All was well with our family’s dating rules until my second son’s senior basketball game. A friend of his with long dark hair and beautiful brown eyes showed up wearing his name and number hand-painted on the back of her fitted shirt. What’s going on? a friend motioned and I could only motion back a quizzical shrug.
Our family dating rules became the topic of multiple conversations and text threads between my son and I for the next cou9ple weeks. My son felt the rules were too rigid for his age, and I felt my authority as a single mom was being seriously threatened. Amid the discussion, I used three questions to determine whether to give or flex in parenting teens.
1.Is this a value or a rule in question?
Generally, we don’t want to compromise values while rules may need tweaking or lifting altogether depending on the child and circumstances. When my son pushed our rules on dating, I spent a lot of time revisiting why my husband and I had made them. Like most parents, we had our children’s best interests in mind. As my son and I talked, I could see we shared the same values and 0ur difference stemmed from whether the dating rules were the best way to implement them. Lifting the rule felt like a loss of authority but it wasn’t a loss of values.
We don’t want to compromise values while rules may need tweaking or lifting altogether depending on the child and circumstances.
2. Is this child undermining all authority or questioning this one rule?
It’s important to determine whether your teen is showing a pattern of bucking authority in the home, at school, at church or on the ball field. If so, the battle may be more about authority in general than any one particular rule. Though my son disagreed with me, he always did so respectfully. He did his chores without reminding, had excellent grades, was a leader at church and in sports and wasn’t questioning any other rule. My worry that I was losing control wasn’t valid and I could make parenting decisions without fear.
3. How will this affect relationship and is it worth it?
We don’t want to win a battle that isn’t critical while losing the relationship. My relationship with my son was solid, but relentlessly holding to the rule might have chipped away his trust in us. It might have sent a message to the girl that we didn’t like her or want her dating our son. In the end, I told him I still believed in the rule but would not give any consequences if he had prayed through it and felt different. That girl is the only one he ever dated. After they both graduated from college four years later, they married and she is a cherished, bright blessing for our family.
Which of these three questions do you need to consider with your teen right now?