In Greek mythology the Lernean Hydra is a gigantic, nine-headed water-serpent. As one of his twelve labours, Hercules was sent to destroy her. By all accounts, the task seemed impossible. When he cut off one head, two more would spring forth.

There are times as parents when we too have to muster herculean effort in what feels like an impossible task to save our kids from the influence of pornography. One of our readers shares with us how she found herself battling this monster for a second time in her home. Her story is heartbreaking but hopeful.

— Read the truths she discovered and the strategy she is using to win the fight —

Knowing; yet not knowing

Pornography destroyed my first marriage. My children know this. They have a powerful, living visual aid in the form of their father to persuade them that porn addiction is a scourge that devastates lives and families. You would think this knowledge would protect them. I thought it would. I’m afraid it doesn’t.

The truth about pornography is that it’s dangerous and that’s part of its appeal. It speaks directly to the risk-taking, reward seeking aspect of adolescence. Perhaps that’s part of what makes kids think that viewing it is daring, and that refusing to view it is the mark of a wuss.

A cycle of shame

The further truth about pornography is that it’s shame-inducing. Once you’ve dabbled, you feel ashamed and that is a hook in itself.  The sad irony is the more carefully you’ve been armed with information about its evils, the more ashamed you’re going to feel.

This means that you’re going to want to avoid talking to your parents, who you think are going to freak out, or cry, or just give you the look that asks how you could be so colossally stupid. You’re going to want to pretend, to yourself and to the world, that you didn’t actually do that.

Only, you can’t really run from the shame. It wears on you, making you irritable and hard to be around. And you keep remembering how you didn’t feel that way when the pornography was actually in front of you. In fact, you felt quite the opposite. And that leads you into the vicious cycle of viewing and shameful remorse.

Healing from the heart

The real truth about pornography is that, like a many-headed hydra, you can’t beat it by chopping at its many heads. You have to go for the heart.

Porn use, like other risky and addictive behaviours, appeals to people with hurting hearts who seek a temporary escape from a painful reality. I am learning the best way my husband and I can fight its power in our home, is to secure our children with the assurance that God loves them and we love them, no matter what; that they can safely bring their problems to us. And far from freaking out, we will help them sort things out, with God’s help. They will know that we believe in them. That perspective affects everything!

When things don’t add up

I have a teenager who feels like he’s failing in just about every area of his life. Lately, I have determined that one area I can help him turn around in is math. I’ve figured that if I can prove to him that he can succeed at math, he will begin to believe he can succeed at other, more important things. But my intervention has been less than welcome.

I have sat beside him for many weary hours, with his brain shut down and his eyes glazed over. You could tell his brain was shut down because he was throwing out answers like coins at a carnival dime-toss. And unlike the carnival barker, I would react with increasing frustration. The more frustrated I became, the more wild his guesses were, until he would storm away or I would stagger off to bed, vowing to jump on this at an earlier hour the next day.

A new approach

But God cares about my boy and His grace is bigger than my ineptitude. It came to me suddenly in the stillness of early morning that I was doing this all wrong. The previous night, when he’d said “8” instead of “-8,” my answer should have been, “Almost! That’s so close!” instead of “No.” He needed to hear all the ways that he was doing well, instead of how he was still coming up short.

That very evening, we sat down to do math, and I started pointing out his successes. His brain turned on. He quickly picked up on concepts I’d been sure would be a struggle for him. I was astounded.

More than math

What does this have to do with my son’s battle against pornography addiction? Quite a lot according to the TED Talk, Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong. See the following video:

Addiction is driven much less by chemical dependency than it is by the frustrated need to bond. In the absence of a human bond that offers unconditional love and purpose for their lives, people tend to bond with a substance or behaviour that temporarily alleviates their pain, even as it turns their lives inside out.

To fortify my children against pornography then, I need to assure them of unconditional love. I need to know I can be counted on to see their successes and believe in their potential. And if they are already forming a bond with a destructive behaviour —if they are already becoming convinced that they’re failing— then I especially need to show them their accomplishments so they can have a sense of hope and purpose. I need to stay with them, knowing that in the very process, we are building together the kind of bond they’ve been crying out for —the kind of bond that pornography promises but never delivers.

Of course I’m still using an internet filter even though internet filters are far from foolproof. And we’re talking about “our battle with pornography,” even though they squirm when the subject comes up. But I’m no longer aiming at the hydra’s many heads or the illusion that I can somehow control their behaviour. I’ve watched those heads multiply and I have learned that I can’t. Now, I’m aiming true:  I’m aiming at their hearts.

Love is the solution

As our guest author explains, children may know intellectually that pornography is harmful, but a hurting heart will look for comfort where it thinks it can find it.  You are always your child’s most valuable resource to combat pornography use.

To help a child who is struggling with a habit of pornography use take time to prepare yourself emotionally and intellectually. Misinformation and emotional outbursts can quickly turn a child off. Approach discussions honestly and factually but with an abundance of love.  Your support is more important than anything. Love is the ultimate weapon against porn.

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Please share this article. We don’t know who might need to hear this powerful true story. Please send us your success stories too! We love to laugh, cry and celebrate with you. It’s our goal to support one another as we all work towards the same objective.

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Many individuals want to reach out to our community by sharing their own experiences. Because these stories hit close to heart and impact loved ones it can feel daunting. At Parents Aware we will always respect your need to remain anonymous. Thank you to all our anonymous contributors.