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Vicki Courtney encourages mothers to talk to their sons about chivalry. Mothers and fathers should also talk to their sons about unplanned pregnancy, sexting, and porn.
Bob: As a young man, Vicki Courtney’s son was looking at pornography regularly. She became aware of that, later in his life, after he had broken free from that addiction. She asked him if she had failed him in some way as a mother.
Vicki: He really answered that question to me, like, “What could I have done differently?” This may sound hopeless to moms; but he said: “Nothing. You did everything you were supposed to do. You were having the conversations. This is how powerful it is.”
He said: “But at the end of the day, let me tell you what I caught from you. I remember your story, Mom, of redemption. I remember you telling me how God worked that out in your own life. I remember you telling me that it’s never too late to begin again.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 13th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What can we be doing today, as parents, to help prepare our children for those times when they will fall/when they’ll fail? How do we make sure they understand that God provides forgiveness and redemption? We’ll talk more about that today with Vicki Courtney. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Ann: Am I allowed to talk this time? [Laughter]
Bob: You know, you contributed—
Dave: She put her hand up; I like that! You should do that at home more. [Laughter]
Ann: Excuse me.
Bob: You contributed yesterday. So we’ll let you contribute again today.
Ann: I did; oh, thanks!
Bob: I thought we’d start with a little Name That Tune.
Dave: Name That Tune!
Bob: I’m going to play this song, and let’s see who can get the song first; okay?
Ann: Vicki, are you good at this?
Dave: This is one of the conversations we’re supposed to have with our sons?
Bob: Yes, right here; this is the conversation. [Music playing]
Dave: Oh, yeah!
Bob: Do you know what this is? What is it, Dave? Can you name this tune?
Dave: I can’t get the name! [Music continues playing] Got to get to the chorus.
Bob: Yes; this is the Cornelius Brothers.
Dave: Treat Her Like a Lady.
Bob: So there it is.
Dave: Wow; this takes us—Bob, you’re a little older than us—[Laughter]
Vicki: That’s too—
Dave: —you just dated yourself. [Laughter]
Ann: Vicki, that’s too old for me.
Vicki: I remember my parents listening to that song. [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, boy! He’s not that old.
Bob: The title of the song is Treat Her Like a Lady by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose from back in my day; okay?
Bob: Oh, stop it! [Laughter]
Dave: That was probably early ‘60s.
Bob: That’s—let me see.
Ann: I would say late ‘60s.
Bob: I think—
Dave: I’d say ‘62.
Vicki: I was not in this world.
Bob: —’62? Hang on.
Bob: This song came out in 1971; okay. It’s not ‘60s; it’s not 1935, like you—
Dave: You were like six years old then, too; weren’t you?
Bob: But forget the song. The conversation—teaching our sons—
Dave: Okay; “How to treat a lady.”
Bob: —“How to treat a young woman with respect and dignity.”
Dave: Is that what you’re supposed to do?—play the song over and over?—[Laughter]—and tell them: “That’s how you do it”? Or what is the—
Bob: That’s not how you do it.
Dave: That’s why Vicki is here; she’s here to help us.
Ann: Good thing we have an expert.
Bob: How did you do it? I want to know how you did it with your boys: “How did you teach your boys to treat girls?”
Dave: Well, you know, when you have a model in the home, like me, you just say, “Boys, copy this!” [Laughter] Is that how I did it?!
Ann: Yes; you were really good at that.
Dave: No, I’m kidding; she’s trying to be nice. Vicki said it earlier—I started by sharing mistakes, and how I didn’t treat women the way they should have been treated, as a high school boy, and then later. I started with honesty and then tried to have conversations every day. It wasn’t one conversation that talked about cherishing a woman.
I didn’t know, until I became a follower of Christ, that God had a standard that His Word laid out—what it looked like for a man to cherish and love a woman. I was the guy that did it the way the world did—thought that women were objectified and didn’t know any better. I’m not blaming anybody but myself. When you step into Christ, there’s a whole new—you see her as a woman made in the image of God. That changes everything.
