Sexual Character: Supports

When we think about character, we usually think about things “inside” the person. But what people do, and indeed who people are, is strongly influenced by their environment. The scientific research on sexual behavior of adolescents finds that another powerful predictor of whether or not a teen will be sexually active is what that teen’s peers are doing. Sexually active peers put strong pressure on a teen to follow suit.

Keep Good Company

The Bible is realistic in recognizing this important factor: On the negative side, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). On the positive side, many of the exhortations in the New Testament epistles are targeted at shaping the interpersonal environments in which we move and live as Christians with the expectation that good relationships will help us be good people.

The family environment. Begin by carefully attending to the family environment. Have you created an environment of love, respect, listening, affirmation, humor, and support? Remember, a close relationship between parent and child is one of the best predictors for the child acting responsibly in adolescence. A close, supportive relationship with the parent becomes a support that determines who that child is. Additionally, the supportive family helps to meet critical needs of the child, reinforces proper values and beliefs, and reinforces important skills.

The peer environment. Second, peers and friends powerfully shape a child’s environment. Because you care for your children, you will try respectfully to influence their choices of friends and the ways they spend time with those friends. You can try to channel your children’s peer groups into productive and rewarding recreational activities as opposed to destructive pursuits. By finding a church and youth group environment that is rewarding, healthy, supportive and fun, you help your child form their supports properly. We can encourage some friendships and discourage others. We need to be extremely cautious in doing this, lest we manipulate our children or interfere in an inappropriate way.

Train Kids to Shape Their Environments

Teach children how to shape their own environments. Actively train kids to recognize high-risk situations, how to avoid them or get out of them early, and to develop the skills needed to deal effectively with such situations.

Lindy could have benefited from knowing that bus rides after dark can be pressure situations, from knowing how to negotiate limits on relationships early, and from having thought through how to resist sexual pressure. For children to do this, they must develop an understanding of their own limits and how to compensate for areas where they lack strength.

Your child’s needs, values, beliefs, skills, and supports are the main elements of his or her character. Taking steps at each point in the parenting journey to shape these facets of character as God would desire is among the greatest gifts you can give your child. All of what we propose in what follows is structured around shaping each of these facets of character. As a parent, you can have a powerful influence on your child in each of these areas.