Dating - Part 2
Your teenager is in a daily fight. Make sure you are there in the trenches with them.
FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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The Deadly Traps of Adolescence
Day 6 of 10
Guest: Dennis and Barbara Rainey
From the series: Dating
Bob: If you're the parent of a teenager, you may have noticed that your son or daughter during the teenage years is paying a lot more attention to members of the opposite sex. Barbara Rainey says you need to parent with a strategy in mind.
Barbara: What we're trying to do through these years of junior high, but particularly high school, is to help our kids see what it is they're looking for in a person to marry. What are the standards they want? What are the criteria that they would like to be there? What are the values that they would like for this person to hold? So we begin talking about those kinds of things and helping them begin to think, "What's best for me? What does God want me to have someday in a mate?"
We've tried to teach our kids that the best way to find out those kinds of things is through having a friendship with another person, it's not through a dating relationship where everybody is on their best behavior; you only see each other in ideal situations and circumstances, but rather we're trying to train our kids to observe one another in ordinary situations.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. As long as your teens are noticing members of the opposite sex, make sure they're looking for the right stuff.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. One of my all-time favorite movies is one that I know a lot of people have seen – the movie "The Princess Bride." You know, there's a scene in that movie where Wesley and the princess are moving through the forest, and I forget whether she falls into the quicksand first, I think she does, and then he falls into the quicksand or dives in to pull her out. But nobody saw the quicksand as they were walking through the forest. She just, all of a sudden, fell right into that trap.
And I was thinking about that movie when I was thinking about what we talked about last week and what we're going to be talking about this week, and that is the traps that are in the middle of the forest that our teenagers are walking through.
In your book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," you outline a number of traps that have been laid out for teenagers, and, by the way, Barbara Rainey is joining us this week on our program as well and, Barbara, we're glad to have you here.
As parents, we need to be guiding our children on their journey through the dark forest because we know where the traps are. We've been down this road before, and we can point out the spots to them to avoid so that they don't become ensnared.
Dennis: You know, it is interesting – we do know where the traps are. We were all teenagers. We experienced it, we experienced the peer pressure, we experienced the temptations of dating, and yet isn't it fascinating that parents can just kind of stick their head in the sand, and we can say, "Well, kids will be kids. They can just kind of make it on their own."
When we do that, we set our children up to get their marching orders from peers, from the world, from the culture, or from the enemy, and if I understand the scriptures correctly, we, as parents, are to form a partnership with God – Psalm 127:1 talks about the "the Lord building the house."
And the person who ignores the Lord labors in vain, and what we've got to do, as parents, is we've got to seek the Lord, determine what we believe around these issues, and then begin to take some courageous stands, and what we're talking about here is radical, radical stuff with teenagers.
You're not going to be voted in as the most popular with your teenagers as you raise them, but you know what? You're not running a popularity contest. You're a parent, I'm a parent, and I don't want my children to hate me, I want my children to love me but, more than that, I want our children to grow up to become God's man and God's woman, and that may mean for a period of time, whether it be a few hours, a few days, maybe a few months – that child may not like Dad very well.
Bob: Barbara, last week we talked about the trap of peer pressure that our children have to navigate around; we talked about sexual intimacy, and its inappropriateness outside of marriage; and then we began talking about the subject of dating, and you all have developed some strong convictions in this area with your children that are a little bit out of sync with the culture, but they're things you feel passionate about.
Barbara: Yes, we've decided for our kids that we want to protect them from getting involved in exclusive relationships that are going to stir up their emotions and potentially get them involved physically and sexually with the opposite sex, and we know that's not healthy. So in order to protect our kids, we've sort of redefined dating for our family. We've set some different standards for our kids in hopes that in the outcome our kids will be protected, and they'll be pure, and they'll be holy.
Dennis: The conviction we're talking about here is that, as parents, we have the responsibility and the authority to set the rules and boundaries for our children.
I'm going to say that again – we have the responsibility and the authority to set the rules and boundaries for our children.
The culture doesn't, the youth group doesn't – and I know I could get into trouble there – the youth group needs to reinforce, I believe, the standards of the family. That's the way it was intended to work. I think it needs to hold the standard up, call us to that, but I think it needs to be reinforcing what's being taught at home.
I don't think the youth group ought to be a surrogate parent for the child. I don't think the schools ought to be setting the boundaries or the rules for children. I don't think they've got the responsibility. I don't think they have the morality. I don't think they've got the standards, and even the Christian schools aren't going to do it the way parents are.
