Question:

I am a Christian father from Germany. My wife and I try to raise our boys in a Christian and biblical way. I am a member of a small church in Germany. Unfortunately, we don't have homeschooling in our country, so the liberal elements from outside sometimes come to my home to verify the education of my boys. I have to handle it and I pray to God each day that I will be able to raise my boys in His spirit.

I have some problems with my older son who is now 13 years old. I was looking for Christian parenting advice and I found your very helpful articles about raising boys.

The problem I have now with my older son is not easy to discuss for a Christian father, but I hope you do understand my fears that the evil could grow in my son and that I have to react.

I found a magazine containing nude women in his bedroom a few days ago and I also caught him stimulating himself in a sinful way.

Dear brother, I talked to my older sons, who are 11 and 13, about sexuality and God's plan for men and women, so I was terribly disappointed finding my older son doing that bad habit of looking at nude women and masturbating. I talked to him about it and I also told him that he has to be severely punished for that sin. I spanked him fifteen times with a belt on his buttocks. I also told him that he will get it again without talking about the same sin whenever I find him again in that situation. I told him he will get one more stroke each time. I told him why I have to do and I told him that I don't have to tolerate such magazines in my house. I did hope it would be over after the first punishment, but unfortunately, I found another magazine hidden under his mattress a few days later. I was consistent and spanked him as I told him before. Dear brother, it's not easy for me to handle this problem. I pray to Christ Jesus that he may help me and I hope I am doing right in the Lord's eyes.

So what would you suggest? Do you think I handle the problem in the right way?

Please brother, let me know about your suggestion. My son's buttock was sore after his punishment but not too bad. The second punishment when better than the first one because he was more accepting.

I am waiting for your assistance. I hope you don't mind that my English is not perfect.

Answer:

I have several suggestions and I hope you will take the time to examine each one. Do not be concerned about your English, my German is far worse! I hope this reply is understandable and clear.

There is an organization, the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is trying to getting homeschooling recognized as a legal option in all countries. It has actively supported homeschooling in Germany, though it is has been declared illegal in your country. You can get more information at the HSLDA's Germany page. I happen to be a homeschooling father myself, so I understand your difficulties in dealing with government officials.

I agree that your son's use of pornography must be corrected, but by starting with severe punishment, you limited your options when his offenses are repeated. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have asked you to select a punishment more appropriate for his misdeed and reserve the spankings for times he willfully disobeys. I am not a fan of using a belt because it is too easy to cause injury. Rather than repeat the information, please see: "A series of questions about spanking" as a starter and if you have additional questions, let me know.

The problem handling pornography is its addictive properties, especially in young men. Men are more visually stimulated in sexual desire as opposed to women who are usually more stimulated by the relationships. Though some women have a problem with pornography, it is much more a problem with men. Add to this that a teenage boy's sexual desire is just awakening and he has almost no experience in controlling those desires. Therefore, you have a large and difficult problem on your hand.

It helps to discuss intimate topics, such as sexual desires, with someone else because in a household you live too close together. Parents don't like thinking that their children are having desires for sex, but then, children can't stand the thoughts that their parents have sexual desires. This makes talking about such things difficult with people you see daily and sometimes not in the best of circumstances. I have been asked numerous times to help parents deal with the problem of pornography, and here is my basic approach:

  1. Discuss in detail the process of growing up and how the reproductive organs work. The material I use in the first three chapters of Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys. A young man needs to know why he has the feelings and desires he is experiencing, but more importantly, he needs to know how his reproductive system works. It is very easy to confuse the physical processes for personal desires. Paul talks about this in that confusing section at the end of Romans 7:14-25. Intellectually we might know we must behave in a certain way, but our body's desires pull us in a different direction. This conflict between knowing what we ought to do and wanting to do something different exposes a weak point in our defense against sin. Satan takes advantage of this.
  2. I then discuss the nature of sin and temptation at length using James 1:13-16 and I John 2:15-17 as the base passages. The chapter "What is Lust?" in Growing Up in the Lord, has a light introduction, but when a young man is already caught up in sin, he needs more information. See the sermon outline, "The Nature of Sin, Temptation, and Lust." After covering the basic material, I use a neutral topic of selling products to show how advertisers use these basic principles to get people to purchase their goods. I use commercials and print advertisements to have the young man identify which principles of lust are being used and what desires to which they are appealing. Once the young man understands the concept, I then point out that Satan is in the market to sell sin, and he uses the same principles.
  3. Next, I define what is pornography. See the article, "A Look at Pornography" for how this is done. Using the concepts of how sin is sold, I then have the young man tell me how the pornography industry makes its images appealing. I emphasize the use of bright colors, the position of bodies to direct the eyes, and the common lack of the man's face to encourage the viewer to imagine himself in place of the man. I also ask the young man if the sexual organs are of a normal size or not (they are not) and why would they make them appear bigger than normal. If the young man pretends to be ignorant, I have in a large envelope the material the parents found in his room. I make him take it out and discuss it. If I can avoid it, I rather not see it myself, but one of the big problems of addictive sin is a denial that it exists or that the person has a problem with it. Some young men need an imaginary sledgehammer over their heads to admit the problem exists.
  4. Then, I discuss the dangers of pornography, especially its impact on his view of women and his future sex life. The article, "A Look at Pornography" covers these points as well. I put it as bluntly and as clearly as I can, even though it is embarrassing for both of us. I then talk with the young man about his personal motivation for looking at pornography. This is where it gets rough on dads because most of us don't want to know that our sons are having such thoughts.
  5. Finally, we have a discussion on why pornography is available. Certainly, there is a reason why it is freely accessible on the Internet and put into magazines. The answer is that people make a lot of money off of it. The "free" stuff is just like the drug pusher giving a person a sample of his drugs. He knows that once the desire is built, he will come back for more, even if he has to pay for it. I also discuss how people become numb to pornography after repeated exposure because it loses its shock value. Thus, people will look for more material and material with more explicit images. The sellers know this and have it available for a price. I then ask if the young man thinks these sellers care about him or his soul. I want the young man to realize that he is being used; that people are using his sexual desires to make money off of him and they don't care if it ruins him in the process.

