When your kids start dating – 6 tips for parents

You have to be impressed with a boy who brings you Chick-fil-A when he shows up at your house to see your daughter. The kid’s got moxie.

Actually, he works at Chick-fil-A, which if you think about it, in terms of the teen years, it’s kinda like Abby is dating a man of the cloth. I like to think it’s God’s way of gently helping me into this new phase of life. It’s like He’s saying, “See Cynthia? Waffle fries. It’s going to be alright.”

On the other hand, it could very well be a brilliant scheme by Satan himself to get me off-balance. I imagine Eddie Haskell would have shown up with bag in hand if there had been such a thing as a Chick-fil-A drive thru in the 1950s. eddie haskell copy

I feel like I have my feet under me. The eldest has given us lots of practice. Still, the whole dating thing can be tough on a mom and dad. Since it’s List Wednesday, I thought we could explore a few parental do’s and don’ts:

Don’t follow her on social media for at least two months. This is part etiquette, part common sense. If you add the new girl on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram too quickly, it could send the wrong message, like you’re super creepy. But also I’m just trying to save you the awkwardness of unfollowing her in a couple of weeks when they decide they aren’t going to date each other after all.

Do take advantage of technology. I said don’t follow; I didn’t say don’t look. You can learn a lot about a person by his bio, pictures, and tweets. It’s modern-day due diligence and helps to make sure @straightouttasodom never sets foot in your house.

Don’t get too involved. If you’re helping plan dates and searching Pinterest for the most spectacular promposals, you’re probably headed for trouble. It shouldn’t be an emotional event in your life or an entire afternoon of deleting pictures from your phone when they break up. More importantly, a kid can’t think or see clearly to know if he should end things with someone if it feels like he’d be breaking up with an entire family.

Do ask the right questions. I have found, “Does she go to church?” and “Does she love God?” to be inefficient. But with, “Does she love Jesus?” we’re getting somewhere. Especially if you follow it up with a casual, “Like Oprah might love Jesus or…”

Don’t let my use of the word “dating” confuse you. I only used it for good writing flow. No one really dates anymore. They “talk” (text virtually nonstop), and they “hang out,” which means sometimes the entire relationship runs its course before you even knew it was a thing.

Do find out if he reads your blog. Because if he does, you might need to apologize for that “scheme of Satan” comment and Eddie Haskell meme you made. Maybe get him a milkshake from Chick-fil-A to break the ice as you attempt to explain it was really all just in good fun.

Parenting Whiplash (repost)

Seeing all the back to school pictures on Facebook this week has reminded me that school is a great revealer of personality. You can tell a lot about a kid just by the first-day-of-school look on his face. Here’s a for instance.
Scan 9

That’s year-2000 Brandon, on the first day of kindergarten. Although school came easy for him (he was 4 here, and reading on a 5th grade level), I can tell you the excitement on his face was far more about being seated next to Lexi Neighbors than it was about learning. He was then, and is now, the most social person I have ever known.

Don't get hung up on my typo, y'all.
Don’t get hung up on my typo, y’all.

What I’m saying is, regardless of any level of natural-born intellect, personality dominates. We saw this truth play out over the years, like here, in this text he sent me from class one day during his senior year of high school.

Abby, on the other hand, would never send such a text. First of all, you’re not supposed to text while instruction is taking place; plus, she might miss a valuable piece of information over which she might be tested at a later date. Her personality leads her to take an entirely different approach.

Both of our kids are smart and witty and fun. But in their unique brands of awesomeness, they have different temperaments and needs. What that means is that sometimes I have said something to one and then something quite the opposite to the other.

It’s parenting whiplash.

Since it’s the start of school and List Wednesday all at once, I’ll go ahead and show you what I mean.

to child A: You have a fever. You have to stay home from school. Also, I was thinking we could spend the day together next month on your birthday…lunch and shopping. Well, yeah, it’s a school day, but it’s okay to miss every once in a while. No? Yes, I suppose you’re right. You might have a pop quiz that day.

to child B: You’re not throwing up. Get out of bed. You’re going to school.

No TV Week:
to child A: I don’t care if your teacher said it’s “No TV Week.” We didn’t sign up for that. I promise it will be okay. Some rules are made to be broken, like the kind that try to keep me from watching Survivor. Popcorn?

to child B: You watch too much TV. Turn it off and read a book or something.

to child A: Selling 10 items is only a suggestion, and it’s not even due for two more weeks. I’ll buy you a giant sticky hand from The Dollar Store if you don’t earn it as a prize. 

to child B: Your fundraising packet is due tomorrow. Here it is, wadded up in the bottom of your backpack. What’s this brown stuff all over it? Never mind. Put me down for one scented candle. Yes, I’ll buy you a giant sticky hand…since you worked so hard and everything.

to child A: You have a 99 average in that class. Why are you studying? Let’s go shopping.

to child B: Do you have any homework? Because yesterday you said you didn’t, and when I checked online I noticed that you had a test today. Yes, that grade is impressive, considering you didn’t study one minute for it. But when I ask about homework, studying for tests is included in that. Get off Twitter and go study something.

