Drawing the Line–Your Responsibility
About the Guest
What role does a father play when his daughter starts dating? A father of four daughters himself, Dennis Rainey shoots straight with fathers about protecting their daughters by drawing proper boundaries. Hear what this protection does for the daughters, their dates, and the fathers themselves.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
What role does a father play when his daughter starts dating?
Drawing the Line–Your Responsibility
Dennis: You're talking to a young man about how he's going to treat your daughter before he takes her out on a date, and you want him to know that you understand the way a young man thinks, and you want him to know that you have a high value on your daughter, and that you've been given an assignment by God to protect her morally, sexually, emotionally, and you know what? You're going to be involved in this dating relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you have never had a pre-date interview with a young man who has come to call on your daughter, stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
Dennis: Boy, we sure had a lot of people, Bob; call in yesterday about wanting to order ball bats.
Bob: [laughing] We had a couple who want to enroll in Southern Seminary, too, so I just thought I'd throw that in.
Dennis: You're speaking, of course, of Louisville.
Bob: Louisville, Kentucky.
Dennis: Which is known for Southern Seminary and Louisville Slugger ball bats.
Bob: They’re in the same city. Yeah, that's right.
Dennis: I don't know how you got there on that. Anyway, we were talking about interviewing your daughter's date. As I’ve already talked about this week, I didn’t actually use the ball bat in the interview. The ball bat was something I showed the guys after I interviewed them, and the reason was, it’s laser-engraved in big, I don’t know, two-inch letters, laser-engraved. It’s called “The Respect Her.” And that’s what we’re calling young men to do, is to respect our daughters, and as fathers we are calling dads to step out of the easy chair and do something that is, frankly, downright courageous: interview a young man who wants to take your daughter out.
Bob: And you never intended for this ball bat to be threatening or menacing, but you did intend for it to communicate “I'm serious about what I'm talking to you about as a young man.”
Dennis: We're not interested in violence. That has no place in the Christian family whatsoever. But the ball bat was kind of a fun thing because the guys – most of them played ball – and I had them sign it. Again, it was a fun symbol of a great man-to-man interview with these young men.
Bob: I've heard you talk about this concept for more than a decade now in a variety of settings. Here and there you'll bring up the idea of a dad interviewing his daughter's dates.
Dennis: In fact, I've been wanting to ask you the question, Bob, did you interview any of Amy's or Katy's dates as they grew up?
Bob: Much to their chagrin, I did.
Dennis: Did you?
Bob: And they didn't have a whole lot of dates, and I think that's, in part, because they knew and the boys knew that that was coming.
Dennis: What was your favorite?
Bob: Well, I remember sitting at Sonic. I met a young man; we went out to Sonic together and got …
Dennis: That's a good place to go.
Bob: Got a hamburger and some tater tots or something.
Dennis: I went out on the back porch -- but Sonic, I think that's a good teen place to go. That's kind of a safe public place. So if he faints …
Bob: We sat at one of the tables outside at the Sonic and had a very good heart-to-heart conversation about expectations and about taking my daughter out. And I remember I was probably as nervous the first time as he was.
Bob: I guess that's my question -- as you've talked to dads about this, do you see them pushing back? Do you see them embracing this concept? Is this something that a dad hears about and goes, "I want to do that? I should do that." Or is it something he goes, "I don't know if that's for me."
Dennis: I think what I've heard most, Bob, is this is something men want to do. They just don't know how because they've never heard of it being done and, frankly, they need an outline. So we put together a book that's got "eight steps for no regrets" that you can go over with a young man and talk to him about in a very healthy, wholesome, heart-to-heart way.
I found when you equip men with these steps, with this conversation to have with a young man and, by the way, the book's got the eight steps in it along with a sample dialogue of what it looks like, and in the back of the book we've even produced a little card that you can tear out that is kind of a cheat sheet for a father.
Bob: Crib notes you can take with you?
Dennis: You know what? We mentioned it earlier this week -- we had one dad who sent the ball bat with his son, when I interviewed his son, and he asked me to write the eight points on the ball bat because he was going to use the ball bat to read the -- you know, turn the ball bat and read all eight points as he interviewed the young man, but I talked him out of doing that.
Bob: You're putting crib notes the way a quarterback kind of has the game plan on his arm pad -- so dad can take this with him?
Dennis: I think the point we're making here is that young people today and, really, for that matter, young people of any era need their parents, need a dad to step in a provide a little guidance and some boundaries and some accountability.
I had an executive assistant back when FamilyLife first started. Her name was Pat Orten. Pat was a grandmother who had been married for, I think close to 50 years, if not more than 50 years, before her husband passed away. Pat was a dear lady, and when she heard me talking about interviewing young men, she came to me, and she told me the cutest story.