I would then ask the boy to destroy the pornography that you found and ask him to bring any other pornography hidden in his room out and destroy that as well. Let him know that you will be periodically checking his room because you realize how addictive it is. Tell him that you believe him when he says he won't do it again, but you know that if he realizes that someone will be looking over his shoulder, it will remove some of the temptations. If he does fall back into the trap, I would sit down and ask him why and wait for an answer, even though I'm sure I won't like it. I then would help him reason through whether his excuse was legitimate or self-deception. It is at this time I would consider using spanking, but there would be no need to continually increase the number of swats per incident unless you come to the conclusion that the number chosen is not making any impact on him.

The subject of masturbation is a bit more difficult. To use pornography to stimulate one's self to orgasm is clearly wrong (Matthew 5:28; I Thessalonians 4:3-5), and the discussion above should address most of the issues related to this practice. However, I believe there is more to this. Please read over "Is masturbation unacceptable?" I would go over this in detail with your son. One of the things to realize is that almost every male experiments with masturbation at some point in his life. I suspect that there is a reason behind this and it is perhaps one of the reasons God made the male's sexual organs partially external. Yet, there are dangers of connecting sexual desires to sinful thoughts because those thoughts can lead to sinful actions. Another concern is that children are prone to repetitive or compulsive behaviors. Because masturbation brings on strong pleasures, a teenage boy soon is pursuing the pleasure for the pleasure's sake. This is not a good state of mind as it leaves the boy open to temptations. As difficult as it will be, I would go back to talking about the mechanics of sex and talk about the seminal vesicles, their role in sexual desires, nocturnal emissions and their purpose, and the reason boys masturbate. It will be hard, but you will be passing on your experience and judgment to your son.

Question:

Thank you very much for your helpful suggestions. In these moments I need a lot of spiritual and practical advice. You should know that my wife and I tried to lead our boys in the true Christian way and now I see how hard it can get when boys come to an age when they try to act up. I used corporal punishment in a mild form for years but only very rarely. My boys behaved fine most times.

But now my older son seems to have gotten in touch with evil. Like you suggested I talked to him very straight about sexuality and about pornography when I caught him looking at a porn magazine. I tried to do my best not to lose control of myself, but after talking to my son about looking at porn I did not feel he regretted what he had done. It seemed that he wanted to be rebellious and the evil made him talk bad. For example, he told me that many other boys in his class are looking at it and parents don't forbid it. That kind of resistance finally made me sure that he had to be disciplined. I told him that he is living in my house and he has to follow my rules and those rules don't allow evil magazines in our home. He also has responsibility for his younger brothers. If they find it, it also will guide them in the wrong direction.

That's why I responded very harshly the first time. I fear it can get hard to bring my son back in line.

I did read all your articles and I am very grateful that you talk straightforwardly about physical punishments. In my case, it seemed to be the last resort. I can't let things go and my son will find out that I will be very consistent. I followed your suggestions and talked to my son about pornography,.but it still seems that evil is strong because he still thinks that he is old enough to make his own decision. It is terrible.

I try to handle the belt very safe and double it, but would you suggest the birch from a tree? I only fear that it is not as effective on a 13-year-old boy. My wife doesn't want to talk much about that problem, it makes her feel uncomfortable, and she says it is for the father to handle it with his son. I agree, but I don't have much advice. That's why I am very grateful that you lend me your ear. Like you suggested, I told my son he has to bring all the pornography hidden in my house to me, but he lied to me. He told me there was no more pornography, but later I found some in our basement. His lying and resistance made me punish him with the belt. It seems to me that you agree because he was lying and refusing to bring me all pornography. Now I have to find out where he gets it. I will go to school and talk to his teacher.

Today's punishment was severe. As I told him before, he shall see that I am consistent, so I hope he will finally reform. So far he has not asked me for pardon! He is strong-minded and it seems that he wants to show me that he can take more strokes with the belt. I am afraid that it could become a struggle between him and me.

Please pray and tell me your suggestions. Today I will not give him more strokes like last time, but only because you suggested this. Thanks for any advice you can give to me.

Answer:

This notion that "evil" is controlling a child and that spanking will drive this evil out is not right. Your son made choices. Some of those choices are bad ones, but they remain his choices. Satan strives to influence the world against God, but he is unable to make anyone do evil. He is only able to encourage people to chose to do evil. He is powerfully good at it, but ultimately we must recognize that the consequences remain with the person who made the choice.

Second, spanking is used as a detrimental consequence for a bad choice. In the jargon of the psychological community, it is one element used in behavior modification. Negative consequences, such as a spanking, when combined with positive reinforcement, such as teaching, yield the quickest changes in behavior. Spanking does not remove sins. It serves as a warning not to chose to sin and demonstrates that bad choices lead to bad consequences. Spanking does not make a child good. It is a deterrent toward bad choices so that in the future the child will more likely make good choices. Spanking is not a cure, it is a tool.

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