FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Dating Years–She Needs You!

with Dennis Rainey | March 21, 2011
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The dating years can be brimming with heartbreak, confusion, and uncertainty. All this week, Dennis Rainey, a father of six children, including four girls, tells fathers why they have to be proactive during these challenging years of a young woman's life.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • The dating years can be brimming with heartbreak, confusion, and uncertainty. All this week, Dennis Rainey, a father of six children, including four girls, tells fathers why they have to be proactive during these challenging years of a young woman's life.

  • 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.

The dating years can be brimming with heartbreak, confusion, and uncertainty.

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The Dating Years–She Needs You!

With Dennis Rainey
March 21, 2011
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Bob:  This is the time of year when a lot of school students start making plans for the big upcoming senior prom, or spring formal, or whatever the dance is called at your child’s school.  Now, if you are a dad and you have a daughter, listen carefully—Dennis Rainey has an assignment for you, and it involves interviewing your daughter’s date.

Dennis:  We have to work against the voices that we hear whispering in our ears, or sometimes shouting in our ears, saying, “You can’t do this.  You don’t have a right to do this.  You are just a parent.  You are not a professional.  You don’t know how to handle it.” 

I want to tell you something, having done this more than 30 times, by the time we finish, we have to walk out shoulder to shoulder.  It was like, “You know what, that wasn’t so bad.”

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 21st.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  Dad, are you ready to take on the assignment of interviewing the young man who wants to take your daughter to the spring formal or the senior prom? 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I was at the bookstore the other day and saw a bunch of teenagers in the bookstore.  You know what they were doing, don’t you? 

Dennis:  Were they boycotting the bookstore?

Bob:  No.  They were inside the bookstore.  They were over at the display where your book has come out.  They were actually turning the books so that they would face backwards so parents could not see the titles of the book or else they were hiding them over in the bargain book section—just doing whatever they can to get rid of this book.

Dennis:  Yes.  It is likely there were Christian kids doing that, too. 

Bob:  There is a movement.  You are a rabble-rouser!  You are a trouble maker with this book of yours!

Dennis:  No.  I am not either.  I am one who is attempting to give courage to dads and moms all across the country to protect their sons and daughters as they move into the dating arena. 

Bob:  Yes, but the sons and the daughters are saying, “We don’t want this much protection.  [laughter]  We want a little more freedom than you are willing to give us.” 

Dennis:  Yes.  No doubt about it; but you know what, every generation before them has pushed back.  That shouldn’t keep us from being engaged as moms and dads in this whole process.

Bob:  You pushed back a little yourself when you were going through it, didn't you? 

Dennis:  I did, Bob; but when I had taken a young lady out, I wished there had been a dad there who would have said, “Young man, come back here to the back room with me for just a few moments.  I have a few questions for you.”

Bob:  You wish that now.  You didn’t wish it when you were 17.

Dennis:  I never had the thought when I was 17.  I mean, you are totally self absorbed.  Anything like that would have derailed the train.  I am thinking that now as a dad.  I think it is one of the most important things I have ever done as a dad for my daughters and, for that matter, for the young men who dated my daughters.

Bob:  You have put the thoughts related to this in a book called Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date.  Your goal with this is to rally some husbands, some fathers, and some moms to be a little more involved in what is going on with their teenagers, right? 

Dennis:  Bob, I wrote this book—let me just tell you personally why I wrote it.  I wrote it because nothing I have done as a daddy, as I have protected my daughters, has left me as satisfied as when I have walked off our back porch, having talked to a young man who just wanted to take my daughter out to get a Coke but who needed to talk to me first and have a little heart-to-heart about the value of my daughter and understand how important she was to me, and her dignity as a young lady, and how I wanted him to respect that.

Bob:  You are having fun just even remembering....

Dennis:  I am just telling you, one of my regrets on this whole deal—I have to tell you is that I did not have t-shirts made that said, “I survived Mr. Rainey’s interview.” 


Truthfully, these young men who came to our home—I suppose somewhere between 30 and 40 of them—I had four daughters.  By the way, I had some young men who called me up and said, “Mr. Rainey, I don’t want to take any of your daughters out, but I would like the interview.”

Bob:  Really?

Dennis:  Oh, yes.  We had young men who said, “I just feel the need to talk to an older man about this thing.  You know what, I don’t want to take your daughter out to do it.  Would you sit down and interview me?”  Yes, there were a handful of guys who did that.  I actually had some sons who brought their dads.  I had some young men who brought their brothers.  Oh, yes, it was a cool deal. 

