During preadolescence, girls undergo a mysterious transformation that is often a concern for parents. Even very saucy, sassy, and self-confident girls are apt to shrivel into shy, insecure shadows of themselves. Many pre-adolescent girls have a disturbingly predictable pattern of scaling back their far-flung aspirations. They soon convince themselves that they are not as bright or as capable as they previously assumed.
The intense social pressures girls experience are probably largely responsible for this crisis of confidence. In fact, many girls define their self-worth almost exclusively in terms of what their peers think of them, or in terms of what they think their peers think of them.
It is critical to your girl's self-esteem to have other interests and receive constant infusions of emotional support from her family. These extra doses of encouragement will support your daughter and allow her to be more proactive in claiming her individuality and self-respect. Her belief in her own worth and dignity will help her especially when she tests and navigates the social waters.
Just as you value her, she has to value herself. As with anything she esteems, she holds the object of her estimation in high regard and does not let others besmirch it. Teach your daughter that she is so valuable that she must never let anything tarnish her, especially not a date.
She needs to be on the alert for these warning signs in a boy before she goes on a date with him:
Jealousy: Love is trust and jealousy is distrust.
Anger: Against other guys, in the way he drives, or slams his locker door.
Bad language: Cursing is a sign of bad temper and lack of control.
Cruelty to animals or small children: She could be next.
Blaming others for his mistakes and trying to make her feel guilty.
Physical roughness — she could get hurt — and pushing her to do sexual things she is not ready for.
Criminal tendencies: Cheating, stealing, underage drinking or using drugs.
If your girl does go out with a guy who exhibits these behaviors, she must make sure this is their last date. Help your daughter prepare an excuse for turning the boy down next time he asks her out. One good excuse is, “We are just too different to go out again.”
You cannot rip the mask off every boy who is interested in your daughter and reveal his true character, but you can make her more inquisitive and observant. Ask her to pay close attention to what other girls say about a boy. If he goes to her school, his reputation will precede him. If it is negative, she should wonder why and consider giving him the cold shoulder. It is a matter of her self-respect that she does not date a boy who has not managed to earn anyone's respect: not of his classmates, of his teachers, or of his coaches.