Q. My 13-year- old daughter seems obsessed with boys. She will talk to a boy on the phone one time and then tell me that he's her new boyfriend. We've had conversations about getting to know boys as simply friends, self-respect, boundary-setting, etc., but my words seem to be falling on deaf ears. Her father and I are divorced and he is rarely a part of her life. What can I do to help her?
Unfortunately, the studies indicate that what you're describing is precisely what girls without active fathers in their lives do when they become teens. They become obsessed with getting attention from males, and they will do just about anything to get the attention and the false, manipulative approval that comes with it.
Will her father open his heart to his daughter if you tell him what's going on? If he won't step up to the plate and become the man in her life, then he's a pitiful excuse for a man for sure.
In that event, you need to do all that you can to find an adult male in his late 20s or 30s who will form a relationship with her, take her places, show her positive attention, and so on – a surrogate “uncle,” if you will.
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You can start your search by talking to a youth minister. And if she's not already involved in a church teen group, get her involved. At this very vulnerable time in her life, she needs to be around positive peer group behavior.
Cure for screaming clinger
Clever Solution of the Week: A couple of generations back and more, when parents still sought child-rearing advice from grandparents and other wise elders, those wise folks often recommended a problem-solving approach they called “reverse psychology.”
Good news. It still works.
A mother told me that whenever she tried to leave her generally well-behaved 5-year-old daughter in someone else's care, even someone very familiar, the child would cling and sob hysterically, begging her mother not to leave her. On these occasions, Mom literally had to pry her daughter off of her and leave, upon which, according to all, she calmed down and seemed perfectly content.
Mom writes: “I don't know where I got this idea, but one day, as I was driving my little drama queen to a sitter's, I told her that I liked it when she screamed and cried and clung to me because it meant she loved me very, very much. ‘So,' I said, ‘When we get to So-and-So's house, I would really, really like it if you would scream and yell louder than ever before.' When we pulled up to the friend's house, I reminded her of what I wanted her to do. She looked at me like I was nuts, went inside, and that was the end of it.”