Doing Life Together

This week has been filled with reports about NFL Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s accusation of reckless or negligent injury to his four-year-old son. The incident has once again raised the controversy surrounding the use of corporal punishment.

Three issues are key in this debate:

1) What is spanking? People have wide variations in their definitions when it comes to actually defining spanking. According to Webster, spanking is “to strike especially on the buttocks with an open hand.” The American Academy of Pediatrics adds that the strike should not cause physical injury of any kind. When physical injury occurs, the spanking moves from discipline to abuse. In Peterson’s case, the pictures tell a story of injury to the child and the child was not spanked with an open hand.

2) Is spanking effective? Spankings stops a behavior. Children comply immediately, but it does not improve behavior. One study of moms who spanked their children showed that within 10 minutes, 73% of the children spanked were again engaging in the same behavior. Other studies show that spanking can be effective in the short-term for children ages 2-6 when used with other mild disciplinary methods like reasoning and time-out. In the long-run, however, when spanking is continuously used, there is an association with depression, aggressiveness and antisocial behaviors. This doesn’t mean that spanking causes those behaviors, only that it is associated with those behaviors. It may be that difficult kids are more prone to those behaviors anyway.

3) What does spanking do to the relationship between parent and child? Certainly spanking models physical aggression as a way to deal with behavior. It is also associated with poorer relationships between parents and children. The problem is that spanking can easily escalate to a parent being out of control and becoming overly aggressive. This is especially true when you use an object other than your hand because you can’t easily monitor how hard you are hitting the child. Frequency and severity of corporal punishment matter. In Peterson’s case, the photos of the child may indicate that he crossed a line. And if he did, the relationship suffers.

Bottom line: There is a difference between controlled spanking and child abuse. This is one of the reasons many schools still allow spanking and why it is legal in all states. The problem comes when spanking becomes frequent and severe causing injury to the child. That is when cases are reported to be investigated for abuse.

A friend of mine was having coffee with me and mentioned something that took me aback. Someone we know is allowing her son’s girlfriend to live in the house with them and have sex under their roof. Neither of these “kids” are 21 and the family claims to be Christian. Honestly, I don’t understand!

But a piece in the Huffington Post brought the thinking to light. The “experts” say that your kids are going to have sex so you might as well let them do it in your home!”  And they go on to say that the “safest” place to have sex is in your home.

First of all, not all teens are having sex! And sex is safer because it is in your home? Hello, the same risks apply no matter where you are having sex. And why would any thinking parent want to encourage sexual activity in teens to begin with? Allowing them to have sex in your home is encouraging it no matter how you try to spin it. You are saying, you are mature enough to handle this relationship. This defies common sense. It’s like saying, my teen wants to try heroin so I will get it and help him use it in my home where he can be safe!

Part of the conversation in this piece is the idea that there is “no right age to begin allowing your child to have partners stay the night” (Psychologist  Suzanne Pearson). Well, Suzanne, some of us believe that the right age is irrelevant. Having sex is supposed to happen in the context of being married. My kids can spend the night with their partners when they marry them! This idea of sex outside of marriage if you are happy with the person, STI free or in a great relationship demeans the sanctity of marriage and relegates sex to a casual act, negating the emotional distress related to break up. Come to my office and listen to all the young adults who wished they hadn’t given themselves sexual to people they no longer date.

Just because a teen can prevent pregnancy and is STI free doesn’t mean that the emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of having sex go away. On the contrary, this is the part we don’t talk about. Yet, it is devastating to self-esteem, attachment and intimacy issues. Familiarize yourself with the neuroscience of attachment and the impact of the release of the bonding hormone Oxytocin!

Call me old fashion, but I still believe in teaching my children that sex is not a casual thing to be given away outside of marriage. It is not only psychologically devastating, but morally wrong. And you can teach this to your teens without clubbing them over the head with issues of right and wrong.

Refusing to have you kids have causal sex in your home is based on having a moral compass of right and wrong. Did God set it up this way to prevent our enjoyment? On the contrary, He created us and knows the complexity of our whole person. Waiting to have sex in marriage is protective not punitive!

Will some teens give in to temptation? Of course, but I would rather help them through their mistake, love them and encourage them to become celibate again–to wait and give themselves completely to the person who will make a lifelong commitment to them in marriage. Sex is to be treasured and is beautiful when expressed in the marriage bed.

16-year-olds do not have the brain development to make good decisions in this area of life. They are hormonally driven and think with their genitals not their brains. Their “instincts” are to have sex, but this is the time in life they are supposed to be learning to bridle their passions and develop self-control. So parents, do your job and help them develop self-control and bridle their passions and lust.

Sex at 16 is rarely love. It is about lust and attraction. No right thinking parent should encourage such behavior in their teen and certainly not make the family home a place to act out casual sex.


ID-100234581During an evening talk show  there were plenty of jokes about pornography. And as the host and celebrity guest settled down, it was evident, porn, in their opinions, is no big deal.  If fact, many of the tabloids and even a few respected marital therapists, will tell you that a little porn is fine and may even enhance your marriage? But is this true?

Absolutely not. Pornography use increases your risk of separation and divorce, decreases marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction. In addition, it increase your appetite for more graphic types of pornography and can cause you to lose interest in relational sex.

The impact on marriage is such that the spouse feels betrayed, rejected, hurt, abandoned, lonely, isolated and angry. And the one viewing porn is having lustful thoughts about someone other than his/her spouse.

Exposing yourself to pornography leads to a lack of trust, a belief that sex is confining in marriage, and a belief that promiscuity is natural, creating a cynicism about the role of love and affection in a marriage.

To my knowledge, there are no known studies or data to suggest that there are any benefits to pornography use. However, the reports of damage are many. The damage is not only to the viewer, but to the spouse and family as well. And pornography is usually addicting when continuously consumed.

In the end, porn usually destroys marriages. So if you are being tempted by porn, don’t go there. If you are using, get help and stop. Your marriage depends on it.

ID-100255107Money can’t buy you love but it sure can make love difficult. Especially if you are in a relationship and not managing your money well. When it comes to money, here are 5 tips to live in relationship harmony:

1) Decide how your credit cards will be used when you enter a relationship. One person can create lots of debt but the financially burden falls on both and can ruin credit. So look at your credit debt, decide on which cards to use and which ones to cut up. Then discuss what the rules of use will be in your relationship and stay accountable to each other for those rules.

2) Talk about ALL purchases, especially anything over $100. Don’t hide your finances and expect the relationship to go well. Be up front regarding need and want. Make decisions about buying as a couple.

3) Share your spending and buying strategies. Your habits have developed since childhood, but your partner doesn’t know how you think about money and spending unless you share that information. It’s best to talk strategy at the beginning of a relationship and develop a plan the two of you can agree upon. Look at your family spending habits and see where areas of incompatibility and compatibility seem to be.

4) Don’t make excuses or look for someone to bail you out when you overspend. Staying within the spending limits brings peace to a relationship. Ignoring the guidelines creates tension and bad will. If you blow it, have to plan to fix the issue. Be honest and fix the problem.

5) Figure out who handles money the best of the two of you and allow that person to be the overseer. If you are better at finances and allow your partner to be in control, resentment might build up. Better to talk about who runs finances the best and give that person the lead. When couples can honestly decide who handles money best and yield control to that person, conflict usually stays low.