From my son, Jonathan
It was my first girlfriend. I was 14 years old and in the 9th grade. My parents had never talked with me about when I could start dating so I wasn’t sure what their take would be on this blooming relationship.
When dad found out he didn’t lay down the law or tell me what I had to do. Rather, he first told me how much they liked this girl and her family but then he asked me some questions.
“So what do you think the purpose of dating is?”
“Do you think you are ready for the responsibilities that dating leads to?”
He then pointed out his concerns about dating at my age.
“Your mom and I really like her. She’s sweet and comes from a great family. But our concern is that by dating her, you’re going to limit who you both will meet and other relationships that might come your way.
You’re at an age where you’re changing and just discovering who you are and what you like. Now is a time to learn to relate to lots of different kinds of people. A problem with dating is that we have to limit ourselves to focusing on one person and might miss meeting some of our future best friends.”
He then left the decision to me. I thought about it and broke up with her the next week. It wasn’t easy but I knew it was the right thing to do. We were able to remain friends but also spend time with lots of other people as well.
What I love about Dad’s approach was that he made me feel like I could make grownup decisions even though I was only 14. He didn’t strong-arm me but by giving me a higher vision for my life he actually encouraged and empowered me to make the right decision.
We actually dropped the ball on this one by not talking with Jonathan earlier and laying out our feelings on dating. If dating – or other issues – have snuck up on you, perhaps this story can help you backpedal like we had to.
- Start out positive and affirming – “You made a good choice. She is a wonderful girl.”
- Clearly share your concerns – “Here is why we are concerned …”
- Make sure the concerns you share have to do with the best interest of your child – not “how it will make us look”, or “what will others think”. Have their best interest in mind, not your own.
- Help them lift their vision. As a teen kids can’t see far into the future. Help them see beyond their current situation and let them know God has a great plan for their life.
- Give them time to think about it – and time for the Holy Spirit to work on their heart.
- Keep a long term perspective. It was likely this relationship wouldn’t have gone far anyway – they were only 14. So there was no need to “lay down the law”. Often things have a way of working out without harsh intervention if you give them time.
If you’re trying to guide your child away from something dangerous you obviously might have to get more firm if he or she does not make the right decision.
But here’s one thing I’ve learned in dealing with kids:
Always start off like a kitty – tread softly, gently, quietly.
You can turn into a tiger later if you have to.
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, – Matthew 7:12