Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Dealing with Puppy Love

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My ten-year-old girl has a boy that she likes. And this boy tells her she is ugly. He also told her if she looked the way he wants he will like her. So now my little girl looks like a metal head, talks on the phone too much, and her room is now black! And so is she! If you know what I mean! She goes to the mall by herself. Now you're wondering how she gets there. Right? By a Go-ped! And now this boy goes out with her. I try to talk to her. And even the boy's parents -- they don't listen! What can I do?

A: It seems like your daughter has fallen under the spell of puppy love. My guess is that this is the first time that she has received romantic attention from a peer -- that's a very intense experience that we can probably all relate to. It's unfortunate and rather sad that she became someone other than herself so that this boy would like her. At 10, hearing that someone thinks you're ugly is devastating. It's not surprising that she became whom he wanted her to be so she could be considered "cool" (cool like him of course) and "go out" with him.

I am not that concerned about the Gothic style dress, phone behavior and overall "metalhead" appearance that she has taken on. But I am concerned that she assumed this personality because a boy took away her self-worth with a comment that she was "ugly" and then gave it back to her when she became whom he wanted her to be. That's a very destructive message for any youngster.

At 10, she should not be "going out" with anyone. She also should not be going to the mall on her own. You need to set and enforce some rules and limits with her in these two areas. She is too young to be on her own like this. Make sure that you tell her why she cannot continue to go out with this boy and be at the mall on her own. Mention the concerns and values that shape your rules and limits in these areas. I would also recommend inviting this boy's parents over for a chat.

At 10 years old, kids are usually involved in best friend relationships, not in exclusive boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. Could she be imitating an older sibling or relative with this dating relationship? She has plenty of time before dating becomes healthy developmentally. For now, you need to hold your ground on these prohibitions and take the flak from her for "ruining her life." Expect an angry, possibly rebellious 10 year old on your hands but don't give in to the "but all the other kids do it" ploy.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks