Our Discussions


Prom and Dating


1 (a madar)

I have a variety of Persian friends. Some are very westernized and some try harder to instill persian values in their kids. Now that they are young, I don't have a lot of issues that really worry me. As my daughter is getting older though, I am starting to get more concerned. For example, I don't want to allow my daughter to date until she is in college. I will allow her to go out with a group of friends that are boys and girls but I don't want her to date. I also don't want her to go to her prom and school dances.

I came to America when I was 15 and finished 11th and 12th grade here. I didn't go to my prom and have to say I felt very out of place and different for not having had these experiences in highschool.

I don't want my daughter to feel the same way I did. This is where all my confusion comes in.

ON one hand I don't want her to experience the feelings of being different that I experienced. On the other hand dating and the social pressures associated with it really concern me.

I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

PLease respond to me with any ideas you have.

Regards,


2 (a madar)

I second madar #1's worries and confusion!

my husband often says that our daughter will not go to prom because the only purpose of prom is to expose young people to sexual experiences! it is imposed to them by peer pressure whether they want it or not. I think if we arrange a nice trip instead at the time of prom it would not be much of a problem. but I haven't made up my mind about dating and the "boyfriend, girlfriend" game yet (Assuming that my children will wait for me to make up my mind!)

I also ask other parents to please share ideas, thoughts, and experiences.


3 (a mother)

As the mother of 6 children, two of them teen girls,(one of whom is in her senior year), we definitely are at the crux of this problem. I pray and believe we have circumvented it by one simple method. Talking.

We have always told them, "Because, I like it" is not a viable answer. If we ever have pushed our children, it has been toward being independent of the status quo, questioning without acquiescing in the easier 'follow the crowd' rule of thumb and developing social consciences, since kindness and philanthropic aspirations must begin at a young age.

We both, personally believe, that it is not necessary for junior highs to have dances, it is pushing. My son's school's dances were canceled two years in a row because of lack of student response. Adults learned nothing from this. They scheduled another.

High school proms are part of the American teen tradition. Although, I berate no one for participation (I, was a member of the homecoming court, so, I too, was a part), I really think that the age does not warrant the necessity. They have so many years to look forward to this kind of interaction later. There is incredible pressure on girls to have the right date, dress, hair and evening, that hundreds and hundreds of dollars per couple are spent for an evening of "being grownup". I think, by talking with my daughters, we have come to the conclusion it would be far more grown up to avoid this "forced coupling of peers" in lieu of a donation and hours volunteered to a more needed venue. Don't get me wrong. Everyone needs fun. I want my children to have fun. I just don't want them to be forced into a fun which is antithetical to our personal beliefs and ideals.

Children need to be children. I think they should be free of dances and dates, of the clothes competition fostered by where we live, of traditions which are antiquated or never really thought through. I, for one, welcome an evening at a play, a concert, a parent/child program . I welcome uniforms, so that students, and girls in particular, can dedicate more attention to their studies and world views and less to their hair and shoes.

Yes, we are a fundamentalist family. But, we insist on putting the fun in fundamentalist and adopting an inclusionary policy which means everyone is a potential friend, all ideas are potential possibilities and our beliefs are ours, not to be imposed on others, as we wouldn't want others' imposed on us. That is why, being a part of the educational triad of parent/student/teacher As the mother of 6 children, two of them teen girls,(one of whom is in her senior year), we definitely are at the crux of this problem. I pray and believe we have circumvented it by one simple method. Talking.

We have always told them, "Because, I like it" is not a viable answer. If we ever have pushed our children, it has been toward being independent of the status quo, questioning without acquiescing in the easier 'follow the crowd' rule of thumb and developing social consciences, since kindness and philanthropic aspirations must begin at a young age.

We both, personally believe, that it is not necessary for junior highs to have dances, it is pushing. My son's school's dances were canceled two years in a row because of lack of student response. Adults learned nothing from this. They scheduled another.

High school proms are part of the American teen tradition. Although, I berate no one for participation (I, was a member of the homecoming court, so, I too, was a part), I really think that the age does not warrant the necessity. They have so many years to look forward to this kind of interaction later. There is incredible pressure on girls to have the right date, dress, hair and evening, that hundreds and hundreds of dollars per couple are spent for an evening of "being grownup". I think, by talking with my daughters, we have come to the conclusion it would be far more grown up to avoid this "forced coupling of peers" in lieu of a donation and hours volunteered to a more needed venue. Don't get me wrong. Everyone needs fun. I want my children to have fun. I just don't want them to be forced into a fun which is antithetical to our personal beliefs and ideals.

Children need to be children. I think they should be free of dances and dates, of the clothes competition fostered by where we live, of traditions which are antiquated or never really thought through. I, for one, welcome an evening at a play, a concert, a parent/child program . I welcome uniforms, so that students, and girls in particular, can dedicate more attention to their studies and world views and less to their hair and shoes.

Yes, we are a fundamentalist family. But, we insist on putting the fun in fundamentalist and adopting an inclusionary policy which means everyone is a potential friend, all ideas are potential possibilities and our beliefs are ours, not to be imposed on others, as we wouldn't want others' imposed on us. That is why, being a part of the educational triad of parent/student/teacher is so very important. I've found my hours volunteered as Site Council Chairperson, Room Mother, School Volunteer, Library Maker, Gifted Children's Coordinator, Reading Program Volunteer...all acts which are seemingly gregarious, but, in actuality quite self centered. I am giving so that I can better my children's lives and develop a bond between us, which will transcend the need for extracurricular activities such as dances. So far...so good.

