Dating (your kids', not yours ;))

Sylvia - posted on 12/05/2011 ( 17 moms have responded )

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This is kind of a spin-off from a thread in another community (about whether an 11-year-old girl should be “allowed” to have a boyfriend), where a lot of mums seem to be saying “No way! My kids are not allowed to start dating until X age!”

Do you (plan to) have a rule like this for your kids?

Why or why not?

If you do, what’s the minimum age you would consider letting your kid/s date, and how do you define “dating”?

If you don’t have a strict minimum-age rule, do you have other rules about what your kids are allowed to do (e.g., curfews, restricting certain activities, requiring certain types of supervision, requiring the kid’s bedroom door to be left open when a friend is over …), and do you enforce these rules only with respect to friends of the opposite sex?

Also, if you do have rules of this kind, how do you (plan to) go about enforcing them?

If your kids are older (teens), how has the picture changed since they actually hit the dating years? Have the rules (or non-rules) you planned when they were younger worked out as you thought they would, or have you had to become more or less strict?

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Janet - posted on 01/05/2012

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My girls are 13 and 15 and I've never had any hard and fast rules. I think it depends alot on their maturity and how well you know and like the boys they want to date. My 15 yr old has had the same bf since she was 13 and my 13 yr old has a bf but I don't consider it dating yet.

[deleted account]

My son is 12 and has been "dating" since he was 4! :) I use quotations because it's what he calls a girlfriend and that is a different definition than my own. He's been claiming that he will marry this pretty girl or that pretty girl for as long as I can remember.

Since he is getting a little bit older and puberty has begun, he's established more of what I would call a girlfriend. I have implemented some rules for him to follow.

1. No Touching - This is hand holding, hugging and whatever else. Why? Hormones are a ragin'. I explained that I know that this won't last forever, but while he's getting used to his new 'feelings', he needs to keep his hands to himself. Better safe than sorry. I also told him we'd be having some regular follow-up talks. :)

2. Is it okay with her parents? - This is a big one for me. If he has a "girlfriend", he has to ask her if it's okay with her parents that she has a boyfriend. Yes, I realize she could lie about it, my goal is that my son learns to respect her and her family's values and he can start by asking these kinds of questions. If she says no, I ask him to respect her families rules and just be her friend. It's happened once and he did really well at following the rule and had a different GF shortly thereafter.

3. Absolutely NO closed door alone time...PERIOD. To uphold rule 1, I've implemented rule 3. This has even included my best friends daughter who is his age and he's known his whole life. His body is feeling some things that his brain doesn't really understand yet and I don't trust hormones to behave themselves.

4. Communication with me is key. All I ask is that he talks to me. I've promised to not freak out or judge him, regardless of what I hear. I've asked that he inform me when there is a break-up or new girlfriend. I don't need details, unless he wants to share (and he usually does!). Sometimes I don't love what I hear, but I smile and nod and patiently listen. I suggest how he can handle some things, but mainly ask him a lot of questions so that I can better understand where he is at.

5. She is always welcome...With permission from her parents (me talking to them personally - and never for a sleepover) and following the above rules, she's welcome to come for dinner, I'm happy to chaperon a date to the movies, or trail behind them at the mall.

Really I want him to respect women, so I am happy to foster this stage with him, because I think that it's the perfect time, while a girlfriend is more a girl that is a friend, to teach him how to do that. Once he gets older he will do as he pleases behind my back regardless of my rules, so I am hoping to establish a foundation now.

Becky - posted on 12/06/2011

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I haven't really decided how we want to approach this seriously. We have joked that she's not allowed until she's 32!! But in all honesty, we have no real plan.



She's not shown any interest in one on one dating. She tells me about her crushes, and the few "boyfriends" she's had (they hang out on the play ground at school). I've always told her she is welcome to invite boys to our house, and she is welcome to play at boys houses also. She's got a lot of friends at school that are boys! We've at discussions about what is & is not appropriate behavior at her age. I have reminded her the way she see's boy's & girls on TV kissing, etc is adult behavior that she is not ready for . . . and she agreed ("duh Mom I know!").



I want to keep the communication open with her always. I guess it's just one of those things that we'll make a decision on when she is more ready for "real" dating.



P.S. She's only 10

Sherri - posted on 12/05/2011

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Yup my kids know the allowable age to date in our home is 16. Before then they are just way to young and my kids don't need to grow up so fast. However, honestly my oldest 2 are 14 & 13 and have no desire to even contemplate dating yet.



They love having boy & girl friends without the pressure of having to date them. They are just a group of friends and they love it.



Oh and never when they are with their friends girl or boy are they allowed to be without adult supervision. That is all their friends parents rules as well. Also if it was a female friend they would not be allowed in their room alone period.

