The other day, my two-year-old mentioned in passing that two of his friends “liked” each other. Now he probably did not know what he was saying, but his discussion reveals our kids are never too far away from thinking about dating and boyfriends and girlfriends. And when they do land on these topics and want our opinion, we should be ready with an answer.
Thankfully the Bible gives us direction on this subject. In Mark 10:6-8, we read:
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.
From this passage, we can extra three important principles for determining when are children are ready to date.
1. Our children will be ready to date when they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. As parents devoted to the Scriptures, we can only encourage our children to date members of the opposite sex. This is God’s design for the universe. We do not get to decide. God does. He has already declared that boys should date girls and that girls should date boys. Any variation upon this plan is wrong and sinful. As Godly parents, we should only encourage our children to date if they are willing to follow God’s design for gender and marriage.
2. Our children are ready to date if they are ready to leave and cleave. If your son is too young to get a job and to provide for his future wife, he is too young to date. If your daughter is too young to leave your house and set up a new home with her boyfriend, she is too young to date. If you are taking your daughter to the movie theatre and picking up your son from the ice cream shop, your kids are too young to date. They cannot in any meaningfully hope to leave and cling to that cute guy in school or to the pretty girl down the street. They lack the social and economic skills needed to create their own family. However, the high school senior that has a job and pays for all of his bills may be ready for marriage.
3. Our children are not controlled by animal impulses. We should be encouraged to see that our young men are attracted to young ladies and that our young ladies are attracted to young men. We must realize that such urges and desires to be with members of the opposite sex are good and right. But, we must also realize that these desires can come early and be perverted by all kinds of sin. Because we live in a fallen world, our kids will experience hormonal surges and desires for intimacy that they cannot implement without breaking God’s commands. Many children and youth will desire to express their physical urges before they have the ability to leave and cleave. When this happens, we must remind our kids that God’s commands do not conflict. Sexuality and intimacy between a man and woman are always supposed to occur in marriage. And until they are ready for marriage, our children must wait to express these things. As Josh McDowel tells teenagers,
Yes your hormones are strong. Yes, it can be difficult to wait, but the bottom line is sex is a choice. You are not an animal. You are a human being with God-given ability to love, to think , to create, and to make moral choices.
Consequently, the best way to handle the urges for marriage is to trust Christ. We should not encourage our kids to date before they are ready for a one flesh union. Rather, we should point them to Christ and tell them to wait, trusting that God will meet their needs and empower them to overcome temptation until they are ready for their spouse.
As I Corinthians 10:13 says,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God is always faithful.
Now, my two-year-old and his friends will not be dating anytime soon. Nor does he really want to. His greatest loves are basketball and Mickey Mouse. But at some point, he will want to talk about more than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Your kids too will be interested in dating if they are not already. When the subject comes up, what will you tell them?