Here are my notes from Episode 010: Helping My Kids Date Great – Part 2
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I remember 5 years ago being in our hotel room after speaking somewhere in America – Brynnan our youngest was with me, she was taking a shower, I was relaxing after speaking at an event – and I was channel surfing. I landed on Nick At Night at around 10:30 and, if you’ve watched Nick At Night during this time slot you probably know what was on – Friends.
Did you know that the Friends show, which went off the air fifteen years ago on May 6, 2004, is just as popular now as ever thanks to syndication and Netflix?
I’ll admit, I love laughing to the funny relationship scenarios between, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel, and Joey. But, I also know there is a lot of content on this show that isn’t family friendly. And, there are countless young impressionable ears everywhere who too are watching, listening, and learning about dating by watching episodes of Friends.
So, this episode I was watching was the one when Rachel and Ross are fighting and Rachel says:
“Hey, just so you know: it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy and it IS a big deal!
And Chandler, who is listening as the two of them are fighting says, “I knew it!”
You’ve probably seen that one!
Of course, they were talking about erectile dysfunction…and all of a sudden I was too!
I wasn’t planning to have this conversation with Brynnan that day…or really any day. But, there we were having it.What happened next is exactly why part 2 of our conversation about dating is so important for families today and is why you need to keep listening, especially if your son or daughter is or one day will be dating. This Family Strong with Jeffrey Dean. Let’s hit it.
It’s always been my approach as a parent NOT to run from issues or to dodge questions that are potentially awkward or uneasy for me as parent to answer.
So when Brynnan, who had come out of the bathroom at this point, says to me, “What are they talking about daddy?” – – I knew I couldn’t run from a conversation I had no idea I was going to have that day.
So, Brynnan and I had a conversation about – erectile dysfunction.
That was an interesting conversation for sure – explaining that to my 11-year-old daughter.
It’s what she said next that I want to remind you of – Brynnan said, “Daddy, why would Rachel even know that about Ross? They aren’t married!
Of course, this is just one example. You know this – – Friends and countless TV shows & movies send innumerable messages to us all that having sex with someone is just something that happens when you are dating.
No wonder our kids are so confused about the dating do’s and don’ts!
This is why I am devoting two weeks to the topic of dating here on Family Strong.
Because, my kids and your kids need us as parents to help them navigate the dating years.
Most parents I talk with have NO STRATEGY IN PLACE to help guide and guard their son/daughter through the dating years. Do you?
It is critical that you do. My intention isn’t to scare you or guilt you. But I can tell you that after countless conversations with students of all ages through the past 25+ years, I am convinced that “dating” coupled with all the potential drama it can present, is one of THE leading sources of struggle and heartbreak for our kids!
Why? Because, as I stated in Episode 9: Helping My Kids Date Great – Part 1:
TWO WORDS…NO PLAN!
In Episode 9, I covered 5 important points about dating that need to be a part of your plan:
1. Helping Your Son/Daughter Answer the “Why?” and the “What?” Questions.
2. Communicating that: Going solo is okay.
3. Make sure all conversations are “on.”
4. Working to remind your son/daughter: Dating begins with God.
5. No One Ever Has The right To Abuse You
If you haven’t listened to Episode 9, I hope you will today, especially if you son or daughter is already dating.
If your son or daughter isn’t dating yet, this will be a great tutorial for you as you begin to craft a dating strategy for when the time comes.
Both are packed with so much information, I encourage you to print the notes and let these points guide you as you move forward.
As is the case with just about critical topic, let me remind you of these 2 truths when it comes to discussing such important and potentially sensitive issues with your son/daughter:
1. They need your help!
2. They may never request it!
As a parent, it is your job to have these conversations with your kids. They may never come to you and ask questions about their dating lives. This is why you have to be the one to initiate conversation. Because if you don’t, they won’t know what is right, what is off-limits, and what is best to protect them and protect their future.
Okay, with Part 2, I want to give you 5 more points to help you get a plan to help your son/daughter date great:
6. Not every one is datable!
I often find that most teens I meet haven’t put much thought into “why” they date someone. When students talk with me about their dating dilemmas, I hear countless stories about heartbreak, regrets, mistakes, and more.
