FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Preparing Your Daughter for Dating

with Dennis Rainey | March 22, 2011
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Does your daughter know what to expect from a young man she's dating? Does she know what to do, or not do, on a date? Today on the broadcast, FamilyLife President, Dennis Rainey, tells fathers how he prepared his own daughters for the young men who would come courting.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Does your daughter know what to expect from a young man she's dating? Does she know what to do, or not do, on a date? Today on the broadcast, FamilyLife President, Dennis Rainey, tells fathers how he prepared his own daughters for the young men who would come courting.

  • 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.

Does your daughter know what to expect from a young man she’s dating?

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Preparing Your Daughter for Dating

With Dennis Rainey
March 22, 2011
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Bob:  Every little girl dreams of the day that her prince will come knocking at her door.

Girl:  Once there was a princess.

Man:  Was the princess you?

Girl:  And she fell I love.

Man:  Was it hard to do?

Girl:  It was very easy!

Man:  Was he strong and handsome?

Man:  Was he big and tall?

Girl:  There's nobody like him anywhere at all.

Bob:  And every wise father knows it's not going to happen exactly like that.

[doorbell rings]

Boy:  What's up?  I like your daughter a lot.

Girl:  [singing] Someday my prince will come …

Boy:  Dude, your daughter's, like, hot.

[doorbell rings]

Girl:  [singing] And the birds will sing …

Boy:  Define “touch.”

Girl:  And wedding bells will ring …

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 22nd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Dad, we need to talk, because there’s a young man who is about to show up at your door wanting to take your daughter out, and you’d better know what to do when the doorbell rings.

Girl:  And the birds will sing and wedding bells will ring …


Girl: Someday when my dreams come true.

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  I have a very distinct memory of when my daughter was three or four years old, and she would come, and she'd climb up in my lap …

Dennis: You're talking about Amy.

Bob:  I’m talking about Amy.  Or, I did this with Katy, too.  The girls would come, and they'd climb up in my lap, and we'd cuddle, we'd hug, and then I would say, "You know what, sweetheart, someday when you're older, a boy is going to want to take you on a date."  And she'd look up at me and go, "Huh?"  She doesn't know what a date means; she's three years old, right? 

And I'd go, "And when he does, he's going to have to talk to your daddy first, isn't he?"  She'd go, "Yes, he is."  At age two or three, I was making sure that they understood what was ahead for them, even if they couldn't understand the words we were talking about, do you know what I mean?

Dennis:  I do, and I think you're really leading with an important principle there, and that is if you're going to be able to love, lead, protect, and guide your children when they're teenagers, especially your daughters, that means you need to do the work when they're younger to build a relationship with them and also create the expectation that as they move into these perilous years called the teenage years, you're going to be there. You're not just going to be a fixture, a disinterested fixture in their lives.  You are going to be involved, and you're going to be checking out these guys, and you're going to be doing some interviewing of the boys who want to take your daughter out.

Bob: This is something you feel pretty strongly about.  In fact, you've  written a book called Interviewing Your Daughter's Date, that is a pretty quick, easy-to-read book for men and for women to kind of give guys, particularly, a heads-up on how to be a dad when some young man comes knocking around your door and saying, "Uh, is your daughter home?  Uh, can I see her?"

Dennis:  He probably won't talk that clearly.  He'll probably stutter, stammer, and be a little nervous about the whole deal.  I don't know that there is a dad alive when they place that first little girl in your arms, who is ready for the assignment of being her protector, her guardian, and the lover of her soul until she's old enough to be handed off to a young man at the altar.  I don't think there's a guy who has the foggiest idea of all the choices that are before him, as a man and as a father, to really help guide and protect that little girl as she grows up. 

I wrote the book to help dads begin the process of knowing how to connect to their daughter's hearts and build that bridge into their lives so that when that day comes that you described with Amy, when a young man comes knocking at the door, she'll know what to expect, and you'll know what to do, because you promised her you're going to be involved in her life.

Bob: I want you to think about a dad who might have a two-year-old or a three-year-old, or a six- or a seven-year-old, somebody who is still in elementary school or younger, and they're thinking, "Okay, I hear you, and when the time comes, I'll be ready."  But my question is, aren't there some things they ought to be doing now so that they're not just waiting for the time to come?

Dennis:  Absolutely.  I think a dad must use this time, these younger years, as you're describing, Bob, to build a relationship with his daughter and, for that matter, with his sons as well.  If you don't have a relationship with your child, you're not going to be able to perform your duties and responsibilities as a dad if you aren't connected to her heart. 

