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Problem parents

Bloodied teenagers slam each other into broken glass, metal tacks, and barbed wire as their parents watch quietly from the sidelines. Real TV featured this horrific adolescent trend-World Wrestling Federation wannabes staging their own backyard matches-two days before Christmas. "How can any parent stand there and watch their kids do this?" asked a reporter.

The answer was revealing: "All 15-year-old boys take risks. You can't stop them when they're that age," said a pony-tailed father. "No one could stop me at that age." A 16-year-old producing his own "Backyard Brawl 99" commented, "I guess we'll just keep doing this until one of us is really injured."

The Real TV clip is an apt picture of today's safe-sex "they're-going to-do-it-anyway" philosophy. But instead of bloodied noses and broken necks, the less obvious results are life-threatening diseases and shattered hearts. "I think sometimes the parents need a little more education than the students," abstinence educator June Evans told WORLD. "We see the students once a year, but if we could get to the parents, the students could hear it consistently."

The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health-the largest survey on U.S. adolescent risk behavior ever conducted-backs up Mrs. Evans's assertion. The study revealed that the two most influential factors in a teenager's decision to remain abstinent are "a virginity pledge" and "perceived parent disapproval of adolescent contraception."

Even though adults have the most influence on their teens' decisions, "adults are the hardest sell on abstinence," says Marilyn Ammon, a former health teacher and girls' basketball coach who now coordinates the Waco-area MCCAP program.

Case in point: Only one parent of 900 Duncanville Ninth Grade School students attended an Aim for Success parent seminar to review what their children would learn about abstinence in the coming week. Nationwide, parents surveyed in a July poll conducted for the Nickelodeon channel and Time magazine responded that the average appropriate age for sexual intercourse was 18. Contrast that with the response of adolescents: 76 percent said "it is somewhat or very important" to wait until marriage before having sex. The other 24 percent on average gave 23 as an appropriate age to have sex.

Not all seeds have fallen on hardened ground, however. Last October, 45-year-old Dan Bailey relinquished his 22-year job as an account executive for a Fortune 500 Dallas company after hearing an Aim for Success presentation at his church. The father of two adolescents, Mr. Bailey put his sales awards on the shelf and became Aim for Success's CEO.

Behind his new-found passion are the faces of troubled teens he encountered as an Aim for Success volunteer. "These kids are open like never before," said Mr. Bailey. "It's like parched earth that hasn't received water in a couple of years, and then someone comes in with fresh water. They soak it up."

Candi Cushman

Candi Cushman