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This is an opinion piece that you can take or leave, but since you asked my opinion, I’m glad to share it with you. Thanks for asking.
Key Questions: What is your long-term parenting desire for your child? What kind of adult would you like for your child to become? What is the best way for your child to become that kind of adult and how do you think your view on dating will help accomplish that goal? If need help thinking through these things, you can ask on our free public forum.
1 – She should date before she marries – She should date a guy long enough to “check him out” for marriage potential. At least two years is a good rule-of-thumb, which will give you time to get to know the guy, as well as give them a few opportunites to work through conflict.
2 – There is no biblically mandated age – When to date is not mandated by Scripture. Each parent and family must make that decision, and the decision must be individualized to each child. Even within families, you do not treat all the children the same because they are not the same.
3 – Don’t map your experience over your child – A common parenting mistake is when the parent maps their experience over the child. E.g., a parent had a poor experience during childhood and they over-correct by giving the child what they did not get, which could me a monumental mistake.
4 – Start teaching relationships practices early – Dating is about getting to know a person for the mutual enjoyment of each other. Teach your children how to enjoy each other as you present your marriage as exhibit A for how two people should relate to each other. You have about fifteen powerful and practical years to show your child how to lovingly get along and relate to another person as you model your marriage inside your family (Philippians 4:9).
Let your life and marriage give your children a reason to want to be in your home rather than a reason to leave your home. – Lucia Thomas
5 – Don’t create deficits in the child’s heart – Anger in any of its forms will push your girl out of the home and into the arms of another person. So can passivity, negativity, or a non-repenting and joyless home.
6 – Consider your child’s personality – Each child is different. Some are more relationally desirous than others. Some are more mature than others. Some are needier than others.
7 – Consider your child’s soul – This is different from personality. Some of her “soul parts” are spirit (Is she alive in God?), motives, thoughts, conscience, and intentions.
8 – Think through your child’s motive – The main motive for dating is marriage. There can be other motives that are not sinful but each motivation needs to be examined. Be careful here. If she “has to date” then you probably have a problem.
9 – Factor in fear of man – This is a huge issue with teens, especially with teens. High schoolers want to fit in. Lovingly question motives. The dating question could be a great opportunity to walk your child through one of the most debilitating sin patterns in all Christians’ lives. Read Rick’s practical plan to break free from being controlled by the opinions of others.
10 – Don’t cater to your child – Just because your child may want something does not mean she should have it. If your habit is to give your child what she requests, then consider changing your habits by being more like God: He does not always give us what we request. Learn the blessedness of saying no.
11 – Let your family be the laboratory for relationship training – One of the biggest parenting failures is not training children to become adults. So many parents fill their kids’ days and weeks and years with things (sports) that are all about the children. This shapes a “me-centered” worldview into the child that proves detrimental to being an adult. Dating can be another iteration of the “what I want out of life” worldview.
Your family is the best “social training context” because your family is a closed non-escapable unit where imperfect people have to learn how to get along with each other. Being activity-centered versus family-centered will create self-centeredness rather than other-centeredness.
12 – Know how to make a biblical decision – Do not let anyone other than God tell you when the right time is for your girl to date. You must be “in faith” for what you do (Romans 14:23). The four components to decision making are Canon, Comforter, community, and conscience. Ultimately, this is a collective decision between you, your spouse, and the LORD. Read how to make a decision about anything.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).