Saturday, March 8, 2008

the hope in it

Thank you to everyone who commented to my last two posts. You all brought some good stuff to the table. Not only do I appreciate hearing the different views, but I think it benefits all who read them. Here are the rest of my thoughts on this subject.

Yesterday I wrote about the reality of middle school and the kids who attend. I believe most of the girlfriend-boyfriend relationships are in name only. And even though they're in name only, they can turn out bad.

Many times a boy and girl who were friends and then decided to become a boyfriend-girlfriend find themselves not talking to each other at all because they don't know how to handle the expectations of having this status. They "break-up" quickly and unfortunately, their friendship can't withstand the fallout.

Even though I believe most of these relationships (and I obviously use that term loosely), there are those kids who take it to a deeper level. Since they are so young, most of it is experimenting and doing what they think is expected of them, since being in a "relationship." But as all adults know, that usually leads to trouble. The facts is; there are sexually active kids in middle school.

That is why it's important to be in touch with what's happening in your child's environment and lay a foundation of communication, discipline, respect and trust - and all this has to happen before your child goes into his/her middle school years.

I'm a firm believer in communication - mutual communication. I needed to know what my kids were thinking and feeling and experiencing in order to know why they reacted in a certain way or how to help them with something. Likewise, I wanted my kids to know why we made certain decisions, why we had to say no, and what we expected from them. If you have this foundation already in place when your child gets to middle school, it helps to navigate through this turbulent and bewildering period.

If you have guidelines for dating, you should communicate that as early as possible. I have a friend whose kids knew, from the time they learned to talk, that they were not allowed to date one on one until they were 16. There was never any need to try to negotiate. That's just the way it was. It worked because that rule wasn't all of a sudden sprung on them when they were at the age when they were watching their peers have boyfriends and girlfriends. They also communicated to their children why they had this policy and why it was important to them. They didn't just say, "because I'm the parent and I say so." They did it will love and logic.

My son had a girlfriend when he was 13, but we did a lot of talking about what it meant to be a boyfriend and was was expected from him. We met her family and got to know them very well (luckily, we liked them a lot). He and his girlfriend only did things in a group setting, most of the time with other friends and then other times with one of the families. I truly believe he learned personal, relational, and social skills during this time. They were allowed some freedom within a closely watched and regulated environment.

Did I know everything that went on - no. Did he tell me everything that was on his mind - I'm sure not. But we were able to talk about a lot that I think helped him understand relationships. I honestly don't think we would have had some of those same conversations if he were in high school. By that time, kids think they know it all and don't need their parents.

What I didn't address here, but what I feel is true, is that there is a difference between boys and girls when it comes to this subject. How much self esteem a girl has, and how empowered she feels, will play a role when it comes to wanting the acceptance and fitting in, thus having a boy friend. I could write another post on this subject, so I'm not going to go on. This post is long enough =)

I wouldn't presume to tell anyone how to parent their children. And I sincerely hope no one feels that way by what I've written. I recognize that we all parent differently and no one knows our kids better than we do, as parents. These are just my thoughts, personal opinions, and experience. Thank you again for your input. I enjoy reading each and every comment.

13 comments:

~Just A Thought Ginger said...

I love your thoughts and totally agreee. I have to admit that we had the "no dating until 16" policy firmly in place as well. Our girls had guy friends in middle school and because we trusted them and felt very open with them we thought the situation was under control. Nothing bad happened, but there were still choices made that caused them to regret these silly and immature relationships.

All three of my girls pretty much waited until college to date. So far we have been blessed with 2 amazing guys, a SIL and soon to be SIL. We continue to pray for #3 to make wise choices and to be lead by the Spirit of the Lord.

Great topic Diana! I hope it sheds much light for parents of younger kids.

Deb said...

Your a brave women to bring up that topic. We had the 16 rule also. Now my 12 yr old granddaughter is interested in boy's wow this is young. You are very wise, and have great counsel to moms who may need this now. God Bless

Lynne said...

