Putting the Vision Back in Supervision

It’s been about year since the shocking statistics on teen sex were all over the news.  But after the wailing and gnashing, the to-hell-in-a-hand basket moaning, and the calls from this sector for more sex education while another sector rails that that is what got us into this mess — then what?  After a year to fall into complacency, these latest stats have become the new normal — until another half a decade goes by and we are shocked by even worse statistics.

Here is the statistic I want to see. I want to know how many teens are having sex while their parents watch. I’m going to bet that the percentage is pretty low.

So, I am going to draw the conclusion from these statistics that parents are not watching their kids.

Sometimes when teen pregnancy and/or abortion rates come under discussion, one will hear the observation that teen pregnancy and/or abortion is not really the issue: teen sex is the problem. And one hears and reads all kinds of reasons for this — peer pressure, media pressure, low expectations, low self-esteem, lack of parental communication of higher standards, raging hormones — the list is endless.  But even teen sex is not really the issue, because teen sex is a function of lack of supervision.

Supervision means watching over, as in eyes on, not as in overlooking. It means having the object of supervision in your line of sight. It means keeping said object of supervision in sight. I hate to belabor the obvious — another word that has to do with sight (“to SEE the way”), but it is time someone said to parents that the reason your youngsters are having sex is because you are failing to supervise — to watch — them.

Now I will grant that there are few kids who sneak out of the windows at night or skip out of the school building to which a dutiful parent has entrusted them — but I will bet that most of the sexually active kids really did not have to go all that much trouble to create the occasion for fornication.

So if you do not want your kid to be counted in the latest — or the next — batch of shocking statistics, the answer is really simple. Supervise your kid. Eyes on. If your eyes can’t be on, then you make certain that the eyes of another adult are.

Oh, to be sure, educate and give them solid spiritual training and tell them your expectations — I mean research does show that  all these statistically result in a higher age of onset of sexual activity — but nothing, I guarantee nothing, will discourage teen sexual activity like the eyes of an adult on the kids.

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  • Cooky642

    Mary, I think you want to correct this one line at the end of your article: ” I mean research does show that all these statistically result in a lower age of onset of sexual activity”. What you meant to say was that precautions result in a HIGHER age of onset. I have a 13-yr-old granddaughter who is being raised in a liberal household by a mother who believes that school sex education is just what her daughter needs. You will understand when I say I pray to the Divine Infant for that child every day!

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    I’m beyond the point of rending my garments over the latest bad news as bolstered by disheartening statistics. As Longfellow puts it:

    “Nor am I one who wastes the fateful time in useless lamentation;
    but one who bears his life upon his hand, to lose it or to save it,
    as may best serve the design of Him who giveth life….

    “Tis not enough to mourn. Breastplate and
    harness are better things than sackcloth.”

    Longfellow, Judas Maccabaeus 3.1-2

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    How about promoting a culture that values and celebrates permanent celibacy, a.k.a. lifelong virginity? The culture has this latent suspicion that priests, monks, other religious, and celibate lay people are rather “weird” for giving up sex, and this is a suspicion that has only been reinforced by the scandals of the last decade. People who have chosen celibacy, both in and out of religious life, can have the courage to speak up and say that it is a beautiful gift of God, an early participation (for the impatient among us) in the glory of Heaven that all of us will share. Kids need good role models, and mature, faithful, celibate Catholics can help by stepping up to the plate.

    I am reminded of Tim Tebow’s recent answer to a reporter’s question, in which he said that he is “saving himself” for marriage. This young man is a role model for all kinds of young boys–and he says he’s still a virgin? How much good did this kid do with that single statement? I’ll bet a lot of boys who were wavering decided to “save themselves” now that Tebow has helped make it cool. Bravo to Tim–and let’s us take courage from his example.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    Yes, Cooky that was what I meant and I have changed it. Slapping myself in the forehead….

  • goral

    Mary, you want the statistic of “how many parents watch while their teens are having sex”?
    I think we might find that statistic to be quite high. I often hear and read of these episodes, including drinking, happening under parental supervision.
    The reasoning being that they are going to do it anyway so they mind as well do it at home where it’s “safe”. In line with that thinking is sex education in public schools.

    Not a few of these parents later in life slap themselves in the forhead.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    I think you may have coined a new acronym for Facebook: SMOF, for slapping myself on the forehead.

  • patti

    Sixteen years ago I was part of a specialized foster care team. We took in difficult teens and had once a week meetings. Handing out condoms was considered part of the job by some foster parents. Two couples were friends with each other and laughed at the meeting over an episode that happened the previous weekend when they were together. The foster teen was was hemming and hawing and then the foster mother realized what he wanted–a condom. “Oh,” she laughed. “Then she proceeded to pull out a pack and asked what color he wanted.” Those 4 adults thought it was so funny.

