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The results of a character focus have made both parents and teens very happy in the long run.

As young people grow up and find themselves attracted romantically to others then a question arises, "When am I old enough to date?" Our culture has lowered the age of that answer again and again. But rather than age being the determining factor I have a different suggestion.

The answer should be, in my opinion, "When you can clearly tell me the dangers and difficulties that arise in dating and can clearly demonstrate the character that will keep you safe and healthy in those circumstances." Bringing the child to understand dangers of foolish teen driving while paying more attention to those in the car than what is on the road, dangers of moral temptations, dangers of aggression from another while no one is there to protect them etc. is a necessity for discussion. Then developing personal character of honesty, strong moral standards, personal responsibility, honoring an older and wiser circle of counselors, a strong love for Jesus and honoring His teachings about relationships, and understanding of the importance of trust in all relationships and how easily it can be broken and hard to re-build is essential. You can use the "Goals for the teen" check list at the end of Season Three in my book, "The Four Seasons of Fruitful Parenting" as a starting point. Allow the teen to grade themselves and you as the parent grade them as well. Then together plan activities that will help the teen to build the character qualities they have a lower grade in.

They can also challenge the one who wants to date them by saying something like this: "My parents are helping me to earn the privilege of dating by developing personal character that will make me successful in life. I would be glad to share those character qualities with you so you can work on them too. I need to know that anyone I date has developed the character I have worked on myself."

This works very well as the prospective "date" is challenged to grow. Either they will become a person you can safely and gladly send your child out with or they will refuse to grow and go away from your child. This is a protection for your child either way and helps them to evaluate a potential mate on something more substantial than looks or fun personality.

You may fear your child won't want to cooperate with this plan. But I have found when most teens see that developing these characteristics will result in the parent letting go of their control and treating them as a friend instead of a child they get fully on board quickly. They also like the idea that they don't have to wait for an age. Instead how well they can develop character is the focus.

This plan has worked well in the families who have taken the time to lovingly communicate it and work on character development with their teen. And the results have made both parents and teens very happy in the long run.

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