Children

Childhood Sweethearts – Why Wise Parents Discourage These Attachments

childhood sweethearts

What could be cuter than the sight of childhood sweethearts? Cherub-faced puppy lovers holding hands just look so innocent. Many parents think it’s adorable when their young child finds a little crush. But potential harm lurks and wise parents know it.

That Train Does Not Run Backwards

If there’s ever been a more sexually aware generation than the generation following the Millennials – Generation Z (1996-2010), I don’t know of it.

Sadly, but with good reason, it’s been important to drill these kids with the message “privates are private.” But in addition to that, they’ve also experienced the most liberal standards for sexuality on television to date. The internet provides access to the little they can’t find on television. And public schools are now indoctrinating kids in kindergarten with a liberal sexual “ethic.”

In various contexts, these kids have been exposed to more sexual conversation than previous generations. I don’t believe it has been without effect. We are losing ground, at a cultural level, in the effort to keep young kids naive and innocent. We will not regain that ground because the cultural train does not possess a reverse gear.

So it’s up to parents to do all they can to guard their child’s innocence. One thing you can do is to not encourage – in fact, to actively discourage – a childhood sweethearts relationship (ages 3-16).

Teach Sexual Morals Young

Ideally, kids should observe a healthy romantic relationship between their parents. It’s great for them to see this appropriately modeled at a young age. But from a young age, they should be taught romantic displays of affection are for grown-ups. Strictly for adults.

The logic is not complicated. The earlier a parent sets the stage for values and morals, the more likely they are to be accepted by the child. Don’t spring, for the first time, restrictions regarding sexual behavior on a teenager. They’ll likely have their own ideas on the subject and a vibrant vocabulary to express them.

Teach The Life Skill Of Waiting

Modeling a loving marital relationship to your child while curbing their inclination to imitate it emphasizes its value – just as adults attribute value to things out of our reach. Regardless of the progression of society’s cheapening of marriage – accepted as anything and becoming nothing – marriage can be upheld in the home as special and sacred. One family at a time.

Furthermore, building a hedge against childhood sweethearts relationships (even if only based in curiosity) until the appropriate time exercises a child’s “waiting muscles” and builds them up. The ability to wait patiently for we want is a life skill. If parents aren’t intentional about developing that skill in their children when they’re young, when?The ability to wait patiently for we want is a life skill. Click To Tweet

Objections Addressed

Some may object to the idea of squashing what, to them, is simply a cute little crush because

  • kids are naturally curious and parents should never stifle curiosity
  • it’s damaging to do so
  • kids are going to do what they want behind their parent’s backs anyway
  • if you support your kids instead of inhibiting them, you’ll have a better relationship

So, one by one, here’s my response.

Kids are curious about lots of things including power tools, credit cards, matches, pills, stovetops and microwaves, firearms, mom’s diamond earrings, and toxic household fluids. Giving kids access to those things before they’re responsible makes parents irresponsible. Far from damaging them, our denial is for their immediate benefit.

Wise parents identify anything with the potential to harm their child even if that harm is not immediate. If a child is in any way sexualized, that makes the list. And though your protection may not be appreciated when they’re still children, it will be when they’re adults. Especially when they’re parents themselves.

It’s absolutely true kids may disregard their parent’s instruction behind their backs. In fact, the sinful nature they inherited guarantees it at some point. But that’s not an excuse to forgo instruction or rules (as I wrote about here.) Parents must do the right thing even if kids do not.

“Support” motivated purely by the desire for a harmonious relationship with your child is (let’s skip the sugar coating) a dysfunctional stew of selfishness, laziness, and cowardice. Kids need parents, not buddies. Man up, Momma.

And If That Weren’t Enough

Finally, a dose of pragmatic reality. In a childhood sweethearts relationship, your child is not the only participant. Schools and extra-curricular programs are sensitive to “sexual harassment” scenarios even in the lowest grades (as documented in this CNN article.) A crush’s parents may not be at all amused by a school-yard smooch. So weigh that risk in the mix too.

Childhood flies by so quickly. Parent your children, with love and strength, through their desires to rush through it. Remember, these are the days you are building your legacy in them.

childhood sweethearts

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  • amberdawn

    My son is 9 and has no interest in girls yet but its coming soon! Not looking forward to it. When we chat about girls he acts like its just all gross but hopefully he is listening.

    • Wife Sense

      Neither of my sons developed a precocious interest in girls. But one grandson, as a 4 year old, was looking out my window, watching neighborhood girls play, and said to me: “Grandie, I could just watch those girls all day!” 😳

  • Babies to Bookworms

    When I worked at a daycare center, they were very strict that we were to not let the kids refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. I find it interesting how kids develop these “relationships” at such a young age. I know lots of people find it adorable, but it could definitely become problematic.

  • Ashley

    I have mixed feelings about this subject as one who was raised by parents who shared the philosophy described in this article. I would describe my childhood as peaceful and my relationship with my parents growing up as close and loving, but my parents felt very strongly that dating (or rather, “courting”) and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships should be postponed until a person was grown and actively seeking a spouse. They took me to seminars, read books and watched videos on the topic which they shared with me, and discussed the topic frequently with me. Throughout high school and college, I refrained from dating not only out of respect for my parents’ wishes, but because the logic made sense to me. On the one hand I am grateful for being raised this way, because it taught me to take romantic relationships seriously and not make decisions solely on the basis of my emotions. But there was another consequence as well, which was that when I inevitably had normal crushes on boys, I never felt like I could tell my parents because I felt like they would be disappointed in me, and because our discussions of the subject made me uncomfortable. Towards the end of college, I ended up dating a guy who I knew my parents wouldn’t approve of, and I didn’t involve my parents in the decision to date him. At this point, you might be critical of me, but I was an adult at this point, and children often grow up to do things as adults which their parents don’t agree with. When I tried to explain my perspective to my parents, it was hard because I felt like my parents were so disappointed in me. I felt like I couldn’t be open with them without exposing myself to painful criticism, so I stopped even trying to communicate. A few years later, that relationship was over, but my relationship with my parents had deteriorated to the point that when my now husband and I decided to get married, we ended up eloping. Thankfully, my relationship with my parents has since healed, and I do, like I said, appreciate that as a result of their teaching I waited until I was an adult before I dated anyone, and then only dated seriously, not casually. I know this is a very long comment, and I’m not writing all this to outright disagree, but I wanted to share my experience just in case anyone might find my perspective useful. Hopefully those parents can find a way to guide and teach their children without inadvertently making them feel bad for having normal feelings or communicating in a way that makes their children fear disappointing them.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Ashley, I’m so glad you added this to the discussion! Sounds like your parents read Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It was all the rage for a season and convinced many to forego dating for courting. You may be interested to know he has since backed away from it. Interesting, though abbreviated, article on here ( ithttp://www.npr.org/2016/07/10/485432485/former-evangelical-pastor-rethinks-his-approach-to-courtship )
      This article was aimed at discouraging the pairing off of YOUNG children – and maybe I didn’t do a good enough job of getting that across. So I appreciate especially what you said at the end of your comment, that “parents can find a way to guide and teach their children without inadvertently making them feel bad for having normal feelings.” Yes! Parents should affirm normal desires and curiosity while upholding marriage. (And perhaps also reminding young teens that statutory rape means JAIL. That’s no joke.) Thank you for highlighting that.
      By the way, you’re allowed to outright disagree here. As long as folks keep it civil. 😁 Thanks for your insightful and thoughtful comment, Ashley.