Rules for Dating My Son? No Thanks.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: Yes, I’ve been noticeably absent for several months. No, my absence wasn’t planned. Yes, I’m fine. I’ll probably explain in another post. But for right now, I have something else I’d like to talk about. 

If you spend any time on the vast stretches of the internet, especially social media, you’ve probably seen images like these popping up all over the place over the last however-many months:

Rules for dating my daughter

Rules for dating my son

I’ve seen people share these on Facebook and Twitter, touting them as being the Next Big Thing in parenting. As though any of this is actually positive.

Frankly, I think it’s awful. And not funny at all.

You know what’s funny? The way my son sings: “Shot through the heart, and you’re too late! You give gloves… A bad name.

That’s funny.

But publicly dictating controlling and sexist “rules” for your child’s emergence into adulthood? Not funny.

I have a number of issues with these memes, but let me stick to the main one . Also, since I have sons, I shall refer to that particular meme. I’m sure there’s someone else out there with girls who is, at this very moment, taking offence to the Rules for Dating my Daughter. (Solidarity, sibling-of-either-gender!)

My sons are currently 6 and (almost) 3. They are not even close to dating age. Nevertheless, I take exception to this meme for the inferences it makes about them, and about me.

It assumes that (a) my son isn’t capable of making his own decisions or standing up for himself, (b) because he’s a man, he will be unable to resist a woman who dresses “like a stripper” and sends sexts, regardless of any of her other traits — good or bad — and (c) I’m responsible for him and his happiness for the rest of his life.

Well, colour me silly (which is a shade of fuschia), but I’d like to think that by the time my boys start dating, I will have raised sons who are independent, intelligent, and discerning.

And I have zero desire to still be raising them when they’re in their twenties and thirties. Or forties. Or whatever age these “protective” parents think is the right age to release their beloved offspring into the wild.

It is not my job to choose my son’s girlfriend, wife, job, hobbies, financial plan, or living arrangements.

It is my job to teach my son responsibility and self-respect, and prepare him to make his own well-informed decisions.

(And to be there to support and comfort him when he inevitably makes a few bad ones.)

But if I absolutely, positively must create a list of rules for dating my son, it looks something like this:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Be safe.
  3. Respect each other.

What are your thoughts on these “Rules for Dating” memes?


Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion

27 responses to “Rules for Dating My Son? No Thanks.

  1. I hate those memes! I dislike them on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. Your rules rock. Those are rules I can get behind.

  2. Jo,

    Welcome back! You’ve been away too long. This post shows us that in the best way possible. The whole internet world could use some of this wisdom and straight talk.

    I’m not entirely sure just how this sort of crazy stuff gets around so fast, especially in view of your astute observation that it’s not only demeaning and sexist, but not even funny. Lots of people who report their impatience with such postings on the internet are told to “lighten up,” or “it’s just for entertainment,” but I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. It’s just a waste of space.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the juvenile level of what is supposed to be entertaining is ubiquitous. People lots of times just mindlessly re-post such gibberish out of boredom or routine. It may be that young people find this sort of rebellious dribble entertaining, and that is a fairly universal experience. If normal adults find it appalling, teens usually find it fascinating. The problem with this batch is that it perpetuates and celebrates the wrong values in a clear way.

    In defense of what might be described as the “intention” of these messages, parents clearly have their hands full these days when their children reach dating age. I raised five daughters and a son to adulthood, and when they started dating, these posters were not on their walls. Instead, I tried to be encouraging to each of them to consider carefully what choices they made, and let them know that no one who really cared about them would not need to worry about dating any one of my children. If they thought they needed help or if someone treated them poorly, we would be there to help.

    We encouraged them to bring the person they wanted to date to the house so we could meet them, and as long as they treated each other with respect and fulfilled their end of the dating arrangement, that it was up to them if the date got another chance. There were a few young people who we had concerns about who wanted to date one of our children, but as long as the terms that were agreed to were met, we mostly let them decide who got the nod.

    Your one point really hit the nail on the head. By the time young people get to the age where dating seems like a good idea, if you haven’t been able to give them enough guidnace and support to avoid the need for such “rules,” it really isn’t going to make much difference what rules you might offer.

    Thanks for speaking up about this and it’s great to have you back online…..Warm regards……John H.

    • Thanks, John. It’s good to be back.

      I agree that dating in the modern day is a difficult time for parents — AND for teens. Actually, I think dating is difficult, regardless of age. But the crux of the matter for me is that these memes remove any responsibility from the dater themselves, and puts all the responsonibilty on the datee and the parent. I’m certain that your daughters and son were given ample guidance, but allowed (and trusted) to make decisions of their own.

      And I’m sure you can imagine my thoughts on the whole “It’s only a joke!” and “Lighten up!” responses…

  3. But you’re being reasonable, and being reasonable is not what this style of parenting is 😉 On a more serious note, I think those lists are demeaning to all involved parties — they assume that anyone interested in your grown child is automatically a predator, that (as you pointed out) your grown child has no ability to make his or her own choices, and that the most helpful thing a parent can be is overbearing and dictatorial — because we all know how much teenagers love that, and how rarely that totally backfires by causing said teenager to throw themselves at said inappropriate person in retaliation. Now there are predators, and teenagers/young adults will make bad decisions, but overbearing and dictatorial are rarely the right way to go. That said, I can be a rather intimidating person, even while being perfectly civil, and I fully plan to use that if the need arises.

    • Right. I knew I was doing something wrong. I shall immediately endeavour to be less reasonable. …. Or not. 😉

      And this? This is totally the point: “because we all know how much teenagers love that, and how rarely that totally backfires by causing said teenager to throw themselves at said inappropriate person in retaliation.”

