We know you don’t like him. He’s not quite smart enough to realize how little he knows about life, and he couldn’t possibly understand or appreciate how special your little girl is. However, maybe the biggest threat to your girl’s well-being is not her current boyfriend, but the institution of dating itself. As a parent, have you asked yourself what really lies behind the modern notions of dating? Or, in all honesty, do you pretty much let your children date around because, well, that’s what teenagers do?
A growing number of experts are warning about the pitfalls of modern dating and have offered some possible solutions. The author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris, writes: “I view dating in a similar light as I view fast-food restaurants—it’s not wrong to eat there, but something far better is available.” And let’s remember that the modern concept of dating is just that—modern. Old-fashioned dating methods or courtships may actually provide us with a blueprint for equipping our kids to better handle relationships. In those instances, many times, the parents would take a vested interest in the person their kids were dating. Both sets of parents would get to know each other and the children’s activities were monitored to ensure proper behavior.
What else can you do in the dating realm to better prepare your kids? Here are three things they need to know before they date.
1. Give them the proper understanding of what love is.
True love is not a heart racing, stomach churning emotion. That could also be the result of eating refried beans. True love is concern for the other person—their thoughts and feelings. How many boys “date” just to get the girl to sleep with them? How many girls “date” a guy until they can land someone better? The answer is too many. And it leaves emotional carnage all over the place. So when your kids want to go out with someone, discuss their motivation with them. If it’s not because they truly care about the emotional well-being of the other person, it’s best not to date at all.
2. Tell them that the person they are currently interested in will probably not be the person they marry.
Encourage them to keep relationships at the friendship level. It may develop into something more serious down the road, but teenagers are usually not prepared to handle the true responsibility that love entails. And if the friendship does lead to marriage, shouldn’t they be best friends first anyway? By removing the romance pressure from teens, we will find they are a lot happier and secure in their relationships with their friends and parents. Encourage group dating. Simply having other peers around may be enough to deter some young people from engaging in harmful behaviors.
3. Make sure your kids have boundaries and encourage them not to cross them for anyone.
Discuss the topics of dating, sex, drugs, alcohol and other pertinent areas with your children. If your teen is in a dating relationship and their “friend” tries to get them to violate their conscience, that person should be dumped immediately. It gets back to the issue of love and respect. If Jack tries to force Olivia to do something she does not want to do, he does not have her best interests in mind. And therefore he does not love Olivia and should not be dating her.
There are acceptable alternatives to dating. Going out in groups or to school events is just fine. It’s okay for teenagers to be just friends with the opposite sex. To what extent dating should enter the picture, whether it’s just the prom or occasional outings, is for you—the parent—to decide. But thinking over the philosophy of dating is half the battle. By doing that, you might be able to do more than bandage up a wounded knee. You could save your child from the pain of serious heartache, a much more devastating injury.
What dating advice have you given your teen?