So you are the parent of a preteen, and the thought of your child soon exploring the world of dating sends chills down your spine. Or your child is a teenager, and you have watched them move from one dating relationship to another only to see their hearts break again and again. What can a parent do? This is the way of things for kids these days, right? We just have to wade through it as best we can and hope our kids come through on the other end without too many relationship scars. Don’t we? Do we?
Dating is a modern day phenomenon. It’s only been in fashion for the last century or so. When I was a teenager and dating it had only been around for about seventy years. No one told me this. I thought, like everyone else, that it was how things had always been. I, like all my girlfriends, was obsessed with boys. I believed that if I wasn’t doodling some boy’s name on my notebooks, or planning what I was going to wear out on a date by the time I was twelve or thirteen, there must be something wrong with me. There was, my focus was off.
I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was a sophomore in high school. By all accounts, I was a late bloomer. Consequently, inside, I just knew I was completely flawed. I had never even kissed a boy! By the time I had graduated high school, I had been in a couple of serious dating relationships and several not so serious ones. I might have been a late bloomer, but I spent a lot of time making up for lost time. I also spent countless hours sitting by the phone waiting for that promised phone call. (I’d really like to have all that time back now.) Again, poor focus.
The world says to teens, “If you’re not dating you are a loser”, but God’s word says,
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5
Ironically, a hymn I knew growing up taught this…
Yet I didn’t listen. Thankfully, my kids are listening. Thankfully, they have decided to go a different way.
Yes, my sons still like girls, and my daughter is attracted to boys. As our pastor has said, those feelings are right, but they are coming at the wrong time. “Right feelings, wrong season.” (Chris Hodges) It’s a matter of proper focus. It’s okay to acknowledge the right feelings; we just have to instruct them to hold those in check until the right season.
When they look back upon their teen years, my kids won’t wish to have hours and hours of wasted time back, like I do. They are standing in opposition to what the world is telling them about relationships.
My oldest son is in a stable relationship. He’s nineteen. Still quite young. He admired his girlfriend from afar for quite a while. They were both in an internship program at church that discouraged dating. It encouraged participants to focus on Jesus, and becoming the “right person” themselves, rather than the focus being on looking for the right person.
When they completed the internship, they started slowly. Very slowly. Coffee. Lunch. Then finally my son went to her dad and asked permission to date her. Most kids would have sped through three or four relationships in the time it took them to make it to their first official date.
We have tried to encourage that they spend lots of time with either our family or hers. We have tried to provide a great deal of accountability. In a way, she is dating our family, and he is dating hers. So far, so good.
Some might call this courting. It is, in a way. It’s more like modified dating. Of course, as they have grown a bit older, and have shown maturity in their relationship, both sets of parents have loosened the reigns a good bit, but we still enjoy spending regular time with my son and his girlfriend. We talk with our son a lot about their relationship and how things are going. He allows us to speak into it, even if he doesn’t always like what we have to say.
I say all of this to encourage parents as they walk this road with their kids. Don’t buy into the lie the world wants to sell you. There are other ways of doing things. Godly ways. Be fairly warned though, your kids will be different, and different for teens isn’t always looked upon in a positive way.
If you have a son, teach him to treasure females. When the time is right for him to pursue one, send him to her father. Have him ask permission to spend time with his daughter. After the father picks himself up off the ground, he will respect your son and be pleased that such a fine young man is showing an interest in his daughter.
If you have a daughter, guard her heart. Teach her how to guard her heart. Girls give that, and other things, away far too soon these days. She needs to first give her heart to Jesus. Then, in the right season, He will lead her to give it to the right young man. Her standards will be high, and they should be. She is a treasure.