How To Handle Dating as a Parent – Without Losing your Mind!
Keep in mind: My kids are a work in progress. I hesitate to even write some of these ideas down because, some day I may look back and say: “What the heck was I thinking!!!”
Yet, on the other hand, as a pastor, I get a front row seat to some of the greatest family successes and failures. As a youth pastor, I got to see hundreds of brilliant parents raise their kids in some of the most clever ways. I also got to see the opposite.
So, keep in mind: Most of what I’m about to share about the “Rules of Dating” in the Haas house have been cherry-picked from a lot of places. Even more, Carolyn and I never use “rules as a substitute for relationship.” Ie. We don’t believe that “one size fits all.” Every kid needs a different level of regulation (based on their maturity). And the rules aren’t meant to benefit ME but rather them.
For example, if it were up to me, I’d lock my daughters in a tower to protect them from boys until they’re thirty because guys are freaking idiots.
If you need proof, simply watch fail videos for any period of time and ask: “How often do you see a woman?”
I rest my case.
Seriously, I’m not being sexist here. There is real science that explains why men are so dumb (and if you’re curious, click here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-new-resilience/201501/why-men-do-stupid-things )
But it suffices to say, all kids need a healthy amount of protection as they enter into the world of dating. An unprecedented 18.3% of American women have already been raped – almost half of which happened when they were under age 18. But it’s about way more than sexual wholeness. It’s about helping kids love their lives. There’s a lot of interesting research that connects teenage suicide with dating. But, in the end, it all comes down to parental engagement.
But it’s critical we avoid two pitfalls when it comes to parenting kids through dating: (1). We don’t just leave them to themselves; or the opposite extreme, (2). We don’t just oppress them with rules (so we don’t have to parent them as much). I’m convinced that, a lot of legalistic Christian parents turn to rules, not because the Bible requires it but because they’re lazy and they don’t want to put time into real parenting. So, it’s important to avoid both of these extremes when it comes to dating rules for your kids.
In fact, I started parenting my kids on dating YEARS before they ever considered it! We began when girls were gross and boys still had cooties. (aka. Pre-dating Phase 1). And what did I do during Pre-dating Phase one?
PRE-DATING PHASE ONE:
With each of our daughters, I took them on Father-Daughter dates – especially from 4th grade onward. (Keep in mind, I’m doing something similar with my son. So, I encourage you to see the universal principles here, regardless of gender). But, the whole goal of these dates is to spend time with them individually and set the bar high for them. It sounds old fashioned but, I want my daughters to experience chivalry (not the male chauvinistic parts but the sacrificial aspects). And, more importantly, the goal was to get into their worlds. With each of our kids, I always made it my goal to have two common interests with each of them. And do I like Kitten videos? Of course not! But sometimes it takes 90 minutes of watching baby seals on Youtube in order to have 10 minutes of good parenting moments. (I can even say, I’m a true fan of One Direction… Harry is my favorite… before Liam broke my heart).
But my kids would look forward to these special dates all month. I would even put these special dates on a special calendar and put it where they can see it. I guarantee you, they will talk about it for weeks in advance. But the goal is simple: Fill their love tanks SO FULL that they don’t even need to look for love anywhere else. And even when they do start dating, they won’t do it with a lonely rejected spirit.
Thus, in Pre-dating Phase One, (Before age 13) I’d take them on these dates to coach them in three areas:
(A). When it comes to dating, Mom, Dad & family get to be a part of the choice.
Now, if you start coaching everyone about this soon enough, this rule doesn’t feel oppressive; rather, it feels protective and comforting.
(B). We taught our kids that: In all of our hearts, there’s a God-Shaped Hole that can only be fulfilled by God.
If we try to fill it with jobs, hobbies, or any other relationship, life won’t go well. No human can ever fulfill you.
(C) All of our kids understand that the Timing of dating Matters.
We continually tell our kids: “Dating too soon is like eating an uncooked frozen pizza. The instruction on the pizza cover aren’t there to oppress you but to help you experience it the best. The same is true with dating. It’s ok to “like people.” And its even more fun to “be liked by someone.” But, dating is for marriage not for entertainment.