She said, "Back when my husband and I started dating, my dad called me aside and literally," she said, "he outlined where on my back between my shoulders and the waistline where a young man could touch me" as he was dancing with her or when he was helping her out of a car or walking to go on a picnic or something. He actually drew some invisible but nonetheless very visible lines. I titled this chapter in the book, "The Neckline, the Waistline, and the Bottom Line," because this father knew the wisdom of protecting a pair of young people, even though it was from another era, from their own passions.
I have to tell you the rest of the story, because that young man not only became her fiancé, but they courted for four years. And she said, "My fiancé was very careful to observe what my daddy had asked him to do."
Bob: So he hadn't only told Pat where the boundaries were, but he had told the young man where the boundaries were as well.
Dennis: Exactly. Back only, shoulder to waistline, nothing further until the day they pulled away from the church on their way to their honeymoon, at which point he tenderly reached over and placed his hand on her knee. Think about how outrageous that would be. Then he said, "I've been waiting for four years to do that," with a huge grin. And they left and drove off to their honeymoon.
Now, you know in this culture and in this age, there are a lot of people going to laugh about that and say, "How old-fashioned can you get?" Well, I just want to tell you, as a parent of six kids and now as a grandparent, I'm all for protecting our kids from every possible evil that I possibly can as a dad and as a grandfather. If having a few boundaries, a few limits, a few points of protection can curb the sexual appetite, the passion, and can keep it asleep until its time, as Solomon wrote in the book, The Song of Solomon, until it's time to awaken those desires.
But you know what? I think we need more of some old-fashioned boundaries and some limits for this generation.
Bob: You know, as you were sharing that story from Pat Orten, I was thinking about, and I have a very distinct memory of being a junior in high school sitting at a hockey game, a professional hockey game with a young woman that I had taken out to dinner, and in the middle of that hockey game, she reached over, and she put her hand on my knee. I remember it.
Dennis: That was how many years ago?
Bob: That was 1973 that that happened.
Dennis: That was a few years ago then.
Bob: That was a few years back.
Dennis: Kind of electrifying, you know?
Bob: I remember, thinking … whoa!
Bob: That’s exactly what I remember thinking, and the point is, we can hear a story like Pat shares and go, "Oh, isn't that sweet and isn't that old-fashioned," but things are no different today. There's still something going on in the heart of a young girl or the heart of a young man if a hand is put in a place where it arouses or awakens love before its time.
Dennis: Bob, I think the assignment of parents is to help their children and, in this case, it's helping a daughter think through, in advance, what she is going to do with the opposite sex before she faces the time.
Now, one of the ways you're going to head that off at the pass is by interviewing a young man. But there's other ways that you could protect her by drawing some lines, as well. One of the things that we spent a lot of time talking with our daughters about, just in terms of protecting them and drawing some boundaries and some lines is we talked to them about what should you do if you're out on a date, and the young man you're with finds some way to get some alcohol and begins to drink, and he's the driver.
What are you going to do? Now hopefully, because you interview your daughter’s date,
Bob: He knows better than to try something like that.
Dennis: He should know better, and if he’s even bent toward that and has the courage to come past your interview and still behave that way – but let’s say that he does and he gets past your interview and your screening techniques and your daughter is out there, well, you’ve helped her think through in advance some lines, also helping her think through what happens if he makes a move on me and tries to try something on me sexually that is inappropriate. What should you do? How should you behave? What should you say?
And she knows that you as a daddy, and for that matter, her mother, are very approachable. In fact, you’re more than approachable. You will be involved in this dating relationship because you want to interview the young man that she goes out alone with or out on a double date with, or out on a group date with. You want to talk to that young man about appropriate behavior, and talk about accountability, look at him eye-to-eye and face-to-face and talk to him about the real-life issues of passion.
It’s there; we just seek to stick our head in the ground like an ostrich and ignore it and hope it will go away. Well, it’s not going away. Generation after generation it hasn’t gone away. So the point is to engage with your daughter and her dates around this issue, and do something courageous, step into her life.
Bob: You and Barbara wrote about this whole concept in your book, Parenting Today's Adolescent, where you talked about deciding in advance where the standards are and playing a game with your children as they were growing up that was the "Decide in Advance" game, right?
Dennis: Right, and the "Decide in Advance" game is very similar to what I was just talking about. You play the game and say, if you're out on a date with a young man who is drinking, and he's about to step in behind the wheel, what do you do? I mean, you literally have a split instant to make what could be a life-determinative choice.