Standardized Tests:
to child A: There is no reason to be stressed about this test. You’re going to do great, like always. And even if it’s incredibly hard and you somehow don’t, it doesn’t matter to me.

to child B: You better get serious about this test right now, because if you mess it up you will not graduate, and no girl will ever want to date you.

I might have embellished a few of those, but you get the idea. How are your kids different?

When your kid wants to quit

Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison’s post about returning his sons’ participation trophies has stirred up debate. I can see both sides of the argument. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give young kids something tangible to remember being part of a team or activity, no matter how they stood up against the competition. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to teach kids there are rewards you get for hard work you don’t get for simply showing up. And it is certainly Mr. Harrison’s prerogative to parent his boys the way he feels is best for them.

To me, the bigger question for every parent is this: how do we react when our kids decide they don’t want to participate at all?


Maybe we don’t like participation trophies, but we do like trophies. Sometimes we like them more than we should. Whether those trophies are something you put on the shelf, or something that more resembles the pride a father feels when his son’s name is announced over the loudspeaker, sometimes they tempt us to push our kids into continuing pursuits long after they stop having any sort of passion to do so.

What do you do when your kid wants to quit? No doubt, there are times we need to lead and encourage our teenagers to stick with it. But there are also times when it’s appropriate to give them permission to let go. As parents, the challenge is seeing past ourselves so that we can know the difference.

I don’t want my kids to be quitters. I don’t know a parent who does. But maybe a definition of quitter would be helpful. When a 9th grader’s name is written on the team roster, he has not signed a 4-year contract. Walking off the field or clearing out your locker mid-season is not the same as making a post-season decision to pursue another passion. There’s a difference between being a quitter and quitting.

Teenagers are in a time of life when they are discovering who they are. Why do we expect them to wait until college to act on those discoveries? Maybe the reason college students change majors 17 times is because it’s the first time in their lives they’ve felt they had choices, and aren’t sure what to do with them.

You have to know your kid. If he’s wanting to quit because he’s mad his coach made him run lines for being late to practice, that’s not a good reason. If she’s wanting to quit so she can spend more time with her boyfriend, that’s not a good reason. If she’s wanting to quit because she gave it her all and now feels a strong desire to give her all to something else, you have to consider – maybe that’s a good reason.

But he’s really good at it (or could be). If we’re going to say we don’t want to teach our kids entitlement by awarding them for participation, then we must also agree we are not entitled to having them participate in activities we love more than they do.

This summer our 16-year-old daughter told us she wants to quit basketball so she can invest her time in things that will help with a future career in journalism. She doesn’t think about playing basketball long-term; she dreams about being a writer. That is where her heart is. She’s good at basketball. She has been awarded for her leadership on the team. So it wasn’t an easy decision. It wasn’t easy for her to bring it to us, or to her coaches and teammates. And honestly, it wasn’t easy for us in giving her guidance. The bottom line is you can be good at more than one thing, and sometimes, you have to narrow your focus….even if that means disappointing some people. That’s a valuable life lesson.

It’s important to be part of a team. True fact. There is no debating the value of working together with others for a common goal. The problem is when we think the only place that happens is in athletic competition.

As a parent, I have to recognize that my daughter will be no less part of a team by being a part of the newspaper or yearbook staff, just like there are kids learning team concepts in band, theater, the classroom, and in their church youth groups. There are many ways to be a part of a team.

One of the things I appreciate most about my childhood is my parents encouraged me to try all kinds of activities. I took swimming lessons, diving, tennis, ice skating, and gymnastics. I was a cheerleader for a season (Pee Wee Football, The Woodlands, TX, circa 1977). I played softball and basketball. I took 5 years of piano lessons. When I got 3rd place in UIL speech competition, mom and dad let me go to a speech and drama camp. The point is, the whole world was made available to me. Never once did my parents force my decision-making or make me feel the burden of an expectation to be or do something. They simply gave me the opportunities to discover for myself who I am and the gifts God has given me.

No, everyone is not a winner in sports. But we don’t have to help our kids learn that lesson. They learn it naturally, from the time they start choosing captains on the playground at recess. What we can help them learn, instead, is there is a world of opportunity with room for all sorts of gifts and passions. And in the pursuit of finding your place in that world, sometimes, it’s OK to quit.