Strong Girls Can: Talking to Tween Girls about Dating
About a month ago, I dropped off my daughter at a dodgeball game. The game was at an unfamilar school, and my girl would only know a couple kids. Music blared from inside the gym. Kids in matching dodgeball uniforms (complete with face paint) raced passed my car. Silly String clouded the air. The energy level pulsed.
My girl lept out of the car, and I teared-up as I watched a sea of tweens and teens swallow her.
“That was fast,” I sighed as my car rolled forward. I thought my daughter would inch towards independence, not throw herself from a moving vehicle at it. But I guess that’s what she has been doing for the last twelve years. Inching.
Welcome to Strong Girls Can, a summer series for moms and daughters. Every Monday we meet here and discuss a different topic. If you are joining us for the first time today, yay! Make sure you sit back and check out previous posts including Tweens and Social Media, 88 Acts of Independence and Adventure, and our #StrongGirlsCan Photo Contest (submission deadline is this Friday, June 27th).
Keep scrolling to read the interview as Kari answers questions and offers practical advice for moms (and girls!) about dating.
Question #1 for Kari: When should we start conversations with our girls about dating?
I believe conversations about the way boys should treat girls should start early. I’m big on boys respecting girls (and vice versa) and noticing which boys act as protectors. For instance, while visiting my 4th grader’s class for Parent Day, I saw one boy pick up his baby sister, prop her on his hip, and proudly carry her over to his circle of friends. It was clear by watching him how much he loved her, and that anyone who messed with his sister would have to deal with him. I later shared this observation with my girls, telling them to look for that kind quality in the boys they select as friends. You can tell early which kids show good character and will have your back if a situation arises.
I’ve seen that around 5th and 6th grade, the boys and girls start noticing each other and interacting through texts. Although it may be years before girls actually go on dates (in families like ours, the hope is to delay it as long as possible), I think this age presents a good opportunity to start discussing a healthy dating philosophy.
Thoughts from Kari about tweens and dating
Keep your relationship “in the light” – which essentially means clean and innocent. Never do or say anything you wouldn’t want people to know about, or text a message you wouldn’t want your father and I to read – especially since we’ll be reading your texts to guide you in the wise use of technology.
Don’t text a boy first. You can respond if he texts you, but let him initiate the conversation. Also, keep it short and sweet. It’s a waste of time to spend hours a day texting.
If a boy ever asks for an inappropriate picture, ditch him. That’s an automatic strike and a huge red flag that you don’t need him in your life.
Set a high bar for the boys you allow in your life (as well as a high bar for yourself). Look for protectors, not predators.
Trust your gut. When a guy gives you a funny feeling or negative vibe you can’t shake, there’s a reason.
Boys can make great friends. Even when you have a crush, focus first on developing a strong friendship, because friendship is what takes a relationship from good to great.
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Question #2 for Kari: What are three points girls should think about before dating?
2. Chase your dreams, not boys. If you’re on the right path – listening to the Lord’s call for you, and pursuing the passions He’s placed in your heart – the right boy will show up at the right time. God will make sure of that!
3. Be firm in your identity before you date. Know that your worth and value come from being God’s child, not from the acceptance or rejection of a boy. Boys will come and go, but God is forever.
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Question #3 for Kari: What are healthy and unhealthy signs girls should watch for when in a relationship?
Unhealthy: When you drop your books in the hallway, he laughs and calls you a klutz.
Healthy: He’s loving toward his mom, polite to waitresses, and respectful of women.
Unhealthy: He ignores his mom, is rude to waitresses, and is a little too obsessed with your appearance and the appearance of other girls (never missing an opportunity to tell you how HOT someone is!).
Healthy: He wants to be part of your world and get to know the people important to you.
Unhealthy: You only go out with his people, because your people aren’t cool enough. He only cares about his world, not yours.
Healthy: He’s honest, kind, compassionate, and steady. You can count on him to do the right thing and stand by his values.
Unhealthy: He lies about little things – like saying he and his buddy stayed in Friday night, when really they went to the movies – and tells stories that don’t add up. He cuts you down around his friends and never stands up for his values because 1. he doesn’t have any and 2. he lacks a backbone.
Healthy: He opens doors for you, gives you his jacket when you’re cold, and insists on paying when you go out.
Unhealthy: He lets doors slam in your face, fails to notice when you’re uncomfortable, and often asks you to pay because he’s run out of money. “Going dutch” is a beautiful concept to him.
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Your turn. Think back. What’s the best piece of advice you received regarding dating? What words do you want to pass along to your girl?
*Kari will pick her favorite piece of advice from a comment here or on my FB page and that person will win a free copy of her book 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. Perfect for you or for the mama of girls in your life! Thanks, Kari.