Parenting Teens and Dismantling the Dating vs. Courtship Debate

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of‘s very own Anthony Ashley:

The hill of semantics isn’t worth dying on.

The words “Dating” and “Courtship” basically mean the same thing. Do all the Wikipedia and dictionary searches you want and you’ll be hard pressed to find a major difference. Ask ten people what “Dating” and “Courtship” mean and how they’re different and you’ll get twenty different answers.

It ultimately doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters what you and your kids do. If calling your kid’s romance courtship helps your family be more intentional, then go for it. If the word “courtship” is a distraction, then trash it. Those words don’t actually determine how dedicated your kids are to purity, how involved you are as a dad, or how intentional your kids are about marriage.

Not everyone needs to do it the same way.

Whatever you mean by dating and courtship, please, not everyone has to do it that way. I’ve got siblings who want to court and siblings who date. Personally, I’ve done both. Dating was the vehicle that led me to marry an amazing, godly woman. My wife and I both even waited until marriage to have sex. If you’re on the courtship-is-the-only-way wagon, I can tell you that God used dating to bring my wife and I together and it was a good thing.

It goes both ways. God can use some form of courtship, he can used prearranged marriage, he can use speed dating, he can use any vehicle he wants to bring the grace of marriage into our lives in a way that honors him. And God may guide you to treat your own kids differently. We all know that every kid is different. Why should our involvement in their pursuit of marriage not reflect that?

It’s ultimately the kid’s choice.

I want to give my kids a say in the matter. They’ll have a say whether I give it to them or not but I want to give it to them. Besides, I can’t force my daughters into courtship or force them to marry someone. Sadly, I can’t even force them to be nuns.

I definitely can’t force my kids to respect my insight into their relationships or to remain pure until marriage. All I can do is be a good dad, teach them to follow God, and set a good example. Any hopes we have of deciding this issue without our kid’s cooperation are misguided.

The heart is what matters.

We don’t ever want to control our kid’s behavior while ignoring their heart. We can set all the rules and formalities and protections we want but if we ignore our kid’s hearts, we’ve missed the mark. Whatever degree of involvement we pursue with our kid’s romantic lives, we need to be pursuing their heart first, not some ideal of courtship or dating.

So what do you think?


Anthony Ashley is the father of Sophia (3) and Claire (1). He is a writer at, and Follow him on Twitter: @AnthonyAshley.