dating skills

Teaching My Kids How to Date Before They Date

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I think every young man has some trepidation about meeting his girlfriend’s father for the first time. Many of these dads relish the chance to make the young men who date their daughters question their dating skills and quake in their boots. I have a friend who has a sword collection mounted in his house for precisely that purpose. The day I met my future father-in-law featured a set of calf pullers and a rifle.

The shoe is on the other foot now, as the oldest of my three daughters recently turned 13. While she’d admit she’s not ready to date yet, I know the day she’ll want to is coming—sooner than I’d like it to. My wife and I have been planning for this for most of my daughter’s life. We’ve employed three simple strategies to help all five of our kids more easily navigate the eventual adventure of dating. You can use these strategies, too.

1. Take your kids on dad dates.

My kids love going out on dates with me. They often involve food and some adventure, but always one-on-one time with one of my kids. Whatever we do, they can expect that I’m going to hold the car door open for them and that wherever we go, I’ll give my “date” my undivided attention. My hope is that dad dates will exemplify dating skills and establish what a date ought to look like. By now, my eldest daughter should expect that anyone who takes her out on a date is going to do the small, chivalrous things for her, that his phone shouldn’t be the third wheel on the date, and–most importantly–that she is the focus of his attention, not the waitress or someone else who happens to be attractive and in his line of sight.

2. Monitor the media they consume.

We’ve always been vigilant about what sorts of media and books our kids consume and we’ve been mindful of what’s appropriate and what’s not. But we’ve become more sensitive lately to the way the shows, songs, and stories our kids consume present relationships. One of the lingering impacts of the sexual revolution is that our society doesn’t know the natural progression of a relationship. It’s not uncommon for couples in media to go from “Hi, what’s your name?” to “Let’s have sex.” in no time flat. As a result, many teenagers feel pressured to imitate this in their own relationships. We can filter out a lot of this. But watching the latest blockbuster or an episode of a show on Netflix that presents relationships that don’t match up to our values also provides an avenue for conversation about what healthy, holy relationships ought to look like.

3. Model it in your marriage.

It’s critical to give our kids an example of what fidelity and faithfulness look like in word and action.

The last tactic is actually the simplest. It comes down to the example my wife and I present to our kids. One of the lasting lessons I’ve learned about being a father is that my kids imitate what they see me doing. It is therefore tremendously important that I give a good example to them in the way I love and date their mother. I need to be deliberate in the way I talk to and about my wife, in the effort I put into spending time with her, and in the example we give of healthy, affectionate touch. It’s critical to give our kids an example of what fidelity and faithfulness look like in word and action. Ultimately, this example may be the most effective way we impart dating skills on our kids—long before they are actually ready to date.

Earn some points: If you are married, earn some points with your wife by sharing this article from iMOM: Is Your Child Ready to Date?

Sound off: How are you preparing your kids to date?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you believe the purpose of dating is?”