Often, I would ask my kids, “Have your opinions changed at all in the last five years?” Most teens will laugh about how dumb they were five years ago (their music and tv preferences). Sometimes, I would even ask them “who they liked” 5 years ago. (& it’s usually a guy they now think of as gross). To them, it feels like 20 years. So, in light of this, I’d remind them that, their preferences will continue to change at a similar rate in the next five. So, it doesn’t make sense to date when you’re 15!
Also, when my girls were little, I started writing love letters to them. I’d write about everything I saw in them (as an 8 yr old). I would write them every time they did something cute or kind (about twice/year). And I held onto them (until they were 16 or 17 years old). And, shortly after they started dating, I’d give them these letters (for two reasons).
(1). I want the emotional bar to be set high. After all, if my daughter starts dating some emotionally unavailable guy, I want her to quickly say: “This guy feels selfish and silly compared to my dad and the relationship he has with my mom.” But secondarily, once again,
(2). I want to fill her love tank so full that, she’s not approaching dating with a lonely and desperate spirit.
Naturally, when I compiled these love letters, they were a fun baby-book of sorts. I put pictures of the two of us next to each letter (that corresponded with their age). Both my girls cried when they read these letters – where I reminded them of all the dates we had – and all the insights I had about them while taking them out.
But, the ultimate goal of Pre-Dating Phase One is simply to log hours, and impart the top three ideas.
But, ideally, I coach parents to be sure to drill these three ideas into your kids before 6th grade. Because, there’s ANOTHER set of values that will be critical by their time they’re teenagers… particularly sex. And in some ways, that’s the fourth rule of Pre-dating Phase 1
(D). Sex is like Fire – But, it’s only great when it’s in the Fire Place.
Keep in mind, I always allowed my kids to push back and debate these ideas with me. There are a million cultural influences saying the exact opposite. So, think of dating as a series of 50 conversations that you’ll have: You’ll feed them ideas; but, they’ll need time to wrestle with them. The goal isn’t to indoctrinate them or legislate their morality. The goal is to teach them critical thinking.
And I know that, it sounds Victorian to coach kids on sexuality today. But consider the following stats
Did you know, being married to a porn viewer increases your odds of depression by 43%! Did you know, 26% of kids have witnessed or discovered their father having multiple affairs before age 18? Did you know that, on average, women experience a 40% reduction in self esteem when dating a man who views porn? Did you know that pre-marital sex dramatically increases odds of sexual dissatisfaction, emotional abuse and makes you 4 to 8 times more likely to have an extra-marital affair? Did you know that being married to a porn viewer increases your odds of food addictions or eating disorders by 20%… not to mention skyrockets your odds of divorce to over 75%.
And for every statement I just made, I found multiple major university studies to prove them.
Even more shocking, people who attend church have the highest sexual satisfaction rates (and intensity of orgasms) of any demographic in the United States. (That stat will grow your church).
When I share these things, many people ask me: “Where are your membership classes at!?” And I don’t blame them. Sex is God’s idea. And it is AMAZING. But it’s a lot like fire: It’s great when it’s contained in a gorgeous fireplace. But it’s not so great when it’s consuming the couch in your living room.
And if you want all the research citations to these stats, just check out my blog: 50 Shades of Truth: https://www.peterhaas.org/fifty-shades-of-truth-shocking-research-facts-about-sex-porn/
So, by the time our kids hit puberty, we made sure to log a dozen awkward convos with each of them. (And yes, they were awkward… at first). We made sure to explain sex to our kids (before their friends could). And it’s critical you don’t demonize sex. Again, “it’s like fire.” And even more, we also made sure that our kids wouldn’t judge other people for having different standards than us. We told them: “Other people have different approaches to sexuality. Other people believe that their desires should determine their beliefs. But we believe that our beliefs determine our desires. In fact, God chose our genders and our design to maximize our pleasure. But others don’t believe this. And we respect, love and cherish everyone regardless of what they believe.”
Of course, the reason this is important is because we live in a culture that has increasingly diverse opinions about sex. Every year, the acronym LGBT-QIA adds another letter. And there are a lot of people who are walking around with a lot of pain when it comes to these topics. Therefore, when I teach my kids about sexual values, it’s important to do it in a non-elitist sort of way. Christians don’t need to be intolerant about others in order to hold onto their own convictions. Even more, we don’t need to see eye to eye in order to walk hand in hand.
