Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s June 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here!
article by Rebecca Stewart
Dads, you are her first example of how a man is supposed to treat a woman. What a healthy relationship looks and sounds like. You have been wrapped around her little finger from the moment you held her in your arms. From that moment on, you imagined the day you would proudly walk her down the aisle. You probably just blocked out the road it takes to get to that picture of perfection.
So you want to date my daughter.
Many a joke has been made about dads and their daughters, or rather dads and the boys/young men who want to date their daughters. We’re talking checklists, applications, rules…Some you could file away for legitimate usage, others, well, we’ll just say, not so much. So what is a dad to do when this major milestone is looming? You might think the answer is to leave this particular ball in mom’s court, but that would be wrong. Sure you’re a team, but your role here is vital.
It all begins with you
It begins long before your baby girl is even close to the dating game. In the book Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date: 30 Minutes Man-to-Man by Dennis Rainey, it’s recommended that dads “date” their daughters. In the book’s foreword, Robert Lewis writes, “Show them how a real man should act to honor and respect them.” The National Center for Fathering adds that once you’ve established the daddy-daughter date routine, look for the opportunity to add one more strategic lesson to the mix: “In the middle of your time together, hope something goes terribly wrong. The bowling alley is overbooked, the restaurant wait is 90 minutes, the skating rink is unexpectedly closed, a flat tire…With any of these minor catastrophes, you have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate patience, resourcefulness, and a sense of humor. All traits your daughter should expect in any fellow who takes her out.”
Changing times = Changing conversations
I think we can all agree that with each generation the dating game experiences some…shifts. Social media, the ever changing technology of our cellphones (technology in general), and a dwindling number of landlines have been major game changers to the landscape of dating. And if we’re being real, calling it dating is pretty much, well, dated. However, that doesn’t mean that we need to be lowering our standards, nor should our teens. It does change the conversation, though.
As the probability of dating looms, consider putting these guidelines into play:
- Curfew – Establish a general curfew for weeknights and weekends, with the understanding that there can be flexibility for special occasions.
- The boundaries – Discuss your family’s values, your hopes and expectations as she prepares to enter this new type of relationship.
- Defining a healthy relationship – Teach your teen the foundations of a healthy relationship – respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, support. A healthy relationship allows both individuals to maintain outside interests and friendships; it does not hinder the personal freedom of either person.
- Introductions – Make it clear that you’ll be meeting and talking with (no third degrees here!) her dates. If you decide to “interview” your daughter’s dates, Rainey’s book, mentioned earlier, offers excellent guidelines. Note: “The interview is never meant to be heavy handed. It’s not about an egotistical dad trying to make a teenage boy feel small. It’s a time when a real man reaches out to engage a younger man in a noble conversation about a young lady,” (pg. 14). Outlining your expectations and setting boundaries with your daughter’s dates shows both your daughter and this young man how valued she is – someone to be treated with respect.
- Group VS 1:1 Dating – Both sides of the table might feel more comfortable starting with group dating – in fact, group dating seems to be the norm these days. (In the early stages, anyway). Whether group dates or just the two of them, what are the parameters? (In other words; when, where, and how alone are we talking).
- Exit Strategy – Establish a game plan in the event s/he finds herself uncomfortable and/or unsafe, and needs an out. The X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan) by Bert Fulks was widely circulated across social media earlier this year. How it works:
- Your teen is out and about and finds something about her/his situation to be not okay, she simply texts the letter “X” to someone in the family who’s aware of the plan (dad, mom, older sibling…),
- Whomever receives the text, calls within a few minutes, following a basic script:
- Teen: Hello?
Fam: Something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.
Teen: What happened?
Fam: I’ll tell you when I get there, be ready to go in five minutes. I’m on my way.
- Teen: Hello?
- Then your teen tells her friends something’s happened at home, and she’s got to leave.
Dads, the moral of the story is, now is not the time to step back. Be brave. Be bold. Be the example she needs you to be.