Ah, the eternal question all middle school students whisper in the halls about. (Some high school students too, by the way.)

I know a young woman who had a rule that she could not go on dates until she was 16. So she did not have “boyfriends” but just “friends.” So she and her male friends (really, sometimes they were just friends) would do things together. But they were never called dates, they were never formalized in that way. And those outings would always include other friends as well. By the time this young woman was 16, she had had numerous boyfriends – at least 10. So the point is that a parental rule about dating rarely affects a young girl’s ability to be romantically involved.

So what is the point of a parental rule about dating then? To stop young people from spending time alone as a couple at the movies or a restaurant? To slow down a budding romance? To stop the couple from having sex?

I’m not really sure. And I don’t think there’s much point in a rule against dating. I don’t think it really accomplishes any of the things listed above. The only useful point I can think that a dating rule might accomplish is to stop a young couple from thinking of themselves as dating. This might slow a romance down. But not by much. And the costs in terms of the parental-child relationship by imposing such a rule far out weighs the potential benefits.

But what do you think? What are the potential benefits of a rule against dating? What are the potential downsides? Do you have such a rule for your teenager? How’s it working out for you? Did your parents have such a rule for you? How did it work out?  Perhaps an even bigger question: What does it mean to be “ready to start dating”?