And so what do you do? You know, you use your cell phone, you find a phone, you get out of that car, you get somebody else to take you back, you tell him you're not riding with someone who has been drinking.
Bob: But you help your child think about this before the situation occurs so they're not taken by surprise, right?
Dennis: Right, and that's really the essence of the interview. You're talking to a young man about how he is going to treat your daughter before he takes her out on a date, and you want him to know that you understand the way a young man thinks and what he thinks about, and how he's wired. You want him to know that you have a high value on your daughter, and that you've been given an assignment by God to protect her and protect her morally, sexually, emotionally, and that you know what? You're going to be involved in this dating relationship.
Bob: This is going to date me a little bit, but do you recognize the name Eddie Haskell? Do you know that name?
Bob: What does that bring to mind?
Dennis: "Leave it to Beaver?"
Bob: Yes. Eddie was Wally's friend. Do you remember Eddie?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Eddie was the guy who was always very polite to Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver.
Dennis: When he was around adults.
Bob: "Good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver, oh, that's a lovely dress you're wearing."
Dennis: But he was a terror privately.
Bob: Now, here is what I'm wondering -- did you ever have any guys you were interviewing …
Dennis: Oh, hello.
Bob: When you thought, "I'm getting the Eddie Haskell treatment here?"
Dennis: Oh, yeah. In fact, there was a guy that I think almost fainted in our living room when I interviewed him because I think he was giving me the Eddie Haskell smoke …
Bob: Giving you "the business," that's what Eddie used to call it, giving him the business.
Dennis: The smoke. He was blowing smoke at me, and it simply wasn't washing.
Bob: How did you handle that, when you thought, "I don't think he's being honest with me."
Dennis: I think I got tougher. I think that young man -- I'm not sure he ever went out with my daughter, now that I think about it. Yes, I think he may have been the only one I ever drew the line with and said, "No, I don't think we're going to go there."
Bob: Wait, wait, wait, I've got to ask you about that. How did that go over with your daughter when you said no?
Dennis: Well, I don't think she liked it, but I think she knew he was not of the right stripe. I do know this -- there were other guys that I interviewed -- not many -- because I think this process of interviewing your daughter's date, I think it weeds out most of the undesirables.
But some can filter through, and there was a young man or two that I wished, frankly, based upon how they were dressed and how they came to meet me, that I would have said, "You know, I don't think so." But, truthfully, I didn't go with what a man would call his gut, my intuition, as a man. I went ahead and said, "Okay," and later regretted it.
Bob: So if you had 30 or 40 interviews with young men when your daughters were dating, how many got the "no."
Dennis: I think there was only the one who didn't cut muster.
Bob: And looking back, do you think it probably should have been five, 10?
Dennis: No, not 10, because I'm going to tell you something -- the reputation of this interview at school -- I guarantee you, by the time all six of our kids went through the same high school, do you think everybody in the school, or at least all the guys, knew that those interviews occurred? I would almost be willing to bet that any young man who had any aspirations to date …
Bob: … had already heard.
Dennis: Had already heard, "Hey, don't go there. You don't want to go over there if you want to take her out."
Bob: So as much as this being a screening process, it was really an opportunity to do a little discipling, to do a little communicating, and to make sure that you were setting some standards that the young man understood and that your daughter understood.
Dennis: Well, there are a lot of benefits to this thing, Bob. Number one, your daughter benefits because she feels loved and protected. She may squeal and push back and whine and, "Daddy, no, you can't do that. I'll be the laughingstock of the school. No way." But I'm going to tell you something, in her heart of hearts, she knows she's being protected because she sees the lay of the land at school.
Secondly, it's really good for young men who want to take your daughters out to meet you. That's all there is to it. It's just really healthy. And, third, I think it's good for your sons to see you protecting their sister. It gives them a picture of what real manhood is and what a real man does and how a dad steps out of his easy chair and doesn't do the easy thing but does the difficult thing and sweats a little bit and talks about how nervous he was. At the same time it equips his sons to think this way about how they treat a young lady.
I've been asked over the years, did you have interviews for the young ladies that your sons went out with, and I have received e-mails, especially from some of our friends on the West Coast saying that you really need to write another book about aggressive women, because young ladies today, especially out here on the West Coast, are very aggressive with young men and, frankly, we as parents need some help to know how to manage this.
Well, I never felt comfortable sitting down with a young lady talking to them about…
Bob: About standards.
Dennis: About her responsibility and what her standards ought to be. I really feel like that's her parents' responsibility. But when they started taking my daughter out, now it's encroaching on what is my responsibility to protect her.
Bob: But you may weigh in on this subject of aggressive young women at some point in the future?
Dennis: I might do a little something on that because we need to talk today about boundaries and talk about how we protect this next generation from, really, a very seductive culture.
