Your child’s first date is probably one of the most significant events of his or her life…and it should be no different than any of these other “teachable firsts.” It’s the parent’s privilege to be the other half of the child’s first date. How can a teen know how to handle dating properly if a parent doesn’t choose to be the instructor? Your child’s first dates should be with you.
Dating your child has so many advantages. First, it allows a parent to get to know their children one on one. It sets up time for you to be a student of your child individually. Who are they? What do they like? What are their opinions? This gives time to find those things out. Intentional “dates” can start in early childhood. Something as simple as taking your child out individually for ice cream or anything one on one; it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Growing up in the Barnes’ house Robey and I would alternate Wednesday mornings having a breakfast “date” with Dad. This was every Wednesday for as long as I can remember and continued even when we came home from college. I am sure we were not great conversationalists in those early years, but it set the stage for talking in later years. We always knew we would have that time set aside for just us. Which brings us to the next advantage for dating your child, open doors for communication. Especially as children age, parents want to be a safe place for children to open up. Consistently dating your children allows for this. The set aside one on one time not only gives time for discussions and questions but also a safe place to have them.
As your child ages the benefits grow along with them. Dating teaches a person so much about who they are and how they should expect to be treated. A parent has the unique opportunity to teach a child how to act on a date as well as how to deal with a date. No one will ever teach a daughter, better than her dad, how to be treated as if she is special. How else will a daughter learn how to dress on a date, talk on a date or learn the nuances of healthy relationships if it doesn’t start with her dad? How else will a son learn to treat a female as if she is special if he doesn’t first experience going out and holding doors for his mom? These aren’t just lessons for dating these are lessons for life.
When things go wrong
When it comes to teaching a child how to handle the responsibility of driving a car, part of that training experience is learning what to do when something goes wrong. What to do about an unexpected flat tire. It’s even more important to teach a young person what to do when something goes wrong on a date. What to do when a date ends up at the wrong location or party…or even parking. When it’s time to call the date off and call home. How and when to say, “No.” Those are lessons best taught by a loving and training parent.
The opposite sex
We spend more time teaching our children how to play sports or recite spelling words.
We have been woefully lacking in this area of preparing our children to interact with the opposite sex. By missing this training responsibility, we have turned the training over to peers, the media and their culture. That just might be the biggest parenting mistake a person could make.
Take advantage of today’s mobility by going one-on-one out to dinner, to a game or an event. Use these times together to discuss topics such as the qualifications your teen should be looking for in a spouse. Spend the early teen years having fun developing that spouse qualification list while at the monthly dinners. The spouse qualification list can easily become the future date qualification template.
Who your child dates will determine who they marry. How your child dates could determine their future. By training your child to date in a God honoring manner, you are honoring your God given responsibility as a parent.
Train up a child in the way he should date. That’s pretty much what Proverbs 22:6 says and no one will do that better than a parent.
Looking for information? Go on line www.parentingonpurpose.org for more on parenting with Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.