But, by the time my kids reached puberty, I logged dozens of convos about sex with each kid – to the point where, each of them were comfortable having open conversations about their desires, temptations and questions (within reason). And even more, all of them understood that, the job of my parents isn’t to “police my sexuality” but to help them strive for God’s best for their sexuality.
So, here is how the dating rules change for them (ages 12-15). I call this Pre-Dating Phase 2:
And during this Phase, we make three things clear:
PRE-DATING PHASE TWO
(1). Dating before 18 is silly, but if you ask us for permission after 16, we will allow it
(if you follow our rules). Thus, in the meantime,
(2). We don’t “get exclusive” with the opposite sex until 16.
I.e., No long phone calls… flirty snap-chats; No “covert dating” where you have “a thing” for someone (where you gossip about it at your friends slumber party). Ie. The goal here is: Protect your heart from even going here. Don’t even throw fuel on the fire.
And remember, all kids will do this ANYWAY. So, when you catch your kids tossing “fuel on the fire” at 14, don’t over-discipline them. Rather, coach them! Let them know it’s ok to “enjoy the attention of the opposite sex;” but that, it’s also good to learn how to control those desires.
One time I caught my daughter talking to a boy at midnight one Friday. When I objected to it, she instantly debated: “Dad, there is no way that’s wrong. He’s just a friend.”
(Of course I knew full well she liked the guy). And then she said:
“Dad, should I get in your face every time I see you talking to a woman by yourself at church?”
And I told her: “If I’m talking with a woman by myself at midnight on a Friday night, then, Hell Yeah!”
You see, in that moment, she understood: ALL heathy humans need healthy boundaries with the opposite sex. And then I asked her: “What if you saw me flirting? What if you saw me call the same woman… have long 30 minute convos about things other than work? Would that be weird?”
“Of course,” She said.
I then explained how research has proved: the average person has 1-2 “significant crushes” AFTER they get married. So, kids: “We practice good boundaries now so that we’ll have better disciplines later. All humans have to learn how to avoid throwing ‘fuel on the fire.’ And that leads to the 3rd rule of this phase:
(3). Have a plan for sexual purity. Avoid lust.
This means, read movie reviews before watching movies. This means find a friend who shares your desires for sexual purity and hold each other accountable. If you mess up (and you will), simply confess it and get help. And if you struggle with the “Why” behind all of this, be sure to ask. After all, the research is certain to change your mind: (see my blog: “Why Church Attendees have the Best Sex of Any Demographic”) Or, have your teen read my blog: “Dating without Dying”
Of course, towards the end of Pre-dating Phase 2, (around 15 years old), I continually remind my kids of the basics:
“If you come to me after 16 and want to date, you have to do it according to my rules… which inevitably leads to them asking: “What are the rules?”
Well, don’t just “like the first guy who likes you.” If you hear about some dude who likes you, find out… “Does he love God? Does he go to church?” If so, you need to tell him ASAP: “I can’t date until you have dinner with my parents.”I.e., Let the dude know that, “my parents want to be a part of this and lay out a few ground rules.”
Obviously, when this happened with both my daughters, the guy came over. And they were SOOOO nervous.
And here’s the deal: “Don’t be a shot-gun Dad!” Ie. Don’t try to inspire fear in either your daughter or her date. and here’s why:
Most guys will already be terrified. If you dated your daughter well (In Pre-dating phases 1 and 2) then she won’t even bring a guy home who’s dumb in the first place. She’ll already be looking for a “leader in life.” And why? Because, that’s who YOU ARE. You’ve already set the good example.
But let’s say, you haven’t: If the guy is scared of you, you will scare him straight into your daughters loving arms. And then you’ll be in a worst case scenario in which, your daughter will become the mediator between the two of you. Rather, you want the exact opposite. You want to become the texting buddy of this guy. You want to become the ultimate mentor. And here’s why: If there’s even a 1% chance this guy could become your son in law, you need to mentor the heck out of him. (And trust me, just because this dude claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean he’s had any parenting whatsoever.) I.e., Every parent’s ideal goal is to log so many hours with their kids that, when they start dating, you can start shifting your “parenting hours” to focus on the boyfriends and girlfriends of your kids. However, most parents tend to procrastinate “logging hours” with their kids – until their kids do something crazy… in which case, you’re already behind the ball.