I began to experience around this, Bob, is that there is a generation of young men today who know in their chest that they need to step up as young men.  In order to do that, they have to have an older man step up in front of them to reach down and say, “Come on, it is okay up here; but let me talk to you straight about what it means to be a young man and how you care for a young lady,  

I put these experiences down in a very short book that is about 100 pages long.  Basically, I wanted it to be big print so the guys would read it.  They could read it in an hour, hour and a half, and it would really do three things, Bob. 

Number one, it would appeal to a man's chest, to his heart, to give him the courage to go do what every man knows he needs to go do.  In fact, let me just read something as I begin the book, because I think men are like this -- I say, "There was a day that doesn't seem too long ago when this dating stuff was the furthest thing from her mind.  Back when her only plans for Saturday night were for us to run barefoot together in the mowed grass and playing freeze tag and catching fireflies.  But now it's turned out I wasn't the only one who would discover how much fun she is to be around."

So I write a little bit later on in that same chapter, "Dads, what I'm calling you to do is to give your daughter the same strength that once kept you treading water at the base of a diving board; the same sense of protection that kept your hand on the back of her bicycle seat; the same love that pulled her toward you when her friends were mean-spirited, when her hopes were dashed, when life was big but to her you, as her daddy, were bigger."

And there's something about a man who is listening to me right now, Bob, who knows exactly what I'm talking about.  If you have a daughter, you know you have a little extra responsibility for her than you do for those sons of yours.  There's a certain sense with the sons where, you know, you tell them about the facts of life, you give them the boundaries, you give them the instruction, and then you've got to kind of push them out there and let them learn.

And, yes, you do seek to protect their innocence and guard them and guide them, but there is something different about a daddy's love for his daughter, something different about his protection of her.

Bob:  So you wrote this with those dads in mind just to say, "Come on, you can do this."

Dennis:  Yes.  I mean, this is not a guilt-producing book.  This is really a very quick read for guys to say, “You know what?  We're all in this thing together.  Just begin to pump this thought into the mind of your daughter, that as she gets old enough to date, you are going to be her daddy to protect her in this process, and you're going to want to talk to the young men who take her out.”

And there's a second thing, Bob, what I wanted to do in writing this book is I wanted to just give guys the basic skills.  You know, to give them the courage is one thing, but then guys, you can even see it in their eyes, they're going, "Dennis, I don't know what to say.  I'm not sure what to do.  What's the process?  How do you go about this?"

What I've found, Bob, as I've written about this is there are a lot more guys doing this around the country than we realize.  You and I were on a bus together with a bus driver in Virginia and I was talking about this book; and he said, "Oh, I interview my daughter's dates," and I think he even interviewed some of his god-daughter's dates.

And he talked about this checklist that he has, and he's come up with that he walks young men through before he lets them go out with his daughter.

Bob:  Didn't he say he checks their credit report?

Dennis:  We'll talk about this later in the series, Bob, when we give them the actual steps of interviewing, but, yes, he does a credit report -- not exactly like a credit union would do, but he checks out their reputation in the community, what the teachers say about him, the coaches, even calls their parents. 

This is a guy who, he and his wife run an inner city ministry, and he understands the statistics.  He knows the need there is within that community for strong young men of high character who stand for something.

And this book is designed to share skills -- skills that I've learned, skills that other men have practiced in how you go about talking to your daughter about this whole process of interviewing her dates and then actually how you sit down with a young men or a number of young men over a number of years and how you actually take them through the interview.

Bob:  You know, you introduced this subject, and a lot of us flash back to television shows we saw in the '50s or the '60s, reruns we've seen where there's a nervous young man on the couch, and there's a stern father with a pipe in his hand, and he goes, "Now, son," and we kind of think of it, "Well, this is something that happened a generation or two ago, but come on, this is the 21st Century we're in."

Dennis:  Yeah, and you know what?  That's exactly why I wrote the book, because we've reasoned and rationalized our way out of the picture so that our daughters and their dates end up going out without the natural boundaries that a daddy -- it's the “Daddy Factor” -- that he can provide in the dating relationship.

I'm going to tell you, I've found, as a result of talking to these guys, it does make a difference in how they think about our daughters.  And if there has ever been a time, if there has ever been an age, if there has ever been a generation of teenagers that needed the “Daddy Factor,” it's today. 

We've got MTV, we've got a generation of peer pressure and of lowered standards, almost to unbelievable levels, and the question is , “Who is going to raise the standard?  The youth pastor?”  “Well, he's doing all he can do.”  “Is it going to be church?”  “Well, the church isn't quite sure how to relate to the next generation.”

I think the person who is most gifted to do this and has been placed there by God with the responsibility to do this, is good ol' dad.  All he needs is a little heart and some skills and you know what?  You can do it.

