Yesterday I posted the first installment of Teenage Dating for Girls, and within hours I had more than 900 hits on the article. I take it that parents find this topic important. That makes me happy! Caring parents are looking for support and encouragement! Although our individual rules may differ, we are all concerned with providing guidelines and positive, proactive experiences for our daughters. We treasure them and want to make decisions that will help them grow into happy, healthy and holy young women, wives and mothers. I think that in talking about this, sticking together (not sure exactly what that means but I’m thinking it’s that we encourage one another to be countercultural and support one another’s efforts ) , and exchanging ideas in an understanding sincere way, we can help create the culture that will enable our children’s future marriages to grow and thrive in love, holiness and joy. Yay us! It’s a great first step.
The first ‘rule’ I mentioned yesterday was the importance of delayed dating. To briefly recap, studies have shown that early, regular one-on-one dating is an indicator for sexual involvement. Common sense also tells us it puts our girls at risk for emotional ups and downs and heartache as break ups inevitably occur. I shared:
1. No alone, one-on-one steady dating before age 18. You can hit the link above to read an explanation. Now let’s move on to some other suggestions.
2. If a young man is interested in getting to know our daughter, he should be willing to hang around our family.
We are all part of the larger whole that is called our family. Our views, thoughts, opinions are all formed within this unit, and we inherit not just physical characteristics from our parents, but often many emotional ones as well. It really is in the best interest of anyone who wants to be long term in the life of our daughter to get to know the people who have formed her, who cherish her, who know her well. Parents and siblings can provide guidance and input, offer support and alert a young woman to warning signs in prospective dates. Ideally, if the two do go out, the girl will also spend time with the young man’s family.
My own dad disliked one of my dates from the beginning when the fellow wouldn’t look him in the eye. Dad turned out to be right in regards to the guy’s character. I was frankly oblivious. Happily for all of us I didn’t see him for long.
Siblings and parents might pick up on things the young starry eyed girl may miss. This is not to say that a young suitor must be put through the wringer. Kindness and friendliness should abound. Understanding is a must too, and recognition that young people are forming and developing and no one is perfect, but a young person hoping to date our daughter must be willing to be here, with us, and engage with us. This doesn’t have to be formal or uncomfortable. He can simply join the family for dinner, play basketball on the driveway (with the brothers is ideal); he can chat around the table, play a game of cards with the siblings, sit on the porch and talk, join us in a family outing (bowling, movie, etc.). Sincerity of intentions and respect are of utmost importance.
3. If he wants to take our daughter to the prom or another school sponsored dance, they go in a group and he asks dad’s permission.
When I was 15, I took golf lessons at a country club. The golf pro had four sons, all good golfers themselves. The most talented of them all (okay, I’m biased- you’ll soon see why), who eventually ended up playing on the college team at Indiana University and in amateur tournaments including the British Amateur in Scotland, was a young man two and a half years older than me. His name was David.
David helped his dad give golf lessons, reminding us all to count all our strokes, follow through on our swings and replace our divots as a courtesy to the next golfer. This nearly 18 year old was a hard worker, toiling in the golf shop, picking up balls on the practice range and cleaning clubs for members. He was polite, honest and clean-cut. One summer evening as my dad was putting his golf clubs in the trunk David asked him if he could take me out. My dad, who had interacted with David at the golf course for several years and knew his character, said he’d love that…when I was older.
The fact that my future husband ( I married David) asked my father’s permission to date me irritated me at the time. (I first heard of his interest in me through my dad- how annoying is that for a 15 year old girl? ) The protectiveness seemed overbearing, and I was embarrassed, but as I grew older, eventually dated, loved and married that young man David, I came to see how right on he was to ask my father’s permission to date me. It has now become the gold standard in our family. My husband is an amazing man. But I digress…
Asking permission from the father to date a girl is right in so many ways. It demonstrates respect for the parents and family. It demonstrates respect for the girl. It demonstrates good intentions on the boy’s part. It recognizes that the girl is part of a larger universe- her family, and holds the boy and girl accountable for the serious business they are about to undertake- the business of courtship, with the intent to eventually find the right spouse.
