My oldest child is almost 14-years-old. I'm not sure how that happened, but the reality is that Caroline is now much closer to going to college than she is to diapers.
I have to face the fact that she is a teenager. By the grace of God, she does not fit the stereotype of the typical moody and disrespectful teen. Actually, I think many teens act that way because parents expect them to do so.
One aspect of teen life in the USA is dating. This is almost universal in our country. Despite this, Alice and I refuse to just accept this societal norm without thinking through its ramifications.
We have searched the bible to see if we can find dating anywhere. We cannot. In fact, what we see is the parents arranging the marriages of their children. Jesus grew up in that culture. He never said anything against the arrangement of marriages whatsoever. He did make clear, however, that once a person is married, that marriage should be permanent.
Interestingly, when we lived in India we met many young people who thought that their parents should arrange their marriages. They thought this because they realized that their parents had been married for a while, had experience in marriage, and would make a wise choice. The divorce rate in India is far lower than it is in the USA; part of that has to do with the arrangement of the marriages.
Alice and I have looked at what dating has wrought upon our culture in America. The best way to put it is that it has provided practice for divorce. Many teens go through multiple relationships relatively quickly. Furthermore, teens continue to engage in pre-marital sex at an alarming rate, in large part because of dating. I see little difference in the behaviors of Christian and non-Christian teens in this area. Most teens who engage in sex do not end up marrying the person they were dating when this happened. Their breakup (if they were even together in a non-physical way) sets them up for later divorce.
What option is there today? I think the bible gives us an excellent answer for that. In the bible we read about a betrothal period that took place prior to marriage. That model could be used today like this: it would begin with the parents meeting regularly to talk things over. I would hope that the young man and woman would be given the opportunity to meet each other, and be given veto power over the marriage if their proposed spouse seems like a real dud to them. Assuming all parties are in agreement, the young man would then begin to court his future bride. This would occur with supervision so that they would not be placed in tempting situations. After a time of courting, they would then enter the actual betrothal period, which is much more serious than just a regular modern engagement.
During the betrothal period in the bible, the young woman would go to live in the home of the young man and his parents. This may have been exactly what was going on at the time Mary (the mother of Jesus) became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because things are so different in our culture, I doubt that we would have our daughters go to live in the home of their future spouses. However, I would make every effort to have our children, during betrothal, get to be with their future spouses during all different kinds of situations.
The purpose of all this is to honor God by setting our children up for the best marriages possible. Courtship and betrothal do this. Dating does not.
Of course, if all else fails, I could always get a trunk monkey (ha-ha)...