Conversation: Richard Dobbins
Dr. Richard Dobbins, founder of EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio, served more than 40 years as a Christian psychologist. He now resides in Naples, Fla., and is president of Richard D. Dobbins Ministries (www.drdobbins.com). He has authored several books including Invisible Imprint and, most recently, Teaching Your Children the Truth about Sex. Assistant Editor Jennifer McClure recently spoke with Dobbins.
tpe: What would you say to parents who are hesitant to talk to their children about sex?
DOBBINS: Parents have to ask themselves this question: ÒWhom do I want to be the first person to talk to my child about sex?Ó I think most parents would want that conversation to begin with the parent, not with the public schools, not with the child's peers and certainly not with exposure to pornography.
If the parent doesn't talk to the child, then the child develops a feeling that this is a part of life he or she can't talk to the parent about. This will drive the child to other sources of information.
tpe: Why do you believe public schools are not equipped to teach children about sex?
DOBBINS: They're teaching values that are contradictory to the Scriptures and to our Christian way of viewing sexuality. They're teaching it's perfectly normal for a child to have two fathers or two mothers, so they're normalizing homosexuality and homosexual families with adopted children. In order to not make children raised in these families feel uncomfortable, they are teaching all the other children to accept homosexuality and homosexual families as normal and just as sanctioned by God as heterosexual families. If you don't want your child learning that in public school, then before the child goes to school you need to get biblical values in place in the child's mind.
tpe: What role, if any, should the church have in sex education?
DOBBINS: I don't think the church should teach children about sex. Sex education belongs in the home. But the church is certainly the institution in our society that should be training parents how to provide sex education for their children from a biblical point of view. Since most of our sexual taboos are religious in origin, I think it's appropriate that the church take the initiative and train parents how to impart healthy sexual values that are consistent with Scripture.
Parents want to take this responsibility, but their parents didn't talk to them about sex so they don't know how to talk to the children about it. Often, the parents of the child are not comfortable talking to each other about sex. If they are not comfortable talking to each other as husband and wife about this subject, it's highly unlikely they're going to talk to their child about it.
tpe: At what age should parents begin discussing sex with their children?
DOBBINS: As soon as the child can talk. It begins with teaching children the proper names for their body parts rather than nicknames. Before children start school they should know where babies come from and how babies are formed.
Before a child reaches puberty, parents should have already explained the physical changes that will occur in their bodies. They shouldn't depend on the public schools to explain it to their child. They should get the information and clinical drawings that make it very easy to present puberty to the child, and it gives the parent an opportunity to introduce the child to the miracle and mystery of life. Children need to know about reproduction as soon as their bodies are capable of reproduction.
Begin to awe the child with the mystery and miracle of life, to teach the child reverence for life, because the public schools are secularizing sex. In a godly home, a child should always associate the idea of sexual pleasure with the idea and dream of growing up and finding the person God means to be their husband or wife.
tpe: How important is a parent's role in preventing a child from having sexual relations before marriage?
DOBBINS: If the parents have lived by the standards they're setting for their children, they have the strongest platform. They can tell their children how saving intercourse for marriage has simplified their life.
On the other hand, as is often the case, if parents haven't achieved what they hope for their child, they can honestly share the pain and the complications that poor sexual decisions brought into their life. Hopefully their children will understand their desire to protect their child from that if they can.
During such conversations, you never want to imply that a child's poor sexual decision will excommunicate them from the family.
tpe: How can a parent influence rather than control their child's sexual choices?
DOBBINS: The idea is to keep the communication conversational, educational and informational. If you preach to the child about sexuality, they'll just turn you off.
When you are a good parent and you do a good job of educating your children, if the child ignores or abuses that information, God will not hold you responsible for poor sexual decisions they may make. However, the responsibility for carrying on a dialogue with the child belongs to every parent and especially to the Christian parent.
tpe: How can a parent help a child understand the difference between love and lust without seeming old-fashioned or overprotective?
DOBBINS: Lust is selfish. It's using another person to satisfy your own desire for pleasure. It makes no commitment, and it assumes no responsibility. Love is the unselfish giving of yourself to another, to whom you make a total commitment and for whom you take total responsibility. There is nothing old-fashioned or overprotective about these principles.
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