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Real Talk

A mom's perspective

teens, moms of teens, raising teens, real talk

GET THE OTHER PERSPECTIVE. Get the answer from Dr. Paul Schwartz.

The way we treat others is at least, in part, learned. And as boys and girls grow up, they learn how to treat opposite-sex peers.                                  

But, are they taught to treat opposite-sex peers with sensitivity, dignity, and respect?

Teaching both of my daughters to respect opposite-sex peers has been one of the ongoing life lessons in my home. However my teaching methods have more often been of the “indirect” variety.

Showing, Not Telling
When my older daughter was 3, my husband and I were going through a rough patch. During that time, when I would speak to him, sometimes the words I chose to use weren’t very kind. However I didn’t think my daughter was actually listening to our conversations, thus I never truly, as they say, “minced [my] words.” My reasoning was, “She’s three. She’s not paying attention, right?


When I heard my then-3-year old admonish my husband with the same exasperated tone and similarly unkind words I typically used, it was a shock.

Since then, I have tried to make certain that I always treat my husband respectfully, both when the kids are around, and when they are not. Even when I feel like screaming at him, I try my best to hold back if my daughters are near. Though, uh, nobody is perfect (yet another life lesson!).

On the flipside, my daughter has never seen my husband hit me, or belittle me, or attempt to use his larger size to intimidate me. He and I attempt to teach our girls through living our lives what a healthy relationship both looks and sounds like. Most days, I think we’re pretty successful.

 Teaching Consent
Teaching kids about consent should be an ongoing conversation throughout their childhoods. Even toddlers need to know about “private parts” and appropriate vs. inappropriate touching for their own safety.

I’ve discussed consent with my tween. We have also spoken about respecting her bodily autonomy as well as others. Keeping one’s hands to oneself is BIG. Unwanted tickling, painful, embarrassing bra-snapping, wedgies… Whether NO comes from the mouth of a boy or a girl, it means, simply, NO.

The end.

The importance of consent is also reflected through my house rules for visitors. For example, neither of my girls is ever required to hug or kiss anybody, including my husband and me. By allowing them to refuse contact, I hope to teach them to have high respect for the fact that a person’s body is theirs and theirs alone. My good friend said it best when she stated, “consent… reflects that the other person is a full half of the equation.”

Boyfriends after boy friends
My tween, at age 11, is not allowed a boyfriend at this time. My reasoning is not as Puritanical as one may believe, however. This rule is not in place because I think she is going to do something irresponsible in a relationship with a boy. I don’t!

So why am I delaying her first love?

Before they start dating boys, I want both my girls to learn to interact with boys as solely friends. Romantic feelings tend to take over when they are present in a relationship dynamic. These intense emotions can potentially infiltrate every boyfriend-girlfriend interaction a young couple has with one another. This is in stark contrast to the recent past, when boys and girls wanted zero to do with one another. Going from no feelings at all to romantic feelings is a HUGE step. Being buddies first is a needed boost for the middle.

One day, hopefully my daughters will thank me. Their husbands, too!

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator, and lifelong Hudson Valley resident. Between epic naps, Jill moonlights as an essayist, wannabe novelist, and classic rock mommy review blogger: to read more, visit her website HERE.

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