For me, as a dad, one of the ways I did that was I took my daughters on dates.  Now, I dated my sons, too, but we went to the deer woods, and we went fishing and to sporting events.  For my daughters, it was usually dating, and as they got a little older, I'd take them hunting for clothing.


Bob: A different kind of hunting.

Dennis:  That's right.  But when our daughters were little, I remember some great dates where I'd pull up in front of the house, and I'd walk up to the house and Barbara would come.  She'd be prepped about this whole deal, and I'd take Ashley out or Rebecca or Deborah or Laura and I'd spoil them.  We'd have chocolate milk and chocolate pudding and chocolate pie and chocolate ice cream and …

Bob: And get a chocolate milk shake on the way home.

Dennis:  That's right, and laugh about what Mom would say about the whole deal as we did it.  You may not think this has anything to do with interviewing their dates later, but that's a mistake.  What these dates are doing and being connected and involved in their lives does, is it builds a bridge from your heart to their heart.  I can tell you, those dates still remain some of the greatest memories. 

But then as our daughters got older, you have to be careful, as they get older, that you don't allow them to push you out of their lives and, at that point, stop pursuing them and stop taking them on dates and become afraid of them because they grow up, and they mature.

Well, those are times when you need to pursue your daughter and have a date.  You need to be opening the door for her, pulling the chair out, treating her with courtesies, talking about what she should expect from a young man who dates her, and then just as you did with your daughters when they were little, start talking to them about, you know, "When you get old enough to go on a date, it's going to be good. 

I want you to know, as a dad, because I love you just like I love you right now, and I'm taking you on this date, I want to be able to talk to that young man.  You can expect me, as a father, to want to talk to him and just have a little conversation with him to make sure he's the right guy, to make sure he has the right standards, to make sure that he's going to care for you properly just as your daddy has.  Isn't that a good idea, sweetheart?"  And, of course, they're going to nod their heads when they're little. 

Bob:  Sure.

Dennis:  It's when they get older …

Bob:  … they're not so sure …

Dennis:  … they're not so sure about it.

Bob: When a child is five or six, and daddy says that, yes, that makes all the sense in the world.  I think what you're saying is those chocolate milk dates you take a child on in those early years, when they do get older, and when they start to feel some resistance to what they want, there's a cognitive dissonance in the mind of a child, because the child is thinking, "It seems like my parents are against me, but this is same guy who used to take me on chocolate milk dates. Now, what do I do with that as a teenager?  Has my dad changed?  Did he use to like me and now he doesn't?” 

They don't wrestle with this consciously, but in the subconscious mind, they know dad loves me, dad cares about me, I know it from all those chocolate milk dates.  I don't like what he's saying, but they've got to do something with the fact that they know it's coming from a heart of love.

Dennis:  I want to tell two quick stories about my daughter Ashley that really illustrate this.  When she was seven years old, I asked her one time, I said, "Ashley, what communicates love to you?"  She thought a little bit, and she thought, "Well, it's when you take me out on a date; secondly, it's when you spend time with me, and, third," she said, "is when I know you pray for me," as a little girl. 

I want you to know, as a father and a daughter, Ashley and I had some sweet, sweet times, but that seven-year-old grew up.  I can remember when she turned 13, 14 years of age, she wasn't making great grades, she wasn't real athletic, and she was going through puberty and wasn't developed yet fully, and …

Bob:  It was a tough time of life.

Dennis:  It was just really hard, and she was asking the question, "Does anybody like me, because I don't like myself."

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  It was in that time when I came to her, and Barbara came to her and said, "You know what?  We like you."   It was also during this time, Bob, that we couldn't tell her anything.  She pushed back about everything we said, and she didn't even believe us when we told her that we liked her, but it's during those times that the relationship, heart-to-heart, that bridge that I'm talking about, gets built.  You don't give up on them when they begin moving into the teenage years.  When they push you out, you do not let them succeed.

They’re going to do two things, I just want you to know as a dad and as a mom of a teenager.  They’re going to try to push you out of their lives, or secondly, they’re going to try to pull you into the emotional mud puddle.   You don’t want to be out, and you don’t want to be in.  You want to be in their corner, pulling for them.

I’ll never forget when Rebecca was a teenager, and I’ve shared this story on FamilyLife Today I know more than once, but she was 15 or 16 and she was pushing us out and she was also trying to pull us into the mud puddle, and guys were the issue.  We were talking to her about “You know, Dad’s going to interview these guys before you go out on a date.” 

