Elementary, Middle and High School Boy/Girl Relationships
Is it too soon to talk about boy/girl relationships in elementary school? Of course it is, you say! Well, you may not want to hear about it, or you may choose denial over reality, but the fact remains that children are playing out the cultural role that they are being taught as early as 2nd grade. Therefore, the relationship between boys and girls at every school (Christian and non- Christian) is a topic that needs to be discussed from a Biblical standpoint.
Recently I have observed an increase in the level of interaction between some of the boys and girls at the elementary school level with the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship in mind. There have been some phone calls made and notes passed, and yet nothing really serious has happened. Even so, the fallout from this kind of interest and behavior has been clearly seen, as some of the kids are rejecting others, breaking off friendships, and making “who likes whom” a focus of attention.
The pattern becomes more sophisticated as it continues in the middle school years and is in full bloom by the time the children hit high school. I would like to attempt to persuade you that the elementary level of “who likes whom,” and the middle school level of “who is going out with whom,” are not simply innocent and cute stages of life through which everyone must go. As informed Christians professing to glorify the Lord in all things, we need to see if any of this behavior brings glory to God and evaluate the effects of it on our kids.
A brief look at the teen dating model and its consequences will show that it is the world’s model, not Christ’s, that we are so accustomed to. Dating is more for a boy and a girl than just spending time together. It’s a lifestyle that involves attitudes and values. It’s a heart thing! Matthew 22:37 says, “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” The first love for our kids is to be Jesus. Our Creator’s plan for our lives is really what we should be directing our kids to focus on; the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever!
Romantic male-female relationships are designed by God to be special and singular. The world’s model of dating is one in which you try out many opportunities until you find the one that makes you happy. This type of dating results in a pattern of many broken hearts and bad memories – some of which are detrimental to the intimacy intended for marriage later in life.
Interestingly, even the non Christian world is beginning to realize that frequent dating is not healthy. The following are excerpts from an article in the September 8, 2005 Wall Street Journal1 that cites two studies not written from a Christian worldview but nonetheless conclude:
- Teens who date a lot don’t have a higher likelihood of developing healthy adult relationships. Instead, their romances in their 20s are likely to be more troubled.
- Teens who dated only one or a few people, and formed relationships of more than a few weeks, emerged in their 20s with closer and more-trusting romantic ties than those who had more numerous and fleeting dates.
- Unmarried teen girls who settled down with just one partner at 16 or 17- and were still unmarried at 21- are more likely to be eventually married by ages 22-25.
Many, including Christians and non Christians, think that dating is just part of the teenage experience. However, putting adolescent boys and girls together leads not only to the emotional experiences that often tear at our children’s hearts but also to sexual experimentation. Think back to your teen years: were you told by a boyfriend or girlfriend in your teen years that he/she loved you? Did he/she eventually marry you? Where did that relationship lead? God wants us to act and think differently. These are matters of the heart. Philippians 1:9-10 says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
The goal for most kids in boy/girl relationships is that they are primarily interested in what they are going to get out of the relationship. Sometimes popularity, comfort or pleasure is what a teen gains emotionally or physically. That’s not the kind of love that God would have us live out. That’s choosing what feels good for self rather than what is good for others and pleases God. Parents must be honest and Biblically discerning about the real motivation that lies behind the thoughts and actions of our children. Do love and sincerity motivate the boys in these relationships? Matthew 22:39 says, “And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
There is a great book on the subject entitled I Kissed Dating Goodbye, written by Joshua Harris. I have little space here, so I will make a few points and urge you to buy the book. The book is about waiting and preparation, and it debunks and rejects the typical idea of dating and applies a Biblical grid to it. You don’t have to agree with all of his points, but it would behoove you to take a good look at them. Josh Harris says, “Let’s not do what feels good, but instead do what is good.” He encourages us to look at all of the damage caused by typical worldly dating in the lives of teens and to replace that energy and time with a time of focused preparation for all of life, including preparing for the special relationship of marriage. The book challenges our teens to realize they have no business taking another person’s heart if they are not ready to make a lifelong commitment to that person. He says that if you really love someone, you’ll be interested in that special person’s long-term needs rather than your short-term desires. He exhorts the teen to look at the big picture: serving others and glorifying God. That way, the person is positioned to receive God’s best for them. God has something better for a teen than futile worldly dating!