Bob: You shared mistakes with your boys, like when they were nine and ten? Were you telling them, “I made mistakes with girls”?
Dave: Yes, but not specifics until they were—
Bob: —until they were older.
Dave: —until they were almost college-age.
Ann: —high school.
Vicki: That’s powerful.
Bob: At the same time—you were talking about the fact that you didn’t do it right—Ann, you were involved in trying to help coach your boys on how to treat you first; so that they’d know how to treat other women; right?
Ann: Right; even as you have toddlers, who get angry and who will hit, I remember taking their hand and saying, “You will never hit a woman,” or “…a girl,” or “Your job is to protect girls and to protect women.” Even that—like toddlers—you’re teaching them: “It’s your job to stand up for us,” “…you’re job to protect.” Even when there’s bickering or fighting, they see their job as being one of protection, of love, of care. We can start those conversations when they’re little.
Dave, you were great at respecting me, of honoring me, and loving me when the boys were little.
Dave: I do remember—I don’t know what day it was—my oldest son, I think—hopefully, he’s not listening right now. I remember him being disrespectful to Ann when he was a teenage boy, probably 15 or 16, in the kitchen. I can see it—just with his words, getting mouthy/disrespectful—I sort of lost it—like, “You will never speak to your mother/my wife that way.”
In a sense, there was this sense to say, “She is of value—not just because she’s a mom—but because she’s a woman.” I think that stuck. It caught him off guard, like, “Okay; this is real.”
Bob: Vicki, what’s your counsel to parents as they think about: “You are bringing your sons up”? You’ve got to teach them how to respect one another, how boys should respect girls, and how they should handle themselves around these issues.
Vicki: I think we’re talking about chivalry. It’s not a word that you hear much anymore—
Ann: That’s true.
Vicki: —and that’s sad to me.
Ann: Me too.
Vicki: The conversation has to change. We have to even expand it; because the truth is we’ve got all sorts of things, again, happening in this generation that we didn’t have to deal with in our generation; or maybe, we’re just starting to with our own sons. I think about the trend of sexting; I think about pornography. I know we talked about, in an earlier episode, how teenagers today don’t even think pornography, by and large, is wrong/that viewing pornography is wrong.
One of the things we need to do with our sons is help them connect the dots that: “When you view pornography, you are devaluing a woman. We are made in God’s image. You are showing disrespect and devaluing the dignity of that woman.” It’s not something they necessarily think about; that, at the very least, we need to make sure our boys know that all women need to be valued and respected and are made in the image of God. It’s going to get harder and harder for them—just to be honest with them about that.
Bob: Here’s what you’re saying—you’re saying we start with a baseline of saying: “Son, listen. Girls are God’s daughters. You’ve got to treat them with dignity, and value, and respect.” Then the girls come along, and they say: “Oh no, you don’t.”
Bob: “In fact, treat me the opposite.” Boys hear their dads or their moms saying one thing; and they hear the girls saying, “No, we can do it this way.”
This is where I remember Dennis Rainey had written a book about dads interviewing daughter’s dates. The moms called and said: “That’s all well and good for trying to protect your daughters. What about my 15-year-old son—
Vicki: I get that a lot.
Bob: —“who’s getting these things texted to him? And he’s going, ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’”
Dennis wrote the book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. He went right to Proverbs 5, 6, and 7, where the Bible says: “Yes, there are going to be women who are going to present themselves to boys and say: ‘You don’t have to treat me with dignity and respect. I’m here for you.’”
That’s where we’ve got to train our sons—even when the girl is saying, “No, this is not what I want,”—you have to say, “But this is what God wants, and I’m going to do what God wants, not what seems pleasurable to me or even what you’re asking me to do.”
Dave: It seems, Vicki, you’re saying you stepped in, as a mom; because a lot of moms would punt that conversation to their husband—say: “Okay; this is sort of out of my territory. You’re the man; this is my son.” Yet in your book, one of your conversations is talking about sex respect with your son. How do you do that as a mom?
