Question: My 12-year-old son is receiving texts from girls all the time! Day and night, they text him even though he does not encourage them and says he is not interested. I think these kids are far too young to be behaving this way and the girls are so bold! What can I say to my son to help him discourage these girls from all this contact?

Answer: 

In the middle school years, there’s often a wide gap between the social development of boys and girls of the same age. For some parents this can be especially troubling when “boy crazy” girls seem bold and unrelenting in pursuit of their son. The situation you describe offers a great opportunity to help your emerging adolescent learn about healthy boundaries and respect.

Family discussion

A helpful first step might be to have a family discussion around when it’s appropriate to be using a cellphone, and when it’s not. For instance, phones and other tech devices might be a “no go” for your family during mealtimes, after a certain hour of the evening, or when other people are visiting. Some families find it helpful to have kids turn off their phone, say, an hour before bedtime, and put it into mom or dad’s keeping until the next day. Clear and simple household rules like these can help a child lean on the certainty that he has a firm boundary to express to friends, without having to be the “bad guy” about it.

You mention that your son isn’t interested, and doesn’t encourage the girls’ attentions.  But how does he actually handle the texts when he gets them? Is he stuck and clearly miserable, replying “ya,” “no” or “I dunno” to a stream of chatter and gossip? Or does he truly enjoy the time and attention from these young ladies, without the risk of sweaty palms and other awkwardness that comes with face-to-face conversations at that age? 

Setting boundaries

If he is genuinely uncomfortable with these texts, you may need to do a bit of coaching around helping him develop reliable personal boundaries to say “no, thank you” to things he does not want in his life; this is an important life skill for adolescence and beyond. Of course, it’s quite possible that he doesn’t really object to this sort of attention, but hasn’t yet developed the confidence and other social skills to figure out how to handle it. Safe, open and ongoing family conversations around things like respect (for others and self), choices, trust, faith and healthy relationships of all sorts, and growing up, are hugely significant to the successful development of children and teens.   

© 2017 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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