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When the Worst Happens

June 15, 2010

WARNING to parents! Mature subject matter. Some of the topics in this article are not appropriate for children.

Woe is the day when a good friend rages, “My little girl said that your son...” Or worse, you walk in on your boys and a neighbor kid in a state of undress, experimenting with their bodies. The horrors of discovering that your young teenage boy is addicted to the worst kinds of pornography, or catching your girls trading lurid notes with other girls or boys! I could go on and speak of the things you may discover about your sons or daughters at various ages, beginning at three or four years of age, but “it is a shame to even speak of those things done of them in secret.”

We get the ugly letters. Parents are shocked, angered, and then brokenhearted and finally despondent. In one very rigid family the parents discovered their teenage boys and girls were engaged in immorality, and the parents were so demoralized that they turned back to their pre-church, pre-homeschool days of drinking, smoking, and bar hopping. The whole family went to hell. But one of the girls, after several years of marriage, experienced the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ, and it is she who wrote their story, now dismayed for her wayward parents.

There is no safe place. You cannot move to heaven. Even our little church and tight community discovers untoward behavior among some of the children from time to time. The Amish and Mennonite community has its share of horse dung now and then. You can isolate your children from all outside influences, yet they will discover and cultivate the lord of the flies lurking in their own flesh. Most kids have had some sort of sexual contact before they reach puberty.

We parents expect the best of our children. We train them to do what is right and protect them from evil influences. We are concerned when we see moral tragedies all around us, awful failures, kids taking the short road to hell. We know something like that could never happen to our children, for we are Christians and our kids are brought up to know right from wrong. Yes, we should have the highest of expectations, but if the unexpected happens and the devil dumps on our doorstep, do we know how to respond? Sometimes our parental response to a child’s divergence into the profoundly ugly is the deciding factor as to whether it is a one-time curiosity or a permanent turn down the road to perdition.

We hear too many stories from shocked and horrified parents. “How could this happen? I didn’t believe my son was capable of this. We did everything right.” And it’s true. You can do everything right and your children can still end up exposed to the sins of Sodom, the adultery of David and the fornication of Samson. The question is, have you gone beyond just “raising them right” to taking proactive steps to arm them against the day of dark temptation?

Innocence is no hedge

I am amazed at parents’ belief that they and their children are somehow immune to the depravity of the human race, that good is the default position in their family. If I didn’t have a Holy Bible, I would definitely believe in a sinful nature. Observable phenomena are indisputable. Universal depravity is more certain than taxes or death. Yet by the grace of God, through his Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be overcomers in this world, and we can train up our children in the way they should go so they will not depart from it, but such is the supernatural exception, common to those who fear God, not the status quo.

Children are not born with our values. They do not come into the world good. They come innocent. And innocence is a two-way street, with no signs—only desire. Just as innocence provides no propensity to evil, it provides no protection from the false promises of the fun of experimentation. All options are equal in the mind of a child who has not yet come to a full knowledge of good and evil, something that comes to complete fruition by at least age 19. That which is morally obvious to us adults is—to a child—nothing more than two flavors. Why should one be eaten and the other shunned? They know not. So they taste all that is available until they develop a taste one way or the other. Eve couldn’t discern any difference between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that led to death and the tree that would perpetuate life. She didn’t possess the experience and maturity to differentiate—as is the case with all children. But innocence is no hedge against the consequences inherent in any departure from the holy and pure.

The surprise and shock experienced by parents stems from children’s ability to originally conceive sin. Not all sins are copycats; not all spring from temptations without. Where children are concerned, there are many original sins. The natural appetites of flesh and mind are sufficient to account for the sins of youth. “A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame”, but even a child well-guarded and properly instructed will, like Eve, be tempted to taste the forbidden fruit, knowing not that a flaming sword will part them from their garden of innocence.

Reverse trend

I have noticed a trend down through the years. Some parents are suspicious and distrusting of the flesh of their children and of the human race in general. They know their teen boys are going to, at the very least, take a mind trip down the road of immorality. These discerning parents know their young sons are going to come in contact with queer bait boys and grabbing girls. They are wisely suspicious of the preacher’s sons, the choir director’s girls, the old man teaching Sunday school, and the woman giving piano lessons. Then there are those parents who seem to trust everybody in the church and anyone who maintains a respectable lifestyle and has a good reputation. They act as if evil comes with a devil suit and a sign. They allow their children to run in a herd with other kids and believe evil resides on the other side of the tracks only.

If experience had not taught me something different, I would believe that parents who expect evil and take extra steps to guard their children are the ones who had rough pasts, and that parents who are naively trusting that their kids “would never do anything like that” are the innocent ones who have never seen true evil up close. Surprisingly, not so. Often parents who have come from the dark side of the tracks think they left evil behind and that their children could not possibly get involved in the things they experienced in the sick and seedy world of their pasts. Those of us who were brought up in the church and protected from societal evil can examine our own hearts and know that innocence is no haven against imaginations of the flesh.

Two-to six-year-olds

What do you do if you suddenly discover you have a child that has been dancing with the devil? This is the most important thing I will say to you, so listen carefully: When the worst happens, do not assume it is all over. Do not go into mourning. Do not persecute the child. Don’t give up. Know that there is yet plenty of hope.

I am not merely telling you to keep a positive attitude like the doctor might tell you to do after informing you that you have brain cancer. Hear me now. Statistically-speaking, a young child who engages in shameful behavior is not by any means destined to be a pervert. Now think back to when you were a child. Did you ever get alone with a cousin or sibling and discuss the intimacies of what mommies and daddies do in private? Do you ever remember out of curiosity examining a member of the same or opposite sex? Did you ever view pornography? Did it make a pervert out of you? Did it totally destroy your life? A small percentage will say it was the first step to a downward road. For most it was just a passing discovery. I am not minimizing the seriousness of childhood participation in aberrant behavior, but I would like to minimize your emotional response, to prevent you from reacting in a way that is going to leave horrible scars where there would otherwise be quick healing, or maybe no wound at all.

