Q: Am I being too sensitive about the put-downs and insults my daughter and her boyfriend toss back and forth at each other? She acts like it’s no big deal, but I’m alarmed and don’t consider this to be healthy behaviour.
A: We’d encourage you to trust your feelings on this one. In fact, it’s been our observation many teens could benefit from some basic training on how to treat members of the opposite sex. And there’s no one better than a caring parent to teach them.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about “sexual respect,” but there’s an important sense in which much of this talk misses the mark. As we see it, “sexual respect” has to be rooted in something more fundamental – namely, basic human respect. The more effective approach is to foster decency and consideration for other people’s feelings in all kinds of relationships. So-called “sexual respect” will follow as a natural consequence.
Begin by encouraging your daughter to develop a stronger sense of self-respect. As a person of worth, she does herself a disservice if she allows her boyfriend (or anyone else) to insult her. When she tolerates nasty put-downs by laughing them off, she’s sending a message that she considers this kind of behaviour acceptable. She may think this is “no big deal,” but how would she react if the jokes were suddenly to turn mean or cruel? What would happen if the verbal disrespect were to escalate into physical or sexual abuse?
If your daughter needs guidance setting appropriate boundaries in personal relationships, she may want to take a look at a book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. And please call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of help.
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