Last spring, our 18 year old senior in high school daughter was asked to the prom. The young man (who will remain unnamed for his and her privacy) had been hanging around the house, getting to know all of us. There was some porch sitting, and driveway walking. We knew him through his after school work at a neighborhood store. The two attended the prom with a group. They had a very nice time although ultimately they determined they were not suited as a good match to date further. That’s okay. This is a process…for both of them. I respect and admire that young man for the respect and courage he demonstrated. He will be a fine husband to some young lady one day.
4. We teach our daughter that her date should open the door for her, pull out her chair for her, help her with her sweater or jacket as the temperature changes.
How does she learn this, you ask? While a simple reminder always helps, she innately knows because Dad has been demonstrating it all along, with her mother, her sisters and with her. (After 27 years I still do not open doors) These niceties become the norm for a girl who is treasured, and she expects to be treated like a lady. Conversely, she acts like a lady. She says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. She does not order items off the menu that may be too expensive or extravagant. She thanks her date for the meal, movie or other event of the evening. She knows that she does not owe him anything at the end of the night but gratitude and honesty. As long as we’re discussing what constitutes ladylike behavior, here are a few more things our daughter needs to know-
-A lady does not speak roughly or coarsely. Language like “That sucks” and “Yeah right” may be common in modern society but she refrains. She doesn’t sing modern vulgar songs, sit with her legs apart, chew gum chompily, gossip or speak unkindly of anyone. She isn’t loud or obnoxious. She doesn’t burp or pass gas in public, nor does she mention private bodily functions of any kind. (No “I have to pee” or things like that)
-A lady dresses modestly. She takes care of her appearance and is in style as much as she wishes, but watches to make sure her skirts are not too short, her blouse too low or her straps showing. An individual family initially sets this standard, but the daughter will ultimately determine it for herself.
It is true that our daughters are legally adult citizens at age 18. And they are legally free to live their lives as they see fit. However, through years of love and care and training, they come to know how much we want the best for them, and that our wisdom, gleaned through years of experience, is worth considering and embracing. What’s more, true adulthood and complete autonomy depends on complete financial responsibility- While our young adults live in our home, are being supported (in college or otherwise) financially, they need to abide by our rules. And they do. I’m really proud of them!
So far, we have had a wonderful, close relationship with them all.
And so, that concludes my thoughts for now. Except for this-
The feminists are going to have fun with this post if they get a read of it.
Oh well. 🙂
I hope this helps you as you discern what’s best for YOUR family and YOUR girls. I’m open to ideas, always wanting to improve. Please share below but please be respectful.
(Part II begins here)
Before I get started and offer some teenaged dating rules for girls, I want to say a couple things.
One, my intent is not to debate. I’ve been asked about this topic many times, when I talk to mom’s groups, in casual conversations, and in emails. So… I am going to answer what I have been asked. That’s the motivation of this post- to answer the people who have asked me the question of what we do.
I am sharing here what is now morphing into our own family’s dating rules for girls, either formally or informally. But I’m not posting this to argue or try to prove that I am right and that there’s only one way to do this. This is what WE are currently choosing to do in OUR home with OUR reasoning behind it. These are the beliefs WE cherish. You may choose differently.
If you don’t like these rules, or if you vehemently disagree with them, or if you think they are stupid, or if you would just choose something different so be it, that’s FINE! Feel free to mosey on to the next blog on your list without further adieu… if you comment please respect our choices and if you disagree, please do so courteously.
