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Watching the Duggars made me change my dating rules for my 14 kids

My name is Renee. I am the mom to 14 (5 adopted, 9 by birth). I am a professional birth photographer, homeschool mom, knitter, reader and avid coffee drinker. I blog about the ups and downs of  life in my large family.

I don't want to stifle my 14 kids' dating lives like the Duggars do

We have a large family. Some people would say we have a mega family. Like the Duggars, we have more than 10 kids. And we're like the Duggars in other ways, too: We're Christian, we homeschool and we want what is best for our children. When people meet me (or read my blog), they immediately want to draw comparisons. They want to fit us into the "this is what a large Christian family is like" box.

I don't want to stifle my 14 kids' dating lives like the Duggars do
Image: Renee Bergeron/SheKnows

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We don't have TV or cable or Netflix or whatever it is people use to watch TV these days (see, another similarity to the Duggars), and I have seen only a handful of episodes of their show. I have, however, read several of their books. Let's face it, life with families our size (14 kids for us and 19 for the Duggars) is vastly different than life with two or three or even six kids. So of course I am interested in how the Duggars manage their home and family.

Like most parents, my husband and I only want what's best for our children; the struggle comes with finding out just what is best for our kids. Dating young comes with various hazards ranging from heartbreak to possible teen pregnancies and STDs. With the average age of first (and hopefully last) marriages in the mid-twenties now, who needs a decade or more of dating? Putting off dating until young adulthood didn't seem like a bad plan.

It was actually a three-minute clip I saw of the Duggars that changed my mind about dating. This was long before the scandal involving Josh Duggar, but the clip did include him. In it, he and Anna were getting ready to go on a date (chaperoned by a sibling, of course). Josh was 22 years old. He was 22! It was as if I had a vision of clarity in that moment. Yes, we are old-fashioned. We don't believe in sex before marriage, and we believe marriage is for life (except in cases of infidelity or abuse/addiction). But at the same time, by the time my children are in their 20s (or 18 for that matter), they need to be making their own decisions. I don't want to be chaperoning my adult children.

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I realized while watching that clip that if we postponed all dating and boy/girl relationships until adulthood, we wouldn't be there to help guide them if they needed it. After watching that clip, my thinking shifted. When my son had a female interest, we talked about appropriate gifts and cards for various holidays. I was able to teach him the finer points of being a gentleman and caring for a young lady. It opened conversations that we wouldn't have had otherwise.

By the time my children reach their 18th birthday, we will have raised them and passed our values down. By that point, they are responsible for making their own decisions. They can accept our values or not. I want my children to love Jesus, but I can't force them. I don't want to be chaperoning or making dating decisions for my adult sons (or daughters). At some point, my children need to spread their wings and fly (or fall).

And if they fall, I will be there to comfort them and help them try again.

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I don't want to stifle my 14 kids' dating lives like the Duggars do
Image: TLC courtesy of Jim Bob Duggar
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