According to age and need

Our response should be measured according to the needs and age of the child. The key is to discern the heart of the child. Children under five may see their parents or someone on television making love. Be sure, like everything else the world offers, they are going to try kissing or fondling any other boy or girl, sibling or friend, just to see why adults find such delight in it. When they find it to be quite boring, they will give up the idea and try a different flavor of ice cream. Unless they are led on by older children who do find excitement and stimulation, the little ones will not be harmed by curious investigation of their bodies or of others their age. Their exploration is certainly not desirable and may be a warning flag, but it does not mean you have a sexually active four-year-old.

If you should catch your very young children in this kind of unseemly behavior, do not blow your lid and go ballistic. First, without any show of emotion (difficult, I know,) evaluate the scene. Do they display guilt at being discovered thus? If not, then just say, “Put your clothes back on and stop that. That is what mamas and daddies do, not children.” Show a normal amount of irritation or mild anger as you would at a common infraction of the rules. Then make a show of forgetting it. But don’t forget it; keep an eye on them and make sure that is the end of it. You don’t want to attach guilt or shame to something they will otherwise forget for lack of significance. Don’t make more of the event than they made of it. Then in your regular Bible story time with them, teach the law of God concerning adultery, incest, fornication, etc., but at an appropriate level to their age and understanding.

Now what if the young children respond with strong guilt or shame? Make sure it is not just a reflection of the shock and shame on your face. If it is a true reflection of their souls, chances are this is not the first time and they are deriving some kind of illicit pleasure out of the event. They are knowingly violating their consciences. You have a sinner in the house.

It is yet important to remain calm and in control. You need to separate the kids and talk to each one individually. As much as it pains you, get the whole story. It is now important to express controlled shame and disgust at their deeds, but not so intensely as to cause them to clam up. They need to see your sadness, your tears, your grief, but this will pass, so allow them space for repentance. Don’t create an atmosphere that will prevent them from feeling loved and forgiven.

I have suggested that if the small child seems to be doing nothing more than experimenting out of curiosity, don’t highlight the moment by making a big deal out of it, and wait until later to teach them about Sodom and Gomorrah and the sin and judgment of King David. But if there is great guilt and shame, if this is a secret sin to the child, the time to teach is right now. Again, stay calm and in control. They have a spanking coming. If there are children involved who are not your own, and you feel the other parents will share your approach to discipline, and they are immediately available, they should be called to participate in the “court proceedings.” If you feel the other parents are not going to sympathize with your approach, separate out any that are not your own children and then deal with your kids alone.

After briefly defining their transgression and telling them the evil of their deeds, with all of your children that were involved present, spank them soundly. If you are not in control of your emotions, save the spanking until you are. Do no harm to the child. That would be counterproductive. They need to see a dignified judge passing sentence, not an out of control personal response of violence. If they are expecting a spanking, by getting it out of the way, they will be more focused on what you have to say. Now sit them down for a serious Bible study on their sin and the consequences.

If there are other children in the house who are aware of the foul deed, and are old enough to benefit from the teaching, they should sit in on the session, as well. As you teach, it will be appropriate to continue to express limited grief and sadness. More is caught than taught. You should have already been teaching these things to your kids in your regular Bible story lessons, but, if not, now is the time. For those who feel completely inept at teaching, I suggest the Sex Education for Children audio message that instructs kids in Biblical prohibitions against sexual sins. As a preventive measure, Deb and I addressed the subject to our children at least once a year, and from time to time they heard instruction and warning in sermons and adult Bible classes. All the children, of any age, sat in on the teaching.

Seven- to twelve-year-olds

Even where it concerns older children, all is not lost. There will be better days. Do you remember the story we have told of the beautiful homeschooled girl, lying in an uninsulated one-room shack with no water, electricity, or heat, delivering the baby of an empty-headed boyfriend? Deb, my wife, functioned as her midwife and then brought her and the child into our home to recover. The offended and insulted parents had shunned her to hide their own shame and protect the rest of the children from her bad influence. But her life got even worse after she married the father of her child and he took her to live in his father’s house. It wasn’t long before she discovered dark deeds involving a stepmother and trade-ups made in the night, things I cannot describe without being vulgar beyond bounds accepted in state prisons.

She took her baby and fled to where even we could not locate her. The parents were brokenhearted to the point of treating her as if she were never born. It took about two years for her to surface. Today, fifteen years later, she is happily married to a fine man and has several more children by him. She is still a lovely person and no one would ever know that she walked the valley of the shadow of shame. I do not know how she now relates to her parents, but I wonder if they wish they had acted with a little more grace and hope. I have seen too many parents deal with a crisis like this by taking on a permanent state of sadness and rejection. They end up destroying the rest of the family and drive them all out of the home early.

Teenagers can be amazingly volatile and foolish. They can scream they hate you and never want to see you again, disappear out of your life seemingly forever, and, one year later, be sitting at your kitchen table chatting like nothing ever happened. When they are thirty-five years old, married and with several kids, they will shake their heads in embarrassment at their foolish years. The question is, will you still be a part of their lives, or will you have responded with such anger and criticism that they chose to live without you?

So what does it mean and how should you handle it when a seven- to twelve-year-old diverges into some form of sexual curiosity or activity? The age brackets I discuss are not rigid. You must understand the principle and adjust to the needs of your child. First, know that at this age it has the possibility of being serious. You must get all the facts first. If you immediately show great anger, they will likely clam up on you. Try to appear calm and objective as you ask questions. If it takes an hour to wear them down to telling all, then stay with it until you are confident you have gotten all the details. “Has this been going on for a long time? When and with whom did it start? What other expressions have you indulged in? Why do you do it? What has influenced you to do this—television, videos, computer, a peek at mommy and daddy, seeing someone else, viewing pornography in a magazine, contact with an adult?”