We are keeping our beliefs, living life with a passion and thinking our way through each day while...

Living La Vida Loca.


4 (a madar)

What's so terrible about the prom? Children's values are instilled in them at a very early age, much earlier than the teenage years. Grammar school-age is when we have the most influence over our children and that's when they learn what is right and wrong. After that, especially in middle and high school, their personalities are shaped and sharpened by those early years and by the quiet support of their parents. Restrictions, especially those that are deemed harsh by societal norms, may only prove to instill anger and a weakening of parental respect in your daughter. If you restrict your daughter this much, how do you expect her to make the right decisions once she's at college or working? As for putting her into a situation of feeling different -- well, being different is a human condition; better to think of yourself as "special" rather than "different". I don't think that's the issue here. But ask yourself this question: if you had gone to your prom, what terrible things would have happened to you? You might have had a great time. It's only one night of celebration. Perhaps your ambivalence on this subject has more to do with your own inability to understand what it is that YOU believe rather than what your own parents believed. Letting your daughter go to the prom is not a betrayal of culture or family values; after all, your daughter is a product of your family. By now, she should know that. And if she doesn't, nothing you do can change it. Good luck!


5 (a madar)

Sexuality is the number one subject on the minds of teenagers, whether they're at the prom or not. Secluding your children from these issues rather than teaching them how to handle them will only put them in the position of having to deal with them ALONE once they are in college.


6 ( madar #2)

I agree that children should learn how to make decisions in general. however, when they are not in a position to make the right decision, I really don't mind helping them with their decisions or even make decisions for them. specially when they are under age.

when they are in high school (as one of the madars said once in one of our gatherings) it is their "hormones" that work, and that is why sexuality is the number one subject because hormones of a teenager work harder than their rational and logic and we cannot expect them to make right decisions. they do need help and guidance to pass the critical years and then they will be able to make rational decisions alone when they are in college (hopefully!). about prom and dating, it is not a taboo issue, but I am afraid of the situation where my child and his/her decision making ability will be tested in an unfair situation where peer pressure is a strong factor and the environment is inviting him/her to make a wrong decision. I just want them to avoid such inviting environments.
7 ( a teenager)

I am an eighteen-year-old freshman at Berkeley. I was born in Teheran and came to California when I was two years old. I speak Farsi at home, attend "Persian parties" with my parents and I am proud of my Persian heritage. On the other hand, I also feel American. This is where the issue of prom comes in. I agree wholeheartedly with parents number 5 and 6. I believe that by the time prom rolls around a child should already have enough learning, integrity and values that it should not matter that they attend. Prom does not have to be expensive, it does not have to result in sexual relations, it is not evil. Prom is what you as a parent and as a teenager make of it. Most of what Persian parents know of prom is what is mainstream. TV and movies always make it a sexual spectacle, and the media is the main source of knowledge about American society for Iranian parents that grew up in Iran. The reason American parents have little reservation sending them to prom is because they know how harmless it is. However, ALL parents worry about their children's burgeoning sexuality and thus American and Persian need to establish trust and values with their children before prom season, and any dating for that matter, rolls around. My parents had no problem sending me to my prom because they trusted me and my values-- things which were fostered over my eighteen years. By not allowing your child to attend prom, you are in essence saying that you do not believe your child can make their own decisions and will be sucked into the sex that you ignorantly associate with prom. I do not even know how to answer the madar who believes that we cannot control our hormones and make wise decisions. To me, it sounds like she was spoon fed Khomeini's Islamic mantra. Either she, as a teenager could not control her hormones, or her child has done things that make her believe that he/she cannot control themselves. But healthy teenagers can make their own non-hormonal decisions-- it is adult sex-offenders who cannot. I do not mean to attack anyone-- I am stating my opinions. I applaud this open forum because growing up I witnessed a lot of dissention between American and Persian culture as parents around me tried to raise their children. Reading other parent's opinions, I just have one more thing to say-- Merci, Madar and Pedar (my parents, not the website) for your open minds, open hearts and love that have made me the proud Persian American that I am today.


8 ( a teenager web visitor)

I am a nine-teen year old college Junior, born in New York with Iranian parents. We keep the Iranian culture in our family, yet we are Americanized (at least me and my two older sisters). My parents appose the whole idea of having a prom, and they still do..but all three of us went. I think they just had to understand that it is a huge American tradition and all of our friends went and they just had to trust us and our actions that night. I think at some point my parents let go and have "softened up" regarding their strict " old fashioned" rules...but don't get me wrong..some are still there. It took a lot of convincing to let me out for the whole night of prom and of course the idea of a date was ridiculous, I had to convince them to take a guy friend.

Anyway, I think it's a good idea to let your Iranian children partake in this American tradition because growing up in America, it's unavoidable to not have American culture rubbed off on you. My own opinion about prom, is that I don't see what the big deal is....I dress up all the time and go to black tie weddings and have a great time with my family, but it's not like that with many of my American friends. They don't usually go to big parties (like Iranian bashes) that are all spiffed up, and they don't ever get to have a glamourous night like the prom. The reasons why I wanted to go to the prom so much was to share this special moment with my American friends because they were waiting all their adolescent lives for it. I had a good time at the prom, and if you are doubting letting your teenager go to it, I think you should seroiusly put yourself in their shoes. It's hard growing up as an Iranian American teenager. Parents have to understand that when living in another country than Iran, it's ok let your children part take in some of that country's traditions. I


Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

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