Bob: I wonder if we have done anything to make the hearts of single parents heavier, as we've talked about this this week. You know, there are a lot of moms raising kids on their own. They have daughters, and they're thinking, "I wish there was a husband." For that matter, there are some moms who are married to a guy who isn't going to embrace this as a responsibility. What can a mom in that situation do?
Dennis: Well, I think this is an assignment she can do. It may not be the ideal. Ideally, for the father to do this interview is the best, but, frankly, Bob, there may be some moms listening to the broadcast who aren't married to a man who is going to do this. He is simply not going to assume that responsibility. They may need to get the book themselves and step into their daughter's life and provide a little accountability around this.
But you and I had a conversation with Sandra Aldrich a number of years ago, and it was interesting, as we were interviewing her and talking with her about how she protected her children from evil and from the culture that she talked about this very issue.
Bob: And we asked her if she would re-create for us how she, as a single parent, as a mom, engaged a young man on the subject of taking her daughter out, stepping in and doing this.
Sandra: Here you go. So, Holly was telling me you scored the winning points at the football game on Saturday.
Boy: Yeah, that was cool.
Sandra: What was that like?
Boy: You know, like, everyone went ballistic in the stands because it was against Milford High, and they were undefeated. They, like, put shaving cream all over my car.
Sandra: I heard that someone wrote "The Man" across the windows, and everyone was honking when you drove downtown.
Boy: Yeah, that was cool. Except I had to, like, scrub the car for an hour to get all the stuff off.
Sandra: Holly says your car is really special.
Boy: Yeah, I worked all last summer at the paper mill to be able to buy it—overtime and everything.
Sandra: Mm, I can see it from the window. It looks really nice.
Boy: It's the deal, yep.
Sandra: What if I asked you if I could borrow it for tonight?
Boy: Tonight, I mean, well …
Sandra: I mean, what if. What would you want to know about me?
Boy: Huh? I guess, like, if you'd treat it right, because there's some stuff you need to know before you just drive it. Like the clutch has this way you need to shift it, and if you don't do it right, it will …
Sandra: It damages the car?
Boy: Well, yeah. I mean, that car is all I've got right now.
Sandra: So I hear concern that you'd want to make sure I treated it right.
Boy: Well, yeah.
Sandra: Relax; I'm not going to ask to borrow your car. But, you know, I feel kind of the same way about Holly. I know you guys are just friends, and you're just going on a friendly date …
Sandra: But you know things have a way of getting out of hand sometimes, and I want you to promise me that you're going to treat Holly the way you'd want someone treating your car if you loaned it to them.
Sandra: I know it's hard to imagine, but she's even more important to me than how you feel about your car. To put it another way, I want you to promise me that you'll treat her the way you'd hope another man is treating your future wife tonight.
Boy: Well, yeah, sure. I'll do that. I mean, we're just going to a movie.
Bob: You know, in some ways, that had to feel a little uncomfortable for her, as a mom, to be stepping in and doing that, but somebody's got to do it, right?
Dennis: You know, God bless the single moms. I was having a conversation with a friend just yesterday. I was talking with him about the assignment given to single-parent moms of juggling the finances, juggling a job, raising kids, and then doing dual duty -- having to be both mommy and, in some cases, trying to fill that role that a father should fill in that family and yet, if you have to do it, you have to do it.
I just want to cheer them on and encourage them, and I hope a lot of them will take heart from these broadcasts and perhaps get the book and protect their daughters as they begin to venture out on dates.
Bob: Yes. The principles are the same, whether it’s a dad or mom who is doing the interviewing, protecting our kids and being involved in their lives, and let them know we’re paying attention. That’s really what’s at the heart of all of this. But I also think it’s helpful for a mom or a dad to hear how you approach this and they may choose to do it differently and that’s fine. The question is, have you thought it through? Do you have a game plan? Do you have something you’re going to do?
And if it’s helpful to have a copy of the eight points that Dennis used as he interviewed his daughters’ dates back when they were teenagers, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and request a copy of the book, Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date, and we’ll send it to you. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can order a copy of the book from us online if you’d like.
We also have an audio book available, and this week we’re making the audio book available as a thank you gift for those folks who help support the ministry with a donation. So if you’re online making an online donation and you’d like the audio book, just type the word ‘”DATE” in the key code box on the online donation form, or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY you can make a donation and ask to receive the audio book or you can find out how you can have a copy of the hardback book sent to you, or you can do both if you’d like.
Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY, and our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now tomorrow, we’re going to talk about specific ways that a dad can interact with a young man who wants to take his daughter out. We’ll have that conversation tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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