But, this dinner date (with a potential boyfriend / girlfriend) is the turning-point. It’s where we move from “Pre-Dating into Dating.” And I also have 2 Phases for this two haha. (And by now, you’re thinking: Holy Cow. I had no idea parenting was this involved!
And yeah! It’s a heck of a lot of work. But here’s the truth: You’ll put in the work either way. The pain of prevention is always better than the pain of regret.
So, when this “Meet the Parents Dinner” is arriving, my daughters would usually get nervous and want to pre-negotiate how the convo will go. This is good because, you don’t want your daughter worried that you might “scare him away.” Rather, you want her feeling protected and excited about this guy meeting the people she loves. And ultimately, I wanted my daughters to completely agree with the “WHY” behind the rules before I even share them with their potential boyfriends. And after the dinner is over, I always have “The Talk”… and it’s usually not long. But this is how it goes:
“So, Daughter & boyfriend…
Thanks for doing dinner with us. I know this stuff can be awkward. But, it doesn’t have to be.”
Then I look at the boyfriend and say: “In fact, [fill in the blank name], I think you have great taste in women 😉 And I’m honored that you’d include me in this.
In many ways, when it comes to dating her, it’s also true that you’re also dating her Mom and me. Ie. When you buy her flowers, you’re actually buying ME flowers. So, I would LOVE it if you would go out of your way to communicate with me as much as possible (exchange cell phone numbers… get parent names… get instagram handles, etc).
Then, I explain to them the difference between “Casual Dating” vs “Committed Dating” (aka., Phase one rules vs. Phase 2 rules).
“Casual means… you know you’re not ready to be married yet; but, you see something special in my daughter. And you’d like to publically pursue my daughter. Obviously, I believe dating should be super fun, which is why, before things get serious, I want you guys to agree to 3 things… & these are basically my 3 rules for Casual Dating.
(1). No Drama / No Regrets Commitment:
“You both know about people at school who’ve had dating disasters: they always happen because they gave too much of their hearts away too soon – and created drama for everyone around them.
But you guys…don’t be clingy and obsessive. Don’t treat each other like BFFs. This is CASUAL. No gushy social media posts yet. And I’m going to ask you individually every other month if this is going well. So be ready for that 😉
(I want them to see that, I’m like a realtor… a agent of sorts who will help them press the eject button if either of them wants to break up).
Which leads to the second rule / commitment I need you to make:
(2). The Commitment to be Life-Giving: “aka., Don’t be Life-Sucking” –
“After hanging with each other, you BOTH need to be full of the life of God / better attitudes / better grades, etc. Ie. I want you both to be committed to church. It doesn’t need to be MY church. But you have to be going somewhere that fills you up with God.”
And then, I pivot towards a car metaphor: “If I lent you my car, how would you return it?”
The boyfriend usually says: “Clean, dent free, full of gas, and on time.”
(Ironically, my daughters boyfriend recently totaled my car, LOL). Some day, it’s guaranteed to make a great sermon illustration.
“Now, my daughter is infinitely more important to me than my car. Therefore, bring her home full of the life of God. If her grades or attitude changes (or yours), I reserve the right to call it quits on this relationship.”
(3). Boundary Commitment: Don’t do anything with her you wouldn’t do with me.
This is where I talk about sexual boundaries. (For Eg. No hanging out in your bedroom with the door closed).
Now, a lot of parents are scared to talk about sex. But, now adays, you HAVE TO talk about it.
Did you know that the porn industry makes more money in a year than NFL, MLB, NBA, and all other pro sports put together? Unfortunately, our culture learns more about sex through porn than through parenting. So, in the Haas family, I make it my goal to talk about it enough where, my voice is louder than the culture.
And you don’t need to become Amish to accomplish this. Rather, you simply need to be more intentional.
“So, [fill-in-their-names]… it’s important to understand: Both of you are filled with hormones that are designed to give you an endorphin rush every time you kiss. And not surprisingly, when you hang out on a slippery creek bank long enough, you’re bound to fall in.”
