January 11, 2009

The Top Ten Dating Mistakes Parents Make (Part 2)

Written By Cary Schmidt

How Parents Let Their Kids Go Too Far, Too Fast, Too Soon

This is part two in a series of articles that flow from years of dealing with situations that arose out of well-meaning but short-sighted parental decisions. We all have blind spots, so these things are shared with a spirit of sincerity and humility to help parents and student leaders consider walking circumspectly.

To read the first three mistakes, visit part one of this post. Let’s press on and see the next three mistakes that parents make regarding their teenager’s romantic attractions:

4. They trust other parents. This one is huge. Not everybody in your church has your standards. Not every marriage is strong, and not every Christian parent agrees with the church, the pastor, or the preaching. Simple advice—don’t blindly trust parents you don’t know very, very well. Don’t assume that their standards are yours. They probably aren’t. That doesn’t mean you should be rude or disrespectful. You can be kind, friendly, and loving—but you don’t have to trust someone you don’t know well, and you don’t have to explain why—to them, to your teen, or to anyone else. If you don’t have absolute peace, trust your God-given instincts and just say “no.”

5. They allow perpetually open lines of communication—phone, texting, emailing, etc. This one is huge too. We live in a day of perpetual communication. We can be in constant contact with someone across great distances. This is often a blessing, but for teen dating relationships, it is a big “game changer” from when we were growing up. To say it succinctly, relationships grow through time and attention. The more time and attention you give any one person, the closer the relationship becomes. For teens this means rapid imbalance, idolatry, relational addiction, emotional dependency, and ultimately physical and moral devastation. To allow teens to be in constant communication through being together, then being on the phone, then texting, emailing, social networking, twittering, or even note writing (that long lost art) we allow their hearts to become consumed with a temporal, early attraction that has little hope of becoming anything but a snare.

Prudent parents put a strong brake on this until a serious dating relationship is appropriate—closer to marriage. In our home, for our boys, there is no phone calling, no texting, and no unsupervised communication with girls. We read every email coming and going, and we allow no more than two per week. And to be honest, the guys appreciate our oversight and accept it with a great spirit.

6. They allow the couple to be in a different room in the house. How often I have dealt with serious problems that began when two teens were in another room of the house while parents sat just a few feet away, but out of sight. Why would we do this? If your teenager must be alone and doesn’t want the kind of friendship that can be interactive with the rest of the family, there’s a problem. Teens don’t ever need to be alone with a boyfriend or girlfriend, not even when chaperones are nearby but out of sight. Make friendships a family event.

This past Christmas my son planned to give a young lady a Christmas gift, and she had one for him as well. When the gift exchange was about to take place, unbeknownst to my son, both sets of parents assembled to enjoy the moment. We caught them off guard a little, but what a delight it was so see them laugh and proceed in giving each other their gifts. Matters got even funnier when both dads grabbed the Christmas cards and began to read them. (If you’re a parent and thinking right now that I’m out of my mind, keep reading.) Our teens giggled again, and said nothing of it. It was both cute and cool at the same time! How great that two young people could have that kind of open friendship in front of their parents. I believe that pleases the Lord.

7. They take vacations with a “friend.” I know, what a kill-joy I am. Vacations can cause us to drop our guard. Often a vacation involves swimming, alone time, and plenty of opportunities to grow emotionally and physically closer than two teens should be. Over-familiarity between teenagers is always a bad thing. Even driving in a car, sitting too close for ten hours, can do a lot of damage. Parent, it’s just not worth it. I promise you. Your teen needs time with you on vacation—not more time with a boy or girl friend. Let the boyfriends and girlfriends stay home until engagement is near—and even then, be very vigilant.

These the next four mistakes that often lead to terrible outcomes. There are 3 more that we’ll discuss soon. For now, consider these and ask God for insight. Feel free to share your thoughts or insight to contribute to this article.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go:

Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.