And so who owns it? Who's got to have it? We do, as parents, and we have got to decide, first of all, what we believe as a family, and you may disagree with what we're talking about here on the air, and you know what? I want to give you the freedom to disagree with us. That's wonderful.
My boomerang question to you if you disagree with us is – what, then, do you believe? What are your standards? What will you uphold with your son or with your daughter …
Bob: … and what's the source of those standards?
Dennis: That's exactly right. Is it the scripture or is it tainted by the world, and too often, I'll tell you, with us it's been one long process of kind of eradicating how we have been conformed, as a family, to the world's standards.
Bob: But you know what you're talking about – parents having the responsibility and the authority to be parents is so true. I remember just recently, we were having a discussion with one of our children, and we said, "You know what, honey? God has given us the assignment of deciding what you can and can't do. It's our responsibility to determine that."
Dennis: That's a novel thought, isn't it?
Bob: We said, "We have to do what we think is right in this area." And you could tell that this particular child didn't really like the answer but couldn't argue with it very much. And then later I had an opportunity to overhear my child talking to a peer, and the child just repeated back what we had said, but it was kind of like, "This is what my parents think" …
Dennis: … "I don't buy it" …
Bob: … "I'm not sure I'm buying it," but at least you could tell that something had kind of sunk in.
Dennis: You know, this is another apologetic for the Bible. We have several listeners who tune in regularly to FamilyLife Today who aren't Christians yet, and I'd just turn to you – if you haven't received Christ, and you've not called upon Him to save you from your sins and developed a relationship with God, show me a better way than this book to connect with God and to connect a family, heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul, and to navigate these traps.
The Bible is the guidebook for helping us handle these issues. This book is what has given us the boundaries and the rules we're talking about here, and what are you waiting for? I mean, now is the day to cry out to Christ and have him become your Savior and Lord and get on with the process of making him the builder of your home.
Frankly, Bob, I wonder how anybody can raise a family in this culture and help teenagers through all these traps without having a relationship with the Lord God Almighty.
Bob: Let me just say at this point – if that concept, if that thought, is something you've been struggling with or wrestling with – if you're wondering about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, we want you to call us. We've got material we'll send you at no cost to you …
Dennis: … absolutely.
Bob: We just want to get it to you and trust that will be a help to you as you weigh out what the Bible says about how we're to be rightly related with God and with one another.
Barbara, we talked last week about the fact that you're really encouraging your children not to date someone exclusively during the time they're in high school. At the same time, though, you're training them for a time when they will begin to notice a particular person and begin to wonder – might this be the person that God would have for me to marry? What are you doing in helping to prepare them for that moment?
Barbara: Well, what we're trying to do through these years of junior high, but particularly high school, is to help our kids see what it is they're looking for in a person to marry? What are the standards they want? What are the criteria that they would like to be there? What are the values that they would like for this person to hold?
So we begin talking about those kinds of things and helping them begin to think – what am I looking for? What's best for me? What does God want me to have some day in a mate? And we've tried to teach our kids that the best way to find out those kinds of things is through having a friendship with another person, it's not through a dating relationship where everybody is on their best behavior, you only see each other in ideal situations and circumstances.
But rather we're trying to train our kids to observe one another in ordinary situations so that our girls see these Christian guys – they see them at youth group, they see them at church, they see them on retreats, they see them at school, they see them with their parents, and as we do things as groups with our kids, our family, and a bunch of other families, they can watch how each other acts, how they respond, what they do, what their choices are, and that's a better indication of what that person is really like than what you see on a high-performance date.
Bob: And, Dennis, what are you encouraging them to look for as they watch these young men and young women?
Dennis: Well, I think the Scriptures are very, very clear where some of the fundamentals are. First of all, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 14 through the end of the chapter, Paul writes that we're not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers." He asked, "What do righteousness and unrighteousness have in common? What does light and darkness have in common?" And the answer is nothing.
We want our children to even be able to distinguish between that young man or that young lady who profess Christ and that young man or young lady who are followers of Christ.
Our churches today, unfortunately, are filled with many who profess to be followers of Christ but in reality they're just professing Christ, and you wonder if they even know Him at all, because their lives are not marked by the fruit that Jesus spoke of, of those who would be His true followers.
And we want our children to have friendships with the opposite sex who are committed Christians, who are growing Christians, and who are concerned about their own spiritual walk with Christ.