      I’m a big believer in treating people with respect — and that includes your own children.

  4. As a young male, I agree with you. It seems like these posters are looking for a reason not to like the person who is dating their son or daughter. You hit the nail on the head, have fun, be safe and just have respect.

  5. My husband’s not on board with dating in general, so we’ll see how that goes.

    And this reminds me…I miss your flash fiction!

    • Luckily, your husband has a good few years to get used to it. 🙂

      Thanks! I have some ideas for some flash fiction, so I’ll see what I can do for you in the next couple of weeks.

  6. I’ve never been a parent and I’m not likely to start now, but it seems to me that, 1) you’re right — this puts it all on the parents (and specifically on the mother for the son and on the father for the daughter — emphasizing the idea that daughters are property to be passed from a father to an appropriate husband) and leaves the kids out of it completely; and 2) kids will make mistakes, no matter how many rules you set up, and they will suffer from those mistakes and learn from them. As I did, because my parents certainly would never have set any rules for who I dated.

    And I definitely made some mistakes, which I learned from (and, frankly, I had some fun in the process of learning, too). It is possible (since kids are actually thinking human beings – contrary to what these rules imply) to thoroughly enjoy something and still decide that it is not wise to do it again.

    • I absolutely agree. In fact, I’d hesitate to say that some of the most thoroughly enjoyable things I’ve done in my life haven’t necessarily been things I’d like to repeat. (But I don’t regret doing them!)

      I always like to think that I’m not raising children. I’m raising people who are currently children, but will one day be adults.

  7. I’ve only seen then daughter one, and now see the son one is equally skin crawling. I like your rules much better. Welcome back, btw!

  8. This is a world where people say too much and mean too little. I’m pretty sure most of the peeps laughing at those memes know in their hearts they really aren’t using them as guidelines, but maybe poking fun at those that do (to some degree). Jokes often go too far.

    This isn’t to say that I agree or disagree with your beautifully written post (actually I always agree with the heartfelt compassion you express for each facet of life). The meme is about control . . . that parents really don’t have. It’s a whole new world when your child starts dating, a whole list of acceptances for how this precious being that you love so much wants to view the world, and their future. I trust my girls to make choices that are right for them, after all, didn’t I raise them to do just that?

    • Of course you did! And that is, of course, my point. Perhaps I’ve seen too many comments like: “That’s so me!” and “Proud to be this Mama!” and “Damn right, these are my rules! lol.”

      Maybe these people are joking — poking a certain amount of good natured fun at themselves. Or maybe not. The trouble with these types of memes is that once they worm their way into pop culture, even if they start as a joke, they take seed there. They root themselves in the sunconscious of people who should — and do — know better, and five or ten years down the track you have people enacting these “rules” as though they’re a legitimate “thing”. Like they’re “just the way things are”. And like “that’s how it’s always been”. You have to be carefuly with pop culture.

      …and right there, ladies and gentlemen, is the core of so much of my fiction writing. LOL.

      • Ohhhh–I agree with the “seed” theory. Somehow the perspective shifts and morphs into something quite fearful. It’s like the original sentiment travels so far from it’s home that the journey/destination changes it into something else. I also fear mob mentality to the same degree. (shivers)

        I think you would make a wonderful sentinel, Jo. The fantasy kind who protect what is sacred and good about life and sound the alarm for what threatens it. ❤

      • Ha! You’ll have to write me into one of your stories one day. 😉

      • Very true. And sometimes it’s not “that’s how it’s always been” and instead it’s “that’s how things were back in the good old days,” which is at least as dangerous.

        I was going to say that I _avoid_ popular culture in my fiction for the same reason (except for the occasional Star Trek joke), but then I remembered that in one of my stories someone starts a religion, basically as a joke, and it becomes a real thing, so I guess I have been thinking about this. 🙂

      • Ah, the old “that’s how things were back in the good old days”. Possibly more dangerous, because memories (even shared memories) tend to romanticise the past. Often “the good old days” bear little to no resemblence to anything that actually happened.

        Ha. I think it’s almost impossible to avoid any pop culture in modern fiction, because we’re surrounded by it and even without intentionally trying to add it into our work, it has a tendence to trickle in when we least expect it. It’s why when you read a book written in the 60s, the feel is completely different to a similar book written in the 20s…. Which you’re well aware of, movie-guy. 😉

        I just like to confront pop culture head-on.

      • In terms of the “Good old days,” in the US at least we’re pretty thoroughly inundated with World War II stuff (the “greatest generation” and all that). My mother is 97, so it’s always educational to hear her perspective on how much of it is nonsense. It was fun to see The King’s Speech with her, for example.

  9. The Internet was poorer for your extended absence my friend. I’ll take your rules for my Little Chap any day. Just pray I manage to instil that self respect, responsibility and ability to make well-informed decisions…

    • You’ll do fine, Emma. You have self-respect, act responsibly, and make well-informed decisions. And nothing is more powerful in your parenting repertoire than modelling the behaviour you want to see. Besides, you’re awesome. 🙂

  10. Austin

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! First, your sons are tots, most intelligent people agree that your opinion on this wont be formed until they ARE dating. Second in regards to the bit about them being smart enough to know better when they are dating, here’s a tip: They won’t be, they WILL date girls you hate and it will bother you. But yes by all means continue living in a fantasy world.

    • Out of curiosity, what exactly is your point here? I mean, other than laughing at me — which you are more than welcome to do, just as I’m more than welcome to judge you. Are you intimating that you believe setting offensive rules for your children’s prospective partners is acceptable? Or that all teenagers are incapable of making choices and living with the consequences?

Speak to me.

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