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My daughter is 13 years old... and she has this boy who is 18 years old that she "likes". She calls him endlessly. I have spanked her, spoken to her, written to her all in effort of saying..She must enjoy her childhood and stop pursuing boys. I would like to think that we have a relationship where we share stuff... but now am worried that she might me hiding somethings from me... How do i get it to her that pursuing boys n relatioships is done when one is a little bit older than she is.. Frustr mom


Amy and Charles Miron Replied: Dear Frustrated Mom, You have every reason to feel frustrated. Welcome to the world of parenting adolescents! One of the developmental tasks of adolescence is to define who she is and what are her values, limits, beliefs, etc. Another very common issue is for adolescents to assert/discover their own power. It seems this is rearing its ugly head as you and your daughter appear to be locked in a power struggle over her interest in the 18 year old. While the topic is her interest in the 18 year old, it is also the stage for a larger issue. A common way that teens try to determine how powerful they are is by how much force you as a parent must use to subdue them. While "enforcement" is certainly one tool in your management toolbox, you've noted how ineffective and frustrating it is. That's one of the reasons why we don't feel it is your best option. One reason parenting adolescents is so challenging, is that parents have less and less consequences that their child cares much about. Reinforcement is a far better strategy. Remember, though it may not feel that way at times, your love and positive regard is always important to your child. We are in complete agreement with your concern of your daughter's "liking" an 18 year old. One of the things we recommend to parents is to set a rule that it is NOT OK to date (or in your instance "pursue") anyone who is two or more years older than your child. Why? The developmental issues are quite different with greater than a two year spread. So what do you do? Give the reasons why you feel the way you do on this (and all) issues of contention. Explain to your daughter that the developmental issues are quite different with greater than a two year spread in ages. You may want to ask your daughter to think about and remember when she was 10 or 11. Would she say, do or be interested in the same things now as when she was younger? Well the same thing is true with this boy who is 18. After giving other examples of these developmental differences you might add something like "it's OK to have "like" or have "sexual or romantic interest" in people who are more than two years older than you. It's just not OK to do anything about it." Explain that you love your daughter with all your heart and that even though she's growing up and seems to need you less, it's still your job to keep her safe and teach her the things that will help make her life a happy and productive one. Explain the consequences of her not following rules ahead of timeā€¦and follow through if there is a breaking of a rule. But also have fun with your growing daughter. Take time to do things togetherā€¦ just the two of you. Learn something together; take a class in yoga or whatever you and your daughter might enjoy. Positively reinforce her when she makes good decisions and shows responsible behavior. When she messes up, make sure you show her how disappointed you are in the decision, why you think her choice was a bad one, and close with the firm belief that you have faith in her ability to learn from the issue and make better choices in the future.
Posted On 2011-05-30 15:59:04
Dr. Vicki Panaccione Replied: I am so glad you wrote in! It can certainly be very frustrating to watch your child do something that you do not approve of, and find that your interventions are not working. It is not appropriate for a 13 year old girl to be in contact with an 18 year old boy. That being said, you must understand that many 13 year olds in this day and age do like and pursue boys. Your lectures about enjoying her childhood and waiting until she is older to pursue boys is a total waste of breath, and only serve create more distance between you and your daughter. So do interventions such as spanking. You cannot keep her from growing up. And, the more you try, the less likely you will have a relationship where "we share stuff" and more likely to have one where she will certainly try to hide things from you. I would suggest you start with an open conversation, getting to know your daughter as she is---not how you want her to be. From there, you may have more of an understanding of why she likes boys, what she likes about boys, what she wants in a relationship, and so on. If you haven't had a real open and honest discussion about sex, now is certainly the time. Young girls who flirt, or actively pursue boys, do not always realize what they are getting themselves into. Or, perhaps she does. Do her friends all have boyfriends? Are they having sex? These may not be things you want to hear; yet, if you are to provide guidance, then you need to know what's going on in her world. Regarding her phoning the boy so often, she needs to understand why this is not appropriate. If you need to take a strong stand, then you certainly could limit her phone privileges. She still may try to sneak to talk with him, but you have the authority to provide her with phone usage or not. Also, if this boy is 18, you may want to contact him and tell him to stop all contact with your daughter because she is only 13. If you really feel that she is placing herself in a potentially dangerous situation, you may need to provide closer supervision so that she cannot be in contact with him. This will not make you popular with your daughter, but it will more likely help keep her safe.
Posted On 2011-05-30 11:33:59
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: I would guess that by this time, the message you want your daughter to have about pursuing boys has been heard! You're in a battle with her which, like most power struggles with adolescents, parents are most likely doomed to lose. Whatever sense of aloneness, or needing to be admired, or wanting to be accepted, or just plain hormones has led her to this place, the chances are that hectoring her about this relationship has increased her defiance and her determination to be in control of her life. Spanking her, incidentally, is not only a completely disrespectful (and ineffective) attempt to assert your physical power over her, but it also forces this power struggle into high gear. It is almost certainly the case that she is hiding things from you at this moment; there is really no way to prevent that and her anger and defensiveness simply intensify her determination. What is needed now is a cooling off period, so that you can have an opportunity to talk to her about the concerns you have. I would suggest telling her that your relationship with her is too important to continue this fight, so you are going to let go of it for a few days, while you both think of some things you might like to do together. After things have settled down a bit, you will be in a much better position to say to her that you hope she can hear your concerns and think them over. Lectures about what is right and wrong here will fall on deaf ears, so they are pointless. You want to be able to share your concerns, so it is up to you to create an atmosphere of acceptance and honest dialogue. As long as your intention is to "get it to her," or to make her do or think something rather than simply to have her hear what is on your mind, you will be making dialogue less likely, and you will be pushing her out on her own to figure out what relationships are all about.
Posted On 2011-05-26 10:13:48
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