Bob: The culture has changed, and I think you bring up a very valid point -- the standards, morality--are very different today than they were a generation or two ago.  This is a hooking-up culture, this is a pornography-over-the-internet culture, this is a highly-sexualized culture we live in. 

But the human heart hasn't changed that much, and what is in the human heart of a teenage boy, or for that matter, a teenage girl in our culture today is probably not that much different than it was a generation or two ago.  It is just like someone poured gasoline on the fire and said, “No limits; no boundaries.”  That is the era in which kids are growing up. 

Dennis:  Yes.  I think this is a generation of parents that is hungry to know how to combat this combustible experiment we are talking about here when the opposite sexes get together in this sexually-energized, compressed culture that we live in.  Yet, as I mentioned earlier, they don’t know how to engage.  Just at the time when our teenagers need us to be pressing in, they end up pushing us out. 


What a lot of parents are doing is—they are letting their teenagers push them out of their lives in an era when, frankly, if they knew what was best for them, which they don’t, but if they did know what was best for them, they would be inviting their parents into this area of their lives because they are immature emotionally; spiritually they are growing up—they may even be in church and know what is right—but they still are not ready to make many of these choices. 

That is why as parents, we need to be careful not to wait for our teenagers to invite us in.  Instead, we have to have the courage to step into our kids’ lives when they have both hands up, pushing us out, saying, “No, no, no, no, no!  You are going to make me look weird; you are going to make me look strange.  I am going to be the outcast of the school.  This is going to be horrible for me!” 

I have probably heard every excuse you can imagine from our four daughters.  They didn’t always appreciate it.  The question is, “How else are you going to really protect your daughters as they begin this dating adventure?” 

Bob:  The challenge is that it seems so countercultural today that your teenagers are saying, "I don't want to be as weird as you're asking me to be," and, frankly, I think there are some parents who are saying, "I'm not sure I want to be that weird, and I'm, frankly, kind of nervous having the young man come over and sit down.  He doesn't want to, and I don't want to, so let's just move on."

Dennis:  You know, the easiest thing to do today, Bob, is nothing.  There is no resistance against doing nothing.  It's the easiest thing to do.  It's what we see a lot of parents doing, and it's why we have, as a result, a whole generation of young people who have sexually- transmitted diseases.  They're experiencing sex before marriage, which is not how God intended it, and so they're going to carry that baggage into their marriages and their families, and they're going to feel disqualified that they can't speak about it with their children, and so we're perpetuating a problem.

I think what has to happen right now is we have to work against the voices that we hear whispering in our ears or sometimes shouting in our ears to say, "You can't do this.  You don't have a right to do this.  You're just a parent.  You're not a professional.  You don't know how to handle it."

Well, I want to tell you something -- having done this more than 30 times, I want you to know I was always nervous.  I never knew exactly what I was going to say before I sat down, even though I had an eight-point checklist that I talk about in this book.  But every one of those young men was different, and I treated them with respect and with dignity and also treated them differently.  I sought to connect with them relationally.

But I have to tell you, at the end of the interview, every time, by the time we'd finished, even though at a point in the conversation, the young man could not look me in the eye.  I mean, it was tough, because we're talking about gritty stuff older man to younger man, stuff that younger men need to hear from older men, even though they had lost eye contact at a point in the conversation, when we walked out, we kind of walked out shoulder-to-shoulder.  Both kind of pumped up with our muscles and adrenaline flowing, and it was, like, “That wasn't so bad.  I did that.  I survived that.  You know what, and, yeah, when I become a daddy, I might just do that with a young man who will want to take my daughter out.”

That's coming a long ways from being scared to death, going out on the back porch with me; but it happened, Bob, and it happened over and over again.  And the interesting thing is today, and I know I'm speaking to a bunch of parents who have a hard time believing me, but this week you're going to hear some audio from my daughters who are now in their 20s.  They are on the other side of the teenage years, and one of my daughters that you'll hear from is married, the other one isn't married.

And you're going to hear how they view this thing and how they viewed it as they were growing up and what they were thinking about as I interviewed those young men on the back porch.

Bob:  Some of our listeners are wondering why we're even talking about this subject because we've interviewed Joshua Harris, who wrote the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  What were your daughters doing dating in the first place, you know?  I mean, why were you letting them go out with boys?

Dennis:  Well, they didn't date much.  In fact …

Bob:  You had them read that book, didn't you?

Dennis:  I did.  I thought that was a great book and, frankly, the older we got and the more teenagers we raised, really, the less attraction dating had for our sons and daughters.  But the reality is, no matter how much sense it makes to us, more than likely, some way or another, they're going to date.  They're going to figure out a way to get with the opposite sex, and the key thing is if they're going to do that, then you know what?  I'm going to have a talk with the young man.  I want to be able to interact with him.  I want to be able to look eyeball-to-eyeball and let him know that you know what? 

