Over fifteen years ago Paul and I made a controversial decision about our parenting. We only talked about it among good friends because we knew it would be poorly received by many. Then Daniel entered the picture and we had to discuss it somewhat since he was twelve.
What was the big deal? We were going to raise our children to not date socially.
Naturally, this brings images of arranged marriages, daughters pining in a tower, and children who become miserable young adults with no idea how to relate to the opposite gender.
That is not the case at all.
Another time, I’ll share our general vision for how we have handled this and how we hope to handle the courtship idea, today I just want to share why we think the American activity of dating is a bad idea and why we are raising our children to not follow the crowd in this area. If this idea is new to you, hear me out.
So that we have an understanding, we define the dating game/social dating as the following: an activity that establishes a romantic relationship and strong emotional connection, involving alone time, and physical aspects, often developing exclusivity, but not necessarily, with no purpose other than the enjoyment of both parties.
Why we won’t allow the typical American dating game and/or social dating in our house:
It sets up an unwise pattern. The behavior of share your heart, break up, share your heart, break up, share your heart, again and again is not wise. We believe marriage is a life long covenant. With the divorce rate crazy high, we don’t want to set up our children for the idea that if you grow apart or become greatly different people, it’s ok to “break up”. The line “dating is practice for divorce” spoke to our hearts immediately.
It creates an identity mindset. The dating game starts young in the US and from that point on, many, if not most, kids and teens find identity in who they are dating or at the very least that they are dating. Instead of finding their identity in Christ and who God made them, they find value in who hangs on their arm. This usually leads into the next issue.
It fosters dependence. Not only do children and young adults start to find their identity in who they date, but they often become dependent on this definition of themselves. If there is not a boy/girlfriend for them, they feel incomplete and odd. How heartbreaking.
It puts our children in seriously tempting situations. Dating creates all kinds of scenarios that put horrid temptations too close for comfort. Of course, the big one that comes to mind is the physical sin of premarital sex. Read the statistics on teen sexual activity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dating dots to the sex dots to the teen pregnancy (and abortion) dots. We see no need to put our children in this kind of situation.
Actually, we see the opposite: as their parents we are called to protect them, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This means they are given opportunities and situations that are fit to their maturity, nothing more and nothing less. Expecting anyone to resist the temptation for sexual sin when alone with a boy/girlfriend as their relationship grows deeper is a stretch. Expecting them to do this for years is a bit naive. For teens, even more so.
It does not have life long benefits. We believe social dating only has down sides. The argument that you learn about yourself is useless to me because there are plenty of ways to learn about yourself and about how to relate to others (serving in some capacity is the best, in my opinion) as a young adult that don’t have the plethora of negatives. Ask most people about the life long effects and, if they are honest, they would admit that the cons were/are astounding.
It involves maturity not available during the childhood and most teen years. Kids dating is often seen as innocent, but we really don’t think it is. Sharing your heart, your body (even in just hand holding), and your time is not something to be taken lightly. It is a big decision that involves all kinds of factors, requiring maturity, self control, and wisdom.
It is a game instead of an intentional godly decision. Dating in America is something to just do instead of something that is in step with finding a spouse. We tell our children, “You should not start considering someone romantically, until you believe you are prepared for marriage.” Until that time, friendships are what help you grow and learn how to relate to the opposite gender.
It mocks marriage privileges. We don’t want our children to have romantic physical and emotional ties to anyone other than their spouse. Dating imitates marriage in ways that are inappropriate, allowing someone to have privileges they shouldn’t. When a boy/girlfriend claims another, whether in word or deed, they are flying in the face of God’s plan. Marriage is where someone gets to say, “I am my beloved. My beloved is mine.”
It places a young person outside of their God given authority and protection. We believe that our children are placed under our authority for a number of reasons. One of the most important is that it protects them. When kids/teens start dating, that protection is either removed or far from a place that can actually offer protection during a time in which they most need it. It also gives some authority to the boy/girlfriend, who should not have it.
It plays with something that may not be in their future. While we hope our children are gifted marriage, they may not be. We have friends who have prayed for a spouse, but remain single. Social dating from a young age put something in front of them repeatedly that may not actually be for them. It’s a bit like a bait and switch.
It can affect their marriage, if they do marry. Repeated relationships and especially long time intimate ones can actually have negative effects on a marriage. If sex is involved, even more so! We want our children to enter marriage with as pure of a heart as possible and that includes emotional ties and memories.
We encourage, equip, and exhort our children in the privileges, responsibilities, joys, and benefits of marriage. We remind them to pray for God’s will in their lives and trust as He leads.
We do not want to place stumbling blocks before them, but instead want to build them up. We believe social dating is a mine field of disaster and choose not to send them into it.
Why do you think social dating is or isn’t a good idea?
Be sure to come back for further explanation and discussion! This is just the intro. ;-)
Next post in the series: Dating Differently: Jan’s Story, Part 1
Second in the series: Linda’s Story
Third: Marissa and Tellan’s Courtship