I’m the mother of a beautiful, strong willed 12-year-old daughter. She has always been tall for her age but is now 5’ 11”, 120lbs with blue eyes, long blond hair and naturally tanned looking skin. She looks like a supermodel of about 17 and knows it. Unfortunately she attracts the attention of young men in their late teens & early 20s, will dress in ways to make herself look older, and basically enjoys baiting them. Unfortunately her best friend (a 13 year old without much common sense) met a young man (17years old) through an Internet chat room and invited this person to meet them at the mall for a movie. (Of course all this sort of thing is kept secret from us through lies.) While at the movie my daughter allowed this boy to kiss her, which then turned into rape. I discovered what happened by accident when I found a pregnancy test kit in my daughter’s room. When I asked her about it she told me what happened, was of course very upset, glad that I finally knew and was eager to seek medical screening and agreed to talk to child protection and JERT, a division of the police. She was raped this past August and I discovered it in late October.
Prior to this she had been having sexual type conversations with boys over the Internet and on a household back up mobile phone, which is billed to our business, which we didn’t know she was using. Of course we had repeatedly given her the lecture about chatrooms, danger of the Internet, talking or SMSing people you don’t know, etc. Her Internet privileges had been pulled a number of times for a month or more for these types of infractions. After discovering the rape, her computer access was removed, the phone was deactivated and she hasn’t been allowed to see her friend anywhere except at our house.
At the beginning of January we gave her back her computer privileges along with the warning about not abusing them etc. Last night we discovered that she has been having very illicit sexual conversations on the computer since January 5th with a 15-year-old local boy. We confronted her about this, asked her why on earth she did this after everything that has happened, explained that she was definitely leading this boy on and was walking down a very dangerous road which could ruin her life! All she said was that she was sorry, doesn’t know why she does it and fled to her room blocking her door to prevent us coming in. Computer privileges have been removed again.
I have tried, over the last two years or so to teach her how to avoid sexual trouble, dress appropriately (teen fashion which isn’t slutty or revealing is OK), no heavy make-up (she “borrows” mine without asking if she doesn’t have her own, no talking to strangers no mall or movies without adult accompanying, don’t get into a situation where you give someone privacy and control, etc.
Despite what happened, she continues to play the siren when she thinks we aren’t watching.
I love my daughter very much, she has SO much potential and a wonderful life to look forward to and she is a pretty good kid – sure I have problems with lying, wagging chores, not doing homework, backchat, sulking, door slamming and the gimmee and getmees but I’m deeply worried about her stubbornness in playing with sexual fire and what the consequences of that could be.
She is only 12 – but in a gorgeous 17-year-old body - how on earth can we protect her from herself during the teen years?
P.S. I received your email book yesterday – it’s fantastic. I’ve tried some of your “tricks” with the other typical teen behavior problems last night and they worked like magic! Thank you.
Sexual acting out and behavior is almost always tough for parents to deal with, even when they understand that, at least to some degree, it's "normal."
Children who demonstrate an unusual interest in sexual matters often have been introduced to it by other adults, children, or by viewing sexual material. It's also possible that having intercourse explained to her when she was young has created some confusion for your daughter that she is "acting out" in her behavior.
My own son was inadvertently shown a sexually explicit cartoon when he was 11, and we went through several months of heightened sexual interest and questions--which gradually disappeared when he realized that he wasn't shocking me and that I would calmly answer any of his questions. Do some thinking about what you want your daughter to believe about sex and intimacy, and then find ways to calmly teach and share those concepts with her.
Your daughter needs teaching about appropriate boundaries and behavior, not punishment. By showing gentle curiosity and asking "what" and "how" questions, you can open the door to talking about sex, rather than having her act it out. You may want to get one of the many excellent books explaining sexuality for children and read it together, openly reminding her that this subject has come up before and you're wondering if she has questions. The phrase, "I've noticed that. . ." is often a good beginning. You can let her know, without anger, that flirting the way she has is not acceptable, but it is okay to have questions and be curious, and that she can ask you anything. Your own attitude (kind and firm) will let her know that you mean what you say. If you are calm, open, and approachable, she may be able to relax enough to explore the subject with you.
Mark Hutten, M.A.
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