl with what was obviously her first delivery. The door was closed but you could hear her crying in terror. “Make it stop, make it stop!” she wept, not knowing what was going to happen next or if the pain of delivery was going to get worse. She wasn’t alone but still the fear was plain in her voice. I recommended to one of the doctors that he should get a recording of this girl to play to every sixth grade girl to let them know what lies ahead. Just a recording, mind you, let their imaginations do the rest. I can’t help but think this might well be the best form of birth control yet.

Posted: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Article comment by: Ron R Harvey

Abstinence is great, but we need to teach birth control and contraception as well. Many kids who learn about abstinence have no knowledge of protection at all, so that if they do have sex, they wind up unprotected. As parents and educators, we need to cover all of those bases, since many of those kids fall prey to their hormones, no matter how strong their morals are, and that's perfectly natural and human. Let's teach them that there are many ways to be responsible.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Article comment by: A parent

It takes great moral courage to speak the truth when it seems that no one cares or listens. But there are many many parents that feel as you do. It is a HARD job, given these permissive times....we did a pretty great job with our own children, but I know we made mistakes along the way. When you have a society that "rewards" or gives validity to behavior that is not consistent with strong morals and values, sometimes it feels like your beating your head against the wall! Sometimes we felt we were the only parents on the planet who cautioned against sexual activity before many opposite messages all over the place! Thank you for a great essay. It reminded me that there ARE many people who feel as you and I do, and that gives us all hope. One thing that I've learned that may be helpful when "debating" these issues is to ask the question,"what is to be GAINED by sexual behavior before marriage?" I've found there are no good answers to that.

Posted: Thursday, January 08, 2009

Article comment by: Chris Bergman

Part of the problem, Richard, is that we are now two, and in some cases three generations into families with no living memory of what it means to be parented. The children aren’t being parented. The parents weren’t parented. Even the grandparents weren’t parented. There’s nobody in the family left alive who even remembers how, let alone is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be, a parent. Each generation is teaching the next that selfish interests are the only one’s that need be considered. How can you teach a child delayed gratification when you were never taught to value it? Even if you’ve since learned better, you still don’t know how to ‘teach’ it to your children. Far too often children are not one goal of marriage, they’re a consequence of it; one to be minimized if at all possible. We’ve come a long way since rearing children was the focus of the family. It will take a long time to get back, even after society changes direction.

Posted: Thursday, January 08, 2009

Article comment by:

I agree, Richard. Unfortunately, family values was one of the first casulaties of Political Correctness. Ozzie and Harriet are dead. Ozzy and Sharon are the role models for this generation and the one before that. Parents don't seem to care what their kids do, and then when they get preganant or get someone pregnant, they wonder how it could've happened. Not saying anything is the same as condoning it. Bob Dylan was right..."The times, they are a-changin'". Keep writing the good stuff!!!

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