My son is not interested in girls, yet. He’ll be 14 years old in a few weeks. But it’s about time I start thinking about what is the best dating advice a father can give to his teenage son.
If he’s like me, my son will have girls interested in him before he’s interested in them. When girls started flirting with me, it scared me. I’d look up from my classroom desk to discover a girl staring at me with her lips curled into a coy smile. Another girl would pass me notes about how cute I was—red lipstick left a lip-shaped smudge below her signature. Then there were the small groups of girls that would look in my direction and giggle. It all seemed strange to me.
Later, I learned from boys who had more social intelligence than me that female flirting was an invitation to respond with similar gestures. If a boy got enough courage, he could date a girl. If they liked each other, they could go steady, after which they would break up, sooner or later.
My first date was awkward. I attended a Christian high school that sometimes played movies in the gymnasium on Saturday nights. The movies were more wholesome than those offered at the cinema. One of those Saturday nights I invited a girl I liked to go with me.
I didn’t know this girl very well. Because she accepted my invitation, I assumed she liked me. During the movie, every time I’d put my arm around her on the back of her chair, she leaned forward. It took me a while, but I figured out she didn’t like me as much as I liked her.
I didn’t have anyone offering me good dating advice. It didn’t make sense to me to ask my dad. He and my mom divorced a few years before, so I assumed he wouldn’t be helpful.
My son is in a different situation than I was at his age. I’m professionally trained to help people be successful in relationships. On top of that, I successfully dated his mom and she and I have worked out a happy marriage. Based on that experience, I’ve formulated the following dating advice for him to consider:
1) Trust Me.
This is the most valuable advice I can offer. Boys are influenced by how their father’s act toward their mother’s. What they see serves at least two purposes. First, his father’s bond with his mother provides a boy with a solid foundation on which to form his sense of security and self-worth. Second, his father’s behavior forms a model on which a boy will often base his own behavior.
Teen boys need a trusting relationship with their, and sons benefit from a father’s positive relationship modeling. These contribute to healthy development. Without a trusting relationship and positive modeling, boys can become “hyper-macho” and “hyper-sexual,” according to Dr. E. Mavis Hetherington, child-development expert and former head of the psychology department at the University of Virginia. This sets the stage for troubled and abusive relationships with girls. This isn’t good for dating.
I want my son to know he can trust me to be a good husband to his mom, and a reliable dad. So, my advice to him is also a call to me to fulfill my responsibilities to my family. If you’re a single or divorced dad, don’t despair. If you have opportunities for a positive connection with your son, take advantage of them. Let your son also see you model respectful behavior toward his mother and other women.
2) Know Your Values.
It’s a common mistake for parents to assume their teens will hold on to the values they were taught as younger children. Teens need to form their own identity. In this process, they struggle with choices and alternatives that weren’t open to them before. They often question the guidance they were given when younger. While they may adopt many of their parents’ values, they may also reject some.
Dads can help their sons navigate the new opportunities that surround them by helping them clarify their values. I like to use conversations with my son to help him do this. As a dad, you can use your own curiosity to form questions about your son’s thoughts about his actions, your actions, actions taken by his friends, and actions taken by characters in movies or people in the news. You’ll catch glimpses of developing wisdom. Avoid criticism when his reasoning doesn’t add up. Instead, encourage him to dig deeper by asking more questions to help him form logical conclusions.
My goal here is to help my son recognize the value of moral behavior and virtues like respect, loyalty, patience, humility, integrity, kindness and gentleness. If you’re successful, he’ll not just act like a gentleman around young women, he’ll be one.
3) Focus on Friendship Before Courtship.
Raising goats on our small, family farm has given me a new perspective on courtship. Goats don’t waste any time on friendship. When a doe is ready, she pulls out all the stops to court a buck and convince him to mate. But courtship isn’t always initiated by the doe. Bucks emit an odor from glands on their head that can put a doe into heat.
I like to remind my son that humans are designed to be more civilized than farm animals. It’s in farm animals’ nature to mate often, indiscriminately, and produce lots of offspring. Humans are designed to mate for life. For life-long, human mating to be successful, it’s best for boys and girls to become friends before courting.
When my son does show an interest in girls, I’ll encourage him to focus on friendship before courtship. While it can be cute to see teens pair up and indulge in their infatuation for each other, it’s better when they can learn about each other’s likes, dislikes, dreams, values and morals before deciding to go steady. Group activities with friends and family are often a better way to do this than on a date.
What dating advice would you add to this list? Share with a comment below, or send your comments directly to me with Facebook Messenger, VoiceMail or the Contact Me form.
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.