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Monday, November 11, 2013

Dating and teenagers (or how we don't know much about nothin')

Over on the Q&A Liza asked:
"What are your views on teenage dating, and how does dating work in your household? Are there any rules that you and your husband have made about it?"
Me thinks I need a new pic of my bigs.  Still those man-hands on our man child are huge!  
Take care of the ladies, sweet boy, always.
Just the thought of it makes me wonder about all the things I haven't even thought about yet, all the things I'm missing, and it makes me kinda sick to my stomach.  

Unless it's my dates with Papas of course!

I mean the thought of my own children our there in the big wide world (children mind you!) going out there and risking so much, with someone else...  there are so many things that can go wrong, and sex is just the tip of the iceberg.  I was a teenager, and I dated.  I know what can go on!  Throw in a car, teenage drivers and some peer pressure into the mix, and I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. 

We have several friends who approach dating with the "courtship" method.  I get it.  I admire this method of training young people about relationships.  But Papa and I have always approached dating (and parenting and just living life for that fact) differently.  We want to prepare all our children, like ourselves, to live in the world but stand apart in it.  To look different and act differently in the midst of a culture that puts value on lots of things that we don't.  
Well... that was the theory going in at least.  
3 teens now, one of which has flown the nest, and well... 
Let's just say we know we're falling short on several fronts of our objective, but that at least we're still keeping this ideal of living in the world but standing apart in it, as our objective. 

Don't get me wrong.  We're Christians and raise our children quite conservatively in many ways.  But Papa grew up in a very conservative home, and I grew up in a very liberal one.  And our style of parenting has evolved into a mix of two opposite sides of a coin.  

But let's get back to dating.
Papa and I started dating when we were 15 and 16 years old.  We were babies.  And even though he was only 15 years old, he was 6'3" tall and 200 lbs.  Papa only had his driver's permit, and I was the licensed driver on our first dates.  We dated exclusively for 8 years until we married except for a very brief time in France when I broke up with him citing that we both needed to "move on and grow up" until he changed my mind 30 minutes later.    
Thank golly.  

Let's start with the fact that teenagers come out differently.  Of our 3, one hasn't expressed too much interest in dating but has dated on a small handful of occasions.  One came into this world pushing the dating envelope.  And another has never ever expressed even the slightest desire.  Different kiddos with different sets of issues and parents that have to adapt to it all.

Getting down to the brass tacks, yes we let our teenagers date.  They have to be at least 16 years old to actually go on a date.  We have to meet the young person.  Young men must come to our door, knock, come inside and sit for a bit of small talk with the parental units.  During said small talk there will likely be some sort of mention of the expectations that we hold.  The girls have always done a good job of prepping their dates for this, and it's never as awful as they think.  And seriously if you think all of that is so awful, then maybe you're not ready to date in the first place.

It is the teen's responsibility to give us information for every date (and going out in general)
5WH style.
Who will be there?  
Who will be chaperoning?
What will you be doing? 
When will you do it?  
When is it over?  
Where will you be including the address and phone number?  (A cell number doesn't hack it.  We want a home phone number.  And if it's a "party" then yes, I'll be calling the home to see if I can send anything, like pizza or soda, of course.  Among other things I can talk about to the parents.  This tends to put the kibosh on most parties.)  
Why in the would would you want to do that?  
How are you getting there and home?  
And if any of those plans change it is your responsibility to tell us before the fact.  

In an age of cells phones and texting we want to be able to get a hold of you at any time.  And if we can't you are forfeiting the privilege to go out in the future.  And while we're talking about cell phones, we're totally okay with GPS tracking.  We've done GPS tracking with our teens depending on the circumstances.  We've had incidents and were incredibly thankful we had this technology available to us.  And so was our teenager... eventually.  

We reserve the right to drop in and check on things.  
Any place.  
Any movie.  
Any restaurant.  
Any home.  
My parents did this regularly to both me and my brother.

We do allow them to have a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend."  Although before they are 16 years old this doesn't actually mean much since they aren't allowed to do anything anyway.  (PS our kiddos don't get a cell phone till high school so this helps.)  

