It's never too early: 6 everyday ways to show your daughter how a date should treat her

Congratulations! You had a girl. But don't think childhood is too early to prepare your daughter for her dating years.

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  • It's a girl!

  • A phrase that causes maximum fibrillation for many dads in the ultrasound (or delivery) room. Not because girls aren't awesome. But because dads were once adolescent boys.

  • But parents don't have to wait until their daughters are tweens or teens to set the expectation for dating. Start now – because they're more likely to listen to you before their veins are super-charged with hormones.

  • Talk about the when

  • Decide now the age you will allow your daughter to date. When talking to her say things like, "When you're 16 and can date then ..." Use this type of dialogue and include dating scenarios while playing Barbies or other toys with your kids. This sets the expectation and will make it loads easier if your daughter's friends start dating at a younger age.

  • Talk about the how

  • Media is a huge influence on our kids in defining dating norms. To offset this, watch shows together and voice your opinions about the characters. For example — if the TV character goes on a first date and the guy wants to kiss her on the doorstep you might say, "She totally doesn't have to kiss him on a first date. I'd like to know someone a bit longer before I would kiss them." This will help your daughter make empowered decisions while on a date.

  • Opening Doors

  • We all know that women should be respected. But it's the little things that lay the foundation for that. If you're not in the habit of having your spouse open doors for you — talk to your partner. Encourage him to open the house door for you (and praise him profusely and give him a squeeze after he does.) If he forgets to open the car door, wait in your seat and pour on the love and appreciation after he opens it. And remember: It's not that you can't open the door — you've got hands — it's just that opening doors shows a pattern of respect and putting your spouse's needs first. As a bonus teaching moment, say to your daughter: "This is what should happen when you go on a date."

  • Note: If you don't have a partner who opens the doors for you, open the door for your daughter and tell her that this is what a date should do. Remind her to say thanks for opening the door.

  • Compliment them

  • Somewhere in childhood children go from pronouncing their awesomeness at the top of playground slides to dismissing all compliments. Bridge that gap by giving sincere compliments to your children daily. Don't forget to teach them how to accept compliments (even if they don't agree with the compliment — they can express appreciation to the giver of the compliment by saying thank you.)

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  • The best compliments are specific and sincere. Here are a few examples:

    • You have the best laugh!

    • I like how you kept dancing even after you fell.

    • You sure have learned to do awesome braids.

  • Waiting on drop-offs

  • We're all in a big hurry every day. Schedules are booked (and sometimes overbooked). But the precious moments you spend waiting for your child to make sure they get inside their friend's house make a difference. And be sure to tell your child that you plan to wait for them until they get inside — and that it's important when someone drops another person off that they wait to make sure they safely get inside.

  • Respecting the no's

  • Sometimes we don't realize that teasing and pressuring our kids to do optional things can do them harm later on. If your child asks you not to call them by the pet name you've used for years: Stop. If your daughter doesn't want to go to Great-Aunt Mildred's canning party (and there are other options) give her the choice. Giving choices and respecting the feelings and needs of your child when she is young — sets her up to expect that from the people she dates.

  • Because next to life itself — one of the best gifts you can give your child is instruction on how to become and meet a great life partner.

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Heather Merrill is a single mom, writer and eyewitness to play-date debacles.

Website: http://singledropsofjoy.com

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