[At this point, the conversation is unavoidably awkward! So, break it up with a little humor like this…]
“So, [Boyfriend,] don’t do anything with my daughter that you wouldn’t do with me!”
One time, I even grabbed the hand of the would-be-boyfriend and said: “Would you do this with me?”
“Well, maybe if we were praying.”
“Hmm,” I thought… “Good answer… But, what about this?” And I interweaved my fingers into his and started stroking his forearm.
(Awkward laughter) “Would you do this with me?”
“No Mr. Haas. I would not.”
“O.k. So… we’re clear about these boundaries, right?”
And here’s the deal parents. At this point, you might be thinking: “How in the world can you expect this? I mean, that’s SO CONSERVATIVE!”
And yes! It is! This would be impossible to do if you haven’t parented your kids through Pre-Dating “Phases one and two.” And, if I adopted a kid at 17, I guarantee you, I’d have to take a much more relaxed approach.
“But won’t it scare the guy away? Won’t you lose your daughter’s heart if you establish these boundaries?”
First off, your daughters heart can only be pushed away if you’ve failed to invest enough in an earlier phase. If you try to control your kids through rules, then, of course she’s going to rebel. The Bible has taught for thousands of years that “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion” (see Romans 7). If you’ve logged enough hours with your daughter (and allowed her to push back and wrestle with them leading up to this), she’ll be on the same page before you have this conversation. And the result is the opposite: She’ll feel even more loved and protected.
Secondarily, I never worry about scaring the guy away. Indeed, these rules actually reveal the motives of the guy. If they’re just dating your daughter because they think she’s hot, then, I want to scare the guy away. If a guy can’t handle these rules then, forget it. I don’t care if he hates me and thinks I’m the Taliban. My ultimately goal isn’t to be “liked.” Rather, I want my daughter to feel like: “My dad loves me so much that he’s willing to set boundaries.”
For example, have you ever heard anyone say: “My parents loved me so much that, as a three year old, they allowed me the freedom of playing on a busy highway. Isn’t that AMAZING?” No. Most kids would look back on that and see it for what it is: Abusive. A parents job is to protect. But, notice: I did not say: “A parents job is to control.”
After all, here’s the truth: By the time your kids reach 16 years old, you ultimately can’t control them. (Besides, do you remember what YOU were doing when you had your driver’s license?) I.e., If my daughters want to sneak behind my back, they are certainly smart enough to do it! By sixteen, my leverage over them is fading fast. So, when I establish “Rules” – it’s more important to see them as values.
In fact, I don’t even believe that Christians should teach people “Rules.” Rather, we teach people the “why behind the what;” the logic behind God’s plan; or as the Apostle Paul put it, “we call people to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5-6) – not obligation or guilt (or because their Dad hounds them).
I.e., My job is to constantly help them wrestle with these values while the risks for them are relatively safe (which assumes that you and I understand the values ourselves J
Of course, I always end this conversation by relaxing a bit on the third command: “I will allow you to kiss my daughter on the cheek. And, keep in mind, these are my rules for “Casual Dating.” I won’t always be this strict. I’ve got different rules for “COMMITTED DATING” (aka., Dating Phase 2).
And remember, throughout Dating Phase One, you are engaging your teenager (& boyfriend/girlfriend) like never before. I.e., This is the first dinner of many. Earlier, I mentioned that I always have at least 2 common interests with each of my kids at any given moment. Well, in Dating Phase One, I tried to do the same with their boyfriends. And if that means sports, Minecraft, Fortnite, (you name it), I made it easy to log hours with them.
“But Peter, aren’t you afraid that, you’re endearing this boyfriend to your family by being so engaged?”
No. And here’s why: If there’s a major red-flag in this young person, it will become clear to the family when you keep them close. In some ways, it will actually make your daughter even “more objective” because you can help her discern things faster. Indeed, you can even be the one who “breaks up” the relationship… making it easier for your daughter (Eg., you play bad-cop; she plays good cop).
Ultimately, I’ve noticed that, Dads who get super-engaged often end up mentoring these boyfriends even after their daughters dump them. I know that sounds inconceivable for some but, I’ve watched a good number of “All-Pro Dads” do this over the years. So, think of it like this: If your son or daughter brings someone home, I’m going to adopt them no matter what. Now, if the relationship doesn’t work out, I probably won’t be inviting them over on Christmas Day but, there’s no reason why I can’t continue to have a fun mentoring relationship with them. Make sense?
