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At what age should teenagers be allowed to single-date?

RANDY (Randy Carlson): Tell me, Brenda, at what age will you let your daughter single-date?

BRENDA (a parent who asked about her daughter dating): I guess I'm playing it by ear right now. I know people say sixteen is the “magic number.” The way I feel about it, if I think she's capable of single-dating when she turns sixteen, I will allow her to do it. But for now, I want her to be with her friends in groups.

RANDY: How have you dealt with this dating questions, Kevin, with your two daughters?

KEVIN (Dr. Kevin Leman): When Holly and Krissy were in high school, I think we knew just about everyone in their school. We have a very open door policy at our house, and we have had lots of boys around for quite a while now. I keep stumbling over them. I had one knock at our door the other night at about quarter after twelve. You see, kids have a different time clock, but that doesn't say they shouldn't respect Mom and Dad.

When Krissy, our second born daughter, was sixteen she had gone out for the evening with her boyfriend to a basketball game. It was a Friday night and she call me around 10:00 p.m. and said,

Dad, what time do I need to be home?

I said,

Honey, you know what time to be home.

She said,

Dad, what time do I have to be home?

I said,

Honey, you know the right time to be home, so be home.

To shorten the story, I didn't give in on setting a time. She called again at 11:25 p.m. and said,

Dad, we’re at the pizza house and the team hasn't even gotten here yet. We’re waiting for them so we can all have pizza together. Do I have to come home now?

I said,

No, you don't have to come home now.

So she said,

Well, when do I have to come home then?

All I said was,

Honey, you come home at the right time. You know what time to be home.

About an hour later, I was in my semiconscious state, sort of sleeping with one ear open, when I heard her come in, and in my opinion, that was fine because she had called me twice during the evening to explain the circumstances. I knew exactly where she was, but I had left it up to her when to finally come home. I don't like to be very prescriptive with my kids. I prefer to have them learn to be accountable and responsible and the best way to do that is to give them responsibility, trust them, and stay close to them.

RANDY: You will notice, Brenda, that we haven't put the stamp of approval on sixteen as the “magic number” for dating. A lot depends on the teenagers maturity and readiness, and a lot depends on what kind of date its going to be. Who are they going out with, and where are they going? There's a big difference between going bowling and having a sundae afterward with someone the family knows and spending all day at an amusement park with a virtual stranger and coming home after the park closes. Teenagers should be allowed to go on dates where they can learn and mature, and not get into situations where they are in over their heads.

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Author: excerpt from Parent Talk by Dr. Kevin Leman and Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications

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