Then ask them how they feel about what they were doing in secret. You want to discover how deeply they are violating their consciences. If you have not exposed your children to teaching against sexual promiscuousness, and have not taught them Bible stories that warn against such, then they may consider it not much more than stealing a cookie. If you determine this to be the case, it does not lessen the ramifications of the events, but it does modify the way you respond. Now is the time to show grief and sadness while you teach and instruct them against such practices. Commence a daily Bible study in which you teach the stories of God’s displeasure and judgment against sexual sins. Teach on sexual sins every day for about two weeks and then leave the subject and teach the greatness of God and his goodness and mercy and forgiveness. Teach the book of John or Mark, story by story all the way through. Teach the Psalms and especially Proverbs. As you come to the subject in Scripture, teach against sexual promiscuousness at least once a month.

If, before the events, your children have been well-taught about the sinfulness of their deeds and they have indulged anyway, the problem is much more serious. They do not fear God and do not believe his Word. Ask yourself why and remedy that problem in the future. Willful sinners, of any age, who turn away from their consciences, are on the road to addiction and perdition. You need to bring the Biblical truth to bear in such a way that they fear to walk the dark path. In your teaching time, recount the horrors of hell and eternal suffering.

Children who have violated their consciences will need to be soundly spanked after they have understood the awfulness of their sin. Their souls need the release that judgment brings. This will be one of those rare times when you give them more licks, distributed over a wider area so as not to bruise or damage the skin. They need to know this is an especially dark deed deserving of special judgment.

How should you respond when post puberty children engage in sexual conduct?

I know you understand this is a different matter altogether. Girls do not just grow into sexual interest and passion. They must be conditioned to it by some outside influence. But boys develop sexual passion by just going through puberty. No one need tell them anything. It is their destiny. Parents and the church must prepare boys for the transformation and temptation their hormones will bring. If a boy just follows his drives, he will become a predator and quickly develop into a deviant. Passion, fire, aggression, and violence are in the members of all fourteen-year-old boys. Only though self-restraint and discipline can a young man contain his passions and wait his turn to “possess his vessel in sanctification and honor”. I know of only two things that can constrain a young man—the morals and restraints of community, and the Word of God.

All that we said concerning your response to a pre-puberty child is true here, but there is an important added element: you are now dealing with an adult—in various degrees, depending on age and maturity. The only restraint will be self-restraint. The kid must repent, change his mind about his actions and choose to suffer the pains of temptation in self-denial. Only by the power of the gospel in his life will this happen. Once the flower blooms there is no putting it back in the bud. The trick is to now keep it in the flower stage until it can be taken to a wedding.

How should we relate to children other than our own?

Once, a parent came to my wife shocked and upset. Her five-year-old son came to her telling how another boy, eight years old, had cornered him in an aggressive manner and demanded to see his “PP.” The five-year-old was afraid of the older boy but refused to expose himself. Good training! The mother acted as if she had just lost her innocence. “How could this happen among good Christian families?” Probably because they are sons of Adam, made of flesh. If you think otherwise you are naive at best.

Now how should this mother and father relate to the family with the PP-peeking pervert? The short answer is, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17–18). Look at the wording, “mark them.” Put a mark on them so you and everyone else can “avoid” them.

As far as your children are concerned, the offender is as taboo as a rattlesnake. The offender will probably grow up to be normal, but know that he is part of the pool that will produce the small percentage of perverts that decorate the walls of post offices and occupy the cells of prisons. You should have compassion for the offender, and if you are in a position to minister to him, do so, but your first duty is to protect your children from rattlesnakes by never allowing them in the same yard together. That is not to say that you take your children and go home if the offender’s family ends up at the same gathering as yours, but it does mean that by all means you quietly and inoffensively take whatever steps are necessary to keep your children from ever spending five seconds alone in his presence. By alone I mean standing and talking within sight but out of hearing.

We want to be balanced and compassionate. What if you are the parent of the offender? Would you want others to just throw your son away? Would you want the church and community to publicly mark him as a pervert? Of course not. Then do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You have two separate responsibilities. You must first assure the protection and sanctity of your son, and then you must do what you can to save the offender from his untoward behavior. Keep in mind that the offender will most likely grow up to be quite normal. It could have been just a moment of curiosity. We do not want to publicly destroy the young boy or girl and thereby force them into a life of isolation and anger.

On the other hand, even if the event (and possibly several others like it) does not cause the boy to grow up to be a pervert or a predator, know that his possibly passing display of voyeurism or curious moment of exploration could have much more negative consequences on those whom he infects. He might grow up to be normal while he leaves behind weaker souls who grow up to hang out in the men’s rooms at interstate rest stops. We must be protectors first and healers second—but never persecutors.

Repeat offenders

If a nine-year-old is a repeat offender and has on more than one occasion tried to see the private members of another boy or girl, it is obvious that he has a chronic problem. Mark him to your children, by discussing the evil of his ways. Let your children see an attitude of disgust on the one hand and compassion and pity on the other. During your family worship time and in your bedtime prayers, pray for the offender’s lost soul.

Never allow your children to play with or even talk to the child. It won’t do any good to change churches. Kids everywhere are offenders. Where you are now, at the very least, you have identified one offender. There are others in the same group—in any group, without exception.

Deb spotted two post-puberty Amish girls in the creek feeling each other. When she confronted them they confessed that several of the girls carried on in such a manner in the two-stall privy at the one-room schoolhouse. When Deb had them confess to their parents, the parents were so uncomfortable discussing it that they dismissed her and buried the whole thing with silence. The girls appear to have grown up to be “normal,” except one.