Mean comments, remarks that we are ‘sooo behind the times’ are boring and will likely be deleted. If you have something sincere to say, by all means say it, or email me, but I will not tolerate ridicule, which is what I got from a number of my college alma mater “connections” last time I posted for young men “Mom’s Rules for Getting the Girl”. The comments mostly came from a LinkedIn group that went ballistic, but there were some on this blog too and I deleted the rudest ones. Interestingly, the negative mail I got about this topic was primarily from the very group of women who prided themselves, at least in college, in being open minded. Ironic, isn’t it? But I digress…
Anyway… We have six daughters, currently three teenagers, one in her early twenties and the others are 11 and 8. They are intelligent, talented and beautiful girls, as I’m sure yours are as well. Our girls’ dad and I believe in fiercely protecting the treasures our daughters are while they are minors, and helping them make good choices, protect themselves and choose wisely as they mature and become adults. We see their vocation choices as uniquely theirs- and encourage them to explore all vocations- the married life, the single life and the consecrated religious life. No matter their ages, their father will always look over them with a protective eye. That’s just what good fathers do.
I’m not claiming these are the secrets of the century. But I do think we are onto something. And it works for us.
Two, these rules are morphing and being refined. They are by no means perfect because of course we as parents are not perfect. Who knows? They might look different in a few years. But for now, here we go-
Mom’s Dating Rules for Girls
1. No alone, one-on-one steady dating before age 18.
What?! Are you serious? you may be thinking. In this day and age? Yes, I am quite serious, and it’s working out great! To the best of my knowledge, nobody feels deprived with this rule. In fact, to the contrary. I think the girls feel very happy where they are socially.
The purpose of dating is ultimately to find a spouse. Therefore, one-on-one casual dating before age 18 is pointless. Most likely early one-on-one dating will lead to heartache. Let’s face it- there are only two options to romantic boy/girl relationships- one- they will end up in marriage. two- they will end up in break up. The former is far less likely to happen than the latter, especially the younger the people are who are involved. For that reason, later dating is just a better statistical odd for healthy emotional development. You stack the odds in favor of your child when you postpone their one-on-one dating until they are older, when they have more mature social and coping skills, have a stronger sense of self, have been exposed to more situations, and because of this presumably have better manners and skill. In other words, they’ll be better able to handle it.
This is not to say that boy/girl relationships are totally off limits before age 18. Not at all!! Girls can meet en masse with young men at Steak and Shake, Burger King or the local pizza place, at the homes of (carefully chosen) friends for get-togethers , with parents present…whom the girls’ parents know…and who share similar values. The girls can attend football games, bonfires, skating parties with boys, and a few astute, warm and friendly chaperone parents. Girls and boys of teenaged age can do service work, meet in study groups, work together in clubs of mutual interest. In other words, they can live life in a natural way with one another.
Our girls dance in a preprofessional dance company, and some of their ‘best buddies’ are the young men with whom they are partnered and dance. They attend supervised dances, skating parties and the like. These social situations are healthy and normal, and encourage girls to see young men as people and friends first, not just as romantic interests. Taking dating off the table until they are older frees up the girls to be themselves in these new situations, instead of worrying if he will ‘ask me out’ or want to ‘go steady’, or ‘go out’, or whatever the current exclusive terminology is.
Friendships with the opposite sex should first be cultivated in a group. Back up. They should first be cultivated in the family. Little girls’ first experience with a member of the opposite sex is her relationship with her father. If her father is loving and protective, and pays appropriate attention to her by cheering her on in her accomplishments, whether those accomplishments are in soccer or dance or something else….and compliments her on her femininity, telling her she looks pretty in a dress when she does or that he notices and likes her new haircut, he is encouraging her to take care of herself and value herself. When a girl values herself by being valued first by her father (both for who she is, and for what she accomplishes), this sets a lifelong trend of a girl having self respect. It lays the groundwork for healthy sense of self as well as healthy relationships with others, including males, for a girl’s entire lifetime.
What’s more, and along the same lines, a girl’s positive relationship with her brothers also helps her develop healthy personal and social relationships with males, which helps later on in her life. The skills she uses when communicating with her brothers are the same skills she will later use to communicate with other guys. When parents encourage sibling bonding and teach their sons to protect their sisters, they are setting the groundwork for a happy later life for them both.