I’ll never forget this conversation.  We were upstairs in our bedroom, and I think we were actually sitting on the bed, or maybe sprawled out on the bed.  You know, a lot of the best conversations with a teenager occur at the very latest hour of the day when you’re nearly comatose. 

But I pointed to the bed and I said, “Rebecca, it’s as though you’re in that corner and you’re putting us in that corner,” and I pointed at one corner of the bed and then all the way across the bed to the other corner.  I said, “It’s like a boxing ring.  You think we’re in one corner and we’re in the other and we’re at war against one another.  I want you to know, Rebecca, I’m not in the opposite corner.  I’m in your corner.  Your mom and I love you.”

And, you know, I can't tell you, Bob, how exhausting those conversations were.  I grew so weary of dealing with teenage insecurities as a father, and Barbara did, too, and we wondered, "Are any of our messages getting through?"

We worked on building those relationships, but if you don't have the relationship in place, you're going to find it very difficult to be able to convince your teenager of anything let along be able to speak truth into her life.  Then when it comes time to intersect her life, when she wants to go out on a date with the opposite sex, with a boy that maybe she shouldn't be going out with, I'm going to tell you something, if you don't have a relationship with her, it's going to be very difficult for you to say to her, "You know, sweetheart, you shouldn't go out with him.  This is not a young man that you need to be going out with."

Now, we played some of those cards.  We said some of those things to our teenage daughters, and I'm going to tell you, we were not popular.  But because we had the relationship, the relationship will weather the storm, and you can endure.  It's why the relationship needs to be built all the way through from when they're toddlers and preschoolers and elementary to junior high, and then into the teenage years.  You've got to pursue your teenage daughter.

Bob: Our daughter Amy is our oldest child, and I remember when she was in 9th grade, she went to spend the night at a friend's house, and the next day she came home, and I said, "What did you guys do last night?"  She started telling me what they had done and included in what they had done, they had gone out and spent some time at a park in the neighborhood.  I said, "Well, what time did you guys get back home?"  And she said, "Oh, around midnight."

Now, the alarm bells went off in my head.  Midnight?  She's in the 9th grade.  You shouldn't be out in a park at midnight in the 9th grade.  Where were these parents?  They weren't paying attention.  What was going on here?  And, all of a sudden, it dawned on both Mary Ann and me -- we had never had a conversation with Amy about curfew, because we'd never had an issue about curfew.  It had just never come up.

So when Amy said she was out to this park until midnight, I said, "Well, honey, we don't want you being out in a park until midnight."  "Well, why not?"  All of a sudden, here we were in the 9th grade in the middle of it introducing a new subject, a new restriction that she had heard nothing about for the first 15 years of her life because we'd never brought it up.

It taught me an important principle, and that is you don't wait until these issues pop up to begin to address them with your children.  All the way through those younger years, you've got to be laying the groundwork for what's ahead for you and that child so that when it happens, they know what the family standards and the family rules are.

And that applies to things like what's going to happen around the subject of dating or boys or what's going to happen if a young man does want to take you out.  How old do you have to be for that to happen?  And can it happen?  And when can it happen?  And what happens when it happens, you know?

Dennis:  And what's the process that's going to happen here at our house, because we're the parents?  You're the young people, and you're growing up here, and you've been given to us as a responsibility to care for.  All we're talking about here means that a parent needs to have that relationship with his or her daughter before these issues become a reality.

Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 1 admonishes fathers.  It says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger."  One of the things that makes our children angry is when they do not feel like they have heart share, where they have a share of their father's heart, where they have a relationship with their father. 

The easiest thing for us to do, as dads, is to give them gifts and stuff and just take them places, but, bottom line, the way you build a relationship is you accept them, you communicate that acceptance with your words, through verbal affirmation.  You stay involved in their lives as they face issues, and you let them fail, and you kneel down with them as they fail, and you help them pick up the pieces, and you comfort them just like you need comfort when you fail.  And then you get busy all the way through, building memories, investing in the stock of your relationship with your daughter. 

Memories, I believe, are the real collateral of a relationship with our daughters.  I'm speaking in male terminology here to dads, because dads, if we're going to interview our daughter's dates, we've got to have some of those shared memories so we can go to the bank on the relationship and put our arms around our daughter and say, "You know, I'm going to need to interview that young man before you go out on a date."

"Well, what are you going to say, Dad?"  "Well, we'll talk about that, honey, but I can promise you, I’m looking out for your best interests, just like I always have."

Bob:  I have a particular dad in mind, a dad who is not sure he can pull this off because of what's happened in his relationship with his daughter in the past, but before I ask you about that, let me let our listeners know how they can get a copy of your new book. 

