Teen Girls and Dating? Uh, Not While I’m Still Breathing

Dear Mr. Dad, My 14-year-old daughter is obsessed with the idea that she needs to start dating. She says “all of her friends” are doing it, and feels left out. Fourteen just seems too young. I don’t think anyone—boy or girl—should start ‘til at least 16. I want to tell her “over my dead body” but I also don’t want to be that dad. What can I do?

A: As the father of three daughters—two of whom made it through their teen years without getting pregnant (the third is only 10 and I’m confident she’ll do the same)—I feel your pain. The very idea of your little girl, alone with a … boy, can bring up all sorts of emotions, headlined by anger (“Boys that age have only one thing on their mind”) and worry (How can I possibly protect her?”).

Let’s start with the “only-one-thing-on-their-mind” idea. Do you really believe that? TV, movies, and the Internet put a lot of pressure on teens to have as much sex as they can as often as they can, with as many different people as possible. But the reality is that the majority of boys your daughter’s age are petrified of girls, and what’s most likely on their mind is, “I’m hungry.”

As far as the “how-can-I-protect-her” idea, you have two things going for you. First, your daughter herself doesn’t sound like she’s all that into it and just wants to date because everyone else is. By telling you that, she’s almost begging you to say No. Second, even if dating were her idea, you’re right: 14 is too young for serious one-on-one dating.
That said, you can’t just play the tough guy and expect her to be happy about it. In fact, the more forcefully you forbid dating, the more you’ll push her towards it. Here’s what to do instead.

  • Really Talk to Her. You have a wonderful opportunity here. Your daughter actually came to you with a problem. That says a huge amount (in a good way) about your relationship. Ask her to tell you more about the dating her friends are doing, the pressure she feels, and what she actually means by “dating” (you might be thinking, “dinner, movie, make out in the back seat of the car”; she might be thinking “hold hands and share an ice cream cone”). Listen carefully and don’t be judgmental. When you sense an opportunity, talk to her about the dangers of dating, including violence (which, by the way is just as likely to be initiated by girls as by boys). Talk about relationships, sex, and the finances involved. You’re not going to wrap this up in one conversation, so take it a step at a time.
  • Establish some dating rules. Number one is that group dates are okay, one-on-one dates are not. End of story. Group dates let her be with the boy who makes her blush, but in a setting where inappropriate behavior is a lot less likely.
  • Tag along. In my view, groups of young teens shouldn’t be out and about without an adult nearby—there’s too much opportunity for things to go wrong. And if you want your daughter to see how serious you are, be the chaperone. Don’t be right in the middle of the group or try to be everyone’s buddy—that would only embarrass your daughter. Instead, walk half a block behind and sit a few rows away in the movie. But be there. Watch carefully, and let her enjoy herself.

Be the Go-to Person about Sex + Preventing and Treating Concussion + Winning Your Son’s Heart + Getting to 3rd Base

www.amazon.co.ukGuest 1: Deborah Roffman, author of Talk to Me First.
Topic: Everything you need to know to become your kids’ “go-to” person about sex.
Issues: Teach kids to view sexually-saturated media critically; how to become an approachable, askable resource for your children; how to foster ongoing conversations about difficult topics; put meaningful context around the topic of sexuality in a world where most messages are misguided and uninformed.


www.amazon.co.ukGuest 2: Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, author of Ahead of the Game.
Topic: Understanding youth sports concussions.
Issues: What exactly is a concussion? When can a child who’s had a concussion get back on the field? How concussions negatively affect children’s GPA, school performance, and emotional behavior; helmets and mouthguards—even when properly fitted—can’t prevent concussion; why girls are more vulnerable to concussion that boys; why state concussion laws may not be enough to keep kids safe.


www.amazon.co.ukGuest 3: John Davis, author of Extreme Pursuit.
Topic: Winning the race for the heart of your son.
Issues: Teen boys are driven by design to be extraordinary, to build and make an impact on their world. But left unchecked, this intensity can fuel destructive behavior. When our teens are slipping away, how do we get them back?


www.amazon.co.ukGuest 4: Logan Levkoff, author of Third Base Ain’t What It Used to Be.
Topic: What your kids are learning about sex today, and how to teach them to become sexually healthy adults.
Issues: Ending the hysteria about sex ed by clarifying the difference between the facts of puberty and the values every parent holds; sex is good, and sex education equals life education; when parents ignore kids’ questions about sexuality, those kids turn to their peers for information—and information from kids on the school bus can be dreadfully wrong.

Girls, Girls Everywhere and Not a Boy in Sight

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have twin daughters, and are now expecting our third child–another daughter. I feel terrible about thinking this way, but when we found out the new arrival was going to be another girl, I was disappointed. It’s as though having a third daughter reduces my value as a man (I’m quite sure my in-laws, who were hoping for a boy this time ’round too, feel exactly the same way). This probably makes me sound like a terrible person, but I was really hoping for a jock. Is there anything I can do to move past this internal struggle?

A: The first thing you need to do is stop torturing yourself. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that shows that fathers of girls are any less masculine than fathers of boys (and I say that as a Marine Corps veteran with three daughters). Although most parents wouldn’t admit it in public, there’s a ton of research that shows that a majority of dads—and moms—do have a preference. And that preference is usually for a boy. Men often hope for boys because they aren’t quite sure what to do with girls. And women often hope for boys because they want their husband to be happy. After the first child, though, most parents say they want the next one to be the other sex. So you’re not alone.

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What IS It with Girls and Clothes?

Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since my daughter turned 13, all she does is pressure my wife and me to buy her extravagant, overpriced clothing. We’re going through a bit of a rough financial patch and there’s no way we can afford what she’s asking for. Any advice?

A: Clearly you were never a teenage girl. Okay, neither was I, but I did survive my two oldest daughters’ bouts with teen wardrobe insanity and still have most of my hair. My youngest, who worships her older sisters and apparently was taking good notes during their adolescent years, is threatening to become a teenager herself in a few years and has already developed some very firm ideas about clothes.
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For Girls, Puberty at Age 6? That’s One of the Best Reasons to Be an Involved Dad

More and more girls are starting puberty early. Some as early as six! If you’ve got daughters–and I’ve got three of ‘em–there are a few things you really, really need to know. Let’s start with the good news, some of which I’ve written about extensively.

Girls who have actively involved dads start puberty later than those with less involved dads. In fact, girls who grow up without a biological dad are twice as likely to start puberty young than girls in families where mom and dad are there. (An unfortunate piece of bad news for women who’ve remarried is that a stepfather in the home can accelerate puberty too.)
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