Pretend it never happened

Many parents will pretend it never happened, or if it did happen it doesn’t mean anything. Once, in our own church service, a visiting girl who is homeschooled but attends a public church passed a note to one of our girls who has been known to offend. The note said...I can’t tell you what it said, but it had the strongest of lesbian content. The parents brushed it off with a smile and the remark, “Oh, you know, kids will be kids.” Yeah, and kids will be little Sodomites and fornicators as well. Remember, children died in Sodom and Gomorrah just like the adults. And when God sent Israel to possess wicked Canaan, he told them to kill every man, woman, and child. Yes, they could not adopt one of the beautiful little two-year-old girls, for the whole nation was conditioned to great immorality and infected with disease.

Judge and Jury

Do not become a persecutor of the offenders. Don’t act vindictively. Don’t despise the parents. Put yourself in their place. You could be there three years from now. Have compassion. Be sympathetic. By all means, protect your children, but don’t give your own kids cause to see you as hostile. You may generate sympathy for the offender and render yourself dislikeable in the eyes of your own kids.

Fourteen to eighteen-year-olds

There are two kinds of teenage offenses—consensual and predatory. Our response should reflect that difference. Predators should be reported to the law and incarcerated. It will be the end of their moral life, for they will be placed in a government institution with other perverts where they will prey on one another and learn all the foul arts of Sodom. It is sad, but under Mosaic law they would have been stoned to death.

If you have teenagers that descend into the dark pit of sexual promiscuousness, it is too late to parent them into a course correction. When the member gets out of the pants it cannot be put back in except by the crucifying power of the Holy Spirit. (See my series, Sin No More.) Your job will be to manage them in a manner that minimizes the impact of their sin upon the rest of the family and upon others with whom they come in contact.

If they are cooperative and repentant, thank God and show mercy and forgiveness. Offer support and try to normalize the relationship.

If you become aware your child is involved in consensual sexual activity with a child about the same age, you must view both of them as equally guilty even though one of them may have been initially the experienced predator. There are too many variations for me to cover all the possibilities.

Extremes

My readers come in a variety of extremes. I know that it is impossible to communicate clearly with all of you. Some are so “compassionate” and afraid to offend that they will believe the best, cover sins with silence, and ignorantly act as if all is well, giving evil the cloak it needs to continue its insidious, undetected infestation. Other of my readers are “fearless defenders of the truth” who pride themselves in their stand for righteousness. They will recklessly condemn the guilty and mark in bright red the offenders, hounding them with condemnation until they are driven out of the company of “decent folks.” I would have to speak in the extreme, one way or the other, to reach the radical left and right on this or any issue. I am sad to confess that most of my readers will only remember those words that enforce their already preconditioned perspectives. The compassionate will avoid judgment and the judgmental will refuse to show compassion, as has been their manner all along.

Conflicted

I must confess that I am conflicted. Part of me would like to mark all the sinning children, separate our families, and shun the offenders altogether. But there is another part of me that wants to redeem the sinning children and weep with parents who must deal with these issues. One of the things that gives me hope is my many years of experience. God is merciful and longsuffering, and I have seen him forgive people I wouldn’t have buried with my dead dog. I have observed as God lifts a piece of trash from the ground and holds it to his heart. As I watch in awe, it turns into a lovely son or daughter of God. The useless is united with heaven itself, and he is not ashamed to call them brethren. I don’t want to get to heaven and find God hugging something I threw away.

So, I say again, first protect your children, and then reach out in compassion to lost souls of any age. Secure the safety of your family and then become missionaries to an evil world. Just because the devil is clutching something, don’t fear to reach for it with a hand of mercy and a heart of grace. The blood of Jesus Christ covers a multitude of sin. (See my teaching from the book of Hebrews.)

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6: 11).

Help Me Help You

There is so much I didn’t say and couldn’t cover in the space allowed. I am no expert on the subject. I am not a counselor on sexual matters. I would be glad to leave this subject to those more qualified, but there is a vacuum I have tried to fill. I welcome your input. It may well be that I am blind to some of the issues or have overlooked good solutions. As you share your perspectives I will learn from you and take that into consideration when addressing this subject in the future.

For more information on how to talk to your kids about Biblical prohibitions against sexual sins, get Michael Pearl's audio message called Sex Education for Children, available at the NGJ Web Store.


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42 comments on “When the Worst Happens”

  1. What an excellent article and well-timed. I have a 5 year-old girl who would from time to time squeeze her legs together in a self-stimulating kind of way. We have been watching her more closely and teaching from the bible, but I appreciate your suggestion of how much and how often and which books.

  2. Thank you Mr. Pearl for your wisdom and biblical teaching on this difficult subject. This is an article worth saving, for sure. Especially good points about having compassion and prayer for the offenders - after ensuring your child's safety!

  3. What conversations can we have with our 9 year old daughter and our 11 year old son to innoculate them from the sexual perversions they will come across in the church, etc.? We've done our best to try and prepare them, but we are certainly open to more wise suggestions. No one helped prepare my husband and I when we were children, so we would appreciate some practical guidelines--exactly what to say. You are very good at offering practical advice--the step-by-step. What did you say to your own kids? Have you already written an article that covers this topic? Thank you very much.

