07/19/2013 08:33 am ET

5 Things I Hope My Teenage Daughter Knows About Dating And Finding The One

Courtesy of Ann Brenoff

The greatest surprise of parenthood is that there is a surprise around every corner. Just when you think you know your little girl, she comes to you wanting to put streaks in her hair. They go from tree-climbing tomboys to mall rats overnight and while the core values are still there, the physical package they come in changes in a blink of an eye.

Allowing them to grow up into independent young adults is, of course, the greatest gift we can give them. But from the vantage point of being in my 60s with a teenage daughter, I do hope there's still room for some advice from Mama, especially when it comes to what to look for in a mate. Here's my two-cents:

1. Bad boys (or girls) may seem exciting, but that excitement elixir can be toxic.
Too many times, I've seen young women meet someone who mistreats them and instead of dumping them on the spot, they hang on believing that love alone will morph the louse into a decent human being. You can't -- and shouldn't want to -- change anyone but yourself. Your mate shouldn't be a liar, a thief or a cheater. And if that's what it takes to hold your interest, I've failed at my job of parenting you. You are none of those things and you deserve someone as wonderful as you are.

2. Beauty lives within.
Yes, you've heard me say this a million times and then you've gone to school and seen how the girl who looks like a model gets all the attention. One day down the road, Sweetie, I promise you the playing field levels. That day likely won't come in high school. I know I've taught you that you should neither judge nor allow others to judge you based on what can be seen. Follow what your heart says about people -- as you've taught me, everyone comes with their own struggles, so sometimes we just need to forgive them their indiscretions.

3. Opt to surround yourself with happy people, especially your life partner.
Remember that bumper sticker that says "Mean People Suck." They indeed do. They suck the air right out of the room and right out of your life. You are a happy young woman who is filled with optimism. Don't let anyone take that away from you. If someone is always angry or sad, they will wear away your soul. Don't let them do that. Dump them and find someone who smiles more.

4. Don't mistake arrogance for confidence.
I like being around confident people, people who are sure of themselves. Arrogance is the mask that insecure people wear when they are pretending to be self-confident. You know the difference. An arrogant person needs to put you down in order to feel important. A confident one encourages you to do and be your best. Stick with confident people.

5. Don't smother anyone or let them smother you.
I like having a partner who likes to do the same things I do. It's why your Dad and I travel a lot and go out to new restaurants whenever we can. That said, you've also seen Dad mesmerized by a Cubs game while I go hiking with the girls. It's important to come together on the important stuff -- like you and your brother -- and also give each other some breathing room. (Should the Cubs ever make it to the World Series, someone will let me know, right?)



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