    Fast forward a few months. One of the foster dads was upset to learn that while he was out one night, his foster son had, had sex in his home–the boy’s bedroom. He felt it was disrespectful. So, one minute they are handing out condoms but when reality hits home, they think it’s wrong. In their heart, they knew it was wrong. Yet, everyone was condoning it. So, yes, there probably are plenty of parents that are watching and giving the green light for the to have sex.

    At least before the sexual revolution, expecting teens not to have sex was a shared value. Not anymore.

  • Christi Derr

    great points Mary!! Sometimes the solution to a problem is too simple and practical to be covered by “the experts.”

    **also, loved this line, “here is the statistic I want to see. I want to know how many teens are having sex while their parents watch. I’m going to bet that the percentage is pretty low.” How true!

  • http://justacatholic.blogspot.com/ Shane Kapler

    I’m reminded of one of the happiest, most in-love couples I know; and I remember the story of their first date that they shared during a youth group event. Growing up in Puerto Rico, the custom four decades ago was for an adult to accompany the youth on their dates – so there the young couple was, sitting next to each other in the front seat, with the girl’s grandmother looking on from the backseat. I believe she accompanied them on all of their dates. And this couple has no regrets. This is a good challenge Mary!

  • http://saintslppr.com fjindra

    Wonderful, Mary. Can we bring back courting?

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    Yes, Father, and porch swings too!

  • pfmacarthur

    I read somewhere – I’m not sure where, that the majority of teens have sex in their own homes after school when their parents are at work. With many parents needing to work today, I’m not sure how to change that “window of opportunity.” However, we must work on teaching our children well, instilling moral values, and speaking about sin.

  • Catholic Mom of 9

    While these sad statistics about teen sex are definitely not a laughing matter I had to chuckle over the way a colleague older than myself told me the priests in his school used to handle public displays of affection–by reminding the youth to “make room for the Holy Spirit” between them.

    I quickly adopted that idea with my own two oldest sons during their high school years, reminding them before they went out to a dance or on a date as a senior that they were taking out someone’s future wife–either theirs or someone else’s–and to treat her with the respect they’d like to see their future wife treated…..Repetition…with firmness but a smile was and is my style….and always being there at home, checking out where they were going ( calling other parents to confirm), and providing lots of wholesome activities here–bonfires in the back acre, pizza and movies, a welcome to their friends for basketball any time on the driveway, etc. . . doesn’t hurt either!

    And I would text that ‘borrowed’ phrase– “make room for the Holy Spirit :) ” to their cell phones some time during the evening of any dates. It became our own little private thing–and I don’t think they minded too much.:)

    Other strategies are early curfews (“nothing good happens after midnight” their dad likes to say), staying up to greet them when they make those early curfews, chats with Dad, keeping them busy through sports, service, jobs and other worthwhile activities and frequent Confession. Whew. It’s a lot of work to supervise, but that’s what we signed up for!

    Thanks for the direct reminder, Mary! :) God bless–

  • Heidi

    I’m glad pfmacarthur finally picked up on a core problem, that being that many teens who are having sex at home – or anywhere else – have working parents, with no time to be watching them do good things like after school sports, much less keep them from doing bad things like drugs, having sex, or joining gangs. I’d love to hear some ideas about what can we do to change a predominately two-parent working society which has left no time to supervise any of its children at the level that they all, but especially our hormonal teens obviously need. And by supervision, I’ll agree that what we should be doing is way more than just “life guarding” our children. We should actually be doing this careful, loving thing called shepherding, guiding, loving, disciplining, or mentoring… AKA parenting!

  • Anita Crane

    Bravo Mary :-)

  • http://cause-of-our-joy.blogspot.com Leticia Velasquez

    When you consider the ravages of extra-marital sexual activity, a radical re-orienting of our lives as parents is urgently called for. Not only are their futures as married adults at stake, but their eternal souls.
    Surely we parents of teens can make sacrifices to be able to provide the wholesome inexpensive activities to which Catholic Mom of 9 refers, “bonfires in the back acre, pizza and movies, a welcome to their friends for basketball any time on the driveway”.

    Many parents both work to be able to afford what really are luxuries; cell phones, extra TVs, computers, Wii systems, elaborate vacations, boats, etc. If they put their children’s chastity as their first priority, they may have to make changes to their lifestyle and give their teens the gift of presence and supervision. And perhaps Grandma in the back seat of the car when they are on dates!
    My 16 year old daughter attended a Communion party Sunday and danced with boys in the presence of her family. She later played co-ed volleyball in the parish youth group; an entire day of wholesome fun which cost next to nothing. She understands the reason she has no cell phone is that her parents care more about her soul than keeping up with the neighbors.