At an online source of parenting advice, a mother recently asked a female marriage and family therapist how to handle her eighth-grade daughter's announcement that she and her ninth-grade boyfriend have decided to "prove their love" by having sex. The mother says, "I don't think she's ready to have sex with this boy."
Did you get that? Mom's not really sure whether her 14-year-old daughter is ready for sex or not. That's at least 50 percent of the problem. And believe me, this mom isn't alone in her confusion. Many of today's parents, faced with the same problem, aren't sure they have a right to be unequivocal with their kids, as in, "Over my dead body."
And the therapist isn't quite sure either. She tells the mom not to tell the daughter she can't see the boy because the girl might become sneaky. Instead, the mother should acknowledge her daughter's trust, validate her desire to make her boyfriend happy, discuss the emotional ramifications of having sex, talk about how she will feel if after she has sex with the boy he dumps her, tell her about the hormone oxytocin (it supposedly causes girls to emotionally bond with any oxytocin-absent boy they have sex with), and invite the boy for dinner so mom can keep tabs on the relationship.
Oh, and mom is also advised to tell dear daughter that if she begins making bad decisions, mom will have to get more involved. The exact nature of that involvement, however, is left to one's imagination. I'm reasonably certain it does not involve the word "no." Mom is told to appreciate how much peer pressure her daughter is under, to give the child understanding and support, and to tell her that if the boyfriend really loves her, he will respect her refusal.
This female therapist is obviously out of her league. First, if the boy truly loved this girl, he wouldn't be pressuring her into having sex in the first place. And if he is pressuring her to have sex, he is not going to "respect" her refusal. That's not how it works when boys are 15. That's not how it works for some 40-year-old boys, in fact.
This child is in dire straits. I suspect she has come to her mother hoping Mom would put her foot down and say exactly what the therapist has told her not to say: Absolutely not, period; followed by, "And furthermore, because I am ultimately responsible for your welfare, I am not going to allow you to put yourself in danger with that boy again. Your relationship with him is hereby over." Then, and only then, mom should explain to her daughter the reasons behind that decision. By the way, said therapist thinks that approach is "harsh." I think it's responsible, unequivocal, authoritative, and everything parents should be, especially where a child's health and overall welfare are concerned.
The wishy-washy approach is exactly what this child does not need. She is asking for her mother to stand up for her principles, to take away from her the responsibility of dealing with this boy's desire. Mom needs to be unequivocal concerning her values (said therapist never talks about values, by the way, which is very politically correct of her) and equally unequivocal concerning her position on the issue. I will now model being unequivocal: PARENTS! IT IS ALL RIGHT TO TELL A CHILD NO, EVEN A CHILD OF 14.
By the way, the age of sexual consent in every U.S. state is between 16 and 18. Mom should point that out and assure the girl that she is not shy about pressing charges against the boy. When the girl tells him that -- and she will -- he will vanish.
Lastly, dad is not mentioned by either mom or the therapist. Maybe he's not in the home, but if he's available, then he needs to sit down with his daughter and tell her how much he loves her and how important it will be to him that he walk a virgin to the altar, not to mention how important it will be to her husband.
John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.