“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
I don't know if you have noticed, but teenagers who date go through boy/girlfriends at an alarming rate. Television shows like the bachelor, bachelorette, the sex box, and even your average sitcom glorify dating, and worse, sexual activity in the dating process is glorified. In fact, dating has become more about great sex than companionship, mutual fulfillment, honoring God, procreation (this is different from simply having sex), mutual support, even sanctification. This is, in part, why homosexuality and same sex marriage have begun to be accepted. Even more problematic is the approach some parents take towards dating, it is often encouraged at a young age. Dads tease their kids about it in an almost endearing way, moms talk about how cute it is and so on (I admit, I've teased my kids). What's the problem? The problem is that parents who do this are also the ones helping the kid break up (divorce) when things don't work out. Before you start sending me nasty emails, hear me out. I'm not suggesting that there are ways to avoid break ups, but I am suggesting that when kids start dating too soon or with an improper understanding we may be setting them up for failure in their marriage.
In essence, we are helping them learn how to get divorced. What is divorce if it is not a break up with more assets, and perhaps kids, involved? Think about it, they start dating, and in this culture they will be pressured to become physically involved. With physical involvement comes emotional and spiritual intimacy for which they are not ready...then comes the breakup/divorce.
So what is a parent suppose to do? As parents it is easy to fall prey to cultural influences. Nobody wants to be the outcast, it doesn't matter how old they are. The truth is that culture is really good at turning out certain kinds of people, the kind that fit into the norms culture has decided upon. Unfortunately, these norms often run contrary to Biblical norms. Being a parent is as much more about evaluating culture and determining what practices to embrace and which ones to reject than it is about deciding when the kids should go to bed, what they should eat for lunch, which extra curricular activities with which they should be involved.
Several years ago when my daughter was in fifth grade and a couple of her friends were starting to "date" or have "boyfriends." All of the sudden she was interested in having a boyfriend as well. We had a conversation about the purpose of dating, which I believe is to find a spouse. Of course simply preaching this message would have probably been a bad strategy, so I led her on a logical journey and helped her discover this on her own. My daughter is now 16 and she doesn't plan on dating until she is in college. I realize I am blessed and this would not necessarily be the case with every kid. However, I also realize that the conversation we had when she was in 5th grade (and many times since then) set the stage for how she would view "dating" from that point on. I don't want to help her practice divorce. My prayer is that she will never have to experience the kind of heartbreak that goes with that kind of a break up. Perhaps there will be some break ups along the way, but I am not going to help my teenager get divorced.
Matt Chandler and his wife talk about this in a video here.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.