Don’t date until you are 16.
That’s the message every hormonal boy and girl gets if they are members of the LDS faith. I’m sure other kids also get a similar age requirement from their parents, but LDS kids grow up knowing that 16 is the magical dating age.
Well, at least the magical age at which they can actually bring home the guy they’ve been making out with behind the bleachers at school for a year. As you can tell, I have my concerns about the wait-to-date rule.
In the LDS Church, youth are advised to wait until they are 16 to date, and even then are encouraged to date in groups. LDS Church leaders have also encouraged boys and girls to avoid steady dating until they are out of high school.
This no dating before 16 is a tricky issue for me. I definitely see the wisdom in it. Young teenagers are not ready for true emotional commitments or the pressures that can come with dating. I also think waiting makes dating more special and enjoyable when you are actually ready for it.
But I also think most young men and women are going to do what they want, regardless of the official house rules. So this is where I’m torn: Is it better to live in blissful ignorance and believe your child is waiting until their 16th birthday to date, or is it better to allow some dating before 16 so that at least you know what your child is up to?
The fact is, kids are dating younger and younger. Sure, if you live in Utah and your kid has a million LDS friends to back them up, it might be easy to enforce a 16th birthday standard. But if your child is the only one not allowed to date, how can you be sure they are actually waiting?
I’d much rather know that my 14-year-old daughter is on a group date with a boy whom I have met than have her sneak out to meet a boy I have no idea she’s dating. At least then I could have a better chance of knowing who she is with, where she is and what kind of issues she is facing.
Luckily my daughter is only 3 and I have a very low suspicion that she’s sneaking off to meet the neighbor boy during naptime. But I know these decisions are going to sneak up on me quickly.
So I’d love to hear what you think — is it naive to think a child is going to wait until 16 to start dating, or is it best to hold tight to that standard and hope for the best?
What are the dating rules in your home?