My heart goes out to Sarah and Todd Palin. This must be so difficult.

I don’t know how I’d react if my 17-year-old came home and told me she were pregnant. I think I’d feel like I just had the wind knocked out of me. That’s not how she was raised, after all.

So let’s talk about how to raise kids to minimize the possibility of this happening. You can never eliminate the possibility; people do, after all, have free will, and children will not always do what you wish they would. Even in the big things.

But there are a few things that I do plan on doing with my daughters.

One: they aren’t allowed to date until they are 18, though at 16 I’m willing to consider it (more on that later). I know that sounds extreme. I know many will think I’m absolutely nuts. But teenaged dating does not lead to anything good. If you haven’t read I Kissed Dating Good-Bye, you have to. I thought Harris was crazy at first, but by 2/3 in he had convinced me.

My oldest daughter has read it, and she’s firmly on board.

But, that being said, realistically I don’t think you can tell a child that she’s absolutely not allowed to date until she’s 18, because many kids move out right at 18. Then all this freedom comes all at once. I would rather that she start exercising a bit of freedom while she’s still living with me, but she would have to demonstrate some maturity and some commitment to God.

I also think that at some point kids have to internalize these lessons themselves. We can’t control our children, especially when they get older, and when they leave home they will have plenty of opportunity to get into trouble. The only thing keeping them out of trouble will be their own convictions. So we have to work on helping them find their own convictions.

At the same time, it’s silly to invite trouble. And even kids with great convictions don’t necessarily hold up when temptation is at hand. So it will always be a rule in our home that if you’re unmarried, you’re not alone in a room with a door closed, and you’re not cuddled in the basement under a blanket watching a movie. Sound extreme? Again, I’m not apologizing. I think it’s just necessary.

I do trust my daughters. Right now, at the tender ages they are, they seem to have very open hearts to God. But you never know what may happen, and the late teen years are difficult ones. We have to steer them carefully.

I think allowing our children to date indiscriminantly at a young age is not steering them clearly (this isn’t a reflection on the Palins; I have no idea what their rules were). But your child is the most precious thing God granted you. If you think they’re headed for trouble, stop them. Don’t just sit there helplessly! If you don’t like their boyfriend, do something.

Sure there will come a time when they’re too old, and they won’t listen to you. But that doesn’t mean you throw in the towel at 14, or 15, or 17. When you have authority, exercise it. Don’t let them date young, and when they do date, interview your daughters’ dates. Teach them to listen to God. And don’t let them be alone with their boyfriends.

(All the same holds true if you have sons, by the way. It’s just that I don’t, so my perspective is as a mom of girls!)

Rebecca suggested yesterday that Keith gets a bat and a dirty shovel and puts them by the couch when he interviews her future dates, years from now. She thinks that sends the right message. And I’m glad she likes the fact that we’re protective of her!


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