We used family home evenings, the dinner table, father’s interviews, and even driving in the car. Conversation topics included whom to date, what to do or not to do on a date, common courtesies, ideas for good activities, and how to act in mixed company.We also covered practical considerations: how to appropriately plan a date or what to do if plans go awry (such as when someone gets sick or if an emergency arises).Our efforts resulted in the “Richardson Dating Academy,” which you can read about in more detail in this month’s issue of the The more my wife and I counseled together, the more we realized this wasn’t just a good idea; it was our parental responsibility. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that parents “have not only the right but the sacred obligation, and they are under counsel from the leaders of the Church, to concern themselves with [their children’s] dating habits.” While we were emboldened, we were still unsure of exactly how we could fulfill our goals.We felt that no matter how we prepared our children, we needed to ensure that what we taught would be founded on solid gospel principles and standards and not just our own experience or bias.We began exploring ideas on how we could best teach our children to develop appropriate relationships. We wanted to convey the importance and purpose of relationships.
We laughed (and marveled at her wisdom) as she shared her own experiences and they role-played possible scenarios for success.We often read together and discussed Church standards on how to develop relationships.We found that it was a good idea to mix up the settings for our various discussions.For example, we discovered that going out to dinner was the best way to expose our children to a variety of foods, help them practice good old-fashioned table manners in a public setting, and teach them how to order, use utensils, and appropriately tip a server.When going over how to invite a person on a date, we first gave the child some practical instruction and then had him or her practice by calling older siblings or family members of the opposite sex (all were prepped beforehand) to invite them to an activity.In all of this we felt that we needed to start early—long before our children began dating—and we wanted our experience to be filled with learning and teaching that were natural and hopefully fun.We fully understood, too, that we would be competing with the way the media portray relationships.We specifically wanted our children to learn through discovery, observation, counseling together, and especially practicing relationship skills.Our “curriculum” was based on our outline of gospel doctrines, Church standards and guidelines, skills, activities, and objectives that we wanted our children to know and practice before they started dating.Your own curriculum can develop naturally as you study, ponder, and pray concerning what to teach your children.We found that showing and practicing were typically far more effective than just talking or telling.