After listening to students share their struggles, hurts, and consequences with me, I often get the “deer in the headlight” look from them when I respond with the question:
“Why did you choose to date this person in the first place?”
Usually I get a long pause…and then I get answers like:
“Well, he asked me out.” Or,
“He’s so cute.” Or,
“She’s hot.” Or, I get this one a lot:
“I said ‘yes’ because no one else asked me out.”
Have you ever said this to your son/daughter: “Not everyone is datable!”
If you haven’t you need to. Such a statement doesn’t make you or your teen judgmental or over-critical or anything other than smart!
I want my daughter’s to know that just because someone asks you on a date doesn’t mean you have to go.
Scripture always points us in the right direction with stuff like this.
“He (or she) who walks with the wise grows wise. But a companion of fools will suffer harm.” – Proverbs 13:20
Notice that the focus of this verse isn’t on what you do. Instead, it is on who you do it with.
Also notice – the verse states that spending time with people who are wise helps you become wise. But, spending time, in this case, dating someone, who is foolish – – the verse doesn’t say will too make you foolish!
No! It’s worse than this. Proverbs says that spending time with such a person will hurt you!
I have met innumerable students who have shared horror stories with me of regrettable moments from their dating lives.
My kids and yours need to know that who they spend time with shapes who they become.
It just does. So, in this sense – – not everyone should be datable. This is one of those rare moments in life when it is absolutely okay for my kids and yours to be selfish!
This leads perfectly into Helping My Kids Date Great point #7:
7. Make a Top 10 list.
Ask your son/daughter:
“If you could describe the perfect person for you to spend the rest of your life with, what would this person be like?”
I talk often on the Family Strong podcast about creating what I call: Family Focus Moments.
This is an excellent Family Focus Moment for every family who has a teen or college student. I hope you’ll make this Family Focus Moment happen this week. Because, such an exercise can be a game-changer for helping your son/daughter really think about “who” they date and “why” they date the person they are presently dating. This is an especially powerful exercise for any child who HAS NOT started dating, because it gets them in the rhythm of thinking strategically about the kind of person they want to date AND the kind of person they won’t date.
Let me give you the question again. Ask your son/daughter:
“If you could describe the perfect person for you to spend the rest of your life with, what would this person be like?”
Then, give them time to talk. Encourage an open conversation. You see, many children are never given such permission by their parents to just talk – – to talk candidly about issues of the heart.
As a result, two things rarely happen:
1. Our kids are rarely provoked to look deep within themselves to formulate thoughts and opinions on such issues.
2. As it relates to dating, our kids rarely look strategically at their dating lives and consider such questions as:
– What kind of person do I want to date?
– What kind of person would I never date?
– What kind of person do I hope to spend my life with?
– If I am in a dating relationship, does this person align with the person to which I hope one day to commit my life in marriage?
So, again, ask this question. Give your son/daughter time to talk.
Ask this great follow-up question for any child presently in a dating relationship:
“Does he/she match the person you are describing? If not, why are you dating this person?”
Look at what Shelly wrote me recently about her take on many guys:
Where have all the good guys gone? It seems like every time I get into a relationship with a guy, it never fails that eventually he starts pushing me to do things with him— you know, sexually. Why can’t I just find a guy that accepts me and is willing to say ‘no’ to the sex stuff? That’s the kind of guy I want. Do you think there are any left?
What Shelly was really saying in this letter is “I want a guy who’ll rise to the occasion. I want a guy who puts what God wants and what I want before what he wants.”
Your teen may respond saying, “If I have such high standards for the type of person I’ll date, I’ll never go out with anyone.”
Well, it might not eliminate every person in the world, but it probably will make their pool of datable people a lot smaller.
Just think about it, though: What if, rather than raising their dating expectations, your son/daughter chose to lower them? Meaning…they just chose to go out with whoever asks them on a date, or whoever is willing to date them…
Yes, the number of datable people has now multiplied. But now there are just more unworthy people to choose from – just more people lining up to let them down!
