Monday, May 14, 2007

More on the Parenting Question

I got a few more details in my exchange with "Jimmy." It turns out that his brother does seasonal work that keeps him away from home for weeks at a time. So, while the father disapproves of the 14 year old girl having a sleepover with boys, the mother is allowing this in his absence. Jimmy says,
Its just frustrating to me that I can't even reason with her. Aren't there some sort of studies that I could quote or some authoritative statement about the danger of this practice? I fear my neice will be pregnant before she sees 15. I expressed that to my sister in law and she said, "No she won't. She wouldn't dare have sex because I told her I'd kill her if she does." I can't even imagine how to respond to a statement that stupid....The thing is, the boys' (there were two of them the other night) parents know they are spending the night with a girl. All three of these kids are 14. I'm just sickened by how incredibly bad American parents are becoming.

Dear Jimmy,
You may use me as an authority in your conversations with this family.
Studies now show that teenagers' brains are wired differently than yours and mine. Teens are in fact more impulsive and emotional. This is not just a stereotype. The fact that you or I think something is reasonable doesn't mean that the teens will see the reasoning.
Young people's bodies are transitioning into biological adulthood, which means that their bodies are designed to reproduce. The body of a young healthy adolescent is crying out to reproduce and to connect with a person of the opposite sex. Our society is not set up for young people to take on adult parenting responsibilities, at the time that their bodies are physically ready for parenthood. For teens to sleep in the same room with friends of the opposite sex is a sure-fire way to have them become sexual with each other, and destroy their friendship in the process.
The kids have enough trouble handling their feelings without being placed in a situation of almost overwhelming temptation.
Also, please know that beginning sex at such a young age is correlated with depression, having multiple partners, and getting pregnant and STD's. Most important, early initiation of sex is correlated with a lower probability of being happily married at the age of 30.
In other words, this mom is betting that they won't have sex. But if they do have sex, it sets her daughter up for a lifetime of risks.
Another approach to use with this mother: you are openly defying your husband's clearly expressed position on this topic. By what right do you do that? Do have any idea what harm you may be doing to the trust between the two of you? I always advise couples to "give way on trivial issues," in my "101 Tips for a Happier Marriage." This is not a trivial issue, but a deeply serious one, and your husband is in the right and you are mistaken. Children need, above all, for their parents to be cooperating with each other, and to be "on the same page," with discipline. By allowing your daughter to have these sleepovers, you are damaging your relationship with your husband, with absolutely no gain to yourself or your daughter. What could possibly be the point of that?
Another overall strategy, Jimmy: you might want to talk to the boys involved or their parents. Ask them if they are ready for a lifetime of child support payments. In some states, the parents of underaged fathers are being held accountable for child support. Ask them if they are absolutely sure a) the girl won't get pregnant and b) she and her parents won't come after him for child support.
Good luck and God bless you!
Dr J

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