Now finally, let’s wrap up with
Dating Phase Two:
Throughout phase one, I repeatedly try to check in with both individually and ask: “How is this relationship going?”
Ie. My goal Is to keep them vigilant about the purpose of dating: To decide if this person is a compliment to Gods calling on each other’s lives.
And if you do the previous three phases we’ll, each subsequent phase gets more fun.
Usually, by Dating Phase Two, your teenager will be 18 or older… so, remember, you’ve got to speak to them like a dignified adult.
Once your kids move out of your house, you lose the power of proximity (which is helpful for logging hours and transmitting values). You also lose a lot of your economic leverage (like the classic: “As long as you live under my roof…”)
So, by this point, these aren’t rules as much as recommendations: “If you really want to honor me and experience Gods best then, at the very least consider these next steps.”
But here’s the gist of the new rules…
(1). You’re both going to be involved in a weekly ministry at a local church.
Again, it doesn’t need to be MY church but; it does need to be a church that charges you up. At Substance, we say: “Our hope is that you’d find 4-7 new best friends and a ministry outlet that charges you up.” And why? Because, studies show, if you go to church on a regular basis you are 22% less likely to be clinically depressed;[i] you’re more likely to have orgasms and high levels of sexual satisfaction;[ii]you’re more likely to manage your life better,[iii] and time better;[iv] you’re more likely to complete degrees[v] and accomplish academic achievements;[vi] as well as have increased “mental well-being.”[vii]And to boot, regular church attendees live significantly longer than the general population[viii] – at least seven to fourteen years longer than non-religious people.[ix] Even stranger, believing in church isn’t enough. Only those who attend church events regularly experience many of these benefits – many of which increase with higher attendance.”
And if you want the citations to all of these incredible facts, I write about them extensively in my book, “Broken Escalators.”
(2). You’re both going to have a realistic accountability plan for sexual purity.
Again, I refuse to be “Purity Police” but, I want them to identify someone who can help them experience Gods best. (Again, if they don’t want it for themselves by this point… then you probably failed in the earlier phases). Feel free to see my research-based message series: “Address the Mess” online.
(3). Parents get to meet each other:
There’s nothing like meeting the parents to give everyone a full picture. Am I right?
And the goal isn’t to judge or interrogate the potential in-laws. But, if you had any red flags going into Dating Phase two, they will become clear at this point.
And at this point, I often encourage couples to do Pre-engagement counseling, like the “Prepare-Enrich” test or Symbis(which is often done by marriage counselors). It’s a test that measures a relationship based on a dozen different health metrics… a super insightful way to explore any potential incompatibilities or relational deficiencies.
Of course, I’m not afraid to say that most Pre-marriage counseling is a joke… and here’s why: Once a couple “sets a date” and reserves a location, their teachability goes into the trash.
Back when I used to do premarriage counseling, I’d meet couples who, I could tell from a mile away, their marriage is going to be a disaster. Yet, when I’d be honest with them, I’d usually get one of two responses:
(Option One) “Who are you to tell us that we should delay getting married” – as if I was the meanest person on earth. Of course, did I want to tell them the truth? Absolutely not! I want people to like me! I want people to like God. And did I gain anything by being honest with them? Aside from a clear conscious, the only thing I gained was an earful of accusations: “You are a jerk who wants to kill our dreams.”
(Option Two) This was similar but equally awkward: “But, we’ve already put a $5000 down payment on the hall and the DJ. And we’ve sent out the invitations! I mean, how am I supposed to cancel it now” – as if a tortured marriage was a better option.
So, I always tell couples: Instead of this, have the hard conversations way before you ever set a date. Don’t let embarrassment or money drive the relationship.
And here’s the Deal: My kids know, I will love them no matter what. And my love for them is not based on their behavior. In the end, if they want to “touch the hot stove” – I’m not going to sever my relationship with them. Ultimately, I won’t be the one who gets burned. I won’t be the one living with their spouse.