  4. Thank you so much, Bro Pearl for addressing this. I find that almost no one is willing to talk about these difficult matters. I have tried warning other parents of such things, and to guard their children, but no one, even the ones who had been violated as children seem to think it will happen to their own. It seems that no one is willing to do what it takes to protect their children these days--Christian or not. I have felt alone many times because of how strongly I feel about this subject. Thank you again for constantly reminding us all of these ever-present dangers, and for giving us hope through the Bible on how to handle them. --An avid reader for almost 6 years

  5. Thank you dearly for writing this article. I am raising three boys to fear God and love Him above all else, but I admit that I may be a bit naive on this topic. I know that children can and will do these sinful things on their own, I have actually seen it in my oldest son. But I teach stronger now and are more involved in Bible study with my boys. I still have not, however, nor has my dear husband, taught about sex to our 10 year old son. We know that now is the time, before someone else teaches him. He is beginning to ask questions and we have a 6 year old who shares a room with him.
    So, thank you for your article. I will, NOW, not waste another minute being naive in believing that my younger sons will not be affected by sexual sin. In fact, I will do all that I can to protect them from it.

  6. Mr. Pearl, you are right on and described my 15 yr old daughter and i to a "T". I was shocked, then angry, then told my daughter I give up. And I did indeed. It took several months for us work it out. But with much prayer and intervention from others and the restoration of my own backbone, we are now on good terms. We are both glad to have made it through and can now see when other children and parents are going through the same thing and try to help when we can. You are so right in saying that when they come to their senses we want to be in their life. I was so close to giving up and just sending her away at age 18. My husband vetoed that idea. He is the voice of calm and reason in our household and he is not even a christian! Let Deb know that the best thing I ever did was to adore my husband in front of my children. If that had not been done there would have been no hope for my daughter who adores her dad. Thanks for such great articles, they have opened my eyes many times.

  7. Mike, I believe you are right on. Thank you for an opportunity to add our painful lessons to your article. Please be gentle as I share our errors and ignorance of evil, especially mine.

    The hardest part as a parents who tended to be naive was discovering the evil that occurred when we thought we were protecting our children.

    We learned the hard way that few people could be trusted as caregivers in our absence. I am glad we trained our children from young ages that there were private areas of their bodies that no one should view or touch. It was the areas their underwear covered or anywhere else they felt was private. They were likewise not to view or touch other people's private areas. When a sitter violated a private area our son was quick to tell us. We had left with plans but when we got to our nearby destination I told my husband I had a bad feeling and asked to go back home. We arrived and sensed something wrong. Our son came to us and told us what happened. He said he was worried about getting the person in trouble. We reassured him that the adult was wrong and had no right to the action. The adult got themselves in trouble and he was doing right to tell us. We commended him for telling us so we could better protect him.

    We were overseas with the military so family was unavailable. We discovered we could trust only a few close friends and worked out trades for childcare. Mostly we kept our children with us. They enjoyed the many different kinds of foods offered at eateries and fiestas.

    Sometimes warnings backfire. Our preschool daughter wandered away from me in a box store. I searched and quickly found her. She was with a woman. The woman said I should have a talk with my daughter because she asked the woman if she was a stranger!

    We learned that no sleepover was safe. I remember now that my friend across the street had a mechanical lock on the inside of her door. When I asked her what it was for she said it was for times when her dad got drunk and wanted in.

    We learned that a child's room is not a safe place to entertain another child without our presence or streaming audio/video. We didn't have the video, so we kept children with us, within sight.

    Unfortunately, we learned that taking in an unwanted, 7 yr. old niece, to raise had damaging, lasting effects on our other children. We were unaware of the evil done to her at young ages. It came out in her actions to our youngest son, a 4 yr. old. The hardest part of this kind of evil is the sneakiness that is perfected by the one carrying on the action. Who would expect a throw-away child to even knew about the things she did or asked our young son to do.

    I also learned I should have accompanied my daughter even on an afternoon play visit to the Christian family next door. In my absence a grandfather took liberties. When I learned that this man babysat the children frequently we reported it.

    There is no substitute to vigilant supervision within eyesight and hearing when other children visit or when we visit. We have no way of knowing if the child's parent is abusing that child or if a parent or sibling or other adult in the home is an abuser. Evil things were brought into our home both by our niece and later by a boy. One youth we were asked to supervise for a weekend was briefly left alone with our daughter when her brothers left the room where they were all playing. He took advantage of the brief minutes to expose himself.
    We learned of it immediately and questioned the boy. He admitted his action and implicated his father from our church. The boy said his dad did the same and more to his sister and that was why his mom left with his sister. Yikes!

    Even reporting crimes of adults on children went nowhere. Families defend an abuser with a violence I'd never seen. They also make excuses for them.

    One time we met long-term, but distant friends at a tourist destination. They brought their adult son. We had our young adolescent daughter. Because of diligent supervision we noticed the man's efforts to get near and touch our daughter in ways that appeared incidental. By then I'd learned to listen when I had a "feeling." My husband also respected my warning feelings. We kept her at our sides, and told him to keep his hands off her, which was enough to discourage him.

    Months later we camped at neighboring mountain sites. The son showed up and made a beeline toward our daughter. He was intercepted and told in no uncertain terms to keep his distance from her and what would happen if he spoke or touched her in any way. He heeded the warning and left the next morning after stealing what he wanted of the joint food boxes and coolers of camp food. Again by diligence and a stern warning his efforts were thwarted. Oh, we were angry. We hadn't known he would come by and pitch a tent.

    Without our presence we also have no way of knowing if another child is experimenting with same gender play. In a very young child I handled it as you suggested. In an older child, protection is the only way. Our daughter reported a church friend's attempts to introduce her to lesbian acts during a sleepover. The girl was only 12 yrs old! That eliminated sleepovers.

    By the grace of God we learned most of these things in a timely manner. God even worked to remove the niece we were raising before even more damage was done. She had began acting out again in adolescence.
    Although abused herself in her early years, we were unaware and unable to provide what she needed to end her evil behavior. She had counseling with questionable results.

