Help Them Choose a Mate Wisely
DO YOUR youngsters know what to look for in a mate and how to choose wisely? It is vital to think about the matter and to help them make a wise choice, since this will be important to their future happiness.
In lands where dating is the custom, there is growing pressure on young people to pair up at an ever earlier age. “Parents of 10-year-olds tell me they are under intense pressure to let their children date,” said Dr. Ronald W. Taffel, a clinical psychologist in New York. “Parents suddenly find themselves hassling with issues they did not expect to deal with until [their children’s] adolescence.”
What will likely be the consequences if you give in and permit your youngsters to begin dating at an early age? The Journal of the American Medical Association commented: “Early and frequent dating is associated with the initiation of [intercourse].” Yes, you have probably read reports of “the growing number of girls ages 10 to 14 giving birth.”
So, what can you do to help your young ones?
Teach Them From an Early Age
Parents need to instill positive Christian qualities in their children and help them to develop these. And they also need to help them to identify these qualities in a prospective mate. When your child brings up the subject of dating, explain that this is not properly viewed as a social pastime for preteeners or even for those in their early teens. Rather, make clear to them that dating is for people who are old enough to be looking seriously for someone to marry.
Children are inexperienced in evaluating character, as they should readily acknowledge. An Indian girl once explained to a marriage counselor: “Our parents are older and wiser, and they aren’t as easily deceived as we would be. . . . It’s so important that the man I marry should be the right one. I could so easily make a mistake if I had to find him for myself.” Youths can certainly benefit from the help of older ones!
Young people often rate prospective marriage mates according to standards that have little to do with whether they will make good husbands or wives. Boys may be charmed by a pretty face and an attractive figure—but what about later? Bodies and faces change, and later the boy will no doubt want the qualities of a mature woman, including intelligence and ability to shoulder responsibilities. Girls often give priority to a boy’s being handsome, a smart dresser, and quick-witted rather than to the more important qualities of his being kind and having love for God and fellow humans.
So, what can you do? Why not call to the attention of your children people whom they know and who have good marriages. You might point out that some of these people chose, not necessarily the prettiest or the most handsome person in town, but someone who had fine qualities and who also had the same tastes, interests, and goals that they did.
Why not discuss these matters with your children? When Ann was 13, her mother asked what qualities she wanted in a husband. They discussed this, and she made a list of qualities that she would hold out for. This was not an unrealistic list. It included that he should be someone she could look up to, and his tastes and interests should parallel hers. Now a happy grandmother, Ann still recommends that others follow this example.
For a Christian, the Biblical command to marry “only in the Lord” is a vital consideration. (1 Corinthians 7:39) A person who is “in the Lord” is one who is a dedicated, baptized Christian and who is devoted to sharing in the same activity that Jesus performed. Those who ignore this command to marry only in the Lord often experience tragic consequences. So be sure to show your youngsters the importance of considering as a prospective mate only someone who follows the same moral and spiritual principles that they do and who thus will be able to help them pass these on to any children they might have.
Prepare Them to Handle Problems
When you have determined that your children are old enough to date, impress on them the wisdom of getting acquainted with their companion in public places, sharing in activities, such as going to restaurants, museums, zoos, or art galleries, that allow them to talk and get to know each other without being isolated from other people. Help them to understand why this is so much wiser than spending time in the privacy of a parked car or in any other place where no one else is around. It is important, too, to teach them that when they come home from a date, it is proper to say good-night at the door and not let the person inside unless, of course, you are up and present.
Warn your children of what could happen. A news report, for instance, tells of a student who invited her date to her room after dinner to dance and talk. Even though he made suggestive advances, she didn’t insist that he leave. Rather, when she protested, he would apologize for his actions, but then he would try again to seduce her. The report says: “He finally forced the issue near dawn” by raping her. How tragic!
So see to it that your children know how to act decisively if anyone should even suggest immoral acts. They should flee the situation the way young Joseph fled Potiphar’s insistent wife. (Genesis 39:7-12) They should know that the time-worn plea, “If you love me you will,” is so often the line of a deceiver. Anyone who uses it probably does so regularly, then abandons his victim and moves on to a new conquest. Your son or daughter should know that a firm, positive no is the best answer to an immoral suggestion.
Be sure to teach your daughter to avoid situations in which she might be raped. Emphasize the need really to know well any young man that she may date and for you, her parent, to be well acquainted with such a person too. If your children no longer live in an area near you, then make sure that they ask a Christian overseer regarding their potential mate. Remember, there are deceitful ones who claim to be Christians and who slip into the congregation, even as there were in the first century.—2 Peter 2:13-15, 17, 18.
In addition, you need to teach your sons that real men do not knowingly hurt other people. They shield and protect them. Real men are masters of, not slaves to, their impulses. They should properly treat ones of the opposite sex as they would their own mothers or sisters, with honor and respect.—1 Timothy 5:1, 2.
Never let your children forget the basic Biblical principle: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, Revised Standard Version) Thus, your children should realize the need to stay out of the company of anyone who does not live a morally clean life. From their infancy, you should make it clear to them that while others may not see what they are doing, God always does, and he will render to each one of us according to our activity.—Romans 2:6.
Living Morally in an Immoral World
Although worldly authorities have lamented that they “know very little about how to discourage unmarried teenagers from initiating intercourse,” Christian parents know that it can be done. By inculcating love for God and genuine respect for his laws in their young ones, parents equip their offspring to resist the temptations of this immoral world and to live upright, moral lives. A large society of millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are remarkable in their adherence to the high moral standards of God’s Word. Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia says that this group’s “conjugal and sexual morality is quite rigid.”—Volume 7, page 864.
Young ones among Jehovah’s Witnesses who live moral lives know they are wanted and appreciated not just by their parents but by their fellow Christians worldwide. They feel good about themselves, have parts in congregation meetings, develop teaching skills, and participate in Bible education. They demonstrate godly morals, enjoy positive feelings of self-worth, and have the hope of a bright future in God’s righteous new world.—1 John 2:17; Revelation 21:3, 4.
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Whom Will You Marry?
The book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work offers excellent suggestions on how young people can get acquainted with someone they might be interested in marrying.* It shows the need of knowing that person’s strong points as well as his weak points, what he or she is really like. How can you do that?
First, you can observe the person. How does he behave? How does he treat other people? How does she talk to her parents or other family members? These things are important because they indicate how you eventually may be treated.
Through casual conversation, you can find out whether his or her interests and goals are similar to yours. You might also find out what other people think about this person.
You will want to learn what kind of person this is, about his or her thoughts, ideas, and inner self. How does he act under pressure? Who are her friends? What is the family like, and how do they treat one another?
Working together can give you a better insight into the person’s qualities. Allow time for unpleasant habits to surface. Then, as this excellent book says of young people who have followed such sound advice: “With eyes wide open, they can enter marriage confident of being able to work out disagreements that will arise. Successful courtship has prepared them for a successful and happy marriage.”—Chapters 29-32.
This book is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., the publishers of this magazine.
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Attractive physical features can be impressive, but fine inner qualities are more important
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Getting acquainted in public places is wiser than spending time in isolated privacy