But here’s the point of all this: There’s no “one method fits all.” At the end of the day, every kid is different. I wouldn’t use these ideas to “control” your kids. Rather, think of this as an investment strategy.
Ironically, the greatest things that will predict your son or daughter’s marital success is YOUR marital success. Indeed, research proves that the top three predictors of child outcomes are, in order: (1). How much time you log with your kids; (2). How much anxiety do you have as an adult? (3). How healthy is your marriage? I.e., two of the top 3 predictors of healthy kids technically has nothing to do with your kids, but rather YOU.
So, before you get lost in the “Rules you set” for your kids, take inventory of yourself. Do you live at a pace that’s compatible with parenting? Do you experience peace and joy in life? And are you modeling the type of marriage you wish for your kids?
And here’s the deal, even if you’ve messed up here, just be honest and authentic with your kids about this. Even more, drag them to church where they can get exposed to all sorts of healthy marriages. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t worry that your kids aren’t listening to you. Rather, be worried they’re listening ALL THE TIME. Everyone knows a good marriage when they see it. And it boils down to hard work, not chance.
So, when we force “hard work” to rest at the foundation of the dating process, you’ll be surprised how many of your kids will say: “Marriage is easy.”
For dozens more blogs and messages on parenting, check out my parenting page! I cover everything from “How to talk about sex, dating” to “How to Vacation with young kids.”
Peter Haas is the Lead Pastor of Substance Church – an international multisite church based in Minneapolis. Peter is also a dj-turntablist who produces & tours with Substance Variant. He writes comedy books on spirituality: “Pharisectomy: How to Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases” (2012) and Broken Escalators (2015). See www.SubstanceChurch.com – @peterhaas1 (twitter & instagram)
[i] M. Baetz, L. Balbuena, R. Bowen; The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Apr. 2013; as quoted by, Graeme Hamilton, “Attendance at Religious Services Lowers risk of depression, study finds” National Post, Oct. 4, 2013; Study followed 12,582 people who were “not clinically depressed” from 1994 until 2008. Researchers commented: “Some ingredient of the religious experience other than behaviours, networks or attitudes alone probably contributes to the benefit.” 80% of those followed came from Christian denominations. Frequency of attendance decreased frequency of depression even well beyond 22%.
[iv] Freeman, Richard B. 1985. “Who Escapes? The Relation of Churchgoing and Other Background Factors to the Socioeconomic Performance of Black Male Youths from Inner-City Tracts.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 1656.
[v] Muller, Chandra and Christopher G. Ellison. 2001. “Religious Involvement, Social Capital, and Adolescents’ Academic Progress: Evidence from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.” Sociological Forces 34: 155-183.
[vi] Regnerus, Mark D. 2000. “Shaping Schooling Success: Religious Socialization and Educational Outcomes in Metropolitan Public Schools.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39: 363-370. Also see, Regnerus, Mark D. 2001. “Making the Grade: The Influence of Religion Upon the Academic Performance of Youth in Disadvantaged Communities.” University of Pennsylvania, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society Report No. 3 44: 394-413.
[vii] Johnson, Byron R., Ralph Brett Tompkins, and Derek Webb. 2002. “Objective Hope—Assessing the Effectiveness of Faith-Based Organizations: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society.
[viii] L.H. Powell, L.Shahabit, and C.E. Thoresen, “Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health,” American Psychologist 58 (2003): 36-52… as quoted in the book: Lonliness: Human Nature and the need for social connection, by John T. Cacioppo (2008) pg.261 “Those who go to church more than once a week enjoy even better health than those who attend only once a week. Overall, the reduction in mortality attributable to churchgoing is twenty-five percent – a huge amount in epidemiological studies.”
[ix] Dr. Robert Hummer argues, “The average religious individual lives seven years longer than the average nonreligious individual, and this increases to fourteen years for African American individuals” – Hummer, Robert A., Richard G. Rogers, Charles B. Nam, and Christopher G. Ellison. 1999. “Religious Involvement and U.S. Adult Mortality.” Demography 36: 273-285. “Research by Johns Hopkins scholars shows that nonreligious individuals have increased risks of dying from cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema, arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, and suicide”– Comstock, George W. and Kay B. Patridge. 1972. “Church Attendance and Health.” Journal of Religion and Health. 26: 9-35.