Who doesn't love to talk about boy/girl stuff with their growing kids? Am I right?
Well, we've been talking about it with our girls (9 and 13) this week. We're not having to confront any behaviors, but we felt it wise to lay down our family guidelines and prepare them for the (hopefully distant) future.
There was a little bit of awkward grinning and eye-rolling, but it actually has prompted some great conversation.
Our goal is to encourage all of our children to save relationships for the one they will marry. Toward that end, we discourage dating, or going steady, and encourage a courtship with someone only after giving it much thought and prayer, and seeking the counsel of parents and other trusted adults.
So what do we talk about?
Numero uno: There is absolutely no need for romantic relationships between children! And until you're about 17 or 18, you're still children! Any earlier than that, and the relationships go nowhere, and mean very little. Childhood is SO short, and adulthood is SO long, there's plenty of time for romance in adulthood. Romantic relationships waste a part of that precious, fleeting time in life that should be spent in more innocent pursuits.
Everything else we say is based on this main rule. So, next we explain some practical ways to avoid falling into the trap of "going steady" or "having a boyfriend."
1. Never initiate communication with boys. This originated with my mom, when she told me in no uncertain terms that "girls do not call boys on the phone." She speaks with wisdom. She gave birth to me at age 14, and did not want to see her daughters head down that same path. That rule had to be updated for the 21st century. Now it's "girls do not call boys, text, IM, facebook, or email boys."
Why? Does this seem a little overboard? Ask a man. What does a teen boy think when a girl contacts him? I asked my husband to share. He said it could be either one of two things: 1) If it's a girl he wasn't interested in, he'd be annoyed. 2) If it's a girl he is interested in, he'd assume she was interested in a date, or more.
Here's where we explained that teen boys think a little differently than girls, and they might receive messages that aren't being sent. This was repeated with just about every rule.
2. There should be no physical contact with boys. This seems pretty obvious, but I have noticed a trend even in our homeschool group at various activities: hugging. You know, the "friendly hug." Assorted teen boys and girls would greet each other with what would seem like an innocent hug. Not all the teens were doing this, but several of the older ones were. Alarm bells went off in my head. See the above explanation about how boys think differently than girls.
I tried to explain, with as little embarassment as possible, that when a pretty girls gets that close to a handsome boy, thoughts occur to them that neither should be thinking if they aren't married to each other.
My 13-year-old said that one friend already tries the hugging thing, so how should she handle it without rudeness? We pondered that one for a few minutes, because it's tricky. But we finally decided to try to think of a funny, yet polite way to say, "I don't hug boys," whether it's responding with a high-five or a hand-shake.
3. Avoid dating/going steady. Dating for dating's sake is about the same as teenage relationships. It accomplishes very little. What it does is train kids to give their heart to someone, only to lose a part of it when they break up.
Also, the boy that they think hung the moon right now may be very different in 3 or 4 years. Or they boy they think is stinky and annoying right now, may just be the one for them someday! It's way too soon to make these kinds of decisions.
Here are some resources that back up this kind of thinking:
Of Knights and Fair Maidens by Jeff and Danielle Myers. It's called "An exciting and practical approach to courtship" and is the story of Jeff and Danielle's courtship. Good for teens to read.
Stay in the Castle by Pastor Jerry Ross. We are reading this short book aloud to our girls this week. It's sort of a fairy-tale with a modern twist that tells about a girl's choice to wait for Prince Charming.
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. A classic for older teens and adults. This is followed up by Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity. I recommend everything Elisabeth Elliot wrote!
Generations of Virtue has lots of great resources for teaching and encouraging purity in boys and girls, from books to purity rings and studies that parents can do with their teens.
If you want to get really crazy with this alternative conservative lifestyle : ) check out these great resources that encourage girls to think outside the career path and instead focus on serving their families while they are young and single, and also trains them to be 'keepers at home' when they get married.
So Much More by Ana Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. I love, love, love this book. It really does give girls (and their parents) a vision for something different than the 'norm.' There are other great similar resources by the Botkins. Visit their website here. The category about Girl/Guy Relationships is especially good.
Joyfully at Home is a blog written by a young lady who has chosen to live at home and serve her father and her family until marriage. She has also chosen to get her college degree through online sources (which is another topic I'm getting ready to tackle!).
This subject fits in nicely with my post on conformity. It's not common or 'normal' but it's what we feel is best for our family. I ended talking with my girls the other night by reminding them that not every family will follow these same guidelines, so they can expect to receive some funny looks or even unfriendly comments. But that's okay. We are not doing this to gain acceptance from others, we're doing it to set them on the right path to adulthood.