FamilyLife Today® Podcast

How to Interview Your Daughter’s Dates

with Dennis Rainey | September 25, 2007
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What should you say to your daughter's suitor? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey teaches men how to interview their daughter's dates.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What should you say to your daughter's suitor? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey teaches men how to interview their daughter's dates.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What should you say to your daughter’s suitor?

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How to Interview Your Daughter’s Dates

With Dennis Rainey
September 25, 2007
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Daddy: Hi, honey.

Daughter: Hi, Daddy.

Daddy: Guess what?

Daughter: What?

Daddy: Honey, someday a boy is going to come over to our house …

Daughter: Really?

Daddy: Really – and he's going to want to take you on a date.

Daughter: [giggles]

Daddy: And what's my little princess going to tell him?

Daughter: You have to talk to my daddy.

Daddy: That's right, you have to talk to daddy.

Daughter: And I have to be old enough to go.

Daddy: That's right.  And how old are you going to have to be before you can go?  Is it 14?

Daughter: No.

Daddy: Is it 16?

Daughter: No.

Daddy: Is it 21?

Daughter: Uh, no [giggles].

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 25th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Get started when the kids are young, that's what I always say.  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  You know, you ask most dads – how old will your daughter have to be before she can start dating?  And if the daughter is 3 or 4, most dads will say what?

Dennis: Thirty.

Bob: Yeah, that's the average age.

Dennis: Average age – I've been listening – most of them mentioned that their daughter will at least be in their early 30s before they are allowed to go out on their first date.

Bob: But somehow it doesn't seem to work out quite that way as these girls get older.

Dennis: No, the hormones begin to change her, she begins to press against the goad a bit, and figures out a way to bust out of the cage and find a way to get a date and, all of a sudden, Dad is smack dab in the middle of his belief system colliding with life.  And if he doesn't step up at that moment …

Bob: It can be an ugly collision.

Dennis: It can be a terroristic type of problem at that point.

Bob: You have put together a coaching manual for dads when this part of the game rolls around.  It's a playbook you can pull out and just follow the plays, and it helps you get some field position.  I don't want to go on with this sports metaphor, but it does help make sure that you're going to survive this part of the game, right?

Dennis: It's for dads, it's for single parents, who all want to step into the lives of their teenagers and interview their daughter's date.  It's "Eight Steps to No Regrets," and it's a talk that you can have with your daughter's date prior to the date that feels right, it feels good.

 In fact, I think, Bob, what the book does is it gives dads and moms as far as that goes permission to be parents.  It empowers them, it equips them, and …

Bob: Now, wait, you're saying parents don't feel like they have permission to do this today?

Dennis: I think teenagers have forged a hostile takeover, and I think, in our culture today, I do think parenting has lost much of its authority, especially in the teenage years where a lot of parents are absent or neglectful or afraid to step in at times that are life and death issues for their sons and daughters.

Bob: Now, you don't have this interview in the 15 minutes before they're supposed to be heading out on the date, right?

Dennis: No, in fact, as we are going to talk about today, there are a number of things a dad needs to kind of check off, and one of the things you do not want to do is you don't want to schedule this interview just moments before your daughter is about to go to the prom.

Bob: Yeah, that's what I thought.

Dennis: I mean, what if the guy does not pass muster?  You are about to be put in a very difficult situation if the limo is waiting outside, and your daughter is in her prom dress with a corsage.  No, not a good idea.

Bob: And this is not the same kind of interview I've seen floating around on the Internet here for a couple of years where you clean the gun and do all of that while you interview your daughter's date.

Dennis: No, we're not advocating any kind of heavy intimidation like that.  In fact, I ran across ….

Bob: However, mild intimidation is acceptable, isn't it?

Dennis: I think – initially, I think it's okay for the first interview for both the young man and the father to feel a little anxiety.  I think it's okay. 

 I ran across a deal that's called "Dad's Rules," and I cannot read all of these, because there's some that kind of go off the edge, but I'll share a few of them with our listeners.

 Rule Number 1, from "Dad's Rules" – if you pull into my driveway and honk, you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up here.

 Rule Number 2 – you do not touch my daughter in front of me.  You may glance at her as long as you do not peer at anything below her neck.  If you can't keep your eyes or hands off my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Bob: Now, you do kind of cover that as you go through the interview with young men, don't you?

Dennis: I do talk to young men about inappropriate touching.  There's no doubt about that.  We'll talk about that a little later on in the broadcast.

 Rule Number 3 – I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips.  Still, I want you to be fair and open-minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise – you may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants 10 sizes too big, and I will not object.  However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of the date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers security in place to your waist.

 That sounds a little bit like torture to me.  I don't think so.

