Don’t Hound Preteen Son Over Puppy Love


How should parents establish boundaries when their preteen is interested in dating? John Rosemond offers a practical solution.

Q: Our 12-year- old son likes a girl who is in the same grade. We told him it's okay to like a girl and have a pleasant conversation with her in a group situation like recess, but he is too young to call her at home or say she is his girlfriend. Do you agree?

I can't figure out how you intend to enforce the boundaries you've put on this (probably) very innocent relationship. How are you going to make sure he doesn't conspire to, say, meet her at the movies? And how are you going to make sure he doesn't ever call her his girlfriend?

By establishing rules you can't enforce, you've broadcast your anxieties to your son and invited him to rebel.

I can't imagine that your anxiety is warranted. The likelihood is smaller than small that this is anything more than puppy love, a crush that will run its course without any effort on your part. And the less you say about this, the better.

Just tell him to treat the young lady with respect, both when he's in her company and when he is not. I'd tell him that feelings of attraction between boys and girls this age are completely normal and that if he has feelings he wants to talk about, that you're open to talk. In other words, I'd not establish boundaries unless it was obvious that boundaries were needed, and I'd invite a broader discussion on the issue of male-female relationships. Don't waste this opportunity.


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