We reserve judgement about who our teens date.  The choice is theirs, and we support their decisions.  I did not say we remain silent.  I have been know to point out things.  To encourage them to imagine what their future holds, which if your a teenager could mean all the way till prom.  Indeed there have been some bad choices over the years.  And even more wonderful ones.  But the bad ones turn into learning experiences and the stuff that life is all about.  And when they make the choices the lessons impact them so much more.  We'd much rather have them learn these lessons under our roof with our guidance, than wait till they are on their own without a safety net.  Any my oh my how many times we've been the safety net.  

A child may not visit the home of the person they are dating unless they've gotten our permission first.  And before Iwe grant that permission you better believe that there will be a phone call to the other parents just to make sure we're all on the same page (common areas of house.  parents will be home...)  Some of my teen totally thought that that phone call was worth it and gladly gave me the phone number.  Others were much too mortified for me to call and forfeited the option.  

We don't have curfew in our home.  Just never needed it.  More about that here.

Any dating relationship that goes beyond a few dates or few weeks will likely have me place a phone call to the other parents just to introduce myself.  This was hard for me to do with my first child.  And it was met with a very appreciate set of parents on the other end.  It has gotten much easier in time.

I've always talked pretty openly about sex and vd.  So this is a conversation we started having long before dating.  Our expectations for our teenagers are very clear.  And we are also very conscience of the reality of what may happen.  I want my children to be safe.  And I want to be real.  So we talk about our expectation of abstinence and the reality of what goes on around them.  We talk about what sex is (and it is way more than it was when Papa and I were dating) and what can come and is lost when it happens.

I always wait up for the child to come home.
Even if it's snuggled in my bed with the tv or a book.  And I always expect a kiss goodnight.  Always.  A kiss good night can tell me much about what actually went on that evening.  Cigarette smoke on clothing, alcohol on their breath...  And I kinda just like it that my teens still have to kiss me goodnight.   That kiss usually turns into a teen sitting on the end of my bed (as Papa snores next to me since he is so not a night person) and getting the run down of how things went.  Which gives me opportunity to read between the lines.  A smile.  Tears.  There is a lot said and a lot learned in those few minutes late at night.

And I will also include that not all rules are the "same" for all kiddos.  Past performance is a huge factor when we decide things like when you need to be home or how much "rope" to let out.  There have been huge consequences and privileges revoked from poor decision making.  And there have been many opportunities extended to those that have a track history of good decision making.  All is fair in the Crazy house, but all is not necessarily equal.

I'm sure there's more that I'm not mentioning.  Like I said, just the thought of this topic makes me appreciate and worry about all the things I haven't even thought about yet.  And don't get me wrong.  I have no idea if we're doing this right.  This is simply the way we are doing it right now.  I'm confident that we're missing the boat on much of it too.  It's all a work in progress.  And we've yet to have a teenage dating boy.  But he'll be 16 years old soon, and it will again be uncharted territory for us.

ps-I'm always game for suggestions, tip and ticks on what works in your home and with your family with teenage dating.  At 45 I'm now old enough to know that I actually don't know much.   Please share either with a comment on this post or over on Facebook, so we can all learn all serve as a resource with each other.  It takes a village, folks.

pps-I'm loving all the suggestions over on the Q&A here and plan on including them a couple times per month.  So keep 'em coming Dear Abby style, and if your want to include your email and blog, and I'll link the post back to your blog!


  1. this is so so good. I will be stealing the kiss goodnight thing.

  2. My mom also didn't give us a curfew. As long as we were honest with her about where we were going, where we were going, & when we'd be home, she was usually fine. I even remember spending the night at a boy friend's house in high school (just a friend- one of my best & nothing happened). I think I'll probably be a little more strict with mine… there were many times I could have easily gotten myself into trouble, but I was a pretty big rule-follower as a teen. I do love the good-night kiss thing. Very good idea! And I agree with the checking-up on them at any time. I like that a lot! Wish I had some suggestions for you, but mine are way too young right now to really have any of my own tricks. But I am definitely tucking this away for the years to come!!!

