HomeA Tiger Cub and Her MomHigh school prom and a tiger mom's dating rules

High school prom and a tiger mom’s dating rules

By Bethany and Deb Liu

(A Tiger Mom and Her Cub appears monthly on AsAmNews addressing common areas of conflict between parents and their teens from the perspective of a high school sophomore and her mother)

Tiger Cub:

My brother, Jonathan, is graduating high school next week. Naturally, this means that it is prom season. Dad, ever a traditionalist, suggested that my brother should bring a date to prom. He didn’t mean Jonathan should date, but that he should take someone. From this emerged an interesting family conundrum. My parents, especially you, are of the mind that their children shouldn’t date before their sophomore year of college. 

Jonathan went to prom with a group of his friends, a solution that Dad agreed was an acceptable alternative to inviting a date.  I can’t help but wonder why there are so many odd family traditions around dating in our household. Do you not trust us to determine when we can begin dating? Couldn’t dating in high school be a formative learning experience?

Tiger Mom:

My parents were adamant that I never date in high school and I agreed with it. I lived in very small town in South Carolina and I knew my whole life that I was looking to leave. Therefore, I had no interest in anything that would hold me back or tie me to that place.

Your father and I want you to go to college and experience everything it has to offer. Once you’re away from home and living life independently for the first time, you change and grow. I had several friends who went to college with a high school boyfriend or girlfriend, and in each case that relationship held them back from building new friendships and experiences.

Tiger Cub:

I don’t really think the point of dating in high school is to meet your ride-or-die. Frankly, you’re probably not dating anyone to have the experience of a long-term relationship, let alone aiming to get married. But there’s something about that idea that maybe you meet your future spouse in a high school classroom that’s pretty appealing to some.

Tiger Mom:

What is so appealing about that? 

Tiger Cub:

The idea of getting to meet the love of your life when you’re just in high school and then getting to spend the rest of your life together with them is very pleasant because it means you’re set. You don’t have to go through the struggles of having to deal with dating later in life because you’ve already found that person that you are prepared to weather life’s challenges.

Tiger Mom:

I think you’ve read one too many YA books like Loveboat, Taipei, and the Princess Diaries. These books (and their subsequent movies) idealize young love in a way that is unrealistic.

Despite what it looks like on TV and in movies, only about a third of teens actually have dated, according to Pew Research. Statistically, high school relationships rarely last. More than 50% of marriages of high school sweethearts ended divorce within 10 years. That is a substantially higher rate for those who meet later.

Tiger Cub:

Statistics can prove a lot, but people don’t often make rational judgments based solely on them. High school is just one of many chances to meet the love of your life, it is not the end all be all. Additionally, not all people date to get married. Some people date for the short-term highs that can come with a loving relationship.

Tiger Mom: 

You are what you allow into your life. Having a bad relationship in high school can leave scars and baggage that you carry in each future relationship. 

What you allow into your life changes who you are. When you open the door to a relationship in high school, you’re opening your heart to heartbreak and stress at a time when you don’t even know who you are yet. 

Tiger Cub:

Not every high school relationship will end up being a bad relationship. Many of my friends who are dating seem genuinely happy. 

They are learning to set boundaries at a young age in these relationships. Most of them only spend time together at school and enjoy each other’s company without pressure or expectations. It is also better to have your first breakup when your family is right there with you rather than when you’re hundreds of miles away in college alone.

Tiger Mom:

Funnily enough, despite the fact that my parents told me not to date until my second year in college, I met your father my first weekend at school. While I didn’t date him until my second year, I actually dated someone else in the meantime.

It’s possible that you meet somebody sooner than you like, but you really need to be sure that this choice is not going to derail your future. I want what’s best for you and your siblings. And I think delaying dating gives you more of a chance to figure out who you are before you find yourself in a relationship where you might feel pressure and expectations you would not be able to handle.

Tiger Cub: 

I know that you want what’s best for us, but I think that it would be helpful for you to consider more perspectives on this issue that can also lead to healthy growth and healthy relationships in the future. With that said, I will not be dating anyone in high school or until my sophomore year of college and Jonathan will be graduating without having dated anyone. Who knows about Danielle though, my little sister’s always been a bit of a rebel.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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