Why Not Tell Him 'No Dating Until You're x Years Old?' (Part 3)
|"Scolding the Baby Penguin"|
Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero
Read Part 1 - The Reason Why
Read Part 2 - Passport 2 Purity
Quite a few parents even stated that their kids were not going to date until they were 16-years old, or 18-years old. Some were even proud to make that statement. Well, we’re in a world where boys are told they need to get laid, and the girls are given mixed messages on “no sex until you’re married” but “he won’t like you unless you’re sexy for him.”
Rather than outright forbid sex, I needed a better, more comprehensive approach. So, I sought advice from parents who have already been there.
The recurring theme was how important it is for teens to be able to grow in their autonomy. This was a key time for them to become adults. Their early childhood was a time to learn our way of life. Their adolescence would be a time for them to test out who they will be. In a sense, it is a time where what we have taught them will be put to the test, and our roles as parents shift from sage to guide. Adolescence is a period where we gradually shift authority of our children to themselves, and we do our best to train them in the way they should go.
I think it is an easy out to categorically say "no dating allowed until..." We are only attempting to shelter our teens at that point. The result is either our children live a double life where we see the appearance of obedient children, but miss the reality they are engaging in high risk activity like sex, alcohol or drugs. Or, we hover so much over our children that they never have a chance to grow into their own selves.
“To draw a lesson from my instructional design background, my kids don’t care what I know unless they first know that I care.”
Teens do not go to their parents for advice and wisdom, but they need to. Olivia and I want our teens to keep an open door with us and be able to come to us for advice. That means we are in a time where we have to weigh heavily the impact of outright saying, no. There has to be a trust built on the truth that we have their best interest in mind, they get to make some decisions, and we are here to guide them because we have been there before. We made the same mistakes, and gave the same reasoning. The hard thing to do is refrain from bringing down the hammer when they do open up to us. That will only send the message they cannot confide in their parents.
We have to be bold enough to have lots of conversations with our teens. The sooner we start the better.
There's a difficult balance to be made with monitoring what our teens are doing and letting them grow into adults. Too much monitoring and they will be stifled in their transition into adulthood. Too little monitoring, or none at all, and they face having to grow up too much too quickly.
Perceived trust is a pivotal protective factor against risky behaviors like sexual activity, underage drinking, drug use, and so on. Oh, I'm also not calling for a lack of supervision. The more unsupervised time and activities that were allowed correlates with more participation in high risk activities.
Keep the channels of communication open, build trust, build autonomy with the expectation of responsibility. Good luck, and in the meantime, wish us luck. Pray for us, too.
RELATED POSTS AND LINKS
- Strength Revisited download
- Four Tips for Dads of Teens
- FTQA Episode 27 - How Do You Stay Connected With Your Teen?
- FTQA Episode 24- A Father-Son Chat, School Sports, Favorite TV Shows, Strength Revisited
- FTQA Episode 21 - Open Communication, Golden Rule and Platinum Rule
- FTQA Episode 20 - Double Standards, Teen Dating, and Ironing with Sprite
- Passport 2 Purity by FamilyLife Ministries. I’d recommend 6th or 7th Grade for this weekend-long conversation to happen. Refill journals.
- The Sex-Wise Parent - This is next on my reading list, but it was recommended as a great book that gives age-appropriate advice on how to talk with your children about sex.
- LoveIsRespect.org - Here’s a great website to use as a tool to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.
- Let’s Talk About Sex (DVD) about sex education in the United States. I firmly believe that sex education is the responsibility of a child’s parents, it must be comprehensive, and it must be done repeatedly throughout one’s life in age-appropriate levels.