  3. Thank you for this…so much good information here. My teenagers haven't really ventured into dating (beyond the occasional school dance) but you've mentioned some things here that I want to start thinking through before we get to that point.

  4. We have similar rules in our house! No dating till 16 and even after that we don't really want them to have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend until they get out of highschool. You only get one opportunity to love through highschool and have fun and get grood grades. You can only do so many things good and if you are being a good boyfriend or girlfriend you are probably not doing well at school. Kelleyn

  5. Out of my 9, I have 1 married. You'd think I would have this covered but like you said they are all different. Some need a short leash and others you can let them go and just know they will be fine. Now I have a 12 year old who thinks she is 24. Big battles in the future with this one.

  6. I have to say, you sound like a pretty cool mom. I''m 21 and my parents have always been very, very protective of me and I've felt that they'd always be judgmental of any man I brought home to them. Thus, I am 21 and have never been on a real date in my life. Having parents like mine definitely has shaken my confidence around the opposite sex (how are you even supposed to talk to guys, anyways? Dating is so confusing...)

    I think if I had parents like you and your husband, maybe I'd be a little more confident! :)

  7. Thanks for sharing all this. My dumplings aren't anywhere near dating....but....I do have one asking all sorts of serious questions about babies. So, that's what we're starting to tackle. I hope we don't tackle dating for a long time, but I will surely keep your perspective in mind. ;)

  8. We're only a few years ahead of you in this game (with a 21, 19 and 18 yr old). We have similar approaches to you. We've not always been thrilled with their decisions, and struggled hard to wait quietly at times while learning is happening (being quiet is my hardest lesson with big kids - I still have so much to say!) but we are close to all three and so proud of the adults they are becoming. Parenting at this stage is hard work, with all new learning.

  9. While my kids (10, 9, and 4) are much too young to date, your style reminds me of my parents' style with me and my siblings. I think it is a good way of doing things. I will warn parents, though, that knowing your child's friends is huge at this age, as many teens will skirt around their parents' rules by staying overnight with a friend whose parents may not provide any oversight. (Yes, this would be experience talking...)

  10. I use to be all over the courting system. It sounded so great... Guarding your heart, saving your self for one. I made my girls read Before You Meet Prince Charming and believe that dating is unbiblical and a sin and the formula for an unhappy life.
    I talked to a couple mothers about it, and I had a change of heart.
    Dating could be going with many boys just to have a good time and breaking up and having sex and kissing.
    Courting could be sitting around at home with girl friends until some guy comes around. That would be a jerking, unhealthy change going from never-knowing-guys to being practically engaged.
    Courting is a source of guilt and pride. Purity is good, buy Sarah Malley says some pretty unnecessary things.
    Grace has practically grown up with our family friends' son Tim. They took naps together as newborns a couple times. ;) They were almost best friends, but with no romantic feelings. They started liking each other as teens, but kept the relationship casual. When they were almost 18, Tim approached my husband asking if he could date Grace. They were absolutely head over heals about each other. Three years later they are engaged to be married. They never dated anyone else, an they didn't have to court to do that.
    So, I guess you could call that courting or dating.
    The Duggar family is wonderful. They do court, but not to the absolute extreme. They actually call it dating, even though they say they are in a courtship.
    I don't approve of my daughters being guy crazy, but courtship is extreme.


    1. Irena, I'm loving your train of thought. thank you so much for expressing it! there seems to be more discussion about "courting" then there even was almost a year ago when I wrote this. the best I can comment is that courting doesn't work for our family and maybe with what's coming out these days, I'm starting to be able to better understand why. I'd much prefer that my children not get into serious committed relationships either. (yes that's me being a hypocrite!) I do wish I could stop a child from being boy crazy or girl crazy. I'm still not sure how to do that. All the rules don't seem to change those inclinations. some kiddos (people rather) just seem to be bent that way from the womb.


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