I don't have children of my own, so I can only speak from my own experience. I wasn't allowed to date until high school and I ended up in a pretty serious relationship by the time I was sixteen. It was an emotionally overwhelming time for me, but I was afraid to talk to my Mother about it because she was so strict. It's really important to keep the lines of communication open.

If I did have a teen-age son or daughter, I would probably allow them to date in high school, but I would advise them to keep things light until they are emotionally ready for a serious relationship.

Pam in Colorado said...

Quit telling me what to do!!! ;0) Just kidding. I don't think you came across that way at all.

It is good to bring such topics out in the open and take time to discuss.

Have a great weekend.

MommyK said...

I realize that my perspective on this may be different because I'm not LDS, as many commenters on the original post seemed to be. So I did not grow up with a "no dating until 16" rule and won't have such a rule for my children. What we will have will be on a case by case basis, depending on the maturity of my children and the other kids involved. And, like you have already pointed out, the answer changes based on the definition of "boyfriend." A boy that my daughter sees at school and talks with on the phone and sees when there are adults around? Not a problem. A boy whom she goes places alone with and has a physical relationship with? Absolutely not.

When I was in high school, many of my classmates were having sex and by the time graduation rolled around, some had been pregnant. And as a parent, the idea of that scares the heck out of me. I have many many years to go until we get to that point, but what i will be striving for is to raise kids who make the decision to wait not just because I want them to, but because it's the right thing to do.

MommyK said...

BTW, I found you through Not Before 7. Great blog!

Amber said...

Yep, we're all about the no dating until 16 policy as well. I have no issues with my kids hanging out in a controlled environment with the opposite sex but this is something I am going to be a stickler about. Teen-age hormones and naivity are not a good combination.

Short Stop said...

You are so, so wise, and I loved reading your thoughts on this. I wasn't allowed to date until I as 16, and it was always understood that that was the rule. I love what you said about not springing it on them when they're 13 and want a boy/girlfriend. I had never thought about that.

So, I'm getting up and going to talk to Jack now! :) j/k

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience! I truly value your thoughts.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I always appreciate your honesty on your blog! It is so helpful for me, as a mom of preschoolers to begin thinking about some of these things. I know I have some time, but it'll be here before I know it.

MammyT said...

Diana, I am so sorry I never got back to comment on the teenage dating issue. Honestly, it hurt to think that hard. I am getting better. I do want to say one thing. After working for several years with the Parent to Parent program, teaching parents whose kids were getting suspended from school, I have a slogan.
"Show Up and Stay Up".
Wherever your kids go, show up yourself. "Hi, I thought you might need some extra ice cream" or "Hi, I thought I'd come by to see how you were doing". They will be too busy looking for you to show up to get into anytrouble.
Stay up until they get home. Greet them at the door. Sniff, look into their eyes, observe the condition of hair and clothing with "Hi, how was the _____fill in the blank?" If they know to expect this, it will keep them from doing things that will compromise that greeting.
These are for boys or girls, of course, and mostly speak of parents who are so closely involved with their children that the kids behave as though they are close by all the time. (I have buttons that say Show Up...Stay Up!)
Nancy
No early dating in our family!

Melissa said...

Lots of good thoughts! I'm glad you continued this discussion on your blog~

charlotte (charmed life) said...

wow! this is a very good topic, very good to ponder on and what an amazing commentors you've got!

my son still too young but i pretty much know already that i will enforce concentrate on studies, no dating policy until he is stable financially, emotionally enough to raise his own family. if dating can't be helped, adjustments can be made on a very minimal basis.

i think you have raised a good point on imposing the dating rule early on. no surprises, so it's not negotiable.

you have a wonderful blog!

charlotte (charmed life) said...

wow! this is a very good topic, very good to ponder on and what an amazing commentors you've got!

my son still too young but i pretty much know already that i will enforce concentrate on studies, no dating policy until he is stable financially, emotionally enough to raise his own family. if dating can't be helped, adjustments can be made on a very minimal basis.

i think you have raised a good point on imposing the dating rule early on. no surprises, so it's not negotiable.

you have a wonderful blog!