The end of shotgun parenting
If you need to threaten your child’s love interest, you’re doing it wrong.

Dating, teens. Throw those words into a sentence and you’re almost bound to get at least one comment from a father joking about his daughter’s boyfriend and a shotgun. Apart from the obvious question applicable to that – what about your son? – I just can’t accept that presenting violence against suitors to your children, real or imagined, is of any practical benefit.

Protective and paternal
Don’t get me wrong, should anyone harm (or even threaten) my children with abuse or any sort I would wrap impenetrable wings around them. I’m their dad and I will protect them. I find it hard to accept that they’ll fall in love, and yet – here’s the converse idea to that – I hope they do.

Of more importance to me is that they have a strong enough sense of confidence in themselves before they reach out. That their security is not reliant on the physical or emotional support of another, but that they’re capable of holding their own in conversation and other aspects of a relationship.

Yes, it is also about respect. May my sons treat any future girlfriends well and my daughter offer and expect that respect, too.
Children will not go into the world as if having attended a relationship master class, so many of those lessons are learned by experience, often experience that leaves pillows damp with tears and hollow disappointment. Some children will be fortunate enough to fall in love once and for that person to be the person with whom they choose to stay forever, but it’s more likely that just the simple acts of growing up, developing emotionally and intellectually, changing goals and enjoying life may cause an early relationship to fray, implode or melt away.

Shotgun?* No, I’d like to be able to spend time with anyone who comes into my life via my children and talk to them, find out what makes them happy, excited, inspired or angry. While I can’t expect a friendship with those individuals, I can anticipate a relationship of sorts.

Do I model out the perfect relationship? Well, many websites carry that standard as the best training ground for children. As a divorced and now married father, I know that my children have been around some negative extremes of relationships. But they’ve also all had the opportunity to see both their mom and dad remarrying people with whom they are in love.

The best role models? No, I can’t claim that, but I know that I am aware of the effort that goes into a healthy relationship, and I would like to think that if the tables were turned, my children would not be holding a shotgun on me.

I’m their dad, and I’ll always be there for them.

5 pacts I’ve made with myself about my children and dating

1.    I won’t threaten their partners, even as a joke.
2.    I will talk to anyone in whom my children are interested and get to know them.
3.    I won’t make so many stupid jokes with my wife that my kids become confused about what constitutes a loving relationship.
4.    I will do my best to give them room to fail and love them through their disappointment.
5.    I will make sure that all of them, whether boy or girl, will understand about boundaries, abuse, healthy relationships, birth control and, not least, “no”.

Will they have happy relationships one day? I just can’t predict that, but I can commit to being there for them and not wielding a shotgun either in my hands or, metaphorically, with intimidating words.

*Note: my kids aren't yet dating - but they do like to shout out "SHOTGUN" to vie for the best seat in the car...

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you have any absolutes when it comes to your teens and relationships?

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