It's called Interviewing Your Daughter's Date, and, in fact, one of the things we're hoping is that our listeners will not only call and get a single copy of this book, but we would like to see some dads -- maybe business owners or guys who are on the PTA at a school, guys who would step up and say, "I'm not just going to get one copy.  I'm going to get multiple copies of this book, because I think this needs to be passed around among the dads in our youth group or among the dads at the school where our kids go.

I think we need to create a culture where this is not abnormal, but this is normal.  So we have made multiple copies of the book available at a discounted price, and if you'd like more information on either getting a single copy for yourself or a whole box of books to pass around, go to our website,, to place your order.  Or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, and we’ll make arrangements to get the books that you’d like sent out to you. 

Again, the website, 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,” and again, we’ll make arrangements to get what you’re looking for sent to you.

I should also mention that this week, for those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation to help keep us on this station and on our network of stations all across the country, we are making available as a thank you gift the audio book of Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. 

So if you’d like to get a copy of that, make a donation online at, type the word ‘DATE’ into the key code box when you make your online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone, and just ask for the audio book of Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date and we’ll send that out to you. 

Let me just say how much we appreciate your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We could not do what we do without your support, and we’re grateful for your partnership with us. 

Now, back to what we were talking about here just a minute ago.  As we’ve been talking about this idea of interviewing your daughter’s dates and today talking about the importance of having a relationship established with your daughter and communicating the family values ahead of time so that this does not take her by surprise when the time comes.  I’ve been thinking about dads I know who would say, “You know, I didn’t do all that.  I have a daughter who is 15 –

Dennis:  Or 17, or 18.

Bob:  -- and I wasn’t there, and I didn’t take them out for chocolate milk dates, and now life is kind of spinning and when I try to step back in, it’s like I have no platform to stand on.  Is there anything I can do?”

Dennis:  Absolutely.  Christianity is really all about second chances, and God fortunately forgave us and is in the process of continuing to forgive us when we fail because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  And what we have to do is say, "You know what?  Maybe I wasn't there as I needed to be, but now is a fresh day, and today is an opportunity that I have to begin to build that bridge into my daughter's heart," and maybe to go to her and perhaps ask for forgiveness for not doing some of that earlier.

But then say, "You know what?  Regardless of what the past has, I'm going to attempt to be the father you need me to be.”  Now, if your daughter is teachable, and there are a number of teenagers who are very teachable and don't go through a deep rebellion toward their parents.  Well, you're probably in good shape. 

But if your daughter really pushes back, really gets angry, really rebels or is in a current state of rebellion, you've got your work cut out for you to be able to, first of all, pursue her relationally and go after her heart.  See how you can win her and how you can love her, to communicate to her, “I not only want a relationship with you, but you know what?  I want to be your guardian.  I want to be your protector.  I want to be the man you need me to be so you don't make one of the biggest mistakes you've ever made in your life.”

And, you know, this is not an exact science.  We're talking about dealing with a teenager here.

Bob:  Yeah, we can't guarantee the results, can we?

Dennis:  We can't, we really can't.  They may continue to rebel, and you may feel like you're about to lose them, but some of that, Bob, I determined as -- we were raising teenagers who weren't always perfect.  In those moments of rebellion, what they're doing as teenagers is they're asking you to prove that you really do love them enough to put up with their antics that they don't even believe. 

I mean, it's interesting now to go back to our adult children and say, "You know when you used to pitch a fit?  What were you thinking?"  They'll smile with a little sly grin, and they'll say, "I didn't really believe it, either."  And it was, like, "You rascal."

Bob:  That's right, "Why did you put me through all of that?"

Dennis:  "Why did you do that to me?"  But almost to a child, they all played that card with us because they knew it set us, as parents, back on our heels and put us in a defensive posture.  As parents, you need to realize God's given us the privilege and the responsibility, and I have to say after having interviewed about  35 or 40 young men, because I had four daughters who dated a good bit.  I have to say that one of the greatest privileges God gave me was, as a dad, being able to invite a young man to step out back on the back porch with me and look him in the eye and have a heart-to-heart talk with him about what I believe are some of life's weightiest matters. 

And, you know, every once in a while I'd look through the window back into the house, and I'd see my teenage daughter sneaking a peek, to see if the guy had fainted, I guess.  But, actually, I can say to you almost unequivocally, even though there were times when they didn't like it, all of them felt the protective care of a father's heart, and that's what you want your daughter to feel.  You want them to feel that bridge of love from your heart to theirs, and you need them to know that “I'm going to be your daddy no matter what.”

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