As a parent of two beautiful daughters I say make them wait until they are married. But, realistically that isn't reasonable. I think that Tony and I have had our share of debates on this issue and we came to an understanding that goes like this:
1. Set an Example. We needed to set the tone for dating in our children's lives. Setting a good example of how dating should look started with family date nights where the girls were able to enjoy the normal banter of a date situation. They contributed to the conversations by telling us about their day and where they wanted to go on our next vacation.
2. Greet the Parents. Anyone that wanted to take our girls out on a date needed to show up at the door and act like they had some sense. This should go without saying but we know it can't. Interviewing the potential dates was a great way to put us at ease with our little girl going off with a kid we didn't know.
3. Group Dates. Going out in a group takes the pressure off of your child to converse for an entire date. Also, their peers can give them feedback that as a parent, they won’t accept from you. If their friends think he sucks and they share it, you won’t have to.
4. Set a Time Limit. Let your kid know what time they need to be home and the consequences of not returning at the predetermined time. When they are late, even by one minute, follow through with the consequence. Nothing says "do whatever you want" more than letting this situation happen unchecked.