Teen Boys Never Wake Alone – A Talk About Chastity

[ 15 ] June 2, AD 2012 |

Guest post by LarryD at the award-winning blog, Acts of the Apostasy

Some time ago, Jennifer Fitz had to go and get all questioning about chastity and teen boys:

So here’s a two-part question I still need you guys to answer for me:

  • How should a boy deal with the, shall we say, overwhelming physical urges, that are known to afflict young men?
  • And how does a mother, or father, provide these bits of practical advice without making the boy die from embarrassment?

The going advice in popular culture is not so helpful, since it tends to run exactly counter to CCC 2352 and 2396.

I’ll have a go.  Having two teen sons gives me a little cred in that department (as well as having been a teen boy, many many moons ago), and what follows is an amalgamation of things I’ve told them, things I wished I told them, and advice I will continue to give them – slightly modified for you parents.

If parenting is God’s perpetual motion machine, then the teen years take place just after the warranty’s expired.  The hormones, the puberty, the emotional jiggery – it’s like the wheels are falling off, seals are bursting, and smoke is billowing out of the engine.  What happened to the sweet kid who played nice, ate his veggies and talked to his parents?  Civilly, without the eye rolls?

He’s still in there – there’s just a lot else going on inside that’s beyond his control, and he believes he’s the First Person In The Entire History Of The World that’s going through what he’s going through.  Things aren’t breaking – they’re changing.  Evolving.

So – how do we impress upon our sons that, while the “overwhelming physical urges” are completely normal and natural, they remain chaste and exercise self-control, resisting the temptation to act on those urges?  And how do we do that without sounding dorky or, as Jennifer put it, “without making the boy die from embarrassment”?

Let me say that getting embarrassed can be a two-way street.  And getting embarrassed is a small price to pay for the benefit of the treatment.

First things first.   While the battleground is bodily and natural, the combat tactics are spiritual and supernatural.  Chastity is supernatural – it is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, fully received at Confirmation.  Along with modesty, self-control, goodness and all the others.  God and the Church knows what’s going on, and they know what they are doing.  To have a chance to resist temptation, all the will-power and determination in the world is insufficient.  Supernatural means are required, and they must be practiced, used and developed to be effective.

If you think about it, this is the *first* big battle a boy wages – and it’s a doozy, right?  This goes beyond dealing with attachment issues, snotty siblings, or schoolyard bullies, or anything else.  This process of physically becoming a man while having the mindset of a child is beset with temptations that grown men struggle with all the time.  Mix in concupiscence and a culture that screams “Pleasure’s the ultimate good, and you have the right to feel good!” all day long; a culture that sees masturbation as healthy; a culture that sees pornography as just another choice; well, it is a tough road.  The culture wants to take ownership of the boy, while we want him to stay good and pure, and to remain that way.  We all know this, and we all made it through – some better than others, and most with the scars and wounds to testify.   And actually, this battle never ends – but this is where it begins.  How one begins the battle greatly affects how it is fought.  This is when habits form, good or bad, and when attitudes towards sex and girls germinate.  It’s not impossible, but it is difficult.

Maybe the best way to answer the questions is with bullet point responses, in no particular order.

  • The teen boy doesn’t wake up alone.  Oh, he goes to sleep alone, and he wakes up by himself, but he doesn’t wake up *alone*.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he wakes up with “someone” staring him in the face.  When that happens, his brain switches into “if you got it, use it” mode more often that not.  Or it’s more subconscious that that.  How do you combat that?  Several ways.  One, have a poster of this above his bed:

    Hey there, big guy!

    Two, you stand in the doorway until he gets out of bed.  But that’s impractical.  Three, don’t let him loll about in bed “waking up” – in fact, waking him up five minutes latehelps in that regard.  Then he has to get moving.  The best thing, though, is to encourage him to pray when he wakes up – pray for strength and courage.  For gratitude for making it through the night without sinning.  Or for forgiveness if he didn’t.  The Morning Offering is a great prayer to use.  Here’s the thing – he might not like to hear this, but…he will have to be chaste his entire life.  Just as we, as moms and dads, have to be chaste.  The trick, though, is don’t tell him he has to be chaste forever.  He only needs to be chaste *today*.  That’s it – just today.  God gives us the grace for what we need today, not every day.  Not the rest of our lives.  So tomorrow, when he wakes up, he has to be chaste for that day.  And the next day, when he wakes up, he has to be chaste for that day.  And so on.  Daily prayer is the bedrock on which a chaste life is built.