Vicki: I just never had any problem doing that. I think one of the reasons is I started the conversations, pretty young, with my sons. It sounded something like—you know, by the time they were, probably, eight to ten years old—I was like: “Hey, buddy. There’s this word, ‘sex,’ and you’re going to hear it. You may have heard it already. I want to make sure that you know what it means, because it’s something that God created. It’s beautiful; it’s between a husband and a wife. But you’re going to hear a lot of lies about this word, ‘sex.’” Just by saying the word, and being able to start that conversation with them, at a young age, it reduces any level of shame associated with sex; because when we’re telling them the truth about it, there should be no shame.
One of the things I talk about in this particular conversation is—and maybe it’s because of my own story that I was sensitive to this—I did have sex outside of marriage. It ended up producing a pregnancy. I had an abortion at the age of 17. It’s a painful part of my past, but it’s a part of my past that God has redeemed. I shared, at various times, with each of my children, depending on their level of maturity. I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to direct me as far as, “You tell me when I’m supposed to have this conversation.”
I was able to share my own story: “It comes with consequences. It’s not as easy as it looks to just ‘Oh, if somebody’s willing, then,,,’—you know—‘Everybody’s doing this.’ I mean, there are consequences. There are consequences of: STD’s that are out there, unplanned pregnancies like what I had; and then, the heartbreak when—at the time, I didn’t think abortion was wrong; I wasn’t a believer—the pain and shame of that came later.”
But to also cover with my sons that: “I regret that; however, I need you to know that God has redeemed my past.”
I do think there is some power in our children hearing the regret firsthand from us; but also they need to hear the hope—right?—because the reality is most of them are going to have sex before they are married. We have got to be able to talk openly about these things with our children, but to also make sure that they know that God can redeem anything in our past. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without consequences.
Dave: One of the things I found very interesting in your book was your son writes a letter—
Dave: —at the end, talking about that a little bit. That was such a beautiful letter and so honest. Talk about that a little bit. What happened there? What did that mean?
Vicki: In between writing the original book and then writing this updated version—and here, mind you, I’m writing a book, Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son—I feel like: “Wow! I’m one of few moms out here that’s actually having conversations on a fairly regular basis about the dangers of pornography, sex outside of marriage, casual sex,”—the list goes on.
Yet, my son, right after he graduated college, was newly-married, shared with us that he had a porn addiction. He and his wife had to come together in the sense of figuring out, “Where do we go from here?” Now I will tell you—that was humbling for me; because a mom’s first thought is, “Where did I go wrong?”
Vicki: “What part of that conversation did I leave out? Did I not talk about it enough?” I just beat myself up. This letter that you speak of—that I had his permission—he actually asked if he could write a letter to moms, which was even more powerful to me. I wept when I read it; because he really answered that question for me, like, “What could I have done differently?”
This may sound hopeless to moms; but he said: “Nothing. You did everything you were supposed to do. You were having the conversations. This is how powerful it is.” He said: “But at the end of the day, let me tell you what I caught from you. I remember your story, Mom, of redemption. I remember you telling me that it’s never too late to begin again. I remember you telling me how God worked that out in your own life, so I wasn’t afraid to get help. It’s really one of the main reasons I wanted help at this age, and I didn’t continue in the sin.”
That meant the world to me because it reminded me that, at the end of the day, we are called to be obedient—to teach our kids these truths, as stewards—they’re just on loan to us. That’s why it’s important that we learn to let go when we need to let go; they belong to the Lord. I was able—even though I think our nature, as moms especially, is to always think: “I could have done more,” “It wasn’t enough,”—for the most part, I was able to say, “I did the best job I could, and I had these conversations.”