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: Anyway, one last one here – I have no doubt that you're a popular fellow with many opportunities to date other girls.  That's fine with me as long as it's okay with my daughter.  Otherwise, once you've gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you.  If you make her cry, I'll make you cry.

Bob: But that points out something that's kind of interesting.  You are not just talking about protecting your daughter from some kind of physically aggressive young man.  You're talking about guarding her emotional health.

Dennis: We're talking about guarding her moral and sexual purity.  We're talking about guarding her heart emotionally and, by the way, I think there's a lot of dating that occurs in high school that really becomes far too emotional, far too much sharing, where there isn't an appropriate commitment in place for those two young people to be sharing those things with one another.  It's a set up, and I think in those situations this interview, Bob, this interview gives dads the permission to be able to interact with the young people should those relationships move to off limits territories like the emotional area.

Bob: If you were going to begin to coach a dad who says, "Okay, I've heard you talking about this.  I think I need to do this.  I'm ready.  What do I need to do to get ready?"

Dennis: Well, first of all, I think you need to start with your daughter, and ideally start when she's little, letting her know, as a daddy, when you go out on a date with her, which, by the way, you need to do, and you need to treat her on that date the way you expect a young man to treat your daughter.  Open the door for her, ask her to take your arm, pull out her chair for her, show her how a young man is to treat her so she can expect how to be treated.

 It's funny, when my daughters got old enough to go on a date, Bob, a couple of times they laughed because they said – they said in the car, while the young men got out of the car and started walking into the restaurant, and they were waiting on him to come to the door to open it.  And I'd instructed them to do that.  I said, "Wait there.  You'll never be treated like a young lady if you don't expect him to show you the common courtesies that are due to a young lady."

 There is a letter in the back of my book that is written to my daughter to help her to begin to think through this thing called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and it's a very soft letter from a daddy's heart to a daughter's heart, letting her know kind of what she can expect.  But it introduces the idea, ad it shows a dad how if he has a daughter who is in her teenage years, and he hasn't had a chance to talk to her about interviewing her dates, it gives him a way, practically, of kind of broaching the subject with her.

Bob: And at what point would you send a letter like that to your daughter?  When she's eight or when she's 12 or when she's 14 or 15?  When would you do it?

Dennis: I think this letter is for a 12, 13, 14-year-old young lady, or if your daughter is 16, and you're moving into a time where you're going to start doing it, or let's say your daughter is 17 or 18, still in high school, and you've got this book, and you're saying you know what?  I need to do that.

 There are some young guys who are hanging are her at our house who need to be – well, they need the privilege of the interview.  The interview is really good for young men, and it's good for dads.  It's good for young men and older men in this culture, Bob, where there is very little that older men do with young men to call them to step up to true maturity and true manhood.

Bob: Okay, so you start when they're young, you take them out on dates, you have a letter that you send to them early on to say, "This is coming and you can expect it," and it's warm, soft relational letter.  What else?

Dennis: Yes, well, you can expect that you're going to get nervous.  I was always nervous, and I can guarantee you that a young man is nervous.  If he isn't, you need to be concerned because he may be smoking something.  I mean, truthfully, I can't imagine a young man coming into your house to take your daughter out on a date to be interviewed and not being nervous.  I mean, I think it's okay to be nervous.  I think it's healthy.  I think it's good.

 I think one of the most important things to know is the undesirable guys are going to – they are going to self-select out of this process.  You're not going to be interviewing guys that you shouldn't be interviewing.

Bob: They're just not going to show up or not go through the pain, not even ask, right?

Dennis: I'm telling you, you're going to meet some fine young men as you go through the interview, so don't expect trouble.  Expect to have a good time, expect to have a good conversation, and that really leads me to a key point – go into the interview with your objective in mind and, for me, it was twofold.

 Number 1, and I think first and foremost, I wanted to establish a relationship with a young man.  I really wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk with a young man about matters of life.

 And the second reason I go into the interview is I want to qualify the young man who is about to spend an evening with my daughter.  And so I'm not wanting to go in there, trying to play the intimidation card with him.  I'm really wanting to establish a relationship, because you don't know when you may be interviewing a young man who someday may become your son-in-law, and that relationship that you begin to establish in that first interview needs to be a healthy one where you sit down and have a good conversation and even though you're both nervous, you both end up coming out of the interview going, "You know what?  That was tough, but that felt good.  That felt right."

 Beyond that, Bob, I think as you go into the interview, it really is important for a man to put on a heart of compassion.  Just put yourself in this young man's shoes.  He's coming into your house, "Hello, Mr. Rainey," and it's like, you know, it's not the electric chair or the torture chamber, but …

Bob: But it feels close.

