Is Your 5-year-old Teaching Others About Sex?

Family-Good things to come-261

“Let’s Talk About Sex”

When my son was 5-years-old, one of his neighbor friends told him about naked women he had seen in some pornographic picture or video. He said in a matter-of-fact way, “Let’s talk about sex.” This friend roamed the neighborhood A LOT and when he wasn’t roaming he was in front of a screen. His family was religious, loving, but unaware of what their boy was being exposed to.

On another occasion, a friend of mine once told me of witnessing a different 5-year-old boy in the neighborhood laying on top of a slightly older girl kissing her mouth and trying to do other things that the boy had apparently witnessed elsewhere. The girl seemed to be enjoying the attention. I’m sure (or at least hope) the parents of the boy would be mortified if they knew what their son was doing.

I could go on and on with stories about children learning and doing things that would horrify their parents. And to this day, these parents probably still don’t know about it.

Both of these stories have two things in common: 1. A young child was exposed to sexual images and then tried sharing or acting on it, and 2. The parents of these children were not involved enough to know what was happening, let alone offer guidance.

Pop Quiz

True or False: Putting your kids in a lot of activities is the same as you being involved in their life.

The answer: capital F-A-L-S-E!

Don’t worry. If you answered incorrectly, you can still make up the points by reading the rest of this article and then applying it.

There is a disturbing trend in much of our society that is going undetected. It is this:

We parents are not effectively involved in our children’s lives and this is leaving them vulnerable to unhealthy messages about love and sex.

Now before you start to despair because you already feel over-booked with your kids lives, or before you begin to attack me….hear me out.

Oblivious to the Obvious?

There are several reasons why this problem is going undetected. Some of the reasons are legitimate while others are merely excuses. This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list.

  1. The illusion of involvement. We may feel that ensuring that our children are busy with soccer, gymnastics, piano, clubs, etc is how we stay involved in their life. Because we take them from place to place and book their schedules it can give us a false sense of involvement. Quality of involvement is as important–if not more so–than quantity.
  2. Parental freedom. The more we keep our kids occupied, the more we can get done. We can spend more time cleaning the house, at work, or on screens (TV, Facebook, etc).
  3. Uninformed voters. Many parents are simply unaware of the negative consequences of under-involved parenting. They could think: “I played outside all day and had very few personal interactions with my parents growing up and I turned out okay.”

I know that you want to your child to not just survive, but thrive. Your heart is all in! But it is possible to love a child totally and completely but not in the way her or she needs. It is possible for your child to be involved in so many activities without you actually being involved in their life.

Busy Doesn’t Mean Involved

Dr. Laurence Steinberg wrote:

Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs you to do.

Did you know that the strongest and most consistent predictor of children’s mental health, adjustment, happiness, and well-being is the level of involvement of their parents in their life?

Children with involved parents are also more likely to share if they have been exposed to pornography or if someone has touched them inappropriately.

Ok. To be completely honest, this article is about more than just parental involvement. I’m really just building up to talking to your kids about intimacy, sexuality, and its counterfeits. But, how can we teach and influence our children about these things if we don’t understand their hearts and minds? How can we understand their hearts and minds if we aren’t effectively involved?

Porn Kills Love

In our day and age, our children are going to be exposed to pornography. The question is not so much if they are going to see it, but when. We cannot control the choices of peers, the parents of our peers, and many, many other sources. Yet, the more connected and effectively involved we are, the more influence and guidance we can offer.

A student recently told me that her best friend was sexually abused as a child. Sadly, her friend kept it from her parents for many years because she didn’t know how to talk to them about it. In her friends’ home, they didn’t talk about the body, intimacy, and so on. It was taboo. She is now receiving therapy and getting the help she needs. But if this girl had a more open, communicative relationship with her parents, those years of guilt and depression could have been minimized. 

So What Do I Do?

You’re probably wondering how to become effectively involved in your child’s life to the point you can have regular chats about love, intimacy, and pornography. Stay tuned! I will be blogging about this and also publishing an ebook about this at the end of June.

Our friends at Educate Empower Kids (EEK) have created some fantastic materials to help parents guide their children. Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks and How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. Check out this powerful video below by EEK that I feel summarizes what I’ve been trying to say.

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.