But you know what? My son has a story to tell today. My son, at the age of 26, is leading men’s groups at his church. He’s meeting, one on one, with countless men, who have this same addiction, both in the church and outside of the church—some that he’s been able to even talk to them about the gospel and the Lord. He’s walking in truth today. He’ll tell you: “This will be a lifelong struggle.” He’s very honest about it: “This is a lifelong struggle.” It’s why he’s not on social media; he’s got a phone on lockdown; he knows his triggers, his limits—all of that.
He has a son, now; so that’s powerful for him to be also able to tell his story someday, to his own son. I think sometimes we put pressure on ourselves that our kids can’t handle this.
Bob: I remember a guest on FamilyLife Today, years ago. Michael DeMarco said most Christian parents are trying to teach their kids how to be sin avoiders and sin concealers.
Ann: Yes; so true.
Bob: And we do want our kids to avoid sin; right?—that’s one of the things we should teach them—but sin concealers are not what we want them to be. Remember what David said? “When I concealed my sins”—what happened?—“my bones—
Ann: “—wasted away.”
Bob: So he said what we’re not teaching our kids to do is how to be sin confessors and sin repenters. The way we teach our kids how to be sin confessors and sin repenters is by demonstrating to them what that looks like: confessing of our own sin, repenting of our own sins; so that they see what your son saw—your story of redemption. He knew that God had worked in your life and he saw, “I can be honest about my issue, and God can still work in and through that.”
I think, with our kids—as we raise them/as we have these conversations: “Here’s how you treat a young woman,” “Here’s what the boundaries should be when it comes to sex…” “Here’s what…”—in that’s, got to be, “And when you fail/when you make mistakes…”
Ann: —because they are going to fail, and we are going to fail.
Bob: —whether that’s looking at pornography or whether that’s lusting in their heart, which Jesus says that is committing adultery; right? Whatever it is, they’ve got to be able to say: “Here’s what it looks like to confess that in a safe place, and here’s what it looks like to turn from that,” and “Here’s where I can find hope. Here’s where I can find freedom.” They’ve got to learn that pattern in their lives. That’s one of the conversations that we can have with our kids as we’re raising them.
Vicki: Yes; I actually did tell him, in his high school years, after reading so many of the statistics, terrified about the fall, so I’d say: “If you ever find yourself in this situation, I would want you to know you can come to me or your father. We will get you the help that you need. There’s no shame in that.” He said that helped, too, just to be able to hear that. I wasn’t endorsing sin concealing; [but rather]: “Go ahead—we’re in this together. We can help you.”
One of the things that came to mind, as you were sharing that, Bob, is that a lot of the time, I feel like we’re good at behavior modification strategies with our kids. We like a checklist; don’t we? Even—I think I share at the beginning of these books—I know for a lot of moms—I would be one of them—“Just give me the formula. I want to check off the boxes.”
Ann: Wouldn’t that be nice?
Vicki: Wouldn’t it be nice if then you knew “Guaranteed; money back return”?
Bob: “Follow this recipe; it’ll always turn out great.”
Vicki: Yes, yes! I see where I wish my son hadn’t had that struggle, but yet look who he is today! And look at the impact he’s having on other men’s lives and marriages that are being saved. More importantly, his faith—he has a relationship with the Lord that is so solid—that he might not have had/he would not have had, because he was concealing sin. We all know that our relationship is fractured when we’re hiding sin.
Vicki: One of the things I talk about, at the very end of the book, is this whole idea of behavior modification. It’s like, when your kids leave with car keys—and you’re terrified, of course—I would always yell this ridiculous phrase like, “Make good choices!” [Laughter] I thought a lot about this. My youngest child—the one I’m speaking of; he’s my mini-me—he’s really the one—I made poor decisions in high school and college, so I could relate to a lot of what I saw in him.
I knew that the “Make good choices!” worked with my daughter because, naturally, she was a do-gooder. I would say this to my son; and then it hit me one day: “Behavior modification is not the right incentive to even be a good kid”; right?
