By Kim Chaffin
Today, I want to take a look at the guidelines my husband and I set in place as we tried to find the right balance on the dating tight rope.
We feel the guidelines we set are extremely important. To have no guidelines, to not care how dating looks, or no set age when you think it is the right time to date, would be like saying to your kids: “I don’t care how fast you ride the motorcycle,” and: “it is your choice to wear the helmet or not.” That kind of attitude towards dating is setting your child up for hurt. On the flip side of that, I have watched a few families that have said no to dating, no to attending a dance, no to even going to a movie with a group of boys and girls; the outcome of that was not good either. The NO, NO, NO from the parents led to the SNEAK, SNEAK, SNEAK of the kids. I have witnessed more than one family lay down some of the tightest rules–as far as the opposite sex goes–and allow no dialog about it with their kids. Sadly, in some cases, it has led to everyone but the parents being aware that their child is being anything but pure. The kids have chosen the proverbial “back seat of the car,” while the parents have assumed their guidance of one big “NO” about the opposite sex is good enough.
My husband and I knew we needed to find the right balance to walk the dating tight rope in our home. Again, I want to stress that this is what worked for our family, it may not work for yours. Also, I cannot say that we did not have any near falls while walking this out. We saw that our kids were more likely to want to hang out at our home if we allowed them to have a relationship with healthy guidelines. When they hung out at our house, with us there, we got to be like the parents in the other room while the baby enjoys freedom in the crib–like I talked about in my first post. I guess you could say we found taking the middle ground between “no rules on dating,“ and “no dating at all,” to be where we landed.
The guidelines we set for our children when it came to dating, were like the pole that a tightrope walker uses for balance. If we let the guidelines lean too far one way or the other, it would be sure to knock our kids off the rope. The guidelines applied in all situations. We also were very clear on explaining the rules (guidelines) to any of our kid’s friends who came into our home. What we found was that kids like to know what the guidelines are, and they were happy not having to sneak around.
*If you want to hang out at our house with the opposite sex there must be a parent home. The same goes for you hanging out at their home.
*The bedrooms are off limits!
*If you are watching a movie, there is no reason to be in a completely dark room; have at least one light on.
*If you get cold, turn the fireplace on; if you want a blanket, we have plenty of them so you can each use your OWN.
*If you want to have a group of kids over for a pool party or movies, that is fine but we will be calling the parents to tell them that we are going to be here and they are welcome to come and hang out if they want. We had many nights enjoying a glass of wine and visiting with parents while the basement was full of kids watching a movie. We laughed as each parent randomly took a turn walking into the basement to make sure that no one was getting too comfortable. Not only our kids, but other kids asked us more than once to have more nights like that.
*If you are going out on a date, the only time you need to be hanging out alone in the car is while driving some place. If you have nothing to do but sit in the car alone, get to our house or call it a night!
*We are going to check with the parents of whatever house you are going to, and if you don’t like it you can stay home.
*Affection: We know you like each other. We know you want to hold hands, snuggle and kiss. We would much rather have you show affection in front of us, because the alternative is that you go somewhere alone to show affection and that can lead to things going too far. Please be comfortable in front of us. We were young once too, and we show our affection holding hands with a peck on the lips or cheek in front of you, because it is okay to have those feelings. But keep it at that. Don’t be alone, and do not take it farther than that simple affection. To let things go beyond that will leave you with the regret of having to tell your spouse some day.
*To our son: If you are going to date, you better respect the girl because she is Jesus’ princess; you better treat her in the same way you would want your sister treated. Also, you will not date a girl without speaking to her father first and looking him in the eye like a man. That goes for something as simple as asking a girl to a dance. You go to her father, or if she only has a mother then her mother first, before asking. We also like our son to be aware of just how much that father loves his daughter, and that he would not only answer to us, but he would answer to her father if he disrespected her. (Knowing that the father owned guns always added to helping get our point across and gave us something to laugh about behind closed doors).
*To our daughter: If you want to go to a dance with a boy, he will come and ask your father so that your father may have the joy of making him sweat and tremble in fear. If some boy wants to date you, he will look your father in the eye like a man when he asks. He will understand that you are to be treated with respect, period. We are letting him date Jesus’ princess, and if he thinks answering to your father and older brother is scary, then just think about trying to explain his intentions to Jesus. It also helped when the young man asking to date our daughter knew that we owned guns as well.
My husband and I felt it was our responsibility to help our children avoid the same mistakes we made. By setting these clear guidelines, we were taking our first steps to help our children walk the dating tightrope with more success than we had. All those guidelines set in place were good, but we also had to trust that we had given our children a firm foundation to stand on, and that they would have the strength to resist temptation. We pray that they will not make the same mistakes we made when we were young. As I said, our guidelines were like the pole the tightrope walker uses to stay on the rope, but remember even the best tightrope walker falls at times. We had to trust that when our kids were without us and out on a date, that if they did fall into temptation, God would catch them in His safety net.
With the guidelines in place, the next step across the tightrope was having some deep talks with our kids about our expectations for them. In my next post, I want to look at the importance of prayer and the different approaches we needed to take with our son, as opposed to our daughter. Please remember I do not have all the answers and every step across the dating tight rope has been a cautious step for us. I hope you are finding some answers to help cross the rope with your own kids. Have a blessed day, and I hope you will join me in my next post.
If you missed my first post in this series, you can back up and read it at “Taking the first step”