My daughter, Laura, is special.  I expect him to treat her as a quality woman, and that she's not just another young lady, she is a young lady made in the image of God.  I'm counting on him to take good care of her, because I've been working for the past -- well, with Laura, over 22 years taking care of her, and I expect him to do the same, whether he goes out with her one time or whether he takes her out for 50 times.

I go on to spell out what that looks like in terms of taking care of her, and, I promise you, it's more than just opening the door for her or sliding out a chair.

Bob:  Well, we did have an opportunity a few weeks ago, when your daughter, Laura, was in town, we asked her to come in, and we just wanted the straight scoop from her about what she thought of this whole procedure at her house, of having to bring boys by and get them interviewed by dad.  And you weren't here, you didn't get a chance to listen to her.  Did you even coach her?

Dennis:  No, no.

Bob:  This is just straight from …

Dennis:  I promise you, knowing Laura, this is the unvarnished truth.

Bob:  We asked her; we said, "What was it like when you were in high school and you knew, if you were going out with somebody, they had to go through your dad's interview?"

Laura:  Honestly, whenever I was younger in high school I thought it was stupid, "This is ridiculous," you know, I'd go back, “Blah blah blah,” because I wasn't, like, dating.  We didn't go out on—in high school you don't go out on dates very often.  You're either boyfriend and girlfriend, which my parents never really grasped that in high school.  Like, “You're going steady?  Did he give you your class ring, because that's what we did,” and I'm, like, "No," you know. 

So high school—it was just totally different, which I thought it was stupid but, at the same time, they were trying to protect me because the majority of high school relationships don't last, and you don't marry your high school sweetheart.  Yes, there are people that do marry their high school sweetheart; but most of the time, it doesn't happen. 

So for a high-schooler it is appropriate for the dad to step in and not necessarily put boundaries for their dating relationship but just kind of be a presence in their relationship.  I think that's what Dad was trying to do, and it's really for protection just because they don't really last.  I'm definitely not going to marry the guy I dated in high school.

Bob:  Just listening to that, she's a little wiser today than she was back in the midst of it.

Dennis:  Oh, my goodness, she was not easy to lead when she was a teenager in her junior and senior year.

Bob:  Did you interview some of her dates?

Dennis:  Oh, absolutely, every one of them.

Bob:  And was she excited to bring the boys by?

Dennis:  You know, every one of our daughters, because we started talking about it early on before they were even old enough to date, kind of understood, it didn't matter what their attitude was.  It was going to happen regardless, and so it was kind of like gravity, you know, it's there; it's going to happen …

Bob:  Deal with it.

Dennis:  Yeah, exactly.

Bob:  Do you think there were some guys who either didn't ask your daughters out or once they found out what the test was?

Dennis:  Oh, absolutely.

Bob:  Really?

Dennis:  Oh, it scared all kinds of undesirables away.  Our daughters, later on, told me, "Oh, Dad, you saved us enormous heartache by keeping the bad guys away." 

In fact, one of the clips we'll play later on is a clip from Ashley talking about how she called me from college and said, "Daddy, could you come over here to the University of Mississippi and interview some of these guys because, man, they don't cut it.  I mean, there are some real jerks over here."

Bob:  Well, and, you know, if a dad is going to be able to pull that off or even have his daughter call and want that to happen when she's in college, he's going to have to start early.  This is not something that you spring on your daughters when they turn 17 and have them go, "Oh, I was hoping you'd want to step in and do this."

You have to really build a family culture where this is a part of what's understood, and I think a great first step for a lot of dads is going to be to get a copy of your book, which is called Interviewing Your Daughter's Date.  If you would like to get a copy or if you would like to get multiple copies and pass them along to other dads you know, go to our website,  You can order copies from us online. 

Again, it is; or call 1-800- FL-TODAY (1-800-358-6329).  You can ask for a copy of the book by Dennis Rainey called Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date.  If you are interested in the audio book, this week we are making it available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. 

Go online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  Make your donation online and type the word, “DATE,” into the key code box or make your donation over the phone.  Just mention you would like the audio book of Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date.  That is our thank-you gift to you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. 

We appreciate your partnership with us and couldn’t do what we do if it weren’t for those donations.  Thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do in support of the ministry.  Again, if you would like a copy of the book, go online at to order it.  If you would like the audio book, make a donation online or give us a call and make a donation over the phone. 

Tomorrow we are going to talk more about the interview process—how you get ready for it; what you say.  We will kind of walk you through the whole thing.  I hope you can be with us. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey.  I am Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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