Bob: And you saw this, Barbara, lived out with Ashley as she went away to college and started to look around and started to wonder about some of the young men.
Barbara: Right, and there was a sense in which, when we took Ashley to college, and even our boys, for that matter, that they automatically had some freedom that they didn't have when they were living at home because we weren't there to oversee who they spent time with and oversee who they would even date – go out with and spend time with alone.
But we continued to coach them from a distance and encourage them, and then as we watched Ashley go through college, she began to just – by the time she was halfway through, sometime between sophomore and junior year, she just thought, you know, I don't want to mess with this dating stuff anymore. I mean, she had learned on her own that it just wasn't worth it, and she decided she was just going to be content being single as long as God wanted her to be single, and she came to that conviction on her own.
And so for the next year and a half or so, she just hung out with groups of kids and did things with her Christian friends and, in the process of that, got to know a young man very well as a friend, and neither one of them ever thought of anything of the other beyond just a friendship. They both viewed each other as a very good friend, and it was because they had made the decision not to pursue a romantic relationship. And so, therefore, that was out of the question, and it never entered in.
So they began this friendship and continued to be friends for two years, and then they decided at a point that maybe God wanted them to have more than a friendship and then the process went on where they eventually decided to get engaged and married.
But that marriage came out of a friendship, and it was encouraging to see God use that in her life – where she saw him in all kinds of situations – good, bad, and ugly, and otherwise – and so she really knew what she was getting. She didn't see him only on his best behavior and only performing perfectly on dating kinds of situations, and so she knew what she was walking into.
Bob: Last week we talked about some of the restrictions that you put on children about group activities and double dating, what age, what level of maturity they need to be in – what about things like phone calls from guys or phone calls to guys or young men pursuing young women via the telephone?
Barbara: Or how about e-mail?
Bob: Oh, yeah, e-mail.
Barbara: Oh, yeah. Well, we have really had to regulate telephone, and now we are regulating e-mail, because we've discovered that even though our kids may not have an established official relationship, an exclusive relationship with the opposite sex, they can, nonetheless, develop an emotionally dependent relationship over the phone by spending – if they have unlimited phone privileges, they could spend an hour on the phone every night with somebody and be sharing their heart, be sharing their dreams or their fears or their frustrations or difficulties that they're going through and elicit sympathy and compassion from the other person and they go, "Gosh, this person really understands me, so I can maybe tell them some more," and so these doors just open wider and wider to the soul of the other person. So they just begin this give-and-take over the phone, and they become attached emotionally over the phone.
Dennis: And this happens a lot. I mean, children are so needy, it seems, today, as teenagers, they latch onto each other and meet each other at this point of need. One young man was doing this with one of our daughters, and so I told my daughter, I'm going to need to talk to him on the phone. And she said, "Why?" And I said, "Because he's calling frequently, and this is a relationship even though he doesn't even live in our community. I need to talk to him."
So I got on the phone, and he nearly fainted. I mean, he really was scared, and we talked about that a little bit and laughed about that, and then I said, "You know, I just want you to develop a friendship with my daughter, and I really don't want you to send gifts, I don't want you to send romantic notes over here," and a few additional things, and I just kind of built some boundaries around it and asked him to honor that as her dad.
And it wasn't long after that, Bob, that I noticed on the e-mail that we have at home that there was this note to this child, and so I read the note, and this young man that I had talked to over the phone wasn't honoring what I asked him to do. I sent a very blunt, pointed, loving e-mail with the return button. It was interesting – a couple of days later the young man wrote me back, and he said, "Thank you, Mr. Rainey."
Now, let me just say a couple of things to parents at this point. When you step in like this, don't assume that just because the young man or the young lady agrees with you, that they're on your side. Don't just roll off the watermelon truck like a watermelon.
Barbara: "Oh, I've done that one. It's taken care of now."
Dennis: Oh, yeah, Dad's done a good one to that. We've headed that one off at the pass. Wrong. Huh-uh, Dad has got to realize you've got a young man who likes your daughter, and you've got to track, and you've got stay involved, and you've got to watch what's happening, and you know what? At Valentine's Day there was a stuffed animal in the mail. Hello.
So, you know, as parents, you've just got to keep on repeating yourself and teaching and hanging in there and staying involved in your children's lives and resist the temptation to back out of there and to not stay involved and to give them too much freedom before they need it.
Bob: What rules have you come up with for telephone or for e-mail use? What are your standards in that area?