Sibling bonding helps teens learn to relate
In short, girls learn about man/woman relationships first by seeing the husband/wife mother/father relationship modeled in their home by their parents, and then by experiencing their relationship with their siblings (if they have them). Last, they learn from chaperoned and parent controlled exposure in various social, academic and athletic settings. By interacting with members of the opposite sex in casual and natural circumstances, girls learn about themselves and about the boys. Young teen one-on- one dating is discouraged because two teens of the opposite sex being alone with one another for any period of time can be a huge temptation, even with the best of intentions. That’s just nature, and the fact that the temptation is larger because of the way society accepts and even promotes promiscuity.
Before I have a wave of feminists lambasting me for this idea they’ll surely label as 1950s drivel, I would like to cut this criticism off at the pass and state that values are never decade driven or outdated. Principles hold true even where fads and fashions fade. An evolution of culture may include outward appearances that differ from generations before (clothes, trends, even ideas), but objective truth and the needs of the human soul remain constant- they always were, they are and they will remain the same in the future. I firmly believe it is in a girl’s best interest to delay dating until she is mature enough to handle the responsibility and to begin the process of exploring the possibility of a married vocation and seeking a spouse. And it is up to parents to protect their daughters.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: “….prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning, making judgments, controlling impulses, and foreseeing consequences, is still quite immature during adolescence….[it] is the neurobiological explanation for why adolescents exhibit poor judgment.”
**I am not endorsing these sites in their entirety, just providing reference for the factual claims made.
COMING UP NEXT TIME:
2. If a young man is interested in getting to know you, he should be willing to hang around your family.
3. If he wants to take you to the prom or another school sponsored dance, you go in a group and he asks your (gasp!) dad’s permission
PART II BEGINS HERE
Thank you to Stefanie Shick in Nashville, TN over at “A Dreamer’s Wife” who interviewed me earlier this week about BIG HEARTED: Inspiring Stories for Everyday Families. HERE IT IS. Please check out Stefanie’s blog. Her husband is a talented musician. You can find his work here.
Here’s the adorable couple:
Stephanie and Adam Shick
Have a great weekend!
Thank you to Staci Gulino, host of “Faith and Good Counsel” radio show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for having Patti Armstrong and me on her show today to talk about our new book, BIG HEARTED. We were joined, round-table style, by Erin Franco and Dr. Mary Wallace. Please click on their names to go to their wonderful blogs, Humble Handmaid and The Working Catholic Mom, respectively. It was such a joy to talk with other faith-filled moms, about our vocation of motherhood and ways we can show Christ’s love to our families and to the world.
Here’s my latest over at Integrated Catholic Life: When Quantity Trumps
..Giving time is a challenge for sure. Beds must be made. Meals must be cooked. Clothes must be folded and clutter put away. Money must be earned to provide basic needs. But nothing is more important than scooping up the little one tugging at your sleeve, hugging her and showing her the bird perched out the window, and listening to the expressions of the little thoughts on her mind…
When children arrive home from school one of the parents needs to be there, waiting, ready for that quality time that might pop up anywhere, at any moment. Nothing says love like our presence…
I am happy to share with you that BIG HEARTED is available for pre-sale, just in time for Mother’s Day! I’m so excited to share this book with you. I enjoyed so much collecting the stories for this very personal book about loving and generosity in families. A little synopsis is below. Each story is self contained- you can start at the beginning, the end, or somewhere in between.
If you are interested, follow the link here to pre-order, for a 15 % discount off the retail price- only good until May 1 and just in time for Mother’s Day!
HERE is my latest post over at Suscipio, entitled A New Year’s Look at a Mother’s Work. I hope you will pop over and read it. Jenny, who runs Suscipio offers much encouragement for moms. I am sure she would love to have you look around. Consider this your personal invitation to do so- God bless!