Family

The Dating Advice Dads Need to Give Their Sons

What they see at home has great influence, guides their interactions for years to come

Today, kids are dating at a young age. Girls begin “group-dating” at around 12 years old, and boys begin at about 13.5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. By the time teens hit 15, most are coupling up.

My son is not interested in girls — yet. He’s just turning 14 and it’s time I start thinking about what is the best dating advice a father can give to his teenage son.

My advice to my son is also a call to myself: to fulfill my responsibilities to my family.

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If he’s lucky (like I was), my son will have girls interested in him before he’s interested in them. When girls started flirting with me, it scared me. I’d look up from my classroom desk to discover a girl staring at me with her lips curled into a coy smile. Another girl would pass me notes about how cute I was — and her red lipstick left a lip-shaped smudge below her signature. Then there were a group of girls who would look in my direction and giggle.

It all just seemed strange.

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I later learned from boys who had more social intelligence than me that female flirting was an invitation to respond with similar gestures. If a boy got up enough courage, he could date a girl. If they liked each other, they could go steady — after which they would break up, probably sooner than later.

I didn’t have anyone offering me good dating advice. It didn’t make sense to me to ask my dad. He and my mom had divorced, so I assumed he wouldn’t be helpful.

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My son is in a different situation than I was at his age. I’m professionally trained to help people be successful in relationships and, top of that, I successfully dated his mom and we have a happy marriage. Based on that experience, I’ve formulated the following dating advice for him to consider:

1.) ‘Trust Me’
This is the most valuable advice I can offer. Boys are influenced by how their fathers act toward their mothers, and what they see serves at least two purposes. First, a father’s bond with a mother provides a boy with a solid foundation on which to form his sense of security and self-worth. Secondly, his father’s behavior forms a model on which a boy will often base his own behavior.

Teen boys need a trusting relationship with their dads, and they benefit from a father’s positive relationship modeling, which both contribute to healthy development. Without a trusting relationship and positive modeling, research indicates boys can become “hyper-macho” and “hyper-sexual.” This sets the stage for troubled and abusive relationships with girls and is not a good foundation for dating.

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I want my son to know he can trust me to be a good husband to his mom, in addition to being a reliable dad. So, my advice to him is also a call to myself: to fulfill my responsibilities to my family. If you’re a single or divorced dad, don’t despair. When you have opportunities for a positive connection with your son, take advantage of them. Let your son also see you model respectful behavior toward his mother and other women.

2.) Know Your Values
It’s a common mistake for parents to assume their teens will hold onto the values they were taught as younger children. Teens need to form their own identity and in this process, they struggle with choices and alternatives that weren’t open to them before. They often question the guidance they were given. While they may adopt many of their parents’ values, they may also reject some.

Dads, you can help your sons navigate new opportunities that surround them by helping them clarify their values. I like to use conversations with my son to do this. As a dad, you can use your own curiosity to form questions about your son’s thoughts and actions, as well as the actions of others — even the actions of a character in a movie or real people in the news. Watch closely. You’ll catch glimpses of your sons’ developing wisdom. Avoid criticism when your son’s reasoning doesn’t add up. Instead, encourage him to dig deeper by asking more questions to help him form logical conclusions.

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My goal here is to help my son recognize the value of moral behavior and virtues like respect, loyalty, patience, humility, integrity, kindness and gentleness. If you’re successful, he’ll not just act like a gentleman around young women, he’ll really be one.

3.) Focus on Friendship Before Courtship
Raising goats on our small family farm has given me a new perspective on courtship. Goats don’t waste any time on friendship.

Jump into the conversation, dads. Your son is waiting for your guidance.

As blunt as that may sound, I like to remind my son that humans are designed to be more civilized than farm animals. It’s in farm animals’ nature to mate often, indiscriminately, and produce lots of offspring. Humans are designed to mate for life. For lifelong human connections to occur, it’s best for boys and girls to become friends before courting.

When my son does show an interest in girls, I’ll encourage him to focus on friendship before courtship. While it can be cute to see teens pair up and indulge in their infatuation for each other, it’s better when they learn about each other’s likes, dislikes, dreams, values and morals before deciding to go steady. Group activities with friends and family are often a better way to do this than on a date.

Jump into the conversation, dads. Your son is waiting for your guidance.

Jon Beaty, life coach and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book, “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.”

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