March 16, 2010

Unsteady: What Every Parent Absolutely Must Know About Teenage Romance

unsteadyWhen my oldest turned sixteen, he wanted to get a group of youth together to go on a group date.  However, this proved to be a near impossible task.  The youth didn’t want to group date, they wanted to pair off as boyfriend and girlfriend.  This really upset my son.  He didn’t understand why his peers where doing something that was counseled against by our leaders. These weren’t rebellious, disobedient kids, these were good kids from good families.

We soon realized that there is quite a bit of confusion about “dating”.  Everyone knows the “wait til you are sixteen” rule, but often, parents aren’t aware of the more detailed counsel regarding dating.  I know I wasn't.   We discussed dating and used resources like the For the Strength of the Youth booklet and talks from Youth Broadcasts with our son.   We decided that we would follow the wise counsel from the Lord and that there would be no boyfriend/girlfriend relationship until he returned from his mission, at which point he would be more prepared for a marriage commitment.

Right around this time, I came across this book by marriage and family therapist, Janette G. Smith called Unsteady: What Every Parent Must Know About Teenage Romance.  Ever since I read this book in 2008, I’ve wanted to shout it’s message from the mountain tops. 

In the introduction, she says:

“[The truth I learned] was so obvious  that it mystified me that adults had not been teaching this truth all along.  We’d been telling our youth not to get too close physically, yet we were allowing, even encouraging them to get too close emotionally.  We saw youth in serious, exclusive, emotionally intimate relationships, and we were upset when they got too physically intimate.

Physical intimacy is a natural, normal, and healthy result of emotional intimacy.  Adults who “fall in love” desire to “make love.”  In a survey conducted for her book Why We Love, Helen Fisher , a prominent anthropologist and research professor at Rutgers University, found that a substantial 73 percent of men and 65 percent of women daydreamed about having sex with their beloved. Teenagers who participate in exclusive, emotionally intimate relationships will fall in love, and then it truly is like stopping a moving freight train to ask them not to make love.”

As I read this book I thought - Wow, this makes so much sense, why hasn’t someone taught the “chastity” lesson like this before?  I read quote upon quote about dating from our prophets and wondered why I had never heard these quotes before. Well, the truth is, if you’ve ever missed a General Conference talk, or youth broadcast, you’ve probably missed some important counsel that you need for yourself and your family.  There are wonderful quotes that were given while my oldest was in diapers, and even before, when I wasn’t thinking about him dating at all. – And yet, the counsel was given.

Here are some quotes sited in the book.  From “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth”  Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign January 2001.

“It is better, my friends, to date a variety of companions until you are ready to marry.  Have a wonderful time, but stay away from familiarity . . . Steady dating at an early age leads so often to tragedy.  Studies have shown that the longer a boy and girl date each one another, the more likely they are to get into trouble.”

Here is another from Pres. Hinckley found in “Discourses of President Gordon B.Hinckley” 146.

“When you are young, do not get involved in steady dating.  When you reach an age where you think of marriage , then is the time to become involved.  But you boys, who are in high school don’t need this, and neither do the girls.

We receive letters, we constantly deal with people who, under the pressures of life, marry while very young.  There is an old saying, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.”  How true that is.

Have a wonderful time with the young women.  Do things together but do not get too serious too soon.  You have missions ahead of you, and you cannot afford to compromise this great opportunity and responsibility.”

I’ll share just one more quote, from Pres. David O. McKay, “Youth of the Noble Birthright” pages 11-20.

“Here, young people, let me sound a note of warning against “going steady” too young. .  .In the first place, young people are very susceptible -  quick to “fall in love,” and being immature in judgment, may not distinguish between fascination or passion and true admiration or genuine love. . .

In the second place, “going  steady” limits , if not excludes, girls and boys from having the opportunity of becoming acquainted with one another.”

The purpose of Unsteady: What Every Parent Must Know About Teenage Romance, as stated by the author, is to help parents keep their youth out of romantic relationships and to

  • Avoid the temptation to have premarital sex (Notice here she doesn't’ say to withstand the temptation or to not give into the temptation, but to avoid it.)
  • Develop the social and emotional skills that come only from having a variety of friends of the opposite sex. (Sometimes we need reminded, teenagers are children; they are still developing.)
  • Avoid heartbreak. (What parent doesn’t want this?)
  • Choose a more compatible marital partner. (This is indeed the biggest decision your child will make.  With over 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, give them every opportunity to choose well to begin with.)

This book in my opinion should be a must read for parents.  It is full of quotes from general authorities and proven research.  I truly believe that if parents around the world would read this book and teach this to their children, the next generation would be sexually pure and innocent by and large.

Among the topics discussed in the book:

  • What’s wrong with steady dating
  • Differences between exclusivity and commitment
  • How parents and other adults inadvertently push teens into steady dating
  • Teaching your teen that love is a choice
  • Keeping relationships at the “friend” level
  • Rescuing teens in steady dating relationships

and much more. . .

I have included the table of contents, to give you more of an overview of what you’ll find in the book.  I purchased my book at, I imagine there are other places to purchase it, including the authors site here.


