What do you do if you see the wisdom of courtship, but your children don’t? In earlier posts, we’ve talked about some reasons for considering courtship and some of the potential pitfalls of courtship. We’ve also talked about how we can start to prepare our children while they are young for trusting us in this area when they reach their teen years. Today let’s talk about what to do when they think courtship is unnecessary, impossible, or just plain weird.
We can start by praying! We all need to pray for humble, discerning hearts that are willing to listen to God and willing to listen to our children — all the time, not just when they don’t like our ideas about courtship.
Then we need to sit down and actually listen. This is a time to ask our children questions that will help us understand their thinking, but not defend our position. We should keep it relaxed and non-threatening. (Some of our best conversations like this have taken place in the car where there’s no distractions and where we’re in the dark or not face-to-face.) We need to commit to just listening, no matter how much we might disagree with what they say.
We could do this with both parents present, or we might choose to take advantage of a more casual, opportune moment with just one parent.
Here are some questions to consider asking our children:
- What do you mean when you use the term “courtship”?
- What do you think we (your parents) would expect a courtship to look like in our family? What would you not like about that?
- Has your experience in watching other courtships led you to believe it’s a bad idea? What did you not like? What would you want to see happen differently?
- What would you like to do instead of courtship? Why? What potential problems do you think you could encounter with this approach?
This may take some effort with some children. Others may overwhelm you with their opinions. When you’ve finished, summarize back to your child what you have heard him say. “So, what I’ve understood you to say is this . . . Is that a pretty accurate summary?”
At this point, we need to assure our children that we will pray about and seriously consider all that they have shared with us, and then we need to actually pray about it! What does God want us to do with what we’ve learned?
- Do we need to repent of any sins we’ve committed against our children that have led them to not trust us or value our counsel?
- Do we need to repent of our failure to properly train our children? Are we asking them to submit to us now, after not laying a proper foundation of training in their earlier years? If they have not learned to honor us, to trust God to work through us, or to value the counsel of others, it’s going to be tough teaching them to do that after they’ve noticed that the opposite sex isn’t so yucky after all.
- Do we need to invest time and energy in building stronger, loving relationships with our children?
- Do we need to rethink our own position on courtship? Do we have unrealistic expectations?
- Do we need to treat our children like the young adults they are becoming instead of like the children they used to be? Are we having a hard time letting go and trusting God to sovereignly direct their lives? Have we so over-managed and controlled their lives up to this point that they are unwilling to trust us to treat them like adults now?
- Would it be helpful to read some books about courtship — on our own or with our children? (This could provide some great opportunities for discussion.)
- Could we talk with other parents and learn from their experiences? What mistakes do they feel they made? What would they do differently? What recommendations do they have?
- Is God calling us to make some “compromises”? Courtship takes teamwork and mutual trust. If that doesn’t exist, we can do all we can to earn that trust and cooperation, but we can’t force our children to trust us.
We do have a level of authority over our maturing children if they are still living in our household. But that authority is different than it was when they were two years old. We have to resist the temptation to tighten the screws right at the time when we should be encouraging and training our children to make their own wise and godly decisions.
Prayerfully review with your spouse your child’s concerns and wishes. What can you and your children agree on regarding their interactions with the opposite sex? What areas are non-negotiable? Why? Think this all through. Write down what you would ideally like, and what you are willing to compromise on.
Then, after discussing this together as parents, fervently praying for God’s wisdom, seeking the counsel of wise brothers and sisters in Christ, and seriously examining your own attitudes and heart, sit down with your children (possibly one at a time) and lovingly address their concerns.
- Repent of any sins on your part and ask their forgiveness.
- Explain your reasons for wanting to help them as they relate to the opposite sex.
- Describe how you think this would best work.
- Ask them to tell you what they think of your ideas.
- Then together craft a game plan. Are they willing to trust God to work through you? Are you willing to be open to their input? How can you best guard and guide them, and still honor them as young adults, not shutting down communication and trust?
This will take wisdom and humility. Pray for both. We have to trust God to work out His perfect plan for our children — even if it means, after prayerful discussion together, loving them enough to step back and come up with another approach to boy-girl relationships. Something different than courtship is not a sin.