Coping with Boy-Crazy Teens
When a girl has a mad crush on a boy, evidence can inevitably be found on her notebook – her first name written with his last name or a hyphen joining her last name to his.
Eventually, however, it goes beyond the notebook. Boy-crazy girls might get up the confidence to send him instant messages and e-mails, and they might go so far as to record love songs and leave them on a boy's answering machine.
Even when it's not with a boy, most teen girls love to chat on the phone or on the Internet, but parents may want to have a heart-to-heart discussion about communication etiquette – especially when boys are involved.
Sue Blaney of Acton, Mass., the mother of two teenagers and the author of Please Stop the Rollercoaster: How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth out the Ride (Changeworks Publishing, 2003), says her 16-year-old daughter is comfortable calling boys, and her 18-year-old son receives phone calls from girls – it's all part of the cultural and societal norm for teenagers today.
"I think girls calling boys today is just a normal part of their experience," she says. "Their culture is different than ours. Their expectations are different than ours. I think it's perfectly normal and acceptable for girls to call boys as much as boys call girls."
This might be a hard concept for many parents to get used to. Blaney admits that social norms were once very different. "When I was a kid, girls did not call boys," she says. "And also, it was more unusual to have good friends of the opposite sex. I think it's a wonderful thing that kids have more freedom and are comfortable choosing their friends and building friendships without the gender being one of the major determining factors of who their friends are going to be."
Gilda Carle, associate professor of business, psychology and communications at New York's Mercy College and the author of Teen Talk with Dr. Gilda: A Girl's Guide to Dating (Harper Collins, 2003), says most parents are oblivious when their daughters have an obsessive side.
"Most parents have never even brought up this subject, because they can't imagine that their daughters are even interested in these guys, and then suddenly they find out that their daughters have become much more aggressive than even the parents recognize, and they are shocked," Carle says.
She points out that teen girls have become increasingly more assertive than their female role models of an older generation. They are more likely to initiate phone calls, dates and even insist on having sex.
Middle and high school girls know being assertive helps them succeed in leadership roles. Therefore, they might be confused when their assertiveness is not readily accepted by a romantic interest.
"Even young boys write to me, and this is new also because in the past years I was never hearing from boys," Carle says. "I traditionally heard from girls and adult women, but now boys are writing and they are being choked by all of this female attention."
So why aren't boys thrilled with the attention? First, she explains, boys are not as mature as girls their same age. Second, many boys are not ready for relationships of an emotional nature. "Even if boys are a little older, girls are still much more mature," Carle says. "A lot of them aren't ready for sex, and they are being thrown into that very often by the girls."
While Blaney doesn't raise an eyebrow when her teenagers talk on the phone with the opposite gender, she does have stricter rules about whom her daughter can talk to on the Internet. Blaney feels it is essential to let teens know they should not be talking to anyone they don't know online. Instant messaging and e-mails have replaced phone conversations for most teens.
"[My daughter] spends more time online [instant messaging]," Blaney says. "I've asked her about that, and she tells me [instant messaging] allows her to be in touch with a whole lot more people than a telephone conversation."
Blaney points out that another positive of instant messaging is that it allows for the continuation of relationships without geographical boundaries. For instance, her daughter went away to a field hockey tournament in California where she made friends from a wider region. "... She will keep in touch with them on the Internet, and that's a very comfortable way of doing it," Blaney says.
Addressing Your Concerns
Marian Stansbury, Ph.D., of Milford, Conn., a licensed marriage and family therapist and a personal and professional life coach, says she finds it is important for parents to know their children so they can discuss dating issues.
While Stansbury does not subscribe to the old-school thought that women should be submissive, she does say that girls need a balance in their lives. "I don't think that means a girl can never call a guy and you have to sit home and twiddle your thumbs and wait for the guy to call you ...," Stansbury says.
Being boy crazy is also often a matter of having too much romantic energy, so Carle advises parents to let their daughters watch soap operas or read romantic novels instead of calling their crushes from a cell phone 50 times a day or inventing screen names to talk anonymously to him on the Internet.
In the midst of it all, parents should still try to respect their teen's privacy while keeping the lines of communication open. Your son may be overwhelmed by a pursuer and may not know how to get out of the situation. Your daughter may become all-consumed with a boy and be blinded to other serious problems or issues in her life. Either way, your teen needs a friendly parent – not a friend – who is always there to listen.