Barbara: Well, our girls are not allowed to call boys, first of all. We really have tried to teach them that guys are the ones who need to take the initiative in a relationship. So the first rule for our girls is they don't call boys – any way for any reason.
And then the next rule is that they just get so many minutes a night on the phone, and our rules are after dinner and after homework is done. So, generally, unless they're trying to get their homework done, and they've got to get the answer, or they didn't get the assignment, all that kind of stuff – there are always exceptions on homework kinds of issues – but, primarily, if they're going to call somebody just to visit and chat and just kill some time on the phone, that doesn't occur until after dinner and after all homework is done, and that's usually, in our family, at least 7:00 at night before that happens.
And then they have to be off the phone by 9. So there's kind of a two-hour window, and with multiple people in the home wanting to use the phone, they can't have a very long chunk of time. We just really don't let our girls chat on the phone endlessly for hours on end. It just isn't productive.
Dennis: And the Internet would be approached in a similar fashion. You wouldn't let your child spend endless hours on the Internet in chat rooms with the opposite sex, nor would you send back and forth a number of e-mails each day or each week.
I think it needs to be limited, and basically what you're doing is you're creating some boundaries to protect your child's heart from forming exclusive, romantic dating relationships. That's the conviction. That's the thing you're protecting with your son or with your daughter.
Bob: You talk about parents being right in the middle of things, and our listeners have heard you talk about being right in the middle of things as you have interviewed any young man who has come as a suitor for your daughter before you've let them even go out on a double or a triple date or go to the prom together, right?
Dennis: Yeah, I've got about eight questions that I ask in an interview of a young man, and these eight questions are now being replicated in hundreds of dads' lives across the country.
In fact, Bob, I just talked to a dad in San Marcos, Texas – in fact, it's the brother of Mike McCoy, who was on the broadcast one time – Brian McCoy just interviewed his daughter Megan's first date, and it was so funny, because Brian said, "I sat behind my desk, and I wanted the most intimidating situation I could get. I made him sit at the other side," and then he said, "I kind of caved in a little bit and asked him, 'Are you nervous?'" And the young man said "Yeah," and he said, "Well, I am, too. We're going to get through this together."
And they went through the interview, and I asked Brian at the end of the time, I said, "Tell me this – when you were driving home to see your daughter, did you feel like you had been a man's man in protecting your daughter?" And he said, "Absolutely, absolutely." And you know what? His daughter thoroughly enjoyed the fact that her dad would look out for her by interviewing a young man who had come a-calling at the door.
Bob: You have recently written a book on this subject, a guidebook for dads to help all of us know how we can engage in that process – the questions we can ask, how we can interview a young man who wants to take our daughter out on a date and, in fact, this month we're making copies of that book available to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
We're a listener-supported ministry, and so those donations are critical for the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today, and we want to invite any of our listeners who can help with a donation to either call 1-800-FLTODAY, or go online at FamilyLife.com. Make a donation of any amount, and when you do, if you're calling, just ask for a copy of Dennis's new book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," or if you're filling out the donation form online, just write the word "date" in the keycode box that you see there, and we'll be happy to send you a copy of this book as a way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry. We do appreciate your partnership with us here on FamilyLife Today.
And when you get in touch with us, let me also encourage you to consider getting a copy of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," where you also address this same subject along with a number of other issues facing us as parents of teenagers. You help us be ready for the kinds of issues that are going to come up during the teen years.
In fact, I think the perfect time to be reading a book like "Parenting Today's Adolescent," is when your son or daughter is still 8 or 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 years old, in those years that you've referred to as "the golden years," because that's when we need to develop convictions and be proactive and be alert and be ready to face the challenges that are going to come during the teen years.
And, of course, we've got copies of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," in our FamilyLife Resource Center and listeners who don't have a copy and who are interested in getting one can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. If you click the red button that you see right in the middle of the screen that says "Go," that will take you to the area of the site where you can get more information about this book.
You can order it online, if you'd like, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and ask for a copy of the book. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. Someone on our team can make arrangements to have a copy of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent" sent out to you and I'll just mention again, if you're able to help with a donation, in addition to that, we'll be happy to send you a copy of Dennis's book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." We do appreciate your financial support of this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we're going to talk about another trap that faces our otnrs today. In fact, this is not just a trap for teens but a trap that all of us are facing – it's the way media is influencing our lives. And we're not saying that because you have access to media it's necessarily a trap, but it could be. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great day, and we'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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