What is a parent’s worst fear, when it comes to daughters? The overwhelming majority of us would say that we’re afraid of the day when our little princess decides that she is old enough to go on a date. This is an anxiety that is shared between moms and dads. However, dads seem to be the most vocal about the intent to “lock them up until they turn 35.” While this day may not be within the foreseeable future (as in our case), the sobering thought of the inevitable “I like this boy and he has a car” is not a topic that you’ll both be unprepared for. Here are some tips to deal with dating’s harsh realities, while preserving your daughter’s innocence.
1. The Invitation
Simply, ask your daughter if she would like to have a date with you. Do this in a respectful way that you would expect from any young man who is interested in her. Explain to her that a boy who is asking should be equally nervous and respectful. She needs to know that the absence of either nervousness or respectfulness is an indicator that he feels entitled to spending time with her and will play a major factor in the way he will treat her when they are alone.
2. The Plan
Give her some choices of venue, activities, and any other people who may be involved. Let her know that the boy asking should have done his research to offer things that she is interested in. She should never agree to a date where the only options are things he likes to do. It’s important to encourage her to discuss details of what, when, where, and who before talking to her parents. These are all questions that parents must know the answers to and if the details are not solid, the answer will absolutely be no.
3. Meet the Parents
Explain to her that this boy must agree to two very important introductions that must be made before she will ever go out. The first being the obvious, boy meets parents. This is where the dad capitalizes on the traditional What are your intentions with my daughter?, Whatever you do to her, I’ll do to you, or my personal favorite, Have you seen my gun collection? discussion that we’re all so very fond of. The second introduction that he must agree to is the introduction to his parents. While this may be somewhat unconventional by today’s standards, it is so very important to understanding who your daughter is potentially spending time with. The introduction does not necessarily need to be a formal, in person, meeting. It isn’t necessary to be friends with the parents of the boy your daughter is interested in, although a cordial phone call to discuss expectations of checking in, activities, and curfew will go a very long way for both sides.
4. The Departure
Teach your daughter that a gentleman will open doors for her. Let her know that she must politely insist on it. Show her how to patiently wait for him to open the car door. If he goes to his side without opening the door, she’s to stand there. It’s okay if he forgets once, but he’s not likely to make that mistake again during their time together. Let her know that if he constantly forgets to be courteous, she should rethink her interest in him altogether.
5. The Date
Take your daughter to a restaurant. This is commonly the starting point of any date and will be a perfect opportunity to talk to your daughter about how to act. After you’ve opened all of the appropriate doors for her, and you’ve taken your seats, talk to her about cell phone etiquette. While she’ll be required to answer the phone any time her parents call, it would be bad form to spend too much time texting, facebooking, tweeting, or whatever other avenues of social communication are available. Teach her that it is okay to check the phone once upon being situated, then to place the phone face-down on the table in order not to be distracted from conversation. In turn, she should ask the same of him. Talk to her about food selection and frugality while ordering. Explain to her that she should consider that young men generally do not have a large disposable income & that he will appreciate her being kind to the overall expense of the date. If she’s starving after he brings her home, mom and dad will be happy to feed her while she recaps the date with them. Teach your daughter to have a healthy list of back-up conversation topics that are geared toward getting to know more about him and the things he’s interested in. Encourage her to, above all, be herself. She has no purpose or business trying to impress this boy as he should be interested in her for her unique qualities, as opposed to her best representation of what she thinks he would like to see.
6. Stop off for Coffee or Ice Cream
Teach your daughter that ANY deviation for the original date plan requires a phone call to Mom & Dad. Sometimes things happen that will cause plans to change. Let her know that you’ll be understanding if dinner goes a bit quicker than expected and they still have two hours until the agreed curfew. In this instance, spontaneity may factor into how to spend the remainder of the allotted time. She needs to know that if this were to ever happen, it has to be verbally approved by her parents and all discussed etiquette of dinner still applies.
7. Buy her something unique
Ask her to pick out something that she really loves that is nothing like anything she already has. Explain to her that this is the way you feel about her as your daughter. She is not like anyone else that you have in your life and you’ll always do whatever you must to protect her and show love to her, even if it means telling her “no.” Tell her how special she is and that anyone she chooses to spend time with should consider her to be just as special. Let her know that she should never expect any young man to buy her things in order to make her feel special, but that she feel this way because of the way he treats her and talks to her. Each time she sees or wears this item (in our case, the shiny, silver cowgirl boots), she will remember your date together and the things your talked about with her.
8. The Return
This step is equally important to anything else in your date. Teach your daughter that upon returning home at or before curfew, they should both come inside the house to recap the date with her parents. Upon surviving the Q&A from Mom and Dad, she may walk him back to the front door to say good night. Then, and only then (and with Dad standing-by with a Louisville Slugger) may there be a goodbye kiss.
The most important thing to remember, here, is that this is not a one-time activity. Date your daughter often, making plans together and getting to know each other as she matures. Continue to talk to her and critique her on how she should act and what she should expect while on a date. As she matures, you’ll have more and more opportunities to talk to her about boys and allow her to decide what type of young man she will choose to groom herself for. Lastly, consider this. Would you rather your daughter learn to date from you, or from the young men she is dating?