Valentine’s Day may seem a long way off, but if you have teenagers at home, they’re probably already talking about the much-anticipated school dance: who’s going with whom, who’s not going at all, and what they plan to wear.
But with today’s raunchy lyrics, bump-and-grind dance moves, and hormones at an all-time high, conservative parents around the country are likely battling the question: Should I even let my kid go?
Parents certainly have the right to be concerned—even alarmed—especially if they’ve read recent reports about school-dance bans. Ban the school dance? you ask. That’s right. School dances aren’t like their 1970s counterparts.
Just last month, a Boston-area high school banned the school dance because students were getting dirty on the dance floor.
“We have had many students come forward to report they do not feel comfortable at the dances because of the nature of the dancing,” a letter to parents read.
While the ban is in place indefinitely, students have hope they can reach a resolution. Principal Evan Bishop not only informed parents of the decision, but also explained that forums will be held to discuss solutions with students and ways to improve school dances so they are a comfortable environment for everyone.
This is just an example of one of several cases nationwide. Annapolis High School now requires students to sign a contract: no twerking, grinding, freaking, or sexually arousing dance moves. Period. Don’t sign the contract, and you won’t get through the front door. Break the rules? Syanara!
So what’s a parent to do? I’m not a parent—yet. But I still feel as though I can provide a unique perspective. I attended school dances not too long ago—at a private Christian school, no less. And even in that environment, there was enough clustering on the dance floor to hide the couples who were, well, enjoying themselves a bit too much. That was nearly 10 years ago: before Miley Cyrus’ twerk moves lit up YouTube. So while I certainly don’t understand what it’s like to battle your teen, I know what it’s like to grow up as one in a sex-saturated culture.
Here are a few suggestions:
It may seem obvious, but because parents are often afraid of an all-out World War III commencing under their own roofs, they avoid the subject of school dances altogether. May I ask you to boldly start a conversation? Express your concerns and listen to theirs. You’ll probably be accused of being out of touch, so why not just admit that you are! Ask them to enlighten you. Ask them to tell you what goes on at school and on the dance floor. And then talk about boundaries you can set to protect them, their reputation, and their future.
The school dance could very well become a date night for you and your spouse. Talk about it with your teen, and make a promise not to hover (like that’s not embarrassing!). Sharing the dance floor with your teen doesn’t mean you have to ride in the same car, dance in the same group, or make your presence known. Give them space to hang out with their friends and ask them to give you space to keep an eye on things. If your child objects, take note. That’s a red flag.
Dresses are getting shorter and necklines are getting steeper. If you have a daughter, I can guarantee you that she struggles with what’s appropriate and what’s not. Her friends are likely choosing gowns or dresses that show off their blooming figures and promise them extra attention. Model modesty in the way you dress with 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as your foundation: “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
Your daughter has a deep longing for love, affection and beauty. It’s innate. But in her quest for attention, she may not realize how her clothing is warranting the wrong kind of attention. Dads, be honest with your daughter about how guys think. And moms, train her to protect her mystery, and prove to her that keeping it covered is far sexier than bearing it all.
If the school system can create rules, there’s no reason why you can’t too. When I was in school, we were told that chaperons should be able to shimmy a Bible—a thick Bible—between me and my dance partner. That’s what “appropriate dancing” looked like. Odd, perhaps, but it’s not a bad guideline. You may want to use something other than the Bible for your metaphor, but definitely set some rules. For example, one blogger noted that while interviewing students, he learned that only about 10% of high school dancers faced their partners. Yikes! Set a guideline for face-to-face dancing—not cheek to cheek or back to front or anything in between. Be the one to drop them off and pick them up. Whatever rules you set, be sure to follow through. If your teen is behaving badly, pull the permission slip. After all, attending the school dance is a privilege—not a right.
Don’t just ask them questions—ask yourself some questions, too. Does she dress modestly day to day, or is it a constant fight? Does he display biblical wisdom and discernment in such a way that I should trust him to attend the school dance? Who is she going with—do her friends follow Jesus? While there are guidelines to follow, it comes down to your parental discernment. Please don’t be ignorant to the provocative, steamy nature of most school dances, but place your concerns before the throne and ask God for wisdom for “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (1 Timothy 3:16). Spend time in prayer and study, and in conversation with your teen.
It’s tough to say “no.” But in this case, it may be more difficult to say, “yes.”
Parents, chime in: what are the rules in your house about school dances?