Rules for My Teenage Daughter Dating

When my husband revealed that our five-year-old daughter had confided to him that she had a crush on a boy from her tee ball team, I laughed at the quaint little thought. Over the next few weeks as I noticed her getting distracted at practices because she was watching him, giving him thumbs up from third base when he made a good play on the pitcher’s mound, and chasing him around the playground after practice, I started to slightly panic. I didn’t expect to have to deal with all this boy nonsense for at least another five to eight years.

My husband and I early on agreed not to make a big deal out of this first crush. We never referred to him as her “boyfriend”. We never referred to her feelings for him at all. After every game or practice she would get that happily embarrassed look on her face, and we knew that meant she was about to tell us something about the boy. And when she realized the season was almost over, she got upset that she would never see him again. That’s when I offered to set up some team play-dates after the season ended where she might see him, but it wouldn’t be a one-on-one kind of play-date. Of course, I am pretty sure that the boy in question is completely oblivious to her crush and just sees her as buddy.

I hope that by homeschooling she won’t feel all the pressure to start having “boyfriends” as young as I remember from my youth or to do all the things that I know were going on when I was in junior high. At least for the next five to eight years I will know any boy that she knows and probably his parents since she won’t really be going anywhere without me. But I really feel like I should be prepared with rules and explanations before the need for them arises.

I always kind of thought that I would be as liberal with my kids as my parents were with me. The only quasi-rule I was told about in eighth grade was that they did not recommend that I date anyone more than two years older or younger than myself. Otherwise, they rarely met anyone I hung out with until I went to college. I had so many guy friends they didn’t know who I was or wasn’t dating and they didn’t ask. I didn’t have a real curfew; I just had to tell them where I was going and with whom. Since I was the super-responsible type (you know, the kid to whom all the other parents entrusted their children) it worked out ok. But I don’t think I want to roll the dice like that with my kids.

What is the purpose of dating? I happened to sit in on an interesting discussion about dating in one of my husband’s sociology classes last semester. One young man actually used the “car metaphor”. You know, the “sometimes you want to trade in an older model for a newer model”. Then you had the other young gentleman who complained, “how you can hope to get to know someone well enough to know if they are a life-mate if you are constantly on the look out for the next better girl.” The response to that idea was that dating doesn’t have to be so serious; “what’s wrong with just wanting to have fun?”

I think this concept of recreational dating is very popular in our culture. But I kind of wonder who is having all the “fun” and for how long. I mean, sure the initial excitement of infatuation can be fun, but you also have the worry and the angst about saying or doing the wrong thing, who is going to pay for what, will the other person even call, and do they like you like that. Then after the warm fuzzies start to subside or he’s found a better model there is the disappointment and sometimes even heartbreak of rejection or the awkwardness of doing the rejecting. And if a girl has been has been so caught up in those early happy emotions that she went farther physically than she should have, there may be major feelings of guilt and self-loathing afterwards. It seemed like such fun when I was dating. NOT! (No matter what rough patches my husband and I hit we realize it could be worse; we could have to start dating again.)

There’s also this idea that people need to date and mess around with many people before they think about settling down. They have to get “experience”. This is the same fallacy as kids must go to school to get “socialization”. There is good experience and bad experience; there is good socialization and bad socialization. Just like kids are more likely to experience bad socialization in schools, studies are showing that more dating experience before marriage actually hurts marriages. People tend to remember more of the bad than the good and bring their fears, their baggage, with them.

I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I’m thinking that my girls should not be allowed to have a boyfriend until they are at least sixteen. Even then, they should not go on unchaperoned dates; they should always have other people with them and be in public places. It’s not just about protecting their chastity; it’s about protecting their hearts. And about not allowing them to be put in positions where they feel pressured to do more than they are really ready for or their hormones are telling them they are ready for. I want my girls to know that they can always blame their “over-protective parents” when they suddenly have to go home; I have no qualms about being an “uncool” parent if it gives them an out when they need it or want it.

This doesn’t mean they won’t be allowed to meet or talk to boys.  I see no need to ban them from calling boys.  I just don’t want them getting too serious at such a young age.  I would like them to get in the habit of really getting to know a boy rather than being swept up by their initial emotions.  Just like I know by homeschooling I can’t prevent my kids from having any bad socialization experiences, I know that I can’t keep them from experiencing some of the negative aspects of dating. But by limiting the number of bad experiences, we might just pull them through their adolescence without being completely warped and give them a better shot at a happy adulthood, happy marriage, and happy life. And hopefully, we can prepare them to make wise choices once they are out on their own.

In the meantime, I’ve been giving my oldest daughter a few things to think about lately. Dating is all over shows with young teenagers on Disney and Nickelodeon (another reason to limit or eliminate television viewing in general). Lately, I’ve been making comments like “I think those two are too young to be kissing.” Or while watching an episode of “Suite Life of Zach and Cody” where thirteen-year-old Cody was going crazy at the thought that his girlfriend liked another guy, I noted that he was too young to have a girlfriend and how silly it was making him act. Just planting a few seeds for the future.

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One Comment on “Rules for My Teenage Daughter Dating”

  1. Laura Witten Says:

    You are such an awesome mom. Babs is my hero!

    DS is not yet 4, and already has a preference for girls over boys – loves to show of his jumping ability to any girl or woman we happen by. Its hilarious. My goal is to raise him to be the kind of guy any mother would be glad to have around her daughter. If he turns out like his daddy, he’ll have the upmost respect for women and for himself – the basis for any good relationship!

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