I have two lists for you from the Josh Harris book that are without the further explanation that is needed, but due to lack of space, you’ll just have to get the book to learn more.
The seven habits of highly defective dating are:
- Dating leads to intimacy, but not necessarily commitment.
- Dating tends to skip the “friendship stage” of the relationship.
- Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
- Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
- Dating, in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
- Dating can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness.
- Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
If you are like me, you read those and said amen, I’ve done that before and amen, I see that over and over again. Now here is the refreshing Christian view – five important new attitudes:
- Every relationship is an opportunity to model Christ’s love.
- My unmarried years are a gift from God.
- Intimacy is the reward of commitment; I don’t need to pursue a romantic relationship before I am ready for marriage.
- I cannot “own” someone outside of marriage.
- I will avoid situations that could compromise the purity of my body or mind.
Some of you won’t agree. Some of you agree but are saying, “My child would never go for this.” You are absolutely right. If they have been trained by the world to think like a worldling, they will not want to kiss dating goodbye. But, you are the parent, so….. be the parent! I can’t tell you how often parents tell me what their child will or will not do, so that’s what they (the parents) do. We parents have to take a stand for the Lord and teach the tough things that need to be taught! God will honor that.
Some of you are happy that you don’t have teens yet, so you think you don’t have to be concerned. Wrong!!!!!! The reason that we are struggling with our teens and worldly dating and relationship views is because of what they have been taught since Kindergarten. How foolish is it of us parents to allow our child to be taught worldly thinking about male/female relationships and then go to God when our child is 16 years old to beg that He will help our child behave like a Christian when he/she is alone! God will not be mocked!
Boys must be taught that they are not to get physical with the girls and that, instead, girls are to be honored and respected. Little things such as holding open a door or helping carry something for a girl are proper and good. The children need to be taught that having an opposite sex relationship is something that is for later in life as you get ready for marriage – something that is also extraordinarily special to people and to God. Boys and girls calling each other on the phone (especially in elementary school) is inappropriate in most cases. We need to teach that people are not possessions that you can trade. Instead, we need to teach them to show real love to one another by helping one another to succeed where they are in life (a student) and to honor God.
What are our kids being taught through what they see and hear daily? What are they watching on TV? How about the movies? You and I both know that women are often portrayed as sex objects and trophies. What about at home? Dads, do you treat your wife as the queen of the household? Do your kids see you treating her with great care and affection? Do you realize that everything they see is teaching them how to treat their wives one day?
Every year of our lives we are learning and recording permanent records in our minds. I played the worldly relationship and dating game when I was young and things may seem to have worked out OK. My wife and I have been married for 27 years and have a great marriage – but there is more to the story than what you see. Frankly, I am ashamed of many things that I have recorded in my memory regarding male/female relationships from many years ago before I was married. I have prayed that God would remove some of those memories, and He has been gracious, but some remain. In God’s purposes, He often allows us to experience and remember things so we can learn from them and pass the lessons on to others.
If you went through the same pattern of worldly dating when you were young, you don’t have to pass it on. You can start afresh with your children. By God’s grace, you have the power to go against the tide of our culture and raise up children who are truly happy and bring glory to God. We have great promises from God that He will be faithful if we will trust and obey Him.
I hope that this article has given you some food for thought. Better yet, I hope that you have been convinced that boy/girl relationships in the third, fourth, or fifth grade are yet another battleground for the spiritual struggle for our kids’ hearts. In life, the devil is not kept out of your child’s life by locking a door. We must get after him with all we’ve got and then root out the unbiblical thinking in our kids.
1Shellenbarger, Sue (2005) The Case for Going Steady: Studies Say Teen Dating Habits Affect Marriage Skills. Wall Street Journal, 9/8/2005.