Paul: One of our YouTube viewers recently asked, “What age should a teenage girl start dating?” There's a lot of considerations. Let's go over 4 of those today. You know, Vicki, it's interesting how this comes up in the questions and comments that we get here on the YouTube channel. “What age should I let my daughter start dating?”

Vicki: Yeah.

Paul: That word let is interesting, isn't it?

Vicki: It implies control, and really we can't control at that age what they do. What we do control are the rules, the limitations.

Paul: Right. And you as a parent get to set those up.

Vicki: Get to “I need to,”

Paul: And it's your kids that get to decide whether they are going to cooperate with those rules and limits that you have set up as a parent. I think that's an important acknowledgement right up front. Let them? Well, let's set appropriate rules and guidelines. We'll give you those considerations here today. And then accept that there are some things you control and other things you don't. The reason this is so important is sometimes we'll tell our kids, “You can't do this.”

Vicki: That's like a challenge.

Paul: And it's also a lie.

Vicki: Right.

Paul: Because usually the thing you told them they couldn't do, what you mean is you are not giving permission for them to do that.

Vicki: Right.

Paul: And that's different. So, we'll probably come back to that in just a minute.

Vicki: : Maturity is a big issue. We've talked so often about stages versus ages and really maturity for dating is kind of a similar thing. There are many children who at the age of 16 are quite mature and ready to take on relationships with boys, (since we are talking about girls), you know, in more of an intimate way. There are many that are not. So, you are definitely going to want to look at the maturity of your child.

Paul: And it's not just your own child. Because dating implies

Vicki: At least 2.

Paul: Takes 2 to tango, right? And the maturity of the people that your kids are considering dating is another thing that we have look at as a parent. So, you might, for example, if your daughter is of an age that you think and a maturity that you think is appropriate for dating, who is it that is asking her out? Is that person of a level of maturity that you can feel comfortable with?

I think this goes two ways, Vicki. I can see that sometimes there might be a very immature teenage boy that wants to date your fairly mature teenage daughter. Well, that might not be a great fit. But what if it's someone who is much older than your teenage daughter? Are you going to be okay with that? Notice we're not telling you should do this or you shouldn't do that. These are the considerations that I think you get to take into account as a parent. It's alright for you to set limits around that.

Let's go back to that for just a minute, can we? In the first consideration when we were talking about control, you don't control whether she is going to go out with this boy or not. You get to control whether you give permission for her to go out with this boy or not. There are consequences attached for doing it without permission.

Vicki: Right.

Paul: Making that distinction, I don't think it's helpful for example, to forbid your daughter from dating any particular person. What happens when you forbid?

Vicki: That just sets up a chance for rebellion.

Paul: A chance for rebellion, but it also sometimes increases the allure of that relationship. It's like, “Ooh, taboo. Let's go there.” So, be aware of that and be cognizant of that as you set up the rules and limits.

Now, you've made it so far without us actually telling you what age you should let your teenage daughter start dating, right? We did a video that was very specific to that and we will give you the link at the end of the article. I compared this to Neapolitan ice cream.

Vicki: I remember that.

Paul: Just like there are different levels of responsibility and maturity, there are different kinds of dating. I used in that video the example of the vanilla, part of Neapolitan ice cream. Vanilla dating is group dating. Getting involved with larger groups in activities that help them to start to socialize and connect. The ages that I attach to that are about age 12 up to about age 15. This is vanilla dating. And there… –

Vicki: And now here we just go back. Did you assign those ages randomly or is it with typical development?

Paul: We do everything on purpose here. This has to do with the developmental stages these kids are going through, and that's quite a wide range. It's a big difference between a 12-year old and a 15-year old.

Vicki: Yeah, but emotional maturity, emotional development, you are not really ready for some of the very intense feelings that might come with an intimate relationship. And so, we are doing this in more of a group setting, that just goes along with developmental norms.

Paul: This is supported by clinical experience and research that has been done in the area. So, that vanilla stage of dating, there's no pairing off. There is none of the intensity that comes when there is more of the closer intimate connections that are occurring. Now, let's go to strawberry. Strawberry I feel is for ages 16 through about 19, the older teenage years are when they can step it up a level. They are pairing off for the date, not for eternity, okay? They are still dating different people but during the date, they are pairing off to have a different kind of an experience than they had in the vanilla dating, the big group experience. I feel that this is appropriate for ages about 16 through about 19, and then we go to chocolate. Chocolate is courting.

Vicki: That's pairing off more looking for a life partner.

Paul: Right. Pairing off for the wedding. They are not getting married yet but they are going steady or they a0re dating exclusively. And I think that this should be reserved for later teens and early 20’s when they have the emotional maturity and they have the life experience that allows them to actually make important decisions about a life partner. That is a different kind of dating. So, we've given you some ages now to wrap around, “Okay, where do we set the limits and how do we structure this for our kids?”

Vicki: Key to all of this is to keeping that communication line open with your teenage child. We want to always be able to be approachable as they are experiencing new relationships, new feelings, new emotions. They are going to be confused. This is so different. They are going to make mistakes sometimes. Or they are going to be hurt or they may hurt somebody else. Being approachable makes it more likely that they are going to come to you to talk about those situations so that you can kind of add your own moral compass into it. You know, that's what part of parenting is about. I'm not saying that I'm doing it right all the time, but I get to expose to my child the moral compass that I choose to expose them to. This is my opportunity by keeping those lines open.

Paul: They need you as a parent. Put the relationship before the rules. That might be a mantra, actually, relationships before rules. But still rules. You are the parent. Set those limits appropriately based on the considerations that we've shared with you and others that occur to you as you watch this video. You've got this there's lots of challenges as a parent. There's also lots of resources. If you haven't connected yet to our Parenting Power-Up or the free discovery call that you can get on. If you want to take this to a higher level, you can do that right now. There's some links in the description. We would love to be on your team.