February 14, 2009

The Top Ten Dating Mistakes Parents Make (Part 3)

Written By Cary Schmidt

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

This is the final article in a series about the mistakes that parents often make in allowing their children to date too seriously too soon. We’ve seen the first seven, so let’s wrap it up…

8. They push their kids into dating out of a personal childhood fantasy. This is usually a mother, but sometimes a dad too. Admittedly, there’s a certain delight and inner satisfaction in the heart of a parent when your son or daughter has “a special someone.” For a parent who is happily married, there’s even a slight anticipation in us—looking forward to when our grown children will enjoy that wonderful, Christ-centered relationship within the bounds of commitment. But for now—rein it in, cowboy! Don’t get caught up in the emotion of it! Hold it back. You are the voice of reason and control. You must remain objective and principle centered. If you don’t, your teenager has no hope. You must be an objective, fixed authority, holding a biblical position of balance. Yes, that will create tension between you and your teen, but tension that keeps your teenager from driving into a ditch relationally is GOOD tension!

9. They don’t thoroughly and biblically explain appropriate boundaries. As my story under point six illustrates, kids are capable of appreciating and functioning well under clear boundaries. What they can’t deal with is parental ignorance that yells, “because I SAID SO!” That stopped working when they were about nine. Teenagers long for well-reasoned, well-balanced mentoring. They appreciate knowing what the Bible says and how to apply it. They can grasp principles that flow from loving teaching and nurture. They can even deal with authority that is consistently biblical and compassionate. That’s not to say they won’t fight temptation—but at least they will fight it, and with your help and coaching, they will have victory over it. Set boundaries, explain them thoroughly, and expect them to be maintained.

10. They leave their kids to themselves in dealing with and developing their relationships. I don’t understand why, but most parents don’t even talk to their kids about sex, love, romance, and strong emotions. They don’t get below the surface in the growth of these friendships. It’s like we throw our kids into the deep end of the pool and hope they will survive. They won’t—not in today’s culture! Please talk to your kids about these emotions and help them manage them by God’s grace. Teach them what a biblical and godly friendship looks like. Explain how they can keep that friendship Christ-centered. Help them understand the stakes and the blessings of doing things the right way—even if you didn’t. Don’t expect them to “just know” and don’t force them to learn the hard way.

11. They think a dating relationship will compensate for other family problems. (I know, I said ten, but this one is a bonus.) Often, in a home where there is trouble or relational divide, one parent will falsely believe that a dating relationship will mend the hurt and heal the heart. It’s a deceptive thought flowing from a sincere desire! Who wouldn’t want a young lady whose father is absent to have the attention of a good Christian guy. But again, too far, too fast, too soon—this will only compound the problems into future generations.

Only Christ can heal a wounded heart. When we push or assist a young person into an early serious relationship with the hopes that it will “help,” we only invite greater eventual hurt. In this case, “another person” is not the answer. God’s grace is the answer—and once God’s grace has healed the heart, your young person will be able to stand on solid spiritual ground. A future spouse will be chosen within God’s perfect will rather than from the desperate cries of a hurting heart.

Several weeks ago, a young man from our youth group married a young lady whose father had left her when she was five years old. Her father was completely absent from her life. Rather than become bitter and angry, this young lady chose to claim God’s grace. Rather than dress in black, enter into a perpetual identity crisis, and retreat into her hurt world; she chose to be godly and grace-filled—following the example of a godly mother.

What a joy it was to watch her wed and finally place herself into the loving arms of a godly young man. I saw sixteen years of longing come flooding out in her overwhelming emotional expressions towards her husband! It was a wonderful, awesome, tearful experience! God graciously gave her the desire of her heart and the longing of her soul, after she chose to trust Him fully.

That’s the goal, parent! The right person at the right time! PLEASE—don’t fall to these mistakes. Stand guard, and graciously guide your teenager through these wonderful but potentially troubling years. God will grant you wisdom and strength if you will trust Him and honor His Word.

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.