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Jennifer - posted on 01/06/2012

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Sylvia- after reading your last post I think you were wanting more info on our veiws of sex, than dating. My kids are talked to about sex starting fairly early. They are given BC options(well, the boys only have one!) and told how to protect themselves. We are aware enough to know it can happen anywhere, at any time, and no 'age limit' can stop it! The rules we have in place for dating are for our kids protection. It is harder to push someone into doing something they don't want to do if they have to really look for a time and place.......That said, my kids could leave the movie, have sex and return- and I may not find out about it- but if she doesn't want to, she can claim fear of me finding out. That happened when our daughter was 14, and she let us know. She said she wasn't ready. My oldest son was open when he started having sex. My other teens claim it hasn't happened yet. I just have to let them know my standerds are high, but I love them and will make sure they are protected, no matter what their choices!

Sylvia - posted on 12/09/2011

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Very interesting responses, thanks everybody! :)

@Liz, your experience definitely matches what I observed in high school (even junior high!) among my friends with very strict parents. I will spare everyone the hair-raising details. Me, on the other hand ... the only "rules" I got from my mom were an emphasis on the importance of using protection and the advice that you should only ever have sex because *you* want to (that is, not just because somebody else wants you to, or because "everybody else is doing it", or whatever). The first person I ever had sex with was the guy I've now been married to for 14 years, and I was almost 19 at the time.

(This is all anecdata, of course. Just interesting.)

@Teresa, "So if he says he hates gymnastics... that's not good. :)" -- smart girl :)

@Sherri, so are you suggesting that kids who are allowed to date can't also have friends of the opposite sex? That certainly hasn't been my experience.

@Debb, your DD sounds a lot like mine :)

I'm really interested in the number of people who have rules about keeping the bedroom door open, or making sure that kids are supervised by an adult at all times. What about privacy? What if they really want to have a private conversation with a friend (of either sex)? Maybe kids these days are OK with a total lack of privacy (although I don't think *my* kid would be) -- I know it would have driven me CRAZY as a teenager, but also it would have been totally impossible for my mom to monitor me that closely. Oddly enough the one time something bad did happen to me, it was during an organized activity with curfews and lots of adult supervision. Fortunately I also had lots of (girl and guy) friends around to watch my back, since those adult supervisors seemed to think they could just tell us -- a group aged 16 to 24 -- "lights out at 11pm" and everyone would meekly go back to their own beds. Riiiigghhht.

I guess what I feel my mom gave me that was valuable, and what I want to give my DD as well, is the knowledge that having sex is not a *bad* thing, but it's an *important* thing, and you should decide to do it for good reasons. A good reason might be "I really love and feel safe with this person" or "This is the person I've been waiting to do this with" -- or it might even be "I'm curious to see what all the fuss is about, and I'm really attracted to this person". It doesn't have to be "It's okay to have sex now because now I'm {married/over 18/over 21}". A bad reason would be, for example, "I'm afraid s/he won't like me anymore if I don't" or "He bought me a really nice dinner" or "I'm not really interested, but everyone else is doing it and I feel like a loser because I haven't yet" or "Wow, my parents would FREAK if they knew I was doing this!!" or "Meh, I'm bored" or "FINALLY I've moved out of my parents' house and they can't control me anymore! Now, let's see, who can I have sex with?"

I don't think you can expect people to respect you (or your boundaries) if you don't respect yourself. But having sex doesn't mean you don't respect yourself. It's all in why and how you make your decisions. I would really like my daughter to live in a world where the slut/stud double standard is dead and buried, and both boys and girls can feel safe choosing to have sex or not have sex according to *what they themselves actually want*, but alas I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon :P

Jennifer - posted on 12/08/2011

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My kids have all declared they have a 'girlfriend/boyfriend' but dating is not gonna happen till 16. They have had their 'dates' to our house before 16, and are allowed to go out with friends that include the person they are 'dating', but no one and one dates. We also must meet their dates. Curfew is 10 unless there is a reason to be considered. (football game, dance) They are not allowed time 'alone' in our house. These rules hold until they are 18. At 18, we loosen things. If the kids are still living with us, we are still told where they are, and have some say in what they do, but not much. Worked well with my oldest, now 20, and my 16 year old. We will see how it goes from here........

Amie - posted on 12/05/2011

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No, there is no age for dating because every child is ready at different stages.

I know our 11 year old isn't ready to date but she knows it too so it's not a worry for me. We're also really open with her (ok I am, it almost sends my husband into heart failure to even admit she's growing up) so she knows herself well.

This doesn't mean she hasn't liked other boys, she has and does right now. She just isn't ready to date. I can't remember the reason she gave me but I'm fairly proud of her for standing her ground and not just going along with the other kids her age who are dating. It's the "in" thing, ya know. =/

We don't have any real rules about supervision either, it's just common place (and sense!) to supervise children. So no matter where she goes (we know the families of her friends) or who comes here, parents know they are supervised properly. She doesn't have a curfew and I suspect she won't until she's old enough to drive. Mostly because she has nowhere to go without one of us driving her there. The beauty of living on an acreage. LOL! She may, in the next few years, become closer with a few of the older kids she knows and they may drive her places. We'll see how that goes.

