The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Children Dating

Is 10 years old too young for my daughter to have a "boyfriend"?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Diane, you’re wondering about your 10-year-old?


Diane:              Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      She’s 10 years old and she has a boyfriend?


Diane:              Yes. We were just told this the other day and I’m just wondering, I’ve pulled up some things on the internet and I’m noticing that this is way too young and I just kind of wanted to reach out on more opinions.


Dr. Kenner:      Okay, well, my gut response is that it’s sweet and it’s way too young if we think of boyfriend in the boyfriend/girlfriend context of teenagers. It’s absolutely delightful if you put a dash between boy and friend, and she’s just got a male friend. When you grew up, did you have any guys in the neighborhood that were just buddies?


Diane:              Yes. I did. But I just know that it wasn’t even thought about in my household because of our Catholic strict upbringing, and I was raised in a family of five children, so we tended to keep amongst ourselves and play your childhood games. I don’t know where it’s taken a turn. I guess, just time. I don’t know. It’s a little confusing.


Dr. Kenner:      Well, the kids are exposed to so much. I would first get information from her. Because if you come in heavy handed, saying, “You can’t have a boyfriend,” man, you’re setting yourself up for a power struggle with your daughter that could last for a long time, through her teenage years. If you call it a boy buddy instead of a boyfriend, maybe she would be willing to change the name, as just a buddy or friend. I think back to my own childhood and I remember I used to get together with Paul and Larry and I remember we used to have a lot of fun. I had a few girlfriends and we would hang around in a group. Larry really had a crush on me and we played doctor and nurse once and he did something that was absolutely shocking to me, do you know what he did? I was about your daughter’s age.


Diane:              I can’t imagine.


Dr. Kenner:      He kissed me on the cheek! I was so distraught. I didn’t know how to handle this. That poor Larry. I think I either hit him and ran home to my parents and then I wanted to go back for more, but I just remember I had a shocked response because I didn’t know how to handle it. Now, in hindsight, if it was just a peck on the cheek, I mean, he gave me a bracelet to go steady and I think I still have that bracelet to this day and he’s no longer alive, he passed on, but poor Larry, I hope it wasn’t the kiss! The point is, if you draw your daughter out and what do you know about this little guy?


Diane:              Well, he’s a year older than her. Sydney is 10 going on like 17. She’s very mature for her age and I’m her stepmom so I’ve been watching this in the grandstands for the last five or six years. About him, all I know right now is that he’s a year older than her. He’s in sixth grade. They go back and forth to each other’s homes with parent supervision I’m hoping. We haven’t spoken with her mother yet, but they hold hands and they hug. Their mother I believe is trying to be more of a friend to her than an actual parent and we’re definitely on two different pages – her father who I’m married to now and then Sydney’s mother, who the children live with. This has been going on for two and a half months. The secret has been kept from her own father. So it’s a lot more involved, and I’m hoping that we can all get on the same page and parent together. But it was just the main thing was that she’s just so big for her britches. I did pull something up on the internet that was through a psychological site and I underlined it, highlighted it and printed it and it said that children that are allowed to date between the ages of 11 and 13, 90 percent of them end up having sexual relations by either freshman or sophomore in high school.


Dr. Kenner:      So she needs a lot of education over the consequences of her actions. But you don’t want to give her too much either, which is why you always need to know the context of the particular child. You need to know the nature of Sydney’s relationship with this sixth grader. If it’s just that they’re hugging and holding hands, that sounds like a lighter level and if they could call themselves buddies instead, that’s another situation. Does the father know now?


Diane:              Yes, and we’re going to be discussing this with him tonight. We disagree on a lot of things that go on in the household over there and I guess what frustrates him is that his opinion has never been valued in his marriage to her and now it’s like it’s okay for her to keep these things, be coached by her mother.


Dr. Kenner:      Secret. Okay. So here’s what I’m going to recommend. There’s a book, How to Talk so Teens Will Listen and Listen so Teens Will Talk. And if she’s 10 going on 17, the book is perfect. You need to know how to draw her out, how to find the context. Ask her about her concerns. What are your concerns? She may name the concerns – what if I want to do more and get pregnant? If she talks about her own concerns, then you can help her draw lines. You can help her learn how to say no. Of course you’re up against her own biological mother and you need to be careful not to get into power struggles there, but I think the book will help a lot.


Diane:              Can you repeat that name one more time?


Dr. Kenner:      Okay, it’s How to Talk so Teens Will Listen and Listen so Teens Will Talk. It’s by Faber and Mazlish. I’ll make sure it’s up on my website, And I do think that 10 is too young to be dating. If they were just close buddies, I would never want to undermine that, so you need to know exactly what the nature is when they say they’re dating. So thank you so much for your call.


Diane:              Thank you.       


Movie clip       

Male:               What am I going to do? I think about sex all the time. Sex. Help. Four times five is 30. Five times six is 32. Naked girls. Naked women. Oh, stop me!

Female:           God, Xander, is that all you think about?


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from Buffy. And you know, there’s a certain age when that’s all you think about. You do think about sex and you’re going through puberty and sometimes people never grow out of that. They’re 60 years old and all they think about is sex. It depends what you do with that. If you make a joke of it, that you’re thinking about sex all the time, but you don’t know how to run a good relationship, you don’t know how to meet the right people, how to maintain a relationship over the long run, then thinking about sex all the time is just escapism. You’re not going to enjoy your life. But if you’re thinking about, say, a partner you love or some sexy fantasies you could have with that partner, that’s different. If you genuinely are looking at sex as a relationship builder, in a healthy way, then thinking about sex often can be very healthy. Of course you still need to go to work, you still need to put food on the table. And if you want to know more about how to have a better sex life or how to have a better relationship, I’ve written a book with Dr. Ed Locke, The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason and when I use the word selfishness, it means valuing yourself. It doesn’t mean taking advantage of anybody else. It means valuing yourself. You value yourself. Your partner values him or herself and you learn to cherish one another, to communicate well, to grow together, to value each other’s growth. And that’s what we talk about in our book, so you can go to or and order that book if you’d like.