    However, in our family she was brought to the Savior at a young age. Looking back that was the only lasting thing we did for her. Despite teaching her homemaking skills and making her pretty dresses and trying with all we had to love her, I felt like a failure as a mother to her and to our sons until I looked at with eyes toward eternity. She got in trouble with the neighbors for sharing the gospel with their children.
    Then at 16 with her other family in another town she did very well. She was the best behaved teen there. She completed high school, married and was killed in a 1-car accident with a friend in fog and ice the same year. We'd kept contact with her while in her new family. We attended her wedding and her funeral within 5 months of each other. She was known as a Believer by her new family and friends. She had just learned she was expecting.

    I'd had a bad feeling about the man she married and prayed she would not be in the destructive cycle of abuse and injury her mother had been in. I couldn't help but wonder if her early passing was a way, a merciful way of ending the generations of abuse and neglect she had been born into. Her father was a prisoner for most of his life. Her mother, abandoned when she married out of her religion and race, then abandoned our niece and kept her half brother.

    We'd had a late addition to our family, our surprise baby daughter, the year before our niece left our family. Diligence then meant never leaving the baby alone with any of the adolescents or having them change or bathe her. It was protection for the baby and for the older children. We never made a big deal of it and hoped they would assume we always kept her near so she could nurse as needed. They assumed I liked to change and bathe her, which was true. I didn't want to make the kids feel guilt or that we suspected them for something they'd not done.

    Now that baby daughter is married and nearing thirty. The sons have a combined 9 children and another due soon. They home school their children and train them well.

    We thank God our children are very vigilant with our many grandchildren.

    We pray for protected and blessed generations that pass on the Gospel and protection of women and children.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Pearl, for writing this article. I was a girl who "walked the valley of the shadow of shame" and experienced the heartbreak of having parents turn their backs in anger and disgust. It took a pregnancy and almost a marriage to bring us together as a family again. Now we are fighting to save my little daughter from the sexual addict that is her father. PLEASE, parents who are reading this, heed Mr. Pearl's instruction so that you may avoid tragedy. I thank God for His grace. I am the "piece of trash that God lifted from the ground and holds to His heart."

  9. Thank you for this article. Just wondering how to handle a two year old whom i have caught at times rubbing her private. I have read that it is best to just ignore it and that it is normal. However i strongly believe that it can lead to other things and that it should not be allowed. Right now i am just eliminating anytime that she may have to do it, but i was wondering what else i can do and what i can tell her about why it is not acceptable. Thank you for your help and ministry!

  10. What sound advice. I still think of my childhood from to time, with sadness. When I was little, my girl cousin and I apparently had been caught touching each other... something I don't even remember, however when I was older, my father brought it up to me in a moment of anger, with such disgust...It really did damage the way I viewed myself, as well as my relationship with my father. I had also been molested at the age of 10 by a family friend. The combination of the two incidences wore away at my self respect. When I was 15, I sinned gravely. I attended a church camp and fell head over heels for one of the young directors. After 2 months of being hard to get, I let myself fall prey to his charms, and we had a sexual encounter. Several months later, my guilt was so great that I confessed everything to my parents and told them I wanted to start right. It was the worst mistake I could have made, and I wish I had never told them. Their response was so heart-breaking. They told me it was too late to start right. My father never, ever fully forgave me. There were times I think he tried, but he never let it go. In moments of anger, he would throw it, and anything else he could, in my face. One time he threw a book at me and it hit my glasses and broke them! Any time he saw me within 10 feet of another boy, he would accuse me of flirting or being inappropriate, reminding me that I could not be trusted after what I had done. When I was 17, my good friend went to the military. He and I wrote letters to each other, which I found out from my dad (in another of his angry moments) that he had been reading behind my back, and didn't understand how I could have a sweet heart behind his back, and called me a "whore." When I turned 18, I left my parents home. I just packed three suitcases , took out all of my savings and bought a plane ticket to California, where I met up with my military friend. We lived together for 3 years, 2 of which were spent in fornication. I thought, what did it matter, I was a whore anyway. Two years ago, we both came back to the Lord. He really got a hold of us...we got married and are now expecting our first child. Parents, know this: I would most likely never have "jumped ship" if I had only been forgiven and loved by my parents. At 15, I had a heart that desperately wanted to follow God from that point on. However, when my parents didn't forgive me, I felt that God would not forgive me either. I know that is not Biblical, as our Lord forgives us with certainty, however a 15 year old girl's broken heart does not see herself through God's eyes, but through a "glass darkly." How I wish my parents had responded with God's love and justice, instead of anger and disdain. Even now, I have very little relationship with any of my family. It took many years for me to understand that the floodgates of God's forgiveness and mercy were already opened up to me the day His Son died for my sins. Parents, please heed Bro. Pearl's advice. Do not try to be more holy than God. His mercy is the height of holiness. Don

  11. Mike is finalizing the audio for the CD on talking to kids about abstaining from sexual sin. We plan to have it available the first week in July.

    In the meantime, we would like to direct your attention to this video from Session 2 of a Men's Conference held early this year (2010). It contains Joshua Steele's address to young men ages 15 and older and is titled "Depart from iniquity":

    Video link - http://www.vimeo.com/9915028

    Fathers, if you have teenage boys we would encourage you to view this session with them.

    - NGJ Staff

  12. What would you do with a mother of many children, in your own church, who snaked her way into a family and seduced their 18 year old son, eventually committing adultery with him? What if they would not quit contacting each other through email and phone and when brought to the attention of the elders, she was rebuked, asked to meet with with the parents and ask forgiveness, and then allowed to carry on as before with no further discipline? The family left the church, their son joined the military and the woman continues to carry on with the other young people in a very inappropriate way with no censure by the elders but only support for her and her family? The parents have many friends in the church, but have been told they are to tell no one what happened. The parents are shocked, devastated and heart-broken at how their plight has been largely ignored and how the others in the church are not being warned. How would you counsel these parents? This is a very conservative church filled with home schoolers only. The woman herself homeshools her large family of children.