I talked to him, one day about: “Instead of yelling behind you, Make good choices!’”—because really, at the end of the day, how many kids, when they show up at the party and they discover all their friends are drinking, and somebody hands them a shot glass, say: “Oh, no thanks. I’m going to pass because, right before I left, my mom told me to make good choices.” [Laughter] They’re just not going to do it. But I would tell my son, “Remember the cross. Remember the cross.”
This whole idea of: “Are we going to focus more on behavior modification or heart examination?” When I sat down with my son and said, “You have to come to a place, Hayden, where you care more about the condition of your heart than I do. That has to be your decision—that you truly/you must guard your heart; it is the wellspring of life. You have to decide that you want to guard and protect your heart; it has to mean more to you. In doing so, the best way is to: ‘Remember the cross’; because when we remember the cross, we can’t help but go back to what He did for us, personally.”
It’s not going to work, like I said, every time; but if you can, at least, get your kids thinking along the lines of remembering the cross rather than focusing more on this list of: “This is how you treat women with respect,” “This is…”—if they’re doing that: examining their hearts on a daily basis as an exercise/spiritual exercise in their lives—all of that’s going to fall into place.
Bob: “When we survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, all the vain things that charm us most, we sacrifice them to His blood,”—right?—that’s what the hymn-writer said.
Vicki, you’ve given a lot of moms and dads a lot of courage on these conversations we need to be having with our kids. These books are a great tool. Thank you for being with us.
Vicki: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Thanks for writing the books. We have copies of both Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son and Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter. Go to our FamilyLife® Resource Center, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the book from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Get a copy of either or both of Vicki’s books, and start having these conversations with your kids.
Our hope, here, at FamilyLife is that these kinds of conversations that you get to sit in on and be a part of are providing you with practical biblical help and hope as you raise your kids. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife is here with us. Wherever you are in your parenting or grandparenting journey, we need help; don’t we?
David: Yes; I feel it every day; that’s for sure. I reflect back, listening to this conversation, on the months leading up to me becoming president of FamilyLife. Dennis Rainey was introducing me to a variety of influential Christian leaders. As I spent time with each one, I would ask them the question, “From their perspective, what was FamilyLife’s greatest contribution to the body of Christ and to God’s kingdom?”
One leader that I really respected, very candidly said: “FamilyLife”—to him—“was there to practically guide us in those moments and those places in life, where you just stop and go: ‘Oh, boy. I’ve never been here before, and I have no clue what to do.’” At FamilyLife, it is part of who we are to help you engage your closest relationships—to help have conversations with your spouse and to, certainly, help you have conversations with kids—those moments, where you go: “Oh, no! What do I do?”—we’re here to help you.
Bob: And you’re exactly right. This is what we’re all about, here, at FamilyLife—to help you navigate these moments in a marriage and in a family when you need someone who can coach you/who can offer practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and for your family. That’s what FamilyLife is all about. We’re grateful, by the way, for those of you who have partnered with us over the years so that we can reach more people, more often, and effectively develop godly marriages and families.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of my new book, which is called Love Like You Mean It. It’s all about understanding love at a biblical level rather than thinking about it in cultural terms. I’m convinced that, if couples can wrap their heads around a biblical view of love, they can have the kind of marriage that God has always intended for them to have; and it’s a deeper level of love than most of us have every experienced in marriage.
The book is our thank-you gift when you make a donation to support the ongoing work of this ministry. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation and get your copy of the book, Love Like You Mean It. Thanks, in advance, for whatever you are able to do. We appreciate hearing from you.
And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the challenge it is for a young person, who is growing up in a situation, where you spend a couple of weeks with mom and a couple of weeks with dad—and they live in separate locations—and maybe, there are stepparents involved. What happens when the values in the homes are different? That’s what Melody Fabian experienced, and she joins Ron Deal tomorrow to talk about how she experienced that. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
©Song: Treat Her Like a Lady
Artist: Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
Album: Heart of Soul: Too Late to Turn Back Now © 1996 Capitol Records, Inc.
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