|I. The dangers of
children playing with romance
This spring, a 14-year-old boy lay brain dead in a Mississippi hospital from a
self-inflicted gunshot wound. The cause of his despair was a romantic breakup with his
When four students and a teacher were murdered outside their school in
Jonesboro, Arkansas, it was widely reported that the 13-year-old gunman acted in revenge
for a romantic breakup with a 12-year-old girl.
The public soul-searching following the Jonesboro tragedy has been dominated by
discussions of the danger of children playing with guns. No one has spoken about the
danger of children playing with romance.
Pro-family conservatives have long preached that young people should practice physical
abstinence before marriage. Liberals have labeled such advice as unrealistic. It is
unrealistic to expect a teenager who has been pursuing emotional romance since age 12, and
a limited physical relationship for about the same length of time, to refrain from sexual
relations until he marries a decade later.
Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, suicide, and murder are among the
progeny of premature romance. Children in their early teens are simply too young to handle
both the physical and the emotional side of a romantic relationship.
II. Protecting our children from destructive emotional entanglements
Like many home schooling families, my wife Vickie and I have chosen the courtship model
for our children as an alternative to dating. Courtship requires young people to refrain
from casual dating and wait until they are old enough to seriously consider marriage
before entering into any romantic relationship.
In order to successfully follow the courtship model, parents need to begin talking to
their kids at an early age about the principles involved in courtship. I began talking to
my older daughters about the subject of marriage when they were very young girls, about
seven or eight years old. All along, I let them know that their mom and dad would be
highly involved in their choice of a mate. As my daughters grew older, I talked to them
about romantic relationships and the principles I expected them to follow in more detail.
My daughters understood these principles before they were teenagers and far before they
were seriously interested in relationships. They never expected to casually date. They
always knew that my wife Vickie and I would approve and supervise their romantic
If your children are older, its not too late to begin following the principles of
courtship. However, just as a young child can learn a language more easily than an adult,
a young child can also learn a pattern of behavior more easily than a teenager. An early
education in courtship principles will help protect your children from the myriad of
problems that accompanies premature romance.
III. Delaying romantic relationships until ready for marriage
In high schools, middle schools, and even in todays elementary schools, dating is
an expected activity. Often, kids feel that they must have a boyfriend or a girlfriend in
order to fit in with their peers.
Rather than subject children to the pressures of the dating culture, many home
schooling parents have trained their children in courtship. The first principle of
courtship is this: all romantic relationships are reserved until the season of life when a
person is ready to be married.
In order for a young man to be ready for marriage in a practical sense, he must be able
and willing to support a family. This requirement normally delays any kind of romantic
pairing off until the early twenties for young men and at least the late teens for young
women. When young men and young women reach this age, theyre far more likely to be
both emotionally and practically prepared for a romantic relationship.
When young people wait until the season of life when they can marry, through most of
their teenage years theyre free to be friends with members of the opposite sex
without worrying about the pressures of romantic entanglements. Courtship frees young
teens to see each other as potential friends rather than potential dates.
IV. Casual dating is out;
friendship is in.
Many young people begin romantic relationships
prematurely. Courtship first of all requires young people to wait until theyre old
enough to emotionally and practically consider marriage before entering into a
The second major operating principle of courtship is that there is no such thing as
casual dating. Any date is undertaken with a mutual understanding between both of the
young people and their parents that these young people are checking each other out with a
serious belief that their relationship may lead to marriage.
Two of my grown daughters will get married this year to the only boyfriends
theyve ever had. They have known dozens of guys because we encouraged all kinds of
group activities where there have been a mixture of both sexes. But courtship has
dominated their group activities and so pairing off has been off-limits unless the couple
is prepared to declare themselves ready for marriage and headed on that path with each
Every bride and groom say to each other, at least implicitly, that they "love each
other with all their heart." Little pieces of ones heart are given away each
time a romance of any magnitude has blossomed. But when my oldest daughter, Christy, and
[her fiancÚ] Rich walk the aisle in August, their promise to love with all their hearts
will be literally true since neither has ever had another love.
V. Parental Involvement
.The third principle of courtship is implicit in the first two principlesparents
must be involved in the courtship process.
Parents, particularly fathers, should give their permission before their children enter
into any kind of courtship relationship. Likewise, parents oversee the courtship and set
guidelines for the relationship with the couple. Before a couple decides to get married,
both sets of parents should give their consent.
This aspect of courtship is directly correlated with one of the main reasons families
choose to educate their children at home. Both home schooling and the courtship model
allow parents to responsibly direct the lives of their children.
The benefits of parental involvement in home schooling are well-documented. I believe
that there are similar benefits for children whose parents are involved in their choice of
a mate. First, young adults benefit from the experience their parents possess about
marriage and relationships. Second, young adults benefit from having a close relationship
between their parents and their future mate. If parents have been approving the
relationship all along, the chances for family conflict between in-laws are greatly
reduced. Third, God promises to bless children who honor their father and mother. Parental
involvement in courtship allows young people to honor their parents and reap the benefits
of this promise.
These five lessons
originally were broadcast on Homeschool Heartbeat, a radio program of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
They are available on the
web in audio format.
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