Setting high dating expectations can make your son/daughter feel like they are missing out on something they have to have. But listen, and this is really important – – if they have to compromise to get a date, then they’re putting their health, their future, and their character at risk.
It’s hard because everything around them says they need to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and if they don’t then something’s wrong with them. This might be the lie teens believe just about more than any other. Waiting patiently for the right person can be one of the hardest things to do when it seems everyone else is going out tomorrow night.
Jonah, a high-school junior, told me: “Raising my expectations when it comes to who I date means I may be sitting home this weekend. It means I may be choosing between cleaning out my sock drawer or going bowling with mom and dad!”
It is your job as a parent to look for ways to remind a son like Jonah that he WILL REGRET lowering his standards a lot more than he’ll regret going bowling with you next Friday night!
So, about the TOP TEN list – – this one truly is empowering.
I got this idea years ago when I was speaking at a student conference in Detroit. While there, I asked everyone in the audience, to take out a piece of paper, and to write at the top of the paper: The Kind Of Person I Want To Marry.
I then directed everyone to number their paper from 10 to 1. And then, I asked them to make a top ten list of that kind of person they want to marry.
It was so cool to see almost immediately 2,000+ teens begin writing. It was as if they were just waiting to get this on paper. Why? Because I am confident that students, specifically this generation, Generation Zs, are weary with regret. They want more. They want more than what Hollywood is giving them. They want more than what shows like Friends is offering. They want love. They want “no regrets.” They want something more than a hook-up, a “oh no I went to far” moment – they just want more!
Well, that night, my oldest daughter Bailey was in the audience. At the time, she was 10. I had no idea that she too was writing her Top 10 that night. She showed it to me later that night in the hotel room. I cried and laughed as she read it to me.
The Top 10 List can actually be another Family Focus Moment for your family – –
Get your paper ready, call a family meeting and have your kids do as my daughter did.
Such a list is soooooo good on so many levels:
- It gets your kids thinking about one of the most important decisions of their lives.
Sure, they may be really young. And, marriage may be years and years away. It’s all good. But, getting them thinking NOW very well can prepare and protect them later.
- Such a list can be like this gauge the use moving forward to help them determine if a person is datable or not.
- The list may change as they change.
That’s okay too. The important thing is that they’ve started thinking about this ever important part of their lives – dating.
So, I hope you will take my challenge to have a Family Focus Moment and to encourage your son/daughter to make their Top 10 list.
Does this mean he or she will stick to the list when dating? No. But, taking the time to organize such a list will force them to pause and give consideration to the kind of person they will date or are presently dating.
If after making such a list, they realize the person they are presently dating doesn’t measure up to the list, what a great opportunity to talk about the “why!”
The Top 10 list is really about dating with intentionality. Teaching our kids to be intentional about who they date, truly can prepare them for what’s ahead while also giving them the confidence to say, “You know what…I don’t have to date this person. This person doesn’t define me. I don’t have to go on a date to be significant. And, until the right date is there, I’m okay with going bowling with mom and dad tonight.”
There is a chapter about dating in each of the 4 books I’ve written for teens.
In the book I wrote for parents, The Fight Of Your Life, there’s even more information about dating. If you feel like you need a little help with all of this, consider getting a copy for your kids or yourself at jeffreydean.com/books.
8. “Is it okay to date a non-Christian?”
One of the most consistent questions teens ask me about their dating lives is if it is okay to date someone who is not a Christian. You MUST answer this question for your son/daughter. Now, if you aren’t a person of faith, my intention isn’t to offend you. But, because I am a person of faith, I am of the belief that my daughter’s can’t avoid this question. If you too are a Christ-follower, your kid’s can’t either.
A great way to answer this question is by asking questions:
“Would you want to marry someone who doesn’t follow Christ?”
“ Would you want to marry someone who wouldn’t embrace reading the Bible, going to church, and praying?”
“ Would you want to marry someone who wouldn’t teach your children godly character and pray, go to church, and read the Bible?”
“Would you want to marry someone, share a home with someone, and share a bed with someone who doesn’t want to approach life, life’s challenges, life’s ups and downs, and life’s uncertainties in the same way as you from a biblical perspective?
Then, I follow up with some advice like this:
“I hope the answer to each of these questions is a definite ‘no.’
And, if this is the case, then why would you choose to date someone who wouldn’t do these things? I’m not saying you have to think you’re going to marry every person you go out with. But every person you date should be marriage worthy. And the first question on the marriage-worthy test should always be, is this person a Christian?”
Parent, this is one of those NO-COMPROMISE AREAS.
“Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
This passage is saying that if your son/daughter chooses to unite with a nonbeliever, it’s as if they are setting up a pagan idol in God’s temple. That’s pretty serious stuff. Dating a non-Christian might seem innocent. Sometimes a teen believes that after a while he or she will “win the person over” to Christ, but that’s a dangerous idea to trust in, because hearts get entangled while dating. The Bible warns that people walk on dangerous ground when they choose to unite (even just for a few dates) with those who reject God.
One student recently said to me, “Jeffrey, that is being judgmental and intolerant. We are taught in our church to love everyone and accept everyone. Who are you to judge them and say that I can’t spend time with them?”
My response: “I most definitely am not saying you should never spend time with this person. It’s not an issue of ‘judging another’ or ‘not accepting another.’ It is an issue of ‘partnering with him/her’ in a relationship that could develop into a lifelong commitment. This doesn’t mean that you are turning your back on an individual or not accepting this person or choosing not to love him or her. What it does mean is that you are striving to protect God’s temple, your body, from becoming something God never intended it to be.”
Jesus spent time with the lowest of the low while He walked this planet. He dined with prostitutes, liars, thieves, murderers, and the like. But He did so, not to partner with them, but rather to point them to His Father. There is a huge distinction between accepting one who is lost and partnering with one who is lost.
Your son or daughter’s response may be, “It’s just a date. It’s not marriage.”
True. But, really, isn’t dating preparation for marriage. I’m getting a little old-school here, I know.
But, I also know, from countless conversations with students everywhere how quickly things can go south in a relationship.
Now, this is really important! Of course, just because my kids and yours are Christians who are dating Christians doesn’t mean they are incapable of making some really regrettable choices while on their dates. Of course they can!
But, when my kids and yours are in a relationship that is, as 2 Corinthians defines, a partnership that is at war, it’s only a matter of time before such a war produces casualties.
Okay, we could talk about so much more there. I know this is a sensitive one. I must move on. But let me say…God’s Word is never wrong, no matter how you and I feel or our kids feel about a given subject. Your son or daughter may believe otherwise – – may think they are in love – – and, may even BE in love. But, again, God’s Word is clear. Trouble is lurking in the darkness when one believer unites with one who is not a believer.
Okay, I told you that was a big question that teens ask me all of the time.
9. “How far is too far?”
Yes, we have to talk sex here. You CAN’T talk about dating without talking about sex. Sadly. The Friends episode I referenced earlier is just one of a plethora of examples why we must, why YOU must, be having this conversation and answering THIS question for your kids.
I’m telling you – – I’m asked this question all of the time. So, here’s my response:
First, it’s the wrong question to be asking! When a teen asks this question, what they are really asking is: “How close to danger can I get before I get into trouble?”
It’s an age-old question, one that sometimes has been inadvertently muddied by well-meaning speakers hoping to put new twists on the idea by talking to youth about purity, heart, and intention. I’m of the belief that the physical-boundary question deserves a simple, straightforward, and memorable answer for your son/daughter.
The clearest way to answer this question is to say, “Never touch any part of a body covered by a bathing suit.” Or “Draw imaginary lines at a person’s shoulders and knees—never touch anything between those two lines.” I think it’s also important to spell out that activities, such as handholding or sharing a brief hug or a brief kiss on the cheek or lips may be appropriate in a dating relationship.
But activities, such as prolonged hugging and kissing, French kissing, touching breasts, petting and fondling of clothed or unclothed genital areas, mutual masturbation, oral sex, any sort of nudity, anal intercourse, and genital intercourse are not acceptable before marriage.
Parent, you must spell these things out for your child clearly, simply, and directly. The world is already talking to our kids about this stuff.
Did you hear that? – – The world is already talking about these things with your son/daughter.
I’ve been so disappointed, but not surprised, at the conversations my daughters have been a part of while in the girl’s locker room at school. Oral sex, masturbation, of course, sex…all of this has been discussed by their teammates.
The same is probably true with your son/daughter. The world is teaching our kids much about dating and sex. We have to teach even more!
Your child needs to hear about appropriate boundaries from you!
Setting boundaries is where many teens fail. You and your teen can apply every other principle I’ve hit in these two episodes of dating on Family Strong, but if you do not help them set clear, God-honoring boundaries, it will only be a matter of time before they get tripped up.
I tell teens often, “You cannot wait for a fire to get started to figure out how you are going to escape.” What I mean is, you cannot wait until you’re already in a tempting or compromising situation to figure out how to avoid it.”
So, before their next date, your son/daughter needs to do the following:
Be clear on what type of events he or she will and will not attend. For exam, “Never be alone in a tempting environment, such as a bedroom.”
Be ready and able to say no.
Be willing and ready to exit from a relationship if they find themself in a relationship that does not honor God.
One grandfather told me that he always gave his daughter a dime before she left on her dates. If she found herself in an environment in which she needed to quickly leave, she could call him at anytime from anywhere. This same principle works today, but I doubt your teen could ever find a payphone…or even know what one is.
Clearly communicate to them that they can call you at any time, day or night, from anywhere, and you will come and pick them up.
It is our responsibility to communicate to our kids that dating is a HUGE deal.
And, as I often say, no matter how “good” you may label your son/daughter to be:
Every child is only one choice from consequence, only one turn from tragedy.
I have so much more to tell you specifically about sex. So be watching for a later episode on this topic. Is one we have to discuss as parents.
10. Jump in!
When you believe the time is right to let your kids begin dating, jump in parents. Jump in with your kids all the way!
Parents – letting your kids just jump into the dating thing without your involvement is – – foolish parenting!
They need boundaries. Direction. Input. Leadership. Accountability.
Asking about your kid’s dating life makes you a great parent.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! They may never tell you. They may never admit it, but no child, no tween, no teen, and no college student wants to hurt. No child wants to suffer. No child wants to experience the sting of the “next day” poor choices regret that can happen in a blink!
If you haven’t been involved in your teen’s dating life up until this moment, it’s okay. What’s NOT okay is that, after listening to these two episodes, you continue to stay uninvolved! Don’t let them, other parents, the culture, or anyone tell you otherwise.
Going the distance with your son/daughter and staying in the know of their dating life may not be the most popular thing to them. But, remember, we aren’t in it as parents to be popular with them.
One choice can change everything. When it comes to dating, that is such a reality. One choice can change it all. And, one poor choice can happen in a blink.
That’s why you must work hard to KEEP UP WITH WHAT’S UP in their dating life.
So, let me close by giving you a few questions to consider about your son/daughter. If they aren’t dating yet, this will be a good exercise for you as you move in that direction. If your son/daughter IS dating, it is imperative you think about these questions:
• Does my teen care little about dating, or are they desperate for a date?
• When they get involved in a relationship, do they strive to make sure the relationship works at all costs?
• Does my daughter bounce from one relationship to the next, always looking for the quick thrill of dating a new guy?
• Is my son interested in waiting to date until he has met “the one”?
• Do they view dating just as a fun time of hanging out with friends?
• Does my teen quickly fall in and out of love (that is, what he or she believes is love)?
The answers to such questions are important in helping you better understand how they view dating. Being aware of your teen’s dating habits can help you recognize when they might be developing unhealthy patterns that could lead to danger. For instance, if your daughter is insecure about herself and believes that a boyfriend will make her more secure, then she may be willing to do whatever she believes is necessary to hold on to a boyfriend.
Or, if your son views dating as a game of hooking up, then he may be developing a harmful pattern of using girls.
The better connected you stay with them, the better prepared you will be to help them maneuver through the dating process while also recognizing and dealing with potential personal insecurities and struggles they may have.
Here’s a big one to keep up with what’s up when it comes to their dating habits:
Let them know that you’re going to work hard to stay in the know!
Communicate clearly with them that you’ll talk about any subject. They need your help, though they may never request it, to understand what should and should not happen while on a date. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to them about dating. Ask questions. Encourage them to tell you what’s happening.
I remember coming home from many dates growing up. And, my dad would be out like a light. And, mom, would be up waiting.
Many nights we would sit up after I would get home & talk.
I loved these moments with my mom. I still do. We would talk. I probably did most of the talking. She would listen. I now realize, though I am not so sure I did then, how brilliant mom was. She was staying in the know of my dating life – – and, I didn’t even know it!
If you haven’t been in the know. Here’s a great starting point for clear communication – – clearly communicate your expectations.
Tell them that you will always want to know:
– Where they are.
– Who they are with.
– And, what time they will be home. Better yet – tell them what time to be home!
And, be like my momma! – – Wait up on them. And when they get home, talk!
Remember, rules don’t make you a legalistic parent. They make you a good parent!
And, remember, I covered this in Episode 9: Pray!
What a powerful message to send to your teen and to their date by praying with them before they leave on a date!
This step isn’t for wimps. I’ll admit that when I tell a roomful of teens to pray with their parents before dates, there usually are a few teens who give me a hard time.
My encouragement is for you to take the lead on this with your teen. Prayer changes everything. It sets the tone for the date and helps your teen establish a God-centered foundation for the relationship.
And, it plays in your favor too! Think about it – – you’ve got a daughter at home whose date shows up to take her out. And, before leaving with your pride and joy, you pause in the living room to pray that this guy and your daughter will remain pure and right and honorable on their date!
You’ve just told him, via a prayer to God, that you expect him to keep his hands off of your daughter!
You know what else is really good – – group dating!
If you’re not yet comfortable with allowing your son/daughter to date, or if you aren’t satisfied with their current dating habits, I suggest group dating. Group dating allows them to date in the presence of others and with certain restrictions. As they prove more trustworthy, then you can give more dating freedom.
You get to set the restrictions for group dating. Allowing them to date while at a youth event where a youth pastor and other parents are present or dropping them off at the mall or youth event to meet a date or group of friends are possibilities. The options are limitless.
Another form of encouraging group dating, especially for a teen who has never dated, is to require that they date at home first. One father told me that whenever his daughter begins a new dating relationship, he requires her to spend the first three dates at home. This allows him and his wife the opportunity to meet their daughter’s new guy. He stated, “Most guys make it through the first and sometimes the second date, but few make it through all three.”
True colors always show themselves. If his daughter does not mean enough to the new guy for the guy to be willing to abide by this father’s dating rules and stick around for the third date, then he most likely is not the right one to date his daughter.
Lastly, expect respect.
Countless stories and accusations have surfaced in the last year of athletes, celebrities, pop stars and CEO’s who have abused their powerful positions and made sexually inappropriate advances towards others. As parents, this a message we must continually relay to our kids: respect and expect respect!
You can call me old school, old-fashioned, a southern gentleman—whatever you want with this one, and it won’t offend me. No matter who a guy is or where he’s from, he should respect a girl. And, every girl should equally respect a guy and expect respect from a guy.
Remember, Foundational Truth #2 of parenting: Your child wants (and needs) your involvement.
Remember, they may not always show it, but your interest in what interests them is important to them.
As you strive to communicate better with them about all things dating, you may encounter a negative response at first. But do not throw in the towel. Instead, keep patiently pushing into the life of your teen. Be creative. Take it slow at first, if necessary. Let them build trust in your interest in their dating life.
It will be well worth it all for the both of you!
I want to also remind you that if you haven’t received my gift for you: The Family Strong Blueprint, you can get your copy today by texting the word “family” to the number 345345.
The Family Strong Blueprint is your personal guide to helping you build a strong family. It’s a digital toolbox packed with tips and tools to help up you construct a plan to become an even stronger family. And, the best part of all – it’s free!
Again, simply text the word “family” to the number 345345 and get The Family Strong Blueprint.
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.