  13. I have distributed your newsletters and books to many young parents throughout the years. A couple years ago we adopted two young boys and find we are appreciating your knowledge within the confines of our home again. We know it is in God's plan that the boys be a part of our family and we desire to do our best in raising two more children. You are addressing one of our concerns with them in this article. I will be most appreciative to receive your CD on instructing kids against sexual sins. Thank you!

  14. Hello Mr. Pearl,

    I was actually going to write you at one time and ask if you would address this subject. I am one of 14 children, and my father and two of my brothers molested me

  15. Thank you for the very informative article on a subject I've been wondering how to address to my four childre..I also enjoyed and got a lot of insight from the comments made afterwards. God is truly faithful in giving us what we need when we need it..Thanks again Michael Pearl, can't wait to hear the message on CD..May God continue to bless your ministry and enlarge your territory..The wisdom you share with us Christian parents we can't get from our pastors or churches. There is a real battle going on out here in the world for the souls of our children-and sexual immorality seems to be a place where the enemy is gaining the most ground. Thanks for the tools and advice..They are much appreciated!

  16. Hi there! I'm sure it was just a "typo" but for anyone who was looking, the Romans verse quoted about "marking" and "avoiding" is Rom 16:17-18! Thanks for your article!!!

  17. I have a question not a comment. I have a step-son who is 11 who was caught doing stuff with my little girls. I had five little girls at the time and was due to have another any day. In fact, had been in labor when it all happened which distracted me long enough for this to happen. (believe me the weight of protecting and raising so many girls hit me hard at that moment.) He had been exposed to porn and had been exploring on my little girls. He is here, he is mine, but not mine biologically, but what is my husband's is mine.... he has been repentant, but I don't trust him fully anymore. He has taken out his anger about the situation on my girls. Like they were his temptation and I know they still are that, a temptation, though he doesn't wish to go there again. My oldest involved was 6. You have mentioned how to deal with many things. Little kids and older ones. But what about when it's older ones with little ones? I don't want to shun the boy so he gets a head down a wrong path, and am lost at how to help my girls because they were exposed to more than the usual "exploring". If I boot him out, his chances are next to none elsewhere, nor will my husband allow it. I don't feel to, but did so right after the fact. There's not really anywhere to "send" him either. Here is all he's got. I tried the thing with my girls of letting the curiosity just go, but their curiosity has been sparked in more than the usual, and it seems to be harder for them to dump. I'm not looking to sign any one of the kids passes into hell so to speak. In any sense. But would LOVE advice for this particular situation.

  18. I would really like to see Michael address this situation in adopted children. Obviously this happens in a variety of families-- step, half, bio, adopted, etc. Is the response different when dealing with an older adopted child? While perhaps the said child shouldn't have been adopted, one can't undo that. Once the child has molested the other child(ren), which is often a result of their own birth background, abuse, home cultures, delayed maturity, curiousity, etc...and no evil, what then? And when the child is caught, & instructed in how VERY serious this is in this country/this family, is VERY repentant. The child is so very sorry, and at a much younger age mentally~intellectually~emotionally, etc...what then? And not to minimize the damage to the victims, but what if this isn't predatory, and their culpability is so much less? Is the responsibility of the parents of an adopted child different in the eyes of God? Can they be removed simply because they were adopted, and placed in a safe place to grow in the Lord? Please give your opinion with regards to adopted children. Is there a difference? Some dear Godly friends say they are exactly the same as a birth child, should always be treated the same, God sees no difference, & they were given just the same as a birth child. Other dear friends say it is different, and can be handled differently. I know this has/is been happening in families for ages, but this is happening in many, many adopted families, and these parents are at a loss for what to do. As you know adoption has become very popular in the church, among popular ministries, etc...and there are so many Christians adopting older, international children, and often damaged children, and then suffering great heartbreak. They are confused as they believed they were doing God's will, obeying the Bible to care for orphans, etc...and this is happening. Yet, because of the nature of the subject, they are suffering silently, and confused. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Your ministry has been a blessing, and you all remain in our prayers!!!

  19. I have a comment for Susie. I read your question and shuddered. Your five little girls should not be left in this situation. By "more than the usual exploring", if you mean they were molested, they should never be alone with that young man again- however you need to make that happen. You should get counsel from your Pastor and quick intervention. Just because someone says they don't wan to do something again, doesn't mean they won't. Yes, God can forgive and restore people, but in the meantime, your girls are targets. Their safety is critical. Just happened to read your comment and was alarmed by what I interpreted or (perhaps misinterpreted) as a too-calm approach.

  20. Thank you so much for the information. I am over the top protective with my children. I dont trust anyone but my parents and my husbands parents. I have seen far to many children hurt by people you would never expect! It has lasting damage on children. I just want to say that your children are only young once. You cant re-do anything. Dont leave your children with anyone that you dont know really well. I dont go on dates with my husband very often because we dont have child care. But thats because I wont trust just anyone. There will be a day when we have dates again. Right now we have alone time after the kids go to bed! Please protect your children!

  21. I really liked the humility that I saw at the end of your article. I see that as an improvement over your earlier writings. Thank you for including that.

