There is a prayer I pray often for my two girls: Lord, please give them the desire, the courage, and the fortitude to remain sexually pure until marriage.

Does it surprise you that my girls are just 3 and 5 years old? I believe it’s never too early to start praying that our children make wise sexual decisions, that they value their hearts and bodies, and that they see abstinence until marriage as an attainable prize worth striving for.

Unfortunately, the society we live in tells them and us just the opposite. For many kids growing up today, abstinence until marriage is a foreign concept. How and why would anyone choose such a path? Nobody on TV abstains. All the songs on the radio are about giving it away. And the teenage years are all about having fun and hooking up, right?

Influence Early

With a culture that bombards our kids with these messages, it will take a strong counter-message from parents, as well as fervent prayers lifted up, to guide them in a better way. The problem is that many parents, even Christian parents, don’t see sexual purity as a real possibility for their kids. “They’re going to do it anyway so what’s the use?” and “I did it; so will they” are common mentalities for parents. But what parents need to realize is that their perception of sex before marriage has a strong influence on that of their kids. If they believe and are vocal about their belief that sex is saved for marriage, their kids will be inclined to believe the same.

I work part-time for an abstinence education program that teaches in high schools. And every year I am amazed at some of the perceptions and world views my students bring into class. “Nobody can tell me how to live my life,” “I’m going to do what makes me happy,” and “Whether I have sex is nobody’s business but mine” are summaries of the comments I get on their anonymous first-day-of-class evaluations. Of course, I go on to teach them about the physical and emotional consequences of sex before marriage. I tell them about the STDs; the high rate of teen pregnancies; and the guilt, regret, and lowered self-esteem.

God Created Your Kids For More

But what I can’t tell them in the classroom is that God created them for more. And the reason there are so many negative consequences to premarital sex is because His plan was always monogamy for life—faithfulness until death because that’s what He shows to us. (2 Timothy 2:13). And it turns out, sex within the bounds of marriage is where freedom and satisfaction are found. It’s the joy that comes from commitment, just like we have with God.

I wish more parents painted this picture for their kids—that they realized what a gift it would be to pass on these truths. It’s not a one-time conversation, of course. It’s a way of viewing the world that’s imprinted and intertwined in all your talks about love, relationships, and self-worth. Obviously you can’t talk to your 5- and 3-year-olds about sex, but you can set the tone for the way they view marriage and relationships—steering away from talk of boyfriends and girlfriends and emphasizing the beauty of marriage and faithfulness.

And then you can pray like crazy their hearts are responsive to God’s desires.

This isn’t about being strict and legalistic. If your kids or mine fail in this area, (as most of us have in one way or another) we’ll, of course, love them the same and extend grace freely. It’s about wanting LIFE for our kids and wanting it more abundantly. It’s the same reason we force them to eat veggies and make them look both ways before crossing the street.

As mothers, it is our job to teach, instill, and model our values, while praying God makes them stick.

And as a woman who’s been there and a teacher who’s seen it all, this is one virtue I’m passionate about for my daughters. I believe our God is too.