It's hard to say how we will enforce rules that are barely there and will fluctuate with each child.

Stifler's - posted on 12/05/2011

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No, because they will date anyways whenever they want and just do it behind my back.

Jane - posted on 12/05/2011

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Wow....lots of questions. It's been a while since I've been on COM's but I'm here today because I'm in the mood to communicate :)

My kids are now 21 and 18 so I'm well past the stage of dating, etc. However, our rules were pretty simple. No one on one dating until 16 but they were allowed to go out in groups, where there were some situations where there was the "I like you, you like me" type stuff and to me, that's typical teenage stuff and was fine! I was VERY lucky...my daughter didn't have a "boyfriend" until 15-1/2 (and they're still together today 6 years later:) and his dad was the high school band director so I knew the family well. Even so, she was still not allowed to 1 on 1 date with him until she turned 16 because that was the rule I set up and I didn't want to break it and I had a younger one to consider....didn't want to hear from him "well you let her do it...".

Other rules that were non-negotiable were curfews, a parent ALWAYS had to be home if they were going to someone's house and I always checked first...never took the kids word for it, passwords to all online activities were to be provided or the would loose access, homework always done as soon as they got home from school and grades had to be maintained to the level of what they were capable of.

Other than that...I gotta say, as a teenager of the 70's, I have a very opened mind and relate very well to teenagers. I have never been my children's friend...always the parent, however, I was able to totally relate to whatever situation they were dealing with because I made a vow to myself to never forget what it was like to be a teenager.

[deleted account]

My parents never let me date or even allowed boys to call the house.



It just made me sneak around behind their back with unsuitable (older) guys.



I think that was just wrong-headed. I wasn't really rebellious by nature. If they had let me get to know boys in a natural way, letting me entertain them at home (with their supervision) or go on group dates, I think I wouldn't have been that interested in boys until around age 15-16.

[deleted account]

My kids can date (one on one date) when they are 16. My girls turn 10 on the 13th and they've known this rule for years. We don't have rules on opposite sex friends at the moment. We don't have friends of either gender coming into our home though (no space).

They've been interested in boys since they were 5 and in the first grade! That would be one reason for the dating age rule. Plus... I see how they crave male attention since I've become single. I fill it w/ as much positive male attention as I can get for them, but since I'm not a man... I have to rely on others for that. Plus.... I know there have been sixth graders (what they'll be next year) in their school that are having sex. That scares the crap out of me.

We talk... a lot. About how their focus needs to be on school and gymnastics right now. It's great to be friends w/ guys, but nothing more til they are MUCH older. And when they DO start dating it's important to be looking for a guy that respects you and your interests and not just one that you think is cute. To which one of the girls replied... So if he says he hates gymnastics... that's not good. :)

My son will have the same dating age rule, but as for anything else... he's only 3 right now.

Denikka - posted on 12/05/2011

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I don't intend on having any strict rules in regards to dating. My oldest is only 2.5yrs old though :P
I think a lot depends on the kids maturity. I'm figuring that I'll be comfortable with a *real* relationship (hugging, hand holding etc) at about 13. Group *dates*, a certain amount of *along time*, such as while watching movies, mom and dad don't need to be watching over their shoulder, etc.
Real *dates*, one on one, I would be more okay with around the 15/16yr old mark.

General rules will be reinforced with all friends, male or female. Things like keeping bedroom doors open, and the general check ins are not sex specific for me.
Other than that, as with all things, I figure some rules need to be adjusted based on the child and their maturity. I may let my son stay home alone at 10, but I may wait until my daughter is 13, based on their maturity level.

Sylvia - posted on 12/05/2011

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I'll start:

I've only got one kid, and she's 9 (in Grade 4). We don't have any rules (at least, not yet) about dating. She's been coming home and reporting on "boyfriends" since she was 4 (when she announced that she was going to marry a particular little boy at daycare), but this basically seems to mean hanging out with a boy at recess and possibly sharing choice items from one's lunch; DD is totally grossed out by kissing, still, and doesn't seem to be anywhere near hitting puberty yet (come one, come all, see the amazing 51-pound 9-year-old!! she has her own house keys and can operate a front-loading washing machine, but still wears size 6 pyjamas! :P).

DH jokes about making her wait until she's 18 before she can start dating, but we don't seriously have any plans to forbid her from dating until she's a certain age. I'm most interested in keeping the channels of communication open so that I'm more likely to have opportunities to talk about things like good and not-so-good reasons to have sex, reliable and not-so-reliable methods of birth control, why your parents would much rather pay for your cab ride home than have you get a ride with someone who's been drinking, etc., as they come up.

My personal experience (well, my friends' experiences) with parents who have strict dating rules for their kids is that the stricter the rules, the harder and more creatively the kids work to circumvent them. But it's possible I just had unusually sneaky friends ;)

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