Dennis: It's close to a young man like this because you know he's never done something like this, most likely, unless we can start a sweeping movement.  And, by the way, some of the men that I sent this book to, Bob, who reviewed it and gave me some feedback that made this very user-friendly – some of the men who got this book said, "I'm going to buy a box of these books, and I'm going to send them out to all my daughter's friends dad's so that we can start a movement at our Christian school or our high school of dads who are involved in their daughter's dates.

Bob: And wouldn't it be cool if – I was going to say at 9th grade or 10th grade but maybe even at 7th or 8th grade these days, when your child enrolls for school, one of the things they get from the school is a copy of this book to give to Dad.  Of course, I wouldn't give it to the child, I'd give it straight to …

Dennis: It would never make it home, it would never make it home. 

 One other thing I'd encourage a dad to do is have a spot in mind where you are going to perform the interview.  Now, for me, it was on the porch, and I don't remember ever getting cold.  I had some inside in our living room, but I knew where I was going to go, and I generally knew how I was going to start the conversation, and all this is covered in the book, but I talk about what the young man's parents do, where they live, what kind of family he has, his brothers and sisters, where they go to church.

Bob: So you start off with some interaction with some casual conversation?

Dennis: Yeah, it's just like beginning any kind of relationship, ask him about his job if he works, and if he's been out on other dates with other young ladies, and how'd that go, and have you ever talked to a dad like this before, and maybe he has.  You might be talking to a veteran at this point.

 But as I am asking these questions, I'm not only listening for his answers, but I'm taking note of his handshake, of his dress, his overall appearance.  Does he look me in the eye as he talks to me, what's his attitude like to me, as an authority figure?  If he talks about his parents, does he speak respectfully about them?  And I'm just taking all that in.

 Now, there is one other thing I left off, Bob, that I meant to mention.  If you are going to use some kind of object lesson or a visual aid …

Bob: And you did on your interviews, didn't you?

Dennis: I did, I used car keys.  I talked about if I was going to give him my car or my truck to drive …

Bob: You'd expect him to take care of it.

Dennis: I'd want to know what his driving record was, and we kind of had some fun with that.  I also had some papers, my most important papers – my savings account, checking account papers, title to a car or two, and the mortgage papers on our house and just all the most valuable papers on the porch and, on this particular occasion, as I recall, Rebecca was on the porch with us at the beginning of the interview, and I asked the young man, I said, "Everything that's on the porch" – and I told him what was in the pile – I said, "What do you think is the most valuable?"

 And the young man looked at that pile of papers that contained, really, for all practical purposes, all of our worth, everything we've got from a financial and material standpoint on planet earth.  He looked at that pile, and he looked at Rebecca and kind of bounced back and forth like it was a trick question and then said, "Rebecca?"  Like, is she the one that is the most valuable?"  And I said, "You got it on the nose, young man.  My daughter is most important, and that's why I want to have this conversation with you."

 And I think it's important, Bob, to set a context with a young man as to why you're having this difficult conversation and why you were willing to face your own fears and anxieties and worries and nervousness to hold this interview, and were willing to talk to the young man.

Bob: Now, I have to guess – well, no, I don't have to guess, in fact, I know your daughters did not universally embrace this idea of you interviewing their dates.  There was some pushback along the way.  They didn't jump up and down and say, "Oh, gee, I’m so excited.  Daddy's going to be interviewing my dates again," right?

Dennis: Well, you know, it was interesting, Bob, with Rebecca, she pushed back probably the most on us interviewing her dates and yet as she became a young adult, it's like it was really a good thing. 

 And with Ashley, our oldest daughter, I'd prepared her, I thought I had her in great shape, and I thought she thoroughly enjoyed me interviewing her dates, and then we sat down with her …

Bob: Yeah, we talked to her not long ago, and we asked her, "Was this something that you were positive about?  Did you like having your dad interviewing your dates?"  And here is what she told us.

Ashley: Was I thrilled about the process?  Probably not.  I mean, I don't remember sitting down with my dad and him saying, "Okay, I'm going to interview all your dates now," but, at the same time, it just started happening, and I think I'm sure I felt like it was not that fun, and that I was not real thrilled.

 Again, it goes back to because a lot of the guys didn't ask me out again, and that was frustrating because, I mean, not all of your popularity is tied up in being asked out, but a lot of your sense of who's who and does anybody like you is wrapped up a lot of that in relationships when you're in junior high and high school.  And so when people don't ask you out again, word travels pretty quick, and people don't really – a lot of the guys are not eager to go through that.

Bob: She did not like the fact that you were putting a little crimp on her dating life.

Dennis: You know, truthfully, until she shared that, I kind of thought Ashley enjoyed me interviewing her dates.  So I think it's okay.  I think it's okay that it crimped her style a bit.  It probably kept some young men who didn't need to date her in the first place away from her.

Bob: You knew Rebecca wasn't all that thrilled with it.  In fact, when we had her as a guest on FamilyLife Today a number of years ago, she talked about how things like this that were a part of your parenting, she felt – well, I'll let her explain how she felt.  This is classic.

Dennis: Rebecca really was in the midst of peer pressure, and she was so surrounded that on more than one occasion she would come to us in tears, and she would compare herself to what, Rebecca?

Rebecca: [laughing] It's so cheesy now.

Dennis: It is cheesy, but …

Rebecca: But it fit perfectly.

Dennis: It did, and it was so real at the time.  She was – I mean, I felt her pain, Bob.

Rebecca: Whatever.

Bob: This would have been when you were 15 or 16?

Dennis: About 14, 15.

Rebecca: Fourteen, 15 …

Dennis: And 16, 17.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I compared myself to a caged bird [giggles].

Bob: A caged bird trapped, imprisoned.

Rebecca: And they had thrown the key away.

Dennis: So we heard that speech, Bob.

Bob: The "caged bird" speech?

Dennis: Actually, it wasn't a speech, it was a dramatic monologue.

Rebecca: A monologue.

Dennis: And it was dramatic.  I mean …  [in a whiney voice] I just feel trapped.  All my friends are free, and I just can't do anything.

Bob: And this was child number 4 who had given you the same routine.

Dennis: Oh, yeah, you begin to hear the same story, but she had refined it to a new level.

[musical transition]

Dennis: I love that story, because, you know, these teenagers, they all go to the same training camp.  There is some training camp in high school somewhere where they all go to, they all get these lines, and they all push back, and it's one of the advantages of having six kids.  By the time you get to the fourth and fifth one, you've heard it all so many times you're like, "Oh, give me a break."

Bob: So when Rebecca would come and say, "So-and-so asked me to go out next week to the dance," or "A bunch of people are coming over, can I go?"  What would you say?

Dennis: I'd say, "Yeah, I just want to meet the young man, and I need to have a little talk with him."

Bob: [in a little voice] Daddy, do we have to go through this again?

Dennis: Yeah, exactly.

Bob: You know him, you know his family, he's a good young man.

Dennis: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.  You know, we've sat here many times on FamilyLife Today where life and truth collide.

Bob: It's not really going to be a date, you know, it's a group …

Dennis: Where life and truth collide, there is where convictions need to reside.  And you know who needs convictions?  Parents!  Get it, parents!  Anybody home?  We've got to have convictions, because if we don't, the teens will open the caged bird, and they will and they will throw the keys away, I promise you, no doubt about it.

Bob: Well, if a parent is going to be ready for that kind of engagement, they ought to get a copy of your book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date."  We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  In fact, something brand new – we've got the audiobook available, and you guys did a great job on this.  You, along with the team that put this together, this is a lot of fun to listen to, and there are probably some dads who would rather listen than read, although your book is an easy book to read.

 Now dads have a choice.  They can listen, they can read, they can do both, if they'd like.  We've got both the book and the audiobook in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Go to our website,  There's a red button you see on the home page that says, "Go."  If you click that button, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about the book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," or about the audiobook.

 Again, go online at  Click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you to the area of the site where you need to be, or you can call 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY – 1-800-FLTODAY – and we can make arrangements to have either or both of those resources sent to you.

 You can also order quantities of this book at a discounted price, if you'd like, so if you're interested in that, either give us a call or the information is online at

 Anytime we talk on our program on the subject of conflict in marriage, we always get a great response from listeners, which just goes to show that all of us struggle with conflict in marriage.  It's a reality for every marriage.  If you don't have conflict, you have to check your pulse, because it's normal, it's natural, for two sinners who live together to experience conflict from time to time.

 These interviews we did a few weeks ago with Tim and Joy Downs on the seven conflicts of marriage – we got a lot of response from many of you, and we though the material was so helpful, that we wanted to make it available this week to any of our listeners who can help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Because our program is listener-supported, donations to this ministry are vital for us to continue on this station and on other stations all around the country.  So we wanted to come and ask if you would consider making a donation this week to FamilyLife Today, and if you'd like to receive this two-CD set on conflict in marriage featuring Tim and Joy Downs, we'd love to send it to you as a thank you gift for your financial support.

 You can donate online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation.  If you are donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "seven," and that way we'll know that you'd like to have the two CDs sent to you that deal with marriage conflict.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and just mention that you'd like the CDs on conflict and, again, we're happy to send them out to you.

 We want to say thanks in advance for your financial support of this ministry.  We appreciate your partnership with us, and we always are glad to hear from you.

 Now, tomorrow we're going to hear a bit of the audiobook that I talked about earlier.  We're going to hear a section where we get to listen in on what the first interview Dennis Rainey did with one of his daugher's prospective suitors; hear what that might have sounded like.  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'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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