Dating today doesn’t look at all like it did when we were teens. On some levels it appears very casual and on others very serious. The communication age has allowed for people in relationships to be in constant communication. This communication however, tends to be brief snippets through texting and IM. This means it is actually more difficult to truly get to know someone.
However, even in this casual, distance relationship era, sexual activity is rampant and very casual. “Hooking up” sexually is something that can happen for just a day with no relationship “necessary”. Casual sex is something that is pushed by media, schools and peers. This is why it is so important that we as parents get involved in this area of our kids lives. We have to help guide their decisions and be constantly aware of what is going on in this area. The destructive pattern of today’s teen dating can have emotional, physical and spiritual consequences. We absolutely must help our teens by discussing standards We also need to help them think through boundaries before they have to make those boundary decisions. Have discussions about the “what if this were to happen” scenarios. The next few days will be spent discussing how to set up standards and boundaries with your child.
It seems as though holding our children accountable is one of the things we do most as parents. We hold them accountable to get their homework done, clean their room and to do their best in school. The social scene is no different. Many parents may fear allowing their child the freedom of hanging out with friends because they have no idea how to hold them accountable to the family rules.
It’s really no different then how we train our small children. We apply the I.C.E plan. We need to Instruct our children as to how we expect them to act. We need to let them know the Consequences when the do not follow the rules set up. Then we must allow them the training opportunity to Exercise their options. The part we may feel helpless in, is how we know that they are behaving appropriately.
We have the responsibility to check in on our child, especially in the early days of allowing these freedoms. As a parent you are allowed to drive past Coldstone to make sure that your child is there and behaving appropriately. You are also allowed to go to the movie theater and make sure they are watching the movie they said they were going to see. Like we have said before your child needs to know that you care enough about them to make the effort to hold them accountable. It’s not about checking on them. It’s all about training them to be trustworthy. That’s a marriageable and employable characteristic.
It would be unwise for anyone to throw their child into the deep end of a pool and expect them to swim. Most of us are very conscious when it comes to water safety. We spend lots of time in swimming lessons or many hours teaching our children. We need to spend just as much conscious effort preparing them for the social scene. Just as you would not toss your child into a pool it is unwise to toss your child into the “deep end” of social scenarios until they have been allowed the practice.
Like we talked about last week there needs to be small freedoms allowed and when a child has proven trustworthy then a little more freedom is rewarded. An idea for a first baby step is allowing your child to have a sleep over with a trusted friend. Then maybe you all go to the mall and you allow a group of friends the freedom to go by themselves to get ice cream at the food court. If your child has proven trustworthy in these areas, like meeting up with you at the specified time, then you can move on to the next step. These steps may look different for each individual family and each individual child. The important thing to remember is allow your child to practice. Make sure you are clear on your expectations for their behavior and then hold them accountable.
Begin social interaction and the pre-dating process with “The Bulls Eye Approach”. This means that you start small and work your way out. Allow your child to practice by giving them small bits of trust. You begin by allowing your children a little bit of freedom. When they prove themselves trustworthy, for staying on track with their independence, you can allow them a little more freedom. For example, as your children get older you can allow them to ride their bikes in the neighborhood. (Obviously you don’t make any of these decisions hastily because your children’s safety needs to be your primary concern) Next you may allow them to ride their bike to the park in your neighborhood. You establish boundaries, such as a time to be home. “Hit the Bull’s Eye (ride your bike only where we said you should ride your bike and be home when we said you need to be home) and we’ll try this again. Miss the Bull’s Eye and we will know you aren’t ready to do this by yourself.
It is the parent’s responsibility to hold the child accountable. Take the car and make sure that they are at the park. If they are trustworthy and come home within the time frame they hit the Bully’s Eye and freedom is their reward. If they did not follow instructions then they need to have a consequence and until they can prove themselves trustworthy, no biking to the neighborhood park.
This training is all preparation for the years to come … for the things that require big trust, such as dating or going out with their friends. Through this experience you have shown them two things. You love them enough to be holding them accountable and you will be checking up on them. Being consistent in these two areas of your parenting will also communicate that you are trustworthy as well.
When it comes to preparing our children to go out with friends or dating, it all starts with a plan. If you’re reading this and your child is small, the temptation is to think that this article doesn’t apply to you, yet. Think again. This is the time to think and plan for the future. Otherwise this time of training will sneak up on you and you will be unprepared.
Sit down with your spouse, or if you are a single parent, a trusted friend who shares your convictions. Begin by setting age limits for various social activities. Decide what age you will allow your child to: go out with friends alone, date, go out with a friend driving, go on a date with a date driving, ect. These may seem simple, but if you wait to think through these parameters, your child will be asking permission before your prepared to give the answers. As those time periods approach sit down again and decide what your family social interaction rules are. Set up a list of rules and the consequences if those rules are broken. This way you can sit with your child and be able to talk to them about your expectations and consequences if they break the rules in these areas. This will begin to help set up an open communication about the potentially difficult and frustrating parenting decisions about your child’s social interactions away from home.