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Some lessons are easier learned than earned. We teach our children that if they play with fire, they could get badly burned. If they play in the street, they could get hit by a car. This very elementary teaching should extend to preparing our daughters to enter the world of dating.
Here are things I wanted my daughters to know before they walked through that door:
- Dating age. You don't "date" in second grade. You don't have a boyfriend when you're six. Dating is for older teens and younger adults. It is a preparation for finding a mate, and you just don't do that in elementary school. It should be fun but taken seriously by those old enough to realize what it really is. In our home, it was group dating at 14 and solo dating at 16. Not a day sooner. No matter how many of your friends were going steady at nine.
- Begin with group dating. Group dating is like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. There is safety in it. You watch others and learn how to just have fun without all the drama. Get your feet wet by learning how to hang out and really talk to boys. Learn to be their friend, first.
- Create a wish list. As you are dating, take the time to watch and listen to the guys. Write down what you like and don't like about them. Do they whine and complain a lot or tell you what they like and appreciate? Do they use words like stupid and weird or great and fantastic? Do they like their parents? Do they brag, or are they humble? Do they take care of themselves or carry it too far, bordering on narcissism? Build a list and description of things that really appeal to you for future reference, and check the qualities you want off when you meet and date new boys.
- It's OK to be alone. I see so many girls that think it is shameful to be without a boyfriend. It is so much worse to be with someone for the wrong reason that alone for the right reason. There is nothing lonelier or more heartbreaking that being with the wrong one.
- You don't have to commit. It's OK to go out with more than one boy, so long as you are honest and open with them about it. One date does not a relationship make. Don't jump into a steady thing because the first date went well.