As a mom, I hope and plead with you to please guard your children.  Somewhere in this world, mothers and fathers are raising the future spouses for my children and also for yours.  The impact of a righteous and virtuous spouse on a marriage can be monumental.  May we all have courage to follow the prophet.

You can see what Dana♥ and her crew are up to at Noggins & Nonsense.

13 comments - Add a comment below -:

Tristan said...

Thank you for this post! We have the same mindset. Somewhere in my life I managed to get the message from the prophets to only group date before your mission and save steady dating for after mission(boys) or high school(girls). It has made me so sad as friends and families I know start talking about their little children's boyfriends/girlfriends. I'm talking children in elementary school!! What chance do they have to avoid inappropriate physical relationships when they start so young? I would love to find/create a listing of all the counsel from prophets on dating/marriage, beginning with the For the Strength of Youth booklet.

legendswife said...

Great post. I have two small boys and most would think that it isn't something I need to worry about now (which is true. But it is something at every age parents should be mindful of and pray continually for there children's walk with our Heavenly Father.Thanks for also listing some Good Reads!
It's getting warmer here in Minnesota so it's going to be hard to tie me down to books until :)

God Bless

Tarasine (pronounced Tara-seena, in case you were wondering) said...

Thank you so much for this post! My children are still very young, but this is the best time to start thinking and beginning to teach them about this topic, isn't it? I will definitely be taking a look at this book. Just curious--did your son end up finding others to group date with?

Evamarie said...

Thanks for this post I'm thinking of buying it for my sister and her family. Her 11 year old mentioned having a boyfriend on Facebook the other day and it has me concerned. I'm hoping of finding a way to give this to her without offending her.

Notebooking Nook said...

This is something we have discussed with our children all their lives. We now have 5 teens and none have had a boy/girl friend. Our oldest son will leave for his mission this year and is so glad he's never had to deal with a serious relationship. Thankfully, most the kids in our ward have the same upbringing and all the youth are very good friends. We do have a few youth with boy/girl friends and they don't seem to fit in as well. It's sad to see them having to struggle with grown-up situations at such a young age. Their parents suffers just as much as the youth do and can be fairly easily avoided.

This was a topic we would discuss nearly every night at the dinner table. Our kids fully understand that the most important decision they will ever make in this life (besides knowing God lives) is choosing their eternal mate. One way we try to make it easier for them is to not allow them date the same person twice in a row until they are ready for a serious relationship (after mission or high school for girls). My oldest daughter is a junior in college and wants to serve a mission next year and so has decided to not look seriously for a companion until she gets home because a mission is so important to her.

Those of you with young children, now is the time to discuss these things with your children. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" "Old" in this case could mean 16-21. Teaching these principles to your child is one of the greatest gifts you can give them and they will have a happier and healthier marriage because you took the time to make it important.

Thanks for this post, it's so needed!

Samurai Mom said...

Thanks Dana,
I am definitely putting this on my wishlist. I hope the parents of the children my associate with will read it too.

Treasure Your Relationships said...

Jeanette G. Smith also has a talk on cd titled No More Double Messages on this same subject. Right now you can get it from Seagull Book for only $2.99! It may be easier for some people to get this message through a talk format. The book has a great chart and a lot more detail; the cd is more of an introduction to the basic premise of the book.
At my book group I mentioned this cd, and some people were surprised because my oldest is only 11. But we can't really wait until our children are 16 to explain what appropriate dating entails.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

My husband's family are great examples of this. Not one of the 6 boys went on a singles date until after their missions, not one of the 4 girls went on one until they went to college. They just didn't see the need to until they were of marrying age. They did have fun with friends, boys and girls, but didn't date.

Great book recommendation!

Cindy said...

No, we can't wait until their 16 to teach them this, because the world starts teaching them the wrong thing from elementary school on!

Thank you Dana so much for this book recommendation. Articles like this make me come back here every day!

Mama Rachel said...

I am in awe at how this principle is being ignored by so many parents in the church. My children ages 16 and 14 are constantly being pressured to go on dates or pair off all the time. And so many parents encourage "pairing off"-- they think it's "cute."

In our home, we encourage our kids to not look for a mate until they are ready to BE one. It's silly to participate in the one-on-one dating ritual until it's time to look for an eternal companion.

I am actually a big proponent of the "courting" idea. Our ancestors did not have to become emotionally and physically involved with every person they found attractive in order to find an eternal marriage partner. They understood courting to be the vehicle for marriage-- not the opportunity to participate in "non-committal make out" sessions that pervade the LDS college dating scenes.

We must have been on the same wavelength this past week, as I recently posted about something similar on my blog:

These youth we are raising have so much potential for good! We really can raise our expectations of them to be the kind of Young Adults our Father in Heaven needs in these latter days! :-)

Jane said...

I feel so grateful for this wonderful post and also have enjoyed reading all the comments so far.
Its so nice to find others who share the same concerns. I have felt strongly that "dating" just isnt the best approach for young teenagers. I would really like to read this book it sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I am buying this book for my daughter's YW leader. It is needed!

Frankie said...

I went to Seagull Book and Tape yesterday (Centerville, UT) and found a stack of these books priced at $3.99. I don't know if it is available online for that price.