My 12 year old son has begun to masturbate – can you please give me advice on how to help him not to. My concern is that this behavior will lead to other sexual indulgences that have great consequences.
Sincerely, Concerned Single Mom
Regarding your son’s battle with masturbation: don’t panic! The statistics are that 98% of all adolescent boys masturbate and the other 2% lie. It is standard for a young man to struggle with this. On top of this reality is the fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically weigh in on masturbation as an act that is either helpful or harmful. It doesn’t say anything specifically about it. Don’t allow yourself to be misled here. Some point to the “sin of Onan” in Genesis 38:9. Onan’s sin was that he was refusing to impregnate his deceased brother’s wife so that he could selfishly claim his inheritance for himself. The act there was not masturbation but rather coitus interruptus. When you think of how clearly and unequivocally the Bible weighs in on every sexual act imaginable, you’d think that if God saw the solo release of a young man’s built up sexual pressure as something repugnant to him, He’d have clearly addressed it.
God made us as sexual beings. Sexual thoughts are part of our make up and sexual stimuli are unavoidable to the majority of young men. The problem with masturbation is not so much the sexual release that a young man experiences (in fact, masturbation tends to bring an end to his momentary lustful thoughts). The problem with masturbation is found far more in the way it can control a young man as well as turn his focus away from things that make him a better person to things that can undermine his relationship with God and others. In saying this, I am not minimizing the seriousness of the struggle that many young men have with masturbation. No parent should turn a jaundice eye to this. It’s something that we don’t want dominating or controlling our children. I think possibly your bigger concern is with something that can accompany masturbation: porn.
That’s why we have to be deliberate in addressing the issues and work overtime to minimize the easy access to toxic pornography. When we were kids you had to go looking for porn. Today, porn comes looking for our kids, and it’s cunning and deceptive. Any access your son has to the internet at home should be in a high traffic area like the hallway, living room or kitchen. Not his bedroom. Also, be aware that he can access the internet from a smart phone or an Xbox. There are products available to provide internet filters specifically designed for this type of technology.
Some parents try to solve this problem by isolating their kids from any contact with the outside world that would complicate his battle with lust. This is unrealistic. Obviously, we want to help our sons avoid full blown pornography, and sexually charged movies, TV and music, but the run-of-the-mill exposures to people and images that might cause them to think lustful thoughts is simply a battlefield on which they must learn to survive. Keep in mind that the bulk of this problem is within them, not outside of them. Therefore, if they are going to gain victory in this area of their life, they must win it in their heart.
The number one piece of advice I would give you is to avoid shaming your son regarding his struggle with masturbation. Most boys are already ashamed as it is. They’re embarrassed about their struggle and are usually more so when it’s their mom with whom they are having to work through it. Although masturbation can be a problem for teenage girls, it’s not as prevalent. Because most moms didn’t struggle with masturbation as teens, it causes them to be impatient with their sons when they find them struggling with it. It’s not as easy to walk away from as a woman may think. The build up of pressure and frustration within a boy can get so bad that it consumes their total focus. And although I don’t recommend young men finding an outlet for this pressure through masturbation, it is better than finding it through sex outside of marriage.
Our sons need a mom or dad that deals with them through an attitude of grace, patience, and understanding. You are much more likely to help your son win this battle if he knows that you believe in his greater good and are sensitive to the internal battle he is fighting. Too often, parents, especially moms, communicate their disappointment towards their sons and then place the expectation at an idealistic (and often unrealistic) level like, “I never want you to do this again.” This only communicates to our sons that they are dead on arrival when it comes to meeting your expectations. This causes them to withdraw from the parent and carry on a relationship ruled by deception and subterfuge to cover their battle. It’s so much better to acknowledge the obvious with your son: that you understand that he has a struggle, you understand why he has it, and you want to be an encouragement to him as he learns to let God give him victory in this area of his life.
Keep praying, CSM! This battle is being fought and won inside your son…and the Holy Spirit is a mighty warrior!
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