What is Your Child’s Gender? You Might Want to Ask Science


Let the Baby Decide!

“Are you having a boy or a girl?”

This is one of the most common questions asked to those who have just revealed they are expecting a little one.

This question is logical, understandable, and completely accurate. From a biological perspective, it would be more than a little unreasonable for the expecting parent to respond:

“We don’t know. The child hasn’t decided yet.”

Two Faulty Extremes

The differences in boys and girls, males and females, can swing between two extremes:

  1. All gender differences are socialized and learned through culture and therefore can be unlearned. This leaves the door open to choosing one’s gender. (I’ve seen this philosophy heavily promoted at the United Nations.) 
  2. All differences in boys and girls are biologically-based which often creates old-fashioned sex roles and stereotypes. This can lead parents and teachers to believe and promote that boys don’t feel emotions (except anger) and girls can’t do math.

The problem with both of these perspectives on gender is that neither of them are based in science — and both harm individuals and society. It can be tempting to believe whatever’s popular on Facebook. But just because every post in your social media feed promotes an idea about gender, it doesn’t make it true.

In his book Why Gender Matters, Physician and Psychologist, Dr. Leonard Sax wrote:

There is more at stake here than the old question of nature versus nurture. The failure to recognize and respect sex differences in child development has done substantial harm over the past thirty years.

Clearly, swinging to either extreme can be problematic.

On the other hand, well-conducted research can help us understand natural laws that govern life. Once we really understand these natural laws, we can help not only ourselves but also those we love.

So what does the research say?

Although there is a lot of good science out there, I will briefly touch on 4 areas where boys and girls inherently differ — and why that matters for all of us.

1. Brain Structure & Language Processing

Ladies. Your brain tissue is intrinsically different from guys. This process starts in the womb. You didn’t have a choice. That’s just the natural way that the X & Y chromosomes made it.

Male brains are also much more compartmentalized than female brains. For example, boys process and express their language in the left hemisphere of the brain, and girls use both sides.

2. Seeing is Believing

One study looked at how newborn babies would respond to their visual environment. A female nurse stood over a crib with a mobile swinging next to her. The vast majority of the female babies stared at the face of the nurse while most male babies watched the moving mobile. Girls are born wired to be interested in faces and boys in moving things. No wonder guys like football and fast machines.

This is biological, people! These babies have not been “socialized” by their environment.

3. Color Me…Different

Walk into a kindergarten class and give all the children a piece of paper for drawing. Tell them they can draw whatever they want. The lion’s share of the boys will draw action and use colors like black, silver, and blue. While the girls will draw people or things and use the colors red, orange, green, and beige. As Dr. Sax wrote:

“Girls draw in nouns, boys draw in verbs.”

That’s because the internal structure of the eye differs in both males and females. This isn’t a choice. It is hardwired. Does this mean that boys will never draw a face or a flower? Of course not! This study simply helps us understand the biological preferences and why they exist.

Nurture can influence nature, but it can’t change it.

4. Toying with Biology

Multiple studies have helped us understand children’s toy preferences. Researchers gave babies between 9-18 months old toys to play with. Almost all the boys chose the truck while the majority of girls chose the doll. Developmentally, children at this age don’t really understand what their gender is and what it means. But if you understand biological differences this makes sense.

What about girls who play with trucks and boys who play with dolls? Even though this is the minority, it’s still worth asking. It’s important to understand that a feminine boy and a masculine girl still have a brain that is wired to their gender. Based on what we know about brain differences, it is likely that girls like playing with trucks for different reasons than boys do.

So What?

I have barely scratched the surface on this research. But we all need to be more informed about which gender differences are biological and which are not. This will help parents and teachers meet the child’s needs more effectively. Boys and girls think, learn, see, hear, and develop differently. Understanding these differences will help us create better and more scientifically-based policies. 

Female teachers and parents should not tell a boy that he can’t draw simply because it is a rocket going to space rather than a pretty face.

We can emphasize the unique contributions that both a mother and a father bring to their sons and daughters.

Rather than teaching children that they can choose their gender or that they need to fit rigid, unfounded stereotypes, we can help children own their gender. Will there be variability within each gender? Indeed!

For more information on this, you can email us questions for our next podcast or read the book Why Gender Matters.

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.