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Miranda Writes: The Tofu Principle




by Omar Miranda



[Editors’ note: Here’s another article that’ll be good for both you and your parents to read. Share it with them!]

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I mumbled under my breath as I read an article I had saved in an old notebook noncreatively titled “Interesting Articles.” Across it I had scrawled in big red letters: “TOFU!” It was dated Monday, November 3, 2008. As I sat reading the article, I was underwhelmed. Here’s the title: “Study Links Sexual Content on TV to Teen Pregnancy.” Wow! What a shocker! That’s almost as surprising as a study that finds a strong link between jumping out of airplanes without parachutes and sudden deceleration syndrome . . . get it? It’s not the fall that’s a problem; it’s the sudden stop. Ouch!

Anyhow, the article went on to relate that “adolescents with a high level of exposure to television shows with sexual content are twice as likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone as those who saw fewer programs of this kind over a period of three years. It is the first study to demonstrate this association. . . . A central message from the study is that there needs to be more dialogue about sex in the media, particularly among parents and their children.”¹ Well, duh!

Have we reached the point that we need a study to “prove” this? Teens become like the people they’re around! The Bible says, “Wise friends make you wise, but you hurt yourself by going around with fools” (Proverbs 13:20, CEV).² If what they see and hear is TV—and most TV programming is rampant with sex and sexuality—and there’s no adult to limit viewing or at least discuss the things viewed on TV, then it’s no surprise that this will be the end result.

This article went on to say that previous research by the same organization, the RAND Corporation, “showed that teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate intercourse the following year.”³ Double duh!

In the midst of all this research, I realized a simple point: teens are like tofu. Don’t understand? Let me tell you a story.

Several years ago I made a promise to myself that I would start eating healthier, and this included getting rid of meat. So I bravely went to Walmart (whose marketing line should be “Walmart—If we don’t sell it, you don’t need it!”), bought some firm tofu (soy meat substitute), and got it home and cooked it. At this point I should tell you all that I’m not a great cook of regular, naturally found food, much less thick, white, gelatinous, probably semi-intelligent foodlike substances. Well, I sat down with my tofu and my stir-fried vegetables and took a bite, and my tongue and my taste buds apparently had a meeting and decided to revolt that instant. No sooner had I taken my first bite than my mouth and brain said, No way! I spit that stuff out so fast it made my head recoil the way someone firing a powerful rifle gets thrown back. I realized an important principle: by itself, the tofu has absolutely no flavor, and it takes on the flavor of what’s around it. To make a long story short, I learned to cook tofu, but I still don’t enjoy it very much. But teens are like tofu! They take on the flavor of what and whom they’re around. The Bible says that by beholding, we become changed.

Research results like the ones in the article I mentioned earlier are unfortunately no surprise to me, because as a counselor for a long time, I see it on a weekly basis. I work with teens and their families who are dealing with these same issues. No doubt you have also come across friends who either know somebody who is pregnant or have gotten someone pregnant or are pregnant themselves. There are issues of early initiation of sex, issues of rampant pornography use, and even addiction to both sex and pornography.

My father used to say something to me when I wanted to watch something inappropriate on TV. He would say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Oh, your parents have been talking to mine, because you’ve probably heard that too. Here’s the bottom line: teens are hurting and making bad decisions not only by what they’re seeing and hearing, but more important, by what they’re not seeing and hearing.

Today teens don’t see their parents and/or other adults taking the time to educate them about just plain life—much less “the birds and the bees.” Today teens don’t see two-parent households. Recent statistics show that 41 percent of babies are being born into single-parent homes. Today our teens don’t see healthy, happy marriages and intact families. Today our teens don’t see individuals working out conflict and disagreements in a nonviolent way.

Our teens today are being raised more and more by the TV and other media. I remember something one of my old professors used to say: “Miranda, you’re late again!” Oh, wait, that wasn’t it. I remember now; he would say, “Miranda, all TV is educational.”

Our teens today are less hopeful, more anxiety-ridden, more stressed out, and less connected emotionally and relationally than ever before. So what do we do? Do we just throw our hands up and admit defeat? Certainly not! Did your parents admit defeat when you shaved the cat—for the third time? Oh wait, that was my parents—and no, they didn’t admit defeat! They spent quality time with me and loved me—and jacked me up on strong “calm down” medicine. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. The medicine wasn’t that strong.

We must redouble our efforts and give our teens what they need. And what do they need? I was waiting for you to ask. They need what we all need: love, attention, belonging, understanding, and guidance. There are three concrete things teens’ parents can do to give teens what they need:

1. Spend quality time with your teens doing things they want to do—even if you don’t like it. Get over it. It’s not about you; it’s about them. To a kid, L-O-V-E is spelled T-I-M-E! While parents are doing this, they can talk to their kids! I know, I know, it sounds too crazy to actually work.

2. Eat dinner with your kids at least three times a week. The research is clear! Doing this consistently will significantly cut down on all kinds of negative emotional and behavioral issues with your teens. And while you’re at it, you can—that’s right—talk to your teens! I know, I know, I’m a genius.

3. Don’t have a teen? No problem. An adult can borrow one for a couple of hours a week and be a mentor! Don’t know how to do it? That’s OK; do it anyway. All an adult has to do is items 1 and 2 on this list, and then they’ll pretty much have it down. Seriously, if they’re not sure where to find a kid, they can ask their pastor or youth group leader or teacher. And if they don’t have a pastor, they can ask their local principal or call their local child welfare social service program, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or Boys and Girls Club, and tell them they want to mentor a teen. Those organizations would be more than happy to connect them with a loaner (after a background check and some fingerprints, of course).

We each must do our part in making sure our teens have the skills they need to be emotionally healthy, successful, productive, and—oh yeah—happy people. Happy people are good, solid workers, and when I get ready to retire, I’m going to need somebody to be working consistently to pay my Social Security . . . so I can sit at home . . . and watch TV.

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor

Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

¹http://edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/11/03/teen.pregnancy/index.html
²Scripture quotations identified CEV are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
³See footnote 1.

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.





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