  22. While many of the ideas that were expressed in this article are good, I am afraid that I have a disagreement with some of your thoughts. You made this seem like all the children involved were always sinning. This is simply not true. As an individual who experienced child-on-child molestation as a five-year-old, I know the pain that can result from another's sin. But I was not sinning. And those children who have been wronged were not necessarily sinning. They do not know and many times, they can't get away. Please reconsider your thoughts concerning how parents should react. Anger and frustration, even if it is "mild" will not help and a spanking can be damaging. (I'm not saying that because I don't believe in spanking; spanking is Biblical is most situations.) When my mom scolded me and spanked me she said that "only bad girls do that" and I shut down for fourteen years. If my mom thought I was a bad girl, then I must have been bad enough that people couldn't love me. I just wanted her to hold me and let me cry and make sure I was safe. These are the thought processes of hurt little ones. Don't turn them away!
    Now, fifteen years later, I am just beginning to rebuild that relationship with my parents and others that I lost as God changes my thinking and shows me His love and peace. He has shown me that I am pure, and that He desires a relationship with me.

    I am now writing a children's allegory on God's healing and hope. This is a message that those children need to hear, also. Parents, please consider these thoughts. If it is not your child's fault, seek their hearts, let them cry, love them, point them to the Great Physician and watch God do a work beyond what you could have ever imagined! God still works the bad for good!

  23. This article was very timely, because we recently discovered a situation with our nine-year-old. He was looking at things secretly online on his dad's phone. We would have responded very wrong had we not just read your article. Thank you for bravely embracing this subject.

  24. What is your advice for a lady whose husband has been viewing child porn? I cannot find that this is addressed in any articles. They have children. Should she ask him to move out? How does she keep the children safe?

  25. Realize that I say this as an atheist, but do not ignore me because of that.

    You seem to have good intentions, but appear to have partaken of the concept of "Sex = evil", particularly if it's pre-marital and/or non-heterosexual. I am not excusing non-consensual sex, but your worldview seems limited. You never acknowledge that a small percentage of people are born gay or lesbian, and you imply that such people sin whenever they consequently express their sexuality.

    I'm commenting 2 years after everyone else, but this needed to be said.

    1. Thank you for your honesty about your theological position.
      There is no basis for your assumption that we equate sex with sin. Sex is a God given wonder when enjoyed in the context for which he created it (marriage). Michael has even written a book of the subject, Holy Sex. There are many studies that theorize that homosexuality is inborn but no scientific evidence. We do not imply, but simply state that all sexual activity outside of marriage (as commonly defined for thousands of years) is sin, which does include all homosexual activity.

  26. I read a lot of the comments and situation, but none concerning if the predator is the biological parent that molested the child. I was told this by a friend that her daughter told her that her father touched her in unappropriate way. the daughter is only two years old and told her over and over that daddy hurt her and pointed to her private area. she prayed about it and feel that God is also telling her the same thing that her husband is molesting their child. She dont trust the father around the child but dont know how to front him about it, and what action to take.

  27. Hmm. "Girls do not just grow into sexual interest and passion. They must be conditioned to it by some outside influence. But boys develop sexual passion by just going through puberty. No one need tell them anything. It is their destiny."
    In other words, every young man is bound to sexually sin because it's his nature? And girls are not bound to sin sexually because of their nature? Hogwash! What a bold assumption to basically say girls have no sex drives and that all boys do! This is a very dangerous and foolish stereotype. The truth is, every person, boy or girl, is bound to sin in any way, shape or form. Gender has nothing to do with it!

    1. Developing a passion does not condemn anyone to sin. A strong sexual passion is much more common among men (boys), but this does not mean that many women do not also have a strong sexual passion. Generally it is the man that initiates the path to sexual sin (with the exception of the "simple ones" referred to in Proverb 7).

  28. Thank you for this article. I am very grateful for it and for the humble way it ended. Surely, you must know in a lot of cases a child with sexual problems has been molested, either by an adult or a teenager. Should these children be "soundly spanked" as well? Please allow me to share a story.
    When a child was about five his parents caught him doing something unseemly to his younger brother. His dad reacted in an awful manner. No question and answer session.... He just jerked him up, dangled him upside down and beat him. Of course it didn't stop there. The boy's curiosity continued, along with adverse reactions. He was caught with the same brother at the age of seven or eight, and received a terrible beating with a paddle. At about eight years of age he was caught unclothed with his sister. Both of them were severely whipped. The offending boy was lashed with a fresh switch until he was a mass of welts that took a while to heal. The damage it did to his inner soul, however, still exists. He conquered his problem for a time, but as he neared puberty it returned with renewed vigor. This time, his father chose to ignore the problem and decided it would go away. Obviously it did not. His parents ended up in a divorce and the problem escalated. Then his dad turned him in, and the now teenage boy spent a year in a pagan government program where he was filled with psycho babble. He never did any of those deeds again. His counselors were convinced he had been molested at a very young age.
    A few years later the young man found salvation and his life has been totally changed. Thank God for His redeeming grace! I am now married to this wonderful man who suffered much as a child. He is devoted husband and father.
    Here is the saddest part of all.... Until his parents separated this boy had been raised in church. Never once did they seek Biblical counseling. Never once was he prayed over for deliverance from a problem he couldn't seem to conquer.
    Again, thank you so much for posting this article. Parents, if ever you face such a dilemma, please, PLEASE respond with caution and most of all, love! We may never know the full effects of our actions.

  29. You spoke of the 9 year old repeat offender outside the family. We have a 12 year old repeat offender in our family. A brother who has touched his much younger sisters on their private areas and kissed them on the mouth. The first time I found him touching my oldest daughter, only a year younger than he, he was only 4 or 5. Then I found out during this past year that other incidents happened that I was unaware of to that same daughter several years ago. Now it is our 4 and 6 year old daughters he is preying on. We have talked to him within the last few months about this calmly and quietly, questioned whether anyone has ever touched him or asked him to do anything and he denies that anything has happened. We have read the Yell and Tell books as well as other Christian sex books to all the children separately and as a group. Today he again violated the 4 and 6 year old. What route can we take to get help for him and the girls but keep him out of the court system (if that is even an option)? We are Christian parents longing to do the right thing.