Chasing Boys

My 12-year-old daughter said she was going for a bike ride with her girlfriends. The girls then biked over to a boy's house. Her friends left after they got to the boy's house because they aren't allowed to go over to boy's houses unless they are invited. Our family has the same rule. We've told her that she's not allowed to chase boys, walk or bike-ride past their houses.

Today, I overheard her talking about this while she was on the phone. When she got off the phone, I questioned her about breaking this rule and she just shrugged my questions off. We grounded her from going to the pool for the next two weeks for this behavior.

She's never done anything like this before. The fact that she lied about this has me angry and very disappointed. I told her that I don't know if I can trust her any more. Am I over reacting? I tell myself she's just a 12-year-old girl with a summer crush, but part of me is concerned that this will lead to her becoming a 16-year-old girl crawling out the bedroom window at night to have sex with her boyfriend!

--A Parent Soup member
Question:

We realize you're worried and upset about being lied to. In today's world of AIDS and too-sexy preteens, it's hard to be enthusiastic about young love. Let me get this straight. Your daughter is not allowed to "chase boys, walk past or bike-ride past their homes?" This sounds a bit too strict to me. Girls at this age are preoccupied with boys. Finding out where a boy lives is part of this temporary boy craziness.

You definitely do need clear rules about not going inside a boy's home when no parent is there, and an understanding about when she can begin to date. Age 12 or 13 is too young for one-on-one dates, but not too young for group activities. You need trust in your relationship and to understand that flirtation and crushes are an important part of social and emotional development during the early adolescent years.

Right now, you are defining yourself as the overseer, referring to your daughter's curiosity about boys in a negative manner. Doing this will only cause her to become defensive, shutting you out. It's better to be in the role of an understanding confidante.

It's important to find a way to speak in a positive manner. "Chasing boys" is a negative phrase. At this age, girls and boys are supposed to discover one another, learn how to relate socially, and even romantically. You need to be there to help her process her romantic feelings. Ask her questions:

• What does she like about a certain boy?
• How does one show one cares?
• What's the difference between showing a boy you care, and pursuing him like a desperate female?

Talk about these issues. And listen, too. Let her take pride in telling you the juicy details while sharing your concerns and values with her. Her lying indicates that she feels she must hide those details or risk getting into trouble. Give her rules that allow her to experience a crush on a boy and even spend time with the boy in a group situation.

If your daughter feels you understand, and that your rules are reasonable, she will follow them. If you rule out any and all social opportunities, she will indeed shut you out and has a much higher likelihood of turning into that girl sneaking out the window.

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