Yesterday a father asked me about discipline. He was grappling with the realization that interfacing with his almost teenage son about sex education will be very different than previous interactions on other issues. Notably, this father came to the realization that talks about sex and related issues should not involve discipline. It should involve a lot of patience, a lot of talking, and even more listening.

I might not have thought to phrase the issue in such terms – but I am pleased that he did, because it is an important point. Pre-teens and teenagers will make their own decisions about their sexual relationships, and discipline – punishment – can only go a little way towards influencing them. More often than not discipline will influence teenagers’ sexual choices in the opposite direction from parents’ intentions. Conversations which are mostly comprised of the teenager talking and the parent asking key questions occasionally are what really have the power to influence teens’ choices.