  • The teen boy has an active imagination.  Boys are funny – when they’re young, they have the uncanny ability to turn any object into a gun.  When they’re teens, they have the ability to turn any female into an object.  How do you combat that?  One, refer to the poster idea up above.  Two, ask them how they would feel if someone fantasized about their sister/mom/aunt in the way they fantasize about, say, Mila Kunis or Megan Foxx (for me, it was Charlie’s Angels – the original.  Except Kate Jackson.  I don’t think anyone thought of Kate Jackson in that way).  Or even a cute girl from school – remind them that the cute girl from school will be someone’s wife someday.  It’s okay to think the girl is cute – it’s perfectly fine to admire beauty – but it’s not okay to make her an object of his fantasy.  And this leads to the next point…
  • The teen boy is driven by imagery. Erotic images are everywhere you go, from the way some girls dress, to billboards, to commercials on tv. The images don’t even have to be explicitly erotic for them be stimulating. God made women pretty and curvy and nice to look at.  Sometimes it can’t be helped.  Stressing the fact that girls are created in God’s image and likeness, and deserve to be treated with respect, does have an impact.  Here are some other helpful ideas – no tv or computer in the bedroom. If he has a smartphone, it’s in the kitchen at night.  Remind your son that girls speak from their mouths, not their nipples – so their eyes should be focused north of her chest as she talks.  And dads – they watch what you do.  If you linger on the station where cheerleaders are bouncing around for a few extra seconds while channel surfing, guess what they’ll end up doing, too.  And nothing needs to be said about the evils and dangers of porn.  Talk to them about it – tell them it’s fake, unreal and degrading.  And addictive.  Use the “would you want guys ogling your sister/mom/aunt?” approach as well.
  • The teen boy needs to be busy.  This can’t be stressed enough.  Idle hands, along with idle minds, are the devil’s tools.  Keeping the boy busy – whether in sports, extra curricular activities, chores and more chores, or hobbies.  The more strenuous the better, so that he’ll fall asleep easier.  An active faith life is key here – the most important thing, actually.  This is a great time to develop and strengthen the virtues.  He needs to know and believe that his sexuality is God’s gift meant for another – his future wife.  Masturbation is as much a preparation for marital love as picking his nose prepares him to be a brain surgeon.  The joy and beauty of shared love, when it is right, far exceeds the inwardly act of self-abuse – they’re incomparable.  The teen boy may not fully grasp that masturbating is selfish and will distort his view of sex – his brain is undergoing a major rewiring at this time, so the chances of him grasping anything is probably remote – but it’s still a point that bears mentioning.

Much more can be said – I truly hope this little bit is useful. Listen, you can’t pour Quickrete down his shorts when he turns 13, and give his future wife a hammer and chisel as a wedding present. You can’t do anything about the fact that God made his arms at the all-too-convenient waist length.

You absolutely cannot make him an eunuch (not a castrato – you know the difference between a eunuch and a castrato, right? On average, about 5.5″).  You can’t insist that he only take cold showers.

The three best things you can do for your son are pray, talk and live by example.  Pray that he resists the temptations and respects his body and mind; pray that he will treat all girls with the respect they deserve; pray that if he ever gets in trouble, God will somehow let you know (God answers this prayer A LOT).  When you talk – and generally speaking, this is best handled by the dad – be forthright and lay out your expectations with good reasoning and honesty.  Tell him you struggle too.  Bring the subject up when it’s just the two of you.  Know who his friends are, and whether they’re a positive or negative influence.  Use a little humor to soften the edges a bit – personally speaking, this worked better for me.  Not crude or locker room humor – but in terms he was more comfortable with.  If there’s an established foundation of trust between you and your son, having these conversations are not as awkward as you might fear.  Finally – show you mean it by how you live, how you pray, how you treat each other, and (for you dads) how you interact with other women, especially your wife.  Sons are always watching.  Always.

When you think about it, God has a strange sense of humor – He designed the human male to undergo a massive transformation when he seems least equipped to handle it.  Of course, before The Fall, the plan was flawless.  Fortunately, in His wisdom, He has also provided the means by which to navigate through all this – the sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the virtues, prayer and – hopefully – loving parents who remember their own struggles, and are there to help along the way, countering the strong forces of a culture that wants to claim him as its own.

p.s.  Read the companion piece to this one:  “Teen Girls Need Real Love – A Talk About Chastity”, over at the awesome blog Shoved To Them. It is also posted here at Ignitum Today.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/larry-001.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]LarryD resides in Michigan with his wife and 2 sons.  Born and raised Catholic, he abandoned his faith during his college years, and returned to the Church a decade later.  When not fulfilling his roles as husband and father, he’s either blogging at the award-winning Acts of the Apostasy, spending too much time playing MMORPG’s, or spoiling a fine walk playing a round of golf.  He has -zero- theology degrees, but that doesn’t stop defending the Catholic Church to the best of his meager, snarky abilities.  He also has a cat of whom he’s 89% sure is plotting to kill him.[/author_info] [/author]

 

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  • Jay E.

    I think most important, even more important than having the teen boy understand *why* chastity is important, is for that teen to have a real constant prayer life. That, in my personal experience anyway, is the number one way to combat the sins of the flesh. It takes a good amount of tact from the parents to initiate this, but teens need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only divine power is going to make them victorious. Make ‘em pray for half an hour a day at least(on their own, not including Mass which should also be happening everyday if possible), read the Scriptures and other spiritual reading, maybe the Divine Office, Marian devotion (Louis de Montfort total consecration), regular confession (weekly at LEAST). This is the most effective way to combat any sin, of course. But it works. If teens don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if teens still find prayer “boring”… they just won’t have the strength they need to be chaste.

    After that, accountability works wonders.

  • Pingback: Chastity Eucharist Absolution of Sins High Concepts Daniel McInerny | Big Pulpit

  • CGS

    Teen boys, yes. But what you wrote also applies to this 50 year old boy! Thank you.

  • http://thewayoutthere1.blogspot.com/ Fr Levi

    As CGS says, this is relevant no matter what age you are. And by the way, I always thought Kate Jackson was the most attractive of the original three Charlie’s Angels!

  • buckyinky

    I find it interesting among Catholic bloggers the great care generally taken to keep from, warnings given so as to avoid, and careful language used so as never to suggest approval for the “objectification” of women and girls vs. the nonchalant, cavalier, and maybe careless treatment of the “male humans,” of whom the type of language is quite acceptable which puts the reader in mind to liken them to beasts.

  • poetcomic1

    Even St. Thomas Aquinas knew, man is made for pleasure and it is his natural inclination to seek pleasure. If he does not clearly understand and find delight in higher things he will ‘sure as hell’ find them in worldly and perishing things.
    Which brings us to the teenage boy with raging hormones. If you load the poor fellow with elaborate devotions, icy showers and dire warnings along with carefully planned invasions of his privacy, I doubt if he is experiencing any of those ‘higher’ pleasures. The teenage boy delights in a challenge, in ‘manliness’, in being treated with respect, in discipline for an end (sports for example). Even the Catechism of the Church clearly states that achieving chastity is a LONG term difficult process. That means REDUCING the lapses and putting the energy elsewhere. As Chesterton says, chastity is a blazing, glorious thing… not a negative ‘absence’. Such an accomplishment is not a ‘norm’ to be ‘expected’ of a teenage boy – that certainly cheapens it and makes a lie of it.

  • Brandy Miller

    Long before my son was ready to be interested in girls, I had a talk with him about how babies are made. I emphasized that there are really only a handful of times when it is appropriate for his penis to be outside of his pants: 1) the doctor or his parents need to examine it for a possible illness; 2) he is going to the bathroom; 3) he is bathing; 4) he is engaged in marital relations. That’s about it. I told him that he didn’t need to be doing mommy and daddy kind of activities unless he was sure that he wanted to be with that girl for the rest of his life, and that if he loved her that much he needed to respect her enough to wait until she was his wife before putting her in a position of taking on a life-long responsibility like parenting. This talk I have repeated at several points along the way as he has grown older. At 14, I had him read Theology of the Body for Beginners. This way, I knew that he would understand why chastity was such a big deal and what was expected of him by the Church and by me. I have never given him permission, by word or by attitude, to “sew wild oats” as some parents might or made “boys will be boys” excuses. My son is no animal, and I have always expected him to be able to exert control over himself in all areas of life. When he got to the age where he was first serious about a girl, I told him that if he really wanted this girl for his wife, then he needed to be her prayer warrior starting that very day. He needed to be praying daily for her, attending mass regularly and offering it up for her, and preparing himself for spiritual battle on her behalf. I told him that even if this didn’t turn out to be THE girl, God would apply the prayers he offered for this girl to the girl meant for him, and in this way when God saw that the timing was right and He brought that right girl along, she would be spiritually and emotionally ready for the kind of relationship a marriage is. My son is 16. He is still a virgin. I do not allow computers or televisions in the bedroom for anyone in the household. We do not subscribe to cable, we don’t even have regular tv. We have netflix and hulu so that I can carefully monitor the kinds of programs he watches. So far, by God’s grace, he has avoided the usual pitfalls for boys his age such as porn addictions. He hasn’t dated, but it’s by choice. He has listened to my advice that dating should be saved for when you are serious about finding out whether this is a potential marriage partner.

