Bring on the boundaries

sexqandaHealthy limits can protect vulnerable relationships

by Doug Weiss

Recently I picked up my 16-year-old daughter’s cell phone and found some sexually explicit text messages on it. When I confronted her it didn’t go well. I want to take the phone from her. What should I do?

The prevalence of “sexting” inappropriate communication and pictures is a huge problem in junior high and high school everywhere. But don’t go down the “I am a mean dad” road on this one.

Outline the boundaries of how your daughter can use the phone (that you pay for) such as: no boys you don’t know, no boys over a certain age, no bullying texts, no sex texts or sex pictures or porn of any kind. Have her sign off on these boundaries and together create consequences that should include not using the phone for a period of time.

Also outline what your protocol will be if sexual content is exchanged, such as contacting the school, the other person’s parents, meeting those parents and confronting the issue. Know your legal options as a dad (call the police department for information) and exercise your rights if the sexual messages do not desist.

I am a dad of a beautiful 15-year-old and all technology in our house including cell phones, television and computer games has boundaries and is earned by appropriate grades. Privileges are lost if there are infractions.

Technology is not a right; it is a privilege. If the privilege is abused, call the phone company and cancel your child’s number or account. You must especially protect your young daughter from boys who are looking at porn more than ever. She needs a dad who is not afraid of her rage and who does not mind if she doesn’t like you for a while in order to protect her purity and future.

I encourage all of us to pray that God would expose our children’s secrets before they get to be real pain for them. Prayer does still work!

On our honeymoon I found out my wife had been sexually abused as a child. It really affected things in the bedroom. How can we begin to deal with this?

As a man you probably feel angry, betrayed and hurt that she didn’t tell you about this until your honeymoon. Once you get through some of these feelings and compassion fills your heart for the woman you love (who didn’t ask to be hurt) then your journey begins.

In counselling we ask, “Who owns the problem?” Unfortunately the victim of abuse (and I am one) has to take full responsibility to heal, full responsibility not to allow the enemy to define their sexuality and fully go through the healing process to be the person God designed them to be.

Depending on when the abuse started, who the perpetrator was and how often this occurred there can be significant damage. Damage control is what God does. He is also good at healing. I recommend she get professional help from a Christian counsellor. Wherever you go, be supportive and insist that healing is part of your new marriage story that the two of you are writing with the Lord.

My 15-year-old daughter is way too clingy with her boyfriend in public. It makes me nervous about what they are like in private. My wife thinks they are fine. I’m going to have a heart attack. Leave it alone or do something?

Every man wants to harm his daughter’s boyfriend when he sees this behaviour. But let’s first take a look at how you relate to your daughter.

How often does she get real emotional affirmation about who she is, not just how pretty she is? How well do you know your daughter’s heart? How involved are you in her life? Do you know her core friends?

What are your family’s expectations for dating? Does she decide when and who she goes out with or do you both decide? Does the boy need to meet you? Are there established timelines for physical affection? Do you talk to the boy and make him accountable to you for these expectations or is it up to your daughter to decide how far boys go?

Most dads fail on the first part, then expect to compensate later. Date your daughter. Share your feelings regularly so she gets used to a healthy man. Pray with her regularly. And it is totally appropriate to talk to the young man directly and lay out expectations. Limit private time. You’re still the parent.

As a dad, you will be hated at times and that’s okay. Your daughter needs your protection but also your love, encouragement and hugs. She needs you to pray with her. Showing her what a man is becomes way more important than punching out a consequence for her choices because she is attracted to weak men. Be aware of her experiences with you.

First look at your own life, connect with her heart, establish boundaries and expectations. Expect some conflict, pray really hard. It’s not a bad idea to pray with the boyfriend, either.

Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and Executive Director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He has appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil and many other national media outlets. Contact him by e-mail at heart2heart@xc.org or visit his website at www.drdougweiss.com.


The article above was featured in the May 2010 issue of SEVEN magazine.