Even after years of researching what is in the heart and mind of men and boys, I still wasn’t quite ready when my pre-teen son began struggling with the same visual temptations as everyone else! In honor of all boys who want to do the right thing, here are four things every mom, especially, needs to know:
1. It starts young. Yes, I knew men and boys were visual – but I didn’t really grasp just how visual until my son was thunderstruck by the pictures in the Victoria’s Secret shop window at age of 4. “I like those ladies,” he said, in an awed tone of voice, suddenly and completely oblivious to everything else around him. “Their bare tummies make my tummy feel good.” The male brain is the male brain from the earliest age, and as I share in Through A Man’s Eyes, that means we moms need to know how to help those little eyes be careful what they see from the earliest ages.
2. It is an almost overwhelming curiosity — and temptation. Even the most honorable, godly young men have a deep-down curiosity to see the naked female form. And once they do, they are usually incredibly tempted to do whatever is necessary, to click on whatever link, to investigate whatever source will allow them to see it again. And again. Last year, I remember a few of my fellow moms being shocked that the eighth grade boys at our Christian school had all listed “pornography” as the primary life temptation they were trying to fight. Our boys need us to wake up to the strength of this temptation. They need our awareness, help, and compassion in that fight up through adulthood.
3. It is a temptation the honorable boys don’t want. My son broke down in tears as he confessed looking at something he shouldn’t have looked at, online. Like many boys I’ve researched, he wants to be honorable toward women. He wants to do what God asks. He doesn’t want this temptation, and it makes me furious at how often his brain is being stimulated in this culture, and how hard it is to avoid that stimulation (and thus that temptation). Yes, when our boys make the wrong decisions and repeatedly make bad choices, they need consequences, they need help, and they need to know we are disappointed in them. But we need to know that they are also disappointed in themselves. Often, in fact, we need great wisdom about when our boys may need support more than discipline. This fight cannot be us-versus-our-sons. It must be us and our sons side by side, confronting a temptation that is thrown at them every day, and which neither of us want them to have.
4. It is something they cannot confront well without our help. Because it can be awkward to talk about, few boys will ever tell you this… but they need your help. For an honorable young man, at least, there is great comfort in knowing that Mom and Dad have installed accountability or filtering software on all media devices, or have put unbreakable passwords on the “iffy” cable channels, so that they can’t look at those things without getting caught. Also, when I was interviewing young men for the book, it was clear they would actually talk to their mom about these things if they could trust that she wouldn’t freak out. So no matter what your son says, be ultra-calm and matter-of-fact. Acknowledge that you don’t have a male brain, but let your son know you want to understand, will never freak out about anything he shares (even if you have to impose consequences, you won’t flip, emotionally) and that you want to know how to support him. If you are married, your husband will better understand what your son is going through, and the two of you will need to partner on the best way to handle things. As a man, he will also be your best source for inside information. (Including, sometimes, talking you down off your ledge about whether a certain incident is a big deal or not!)
In today’s culture there’s no perfect way of handling things. But we love our boys. So let’s step up to the plate. Let’s get more aware, educate ourselves, and be there for our sons, so we can help them in this fight this temptation, side by side.
Want to know how to be kind, when you’re really not feeling it? My research uncovered three daily actions that will transform your relationships – and you. Check out The Kindness Challenge, now available!
Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.