I can’t say that I’ve never had this question posed to me before. For better or worse, I have been put in a position where I have been asked this question multiple times. I have also been asked “I’m addicted to pornography; what should I do?” by teens many times. I wish there was one specific answer I could give that would solve everyone’s pornography addiction. If such an answer existed, I would have applied it to my own life and killed the struggle ages ago.
I think that I was lucky, for I had parents that were understanding, loving, and willing to fight this fight with me. Even luckier is the fact that I have a wife that is willing to do the same. Without support and love, fighting this addiction – or any addiction – is impossible.
Unconditional Positive Regard
Coined by Carl Rogers, unconditional positive regard is a counseling term that is used to describe the therapeutic alliance between client and counselor. He posited this phrase when he introduced his concept of client-centered therapy, a new way to look at the counseling process. While I do not agree with Rogers on everything, his contributions to the field are unquestionable and this, specifically, is something that should be carried into not only each counseling session, but our every day lives as well.
UPC, for brevity’s sake, is the idea of treating the person with unconditional positive regard, no matter their problem or sin. Christ had this mindset for us when He died on the cross; regardless of our sins, His love for us was great enough to treat us like His children and save us. An old adage that could best be used to describe this concept is “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
It is a complete picture of love — loving someone in spite of their actions and words — and one that we should be practicing in our every day lives. The reason I go into so much detail about this is because it is extremely important when dealing with an addict. Every addict knows that what they’re doing is wrong; they do it in the dark, away from prying eyes where they could get in trouble. Berating them and yelling at them for looking at pornography will not help.
You must show them that you are on their side and are willing to fight against this addiction with them. Statistically, harsh attitudes do not help an addict recover. You want to work with them, not against them. Discipline is fine; restricting computer and phone privileges, grounding them, and the like are fine. Discipline in the case of showing the teenager (or younger) that their actions are wrong is good. Screaming at them is not.
Regardless of their actions, you need to love them. Do not treat them like less of a person because of their addiction. Do not treat them like a disgusting monster. Do not shun them. Instead, be open to them so that they will be comfortable with being open with you.
Grace and Forgiveness
One of the concepts that my accountability partner has always emphasized is that there is grace and forgiveness in our failings. Romans 5:20-21 reminds us that in sin, grace abounds all the more. However, we also need to be careful, lest we forget Romans 6:1-4: “What shall we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?…just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. (HCSB)”
I always have to qualify that, as Paul did, because while there is grace and forgiveness, that does not make our actions justified. What it does is remind us that even though we are fallen people, we are not a lost cause. In our sin, God’s grace shines all the more as He redeems and repairs us.
Your Child is Not Their Sin
I fear that the church has forgotten this principle in general and merges the person and the sin into one, as if they are inseparable. If this was the case, Christ would not have died for us. It’s as if they believe that once someone sins, they take on all aspects associated with it. I have seen this a few times with concerned parents. They will fear that their child has all of a sudden become some sort of sexual deviant. They want to isolate him (or her) from siblings, scared that the addicted child may do something to them.
Think of a person as an egg. In order to get to the good part, the part that can be used in so many ways, you have to be able to separate it from the shell. In the same way, you have to be able to separate the person from the sin. Not that you are disregarding their error, but that you can see past it and are willing to help and love the person wrapped up inside of the sin.
The sad thing is, the age of first exposure to pornography is getting younger and younger. I was ten years old when I saw it the first time. While I am more the outlier than the average, understand that the average age is still about thirteen or fourteen. That’s still young. So what can you, as a parent do? I mentioned this in my last article on this subject, but I will share it again.
The first step is to hold your child accountable. When I lived with my parents, I was accountable to my father. Then, in college, I had the benefit of having four guys keeping me accountable for a while (and a few of them still do). And now, of course, I am accountable to my wife.
The second is to get a blocker on the computer and phone. The iPhone allows you to place restrictions on it as well as blacklist certain websites under the restrictions settings. Only my wife and accountability partners know the passcode (it’s different than your primary passcode), so they control the restrictions. (This isn’t an ability on an Android phone, and I’m not 100% sure how to do it there unless you download a specific browser.) On the computer, there are plenty of options for blockers:
The benefit of X3 and CovenantEyes is that they also report whenever someone tries to go on to a website that they shouldn’t be to an accountability partner. They tend to work better on Windows, but they are on Mac as well.
Lastly, make sure you know what your children are doing on the internet. I don’t care if they view you as being too intrusive, it’s better to be the bad guy than to have your children addicted to pornography. It’s easily accessible you need to be aware of their internet habits.
Along with the above steps, these are oldies, but goodies, and I would recommend that every parent go through these with their children like my parents did with me and my sister: