A few weeks ago I wrote Excuse Me While I Step On Toes, which explained my reasons for believing teens should not date. This one is directed to all of us who are parents.
I’ll begin with my same statement from last time: Children, tweens and teens should not date.
We all know teenagers have hormones doing crazy and unexplainable things inside of them. Human nature also means there is curiosity about the unknown. Add someone of the opposite sex in the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Even the strongest kid who knows they want to wait to have sex until they get married can find themselves tempted if the setting is right. And the longer two people are dating, the stronger that temptation grows. So why add to the temptation they’re already fighting?
If you stress to your child the importance of not having sex as a teenager, then why do you allow them to date right now? It’s sending mixed signals to your child. As a parent, and as an adult, you are aware of the curiosities, hormones, and many temptations that are sometimes difficult to control as a teenager. The more time your child spends getting closer to this person who they aren’t intending to marry and while they are still trying to figure out who in the world they are, the more they will become tempted to explore their natural curiosities.
And don’t be naïve. If your child is allowed to sit with their boyfriend or girlfriend on their bed under a blanket while watching a movie in the dark, then you have to understand that it doesn’t matter if the door is opened or closed – temptation will eventually get the best of them. It doesn’t mean they are bad kids. It doesn’t mean they are rebellious kids.
It means you are telling them not to do something, but you are providing an atmosphere for them to do exactly opposite.
You are placing that temptation right in front of them. It’s no different than placing pieces of unopened candy in the hands of a very hungry toddler who hasn’t ever tasted candy but has heard how amazing it is, and you tell them they can’t eat any – but then you walk away.
Not To Get Incredibly Graphic, but . . .
Think about what happens to the child with the candy. He may hold onto it for a while because he wants to obey you. He doesn’t want to get in trouble. But then his stomach growls. He may even feel like he’s hungrier than he realized.
So he tries to feel of that candy through the wrapper to get an idea of what it looks like inside. Is there a picture on it? Does it have words? So he’s curious and opens the wrapper. He isn’t going to eat it, but he wants to just get a look because he’s never seen candy except when someone else has it.
But once he opens it, he wants to see if it’s sticky or if it melts in his hands.
He wants to do the right thing, but he’s really curious, and he wonders what it tastes like. So he continues to obey your instruction not to eat it, but he just takes a tiny taste to see what all the fuss is about.
Then, he realizes it tastes better than he thought, and his stomach starts really growling. He may even feel like he’ll starve if he doesn’t eat something. So he goes in for a little bit bigger bite. Before he realizes it, he has eaten that whole piece of candy.
What do you do when you return to see he has eaten that whole piece of candy that was purchased for someone else?
Now you’re faced with a dilemma. Do you discipline him for disobeying your rule?
Keep in mind you knew he was hungry, and you knew he had never had candy before, so likely he was curious even if he’s never told you he was curious. You did tell him to wait, so he did disobey you. You didn’t tell him that there was a special candy bar stored away for him to have when the time is right, though. Did he know that piece of candy was being saved as a gift for another person?
The fact is, you placed that piece of candy in his hand, and you left the room. The longer he held on to that candy, the more his desire to obey you had to fight against his natural hunger. The longer he held on to it, the harder that fight was for him. In the end, his hunger won.
At some point you have to realize your part in this situation and take some responsibility. Yes, he disobeyed. However, he wanted desperately to obey, so it is your duty as a parent to help him be successful rather than throw him in the midst of something meant to make him fail.
Don’t set your child up for failure. Let your actions be consistent and in line with the rules you are setting for them. Dating is NOT harmless and cute. When a person dates, their heart is on the line, and so is the other person’s. As parents, we aren’t here to hide the world from them, but we are here to protect them from the things of the world. We want to help them maintain their innocence in a world that is coming from every direction to try to take that innocence away.