When parents come to me and say, “I think my daughter has a crush on your son, isn’t that cute? I say no, I don’t think it’s cute,” and here’s why?
My son does not understand who he is yet, and neither does your daughter, and that can set up unhealthy life-long habits that center on your worth being tied to another person’s desire of you. My son started having this happen to him when he was four and a half! I thought to myself, why are these little girls already chasing my son? I know he’s adorable (Mamma Biased) but here’s the thing; He didn’t give a hoot about a girl until I made it cute and I regret that. Luckily, he didn’t think much about after that day. At the time I was promoting the fact girls and boys can just be friends in my head, but really there was an inner child that was living out her insecurity through her child. Something I came to realize the 4 years later, as I’ve had to endure stories about how so and so said he was her boyfriend and then the next day broke up with him for the next boy. He also told me it made him feel uncomfortable because if he didn’t play along he’d be laughed at. The social pressure of coupling is ridiculous at this age. Also, what about the kids who get left out? I let it go for a bit because I remembered what it was like to be a little girl in elementary, but when I saw his little eyes of pain I said, “He is too young for this crap, and it will stop!” So here was my solution and I hope you use it for your child.
I told him, “You don’t have a girlfriend, and none of the girls in your class have boyfriends. You are friends! There will be no kissing and talks of who will marry who because it can confuse your feelings. You should not dislike yourself because a girl who has been brought up on Disney and is looking to be saved by a prince in shining armor! If she is not strong enough to save herself well, she is not strong enough for you! If a boy is teasing you because a girl is giving you attention or you are talking to her it may be because that boy likes the girl that likes you.” Basically, I told him the truth!
Harsh? Maybe a little but I want parents to know of the harmful and destructive messaging society has created. That messaging has created toxic masculinity also known as insecure men, anorexia and bulimia in girls and boys as they try to live up to an unrealistic standard of attractiveness that is fueled by a multi-billion dollar industry, and rape culture. Honestly, the list goes on and on. You are allowing your children to be objectified and objectify others before they can even understand what all those biological cues are about.
So what is the answer?
- Let boys and girls be friends. Playdates need not be same-gendered.
- Stop associating color preference to gender. Pink used to be a boy color first! (shameless plug, I have a new book called “I Love Pink!”)
- Explain that partnering up means something and telling them about it doesn’t mean they will start doing it, in my son’s case it grossed him out! As it should at 8 yrs old.
- Stop teaching girls to focus on their physical attractiveness.
- Stop letting your daughters chase boys! It will only lead to heartbreak. Unfortunately, my son has not developed the skill of “letting a girl down easy.” That has resulted in some manipulative and out and out shady behavior from the girls in his class. Lying and saying he hit them, etc. My son can be aloof to me, and he loves me. I can’t imagine how cold he can be if he doesn’t. I’m working on that one. At least I know he likes himself enough to just walk away. As I explained to one parent, “If my son doesn’t like your kid because the kid has been mean to him well, your kid will get the cold shoulder. He needs to change his behavior or accept my son will give him/or her a not so friendly response!”
- I’m teaching him not to chase people who mistreat him. Not everyone will be friends, but respecting yourself is necessary to bring the right people into your life!
- Teach your children to love themselves more than wanting to be someone’s possession or best friend.
- Monitor those “kid-friendly” cartoons! They are full of gender separating messaging.
- Teach your kids an intelligent mind and a kind heart are the most attractive qualities, not physical appearance, but you will like what you will like.
- Teach them it is okay to ask for or even demand their space to exist.
- Teach them how to be alone and be okay with it and when they want the connection, make sure it’s the kind that comes from the heart!
I hope this helps some of you as much as it helped me to write it! Also, I know I pointed out girls in this piece and the reason being that little girl still lives in me. I remember those dynamics, and I wish I could go back in time and show her how to love herself much more than she was taught. To fight against those social norms that made her feel like she wasn’t enough. Mothers of daughters and sons know what I mean. Whether you were the girl that all the boys chased, the girl that did the chasing, or the girl who was ignored, please teach your daughters and sons they are enough, and they don’t need anyone to validate their specialness but themselves.