For instance, if I want my oldest child to do something, it has to be her idea to do it. If I try to force her to do something, we end up in a battle of wills, or she ends up doing exactly the opposite of what I want just to prove that she can. This particular child learns best from her own lessons and doesn't always believe that other people's experiences apply to her.
My second child is an observer. She waits, watches, and learns from other people's mistakes and makes her choices based on what she feels is best. That doesn't mean her dander doesn't get in a fluff if she feels forced into something. She's more amenable, but we've had our moments when I take a stand as a parent and say, "No, I have a bad feeling about that, you can't go to that drive-in movie tonight." She hates the "no" moments as much as the next teen. But as her mom, that's just part of the job. She's not always going to like me, and I'm ok with that. 90% of this is listening to your gut for that particular child, and 10% of it is stuff you've learned from other parents, books, tv, media, pinterest, and the well-meaning lady next door who knows everything about every child.
The older my kids get, the more responsible they are for their choices and the ensuing consequences. Thus it follows that the more they are in control of their choices the more accountable they are. Which leads me to the main issue that is on my mind right now: Dating. Dating is super-fun and full of all kinds of consequences ranging from exhilarating joy to sobbing angry messes. Kissing is fun. That rush of emotion as you like him and he likes you back is pretty darn cool.
From a parenting standpoint, there are some smart ways to approach this and some not-so-smart ways. Now, this is all my opinion, and I hardly qualify to talk about parenting even when it is regarding my own children, so the following may not apply to anyone else but me. But, that being said, I am pretty darn sure that if you forbid a teenager to do something, that is going to increase the odds that they will want to do that thing by 100 times. Teens are not little kids who will sulk in their room and cry because mom says no. They might sulk and they might cry, but... The more something is forbidden, the more they are going to want to experience it just because they're not supposed to. I don't care if it's sex, drinking, smoking, drugs, playing with matches, picking their nose, throwing dishes across the room, shooting guns at each other, or texting while driving. Obviously some things are common sense while other things require a little more care and thought.
So, I don't believe in "forbidding" things to my teenagers. I believe in discussing pro's and cons with them as well as consequences. As my father always said, "You're going to do whatever you want to do anyway, but let me give you some advice to think about before you do it." And I think he's right. I know I didn't believe him about half the things he told me, but that didn't make him wrong. I think teens LOVE the fact that they are almost adults and can think, feel, and act for themselves. They still need guidance, direction, and rules with consequences, but they need to be able to choose for themselves. There are ground rules. And there are consequences for breaking ground rules. (i.e. no boys over when no one else is home. That's a ground rule. Break that rule, and you've proven you need a babysitter. And trust me, I'll know. I have very nosy neighbors.)
I'm pretty sure that these souls we've got here with us right now remember the battle they fought before they came here, which was for the simple right to choose. And I think that they get indignant when we try to take that away. I am a huge proponent of choice, because whether we think a choice is right or wrong, these children of ours earned the right to make their choices and deserve to be able to exercise that right. We have laws for a reason with consequences for breaking them, and if someone chooses to break a law, they don't get much of a choice about the consequence. But they still have the choice to break the law. Learning that as a youth is important because it affects how they feel about things as adults.
So, with all this mommy-babble setting the stage, here are my dating guidelines. It's not all of them, just some. But these are the important guidelines for when you are steady dating that favorite favorite someone who you just love so much and know you want to be with forever.
Let me expound a little:
1: FADPAN with extreme caution. (Find A Dark Place And Neck = FADPAN) Kiss goodnight in the car after a date, sure. Kissing on a dark street at night with no one waiting for you to come in, well, that's just asking for trouble.
2: Listen to your warning bells. They do go off. When your brain says, "Whoa, stop," but your body says, "Heeeey, no, don't stop," listen to your brain. It's a whole lot smarter than your hormones.
3: Listen to the spirit. It's kinda hard to hear the spirit (because he won't be with you) if you're breaking the rules and sneaking out and lying about where you are. And if you don't have the extra help from God to keep yourself safe, then it's kind of hard to make good decisions. And if you're not listening to the spirit, you're probably not going to listen to your alarm bells, either. -- I feel that I should insert here something very important. God loves you. Period. No matter what choices you've made. He loves you. Even if you don't believe in him. And you do matter to him, very much. And he can talk to you when you turn your face toward him and listen. So put yourself in places where you can listen, that's all I'm saying.
4: Make your dates doubles. Now, I'm not saying ALL your dates have to or should be doubles. I'm saying that when you're steadily dating this awesome guy/gal, and you end up spending more and more and more alone time together, you might want to diminish that. Bring along a kid sister/brother. Bring another couple along. You can still have just as much fun and enjoy each others company while in the company of others. And if you don't, well, that says something.
5: Set your limits. Know exactly how far you'll let hands range, and stop when things get inappropriate. It's totally ok to say no. And anyone who doesn't respect your no doesn't deserve you.
6: Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to nearly everything in life. I find myself saying this a LOT.
7: Kissing is fun. More than kissing can lead to babies. I'm serious. I know this sounds antiquated and old fashioned, but our bodies are built the way they're built for a reason. And while yes, sex is fun, it's also part of our challenge here in life to gain some control over ourselves and overcome those desires, using them when appropriate. And by appropriate, I mean with your marriage partner. Besides, really, do you want to be a mom/dad while trying to finish high school? Babies are cute and all, but not at 3 a.m. when they want to be fed every two hours and you have had no sleep for three months. Save that stage of life for later when you have a stable marriage and have experienced more of life and the world. Or even when you don't have a stable marriage, but YOU are more stable emotionally and physically. Because there's no going back once you've gone too far and the consequences are out of your control. Condoms do not always work.
8: Sex is not evil, it is sacred. I mean this. It isn't bad, or horrible, or something to be afraid of or disgusted by. Nor is it something you should just jump right into because it seems like everyone else is doing it. Just wait a bit, and save that part of you for the special someone who wants to be with you forever. It's worth waiting for. And you can have just as much of a fun adventure exploring and playing after you're married as you're imagining you can have now. With no guilt, even.
I do have one rule that is not on this list because it's a RULE not a guideline, but a rule for a specific daughter.
#9: After you go out with your favorite guy, you have to go on a date with two diferent guys (meaning two dates, each one with a different guy) before you can go on another date with your favorite person. Now, I have this rule in place specifically for my 2nd daughter who already has a favorite boy and has had since she was 15. I'm a crazy old-fashioned mom who doesn't believe in going steady if it can be helped. I want my girls to experience the wide world of dating and the fun that other personalities can or can't be before they dedicates all of their life to just one boy. (Assuming that her marriage ends in happily ever after, and why not think positive, right? A gal can dream.) I know a lot of kids think I'm mean and horrible for this. But she has fun. Yes, she could sneak behind my back, and yes, she could lie about things. But I also communicate with his parents so we're all on the same page, and I trust my daughter. If she proves she's not trustworthy, we will have to reassess the rules. But for now she's having fun, we meet lots of different guys at our house, and we have late-night discussions about all kinds of things as she talks about her dates and the different boys.
Now, when I say those are guidelines, I mean that. Every person is different and should change, modify, or disregard these guidelines as they see fit. I set these rules for myself when I was a teen, but that doesn't mean that every kid I know is going to or should make those same choices. Neither is every one of my own children. But I think they need to at least know that there are some guidelines worth thinking about. And the main point is, if THEY choose the guideline to follow, they'll more likely follow it than if a parent says, "you will do this or else."