  • poetcomic1

    Brandy –
    I assume you are a mother, I don’t know any guys named Brandy. This is guy stuff. Lay off and find an uncle, a priest, a heterosexual role model and leave your son alone. You are being exceptionally intimate with him and this is very unhealthy. One of the most powerful needs for a young man is to separate emotionally from his mother and enter into the world of men. To flex his muscles and feel his free will in its God-given awe-fullness. Yes, this can be painful and messy with a lot of ugly mistakes. Men and women have to ‘leave each other alone’ in a very vital way. That certainly goes for mothers and adolescent sons.

  • Woodwilly

    I have a 15 year old boy, and 13 year old boy girl twins. I have found that discussing the Theology of the Body teachings from John Paul 2 have been extremely helpful in educating them about their sexuality and God’s purpose for them. Your church may have a course on Theology of the Body, there is also a course Theology of the Body for teens.

    Theology of the Body explains how our bodies are symbolic, free, meant for love, and redeemed by Christ. It discusses the Church’s teachings on premarital sex, masturbation, contraception, pornography, homosexuality etc.

    Here are some resources I have found helpful.
    1. The Theology of the Body Made Simple, by Anthony Percy.
    2. Men and Women are from Eden by Mary Healy
    3. Podcasts on Theology of the Body by Father John Riccardo. available free on iTunes. He has 12 talks.
    4. Theologyofthebody.net and theologyofthebody.com.

  • enness

    Poetcomic1,

    “This is guy stuff.”

    Nonsense. It is stuff for all people, because people of all kinds will eventually either reap the rewards of good decisions or suffer the consequences of bad ones.

    I would also add that raising children into well-adjusted adults is a two-parent job, and the better the relationship with BOTH parents, the better adjusted the adult. This includes being able to speak frankly when necessary. They are not going to become “mama’s boys” or something because mom says ‘penis,’ keeps an eye on the programming, or teaches basics of the faith.

    I realize fathers are uniquely important in many ways. I understand the importance of father-son time, but seriously…the idea that a mom can’t talk to her son, teenage or otherwise, is nonsense.

  • http://www.navispictures.com Jim Morlino

    Poetcomic1,
    “Lay off and find an uncle, a priest, a heterosexual role model and leave your son alone.”
    Dude, how about a little Charity here? Come on. I find the tone of your response to Brandy offensive, and I think you owe her an apology.

    While I may agree that in most cases it might be best for the dads to deal with sons, and the mothers with daughters, one size does not fit all. The course that Brandy has followed is clearly working.

  • poetcomic1

    “The course that Brandy has followed is clearly working.”
    It is a very long term thing, how could you know it is working? I stick by what I said. I find such sexually intimate and detailed mother-son (one-sided) conversation ….creepy. Some things are best left between a guy and his confessor. She sounds VERY controlling.

  • Joseph Mazzara

    So, PoetComic, you are now Brandy’s self-proclaimed spiritual director? Or family psychologist? How is he or she being VERY controlling? I assume by very you are meaning overly. What exactly has Mr./Mrs. Brany one that goes too far? I’d almost call you a troll, but it sounds more like you have a legitimate chip on your soldier and are overreacting. Just throwing that out there.

  • Chad

    This is good, but you didn’t mention the rosary once, what gives? St Alphonsus Ligouri says the three points when we need to pray the most are:

    1. when we are tempted

    2. after we have sinned

    3. right before we die

    If everyday he woke up and prayed a rosary, that would do wonders to ensure purity. Also every time he is tempted say a hail mary, or just call out, “Our Lady, please help!”

    If the devil sees that his temptations are leading to the boy getting a closer relationship with Our Lady and Jesus, he will find another way and not tempt his purity.