By DR. FRED HALL, LPC
QUESTION: My son is dating someone I don’t approve of. What do I do? If I forbid him from seeing her, they sneak around.
ANSWER: Thanks for such a great and powerful question. The questions that pertain to our children seem to be the most difficult to sort through and also the most confusing. We could realistically advise others on how to proceed with such questions, but when our own children are involved, we find the convictions hard to enforce.
This is mostly because of the consequences we believe will follow and how negatively they will affect our children and/or us. Even so, the truth is still the truth. Your son will need to hear and be thoroughly acquainted with the truth.
The first thing to consider is your “why.” Why do you not approve of this young girl? Not only will that help you articulate your concerns to your son, but it also will help you find the boundaries and guardrails they will need in order to proceed or not with the relationship. If it is a matter of “I just don’t like her,” I would challenge you to revisit that notion. If it is a matter of immoral or illegal behavior, that is altogether different. You should say and show care and concern for your son’s spiritual, emotional and even physical wellbeing. If this young lady poses a threat to any of that, you have a right to be concerned.
If after all your reasoning, your son still decides to see her, then based on age and your family rules, the boundaries and consequences come into play. Remember, boundaries and consequences shape behavior.
If your son is an adult, there’s not a lot you can do in the natural but a lot you can do in the spiritual. You can certainly pray and hold him accountable.
If he is underage, then this is a question of disobedience and rebellion. One thing I have found to be true, though: Rules without Relationships equal Rebellion. Highlight the relationship you and your son have or need to have for him to listen to you and your authority. Use influence to help him see things that he cannot see right now.
Use boundaries to keep the son and the young lady at a healthy distance if it is inappropriate. If he violates this, again if he is underage, then consequences come into play. Set expectations for him. Communicate those to him. Discuss what failure to comply with the expectations means, then if he breaks the rules, apply the consequences. Apply them immediately so he will be able to tie the negative consequence with the behavior and thus learn the valuable lesson therein.
The main thing you want to do is establish or maintain communication with your son. See if there are ways or places to compromise and be flexible. Also, find ways to influence and minister to the young woman. You might see this as a ministry personally to her, and it would not have happened unless she was dating your son. Above all, pray and be vigilant with your son’s dating relationship. Ask God for strength and wisdom in how you deal with him and her. Be encouraged and try not to get consumed by this. You can be Concerned but not Consumed. God sees you and will reward your faithfulness.
Dr. Fred Hall is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), supervisor, life and leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, couples, families and organizations in training, speaking, consulting and clinical practice. He does clinical work at Cornerstone Counseling in Jackson.