I just found out that my daughter wrote in her diary that she loves a boy - and she is only 10 years old.
How do I deal with the situation? How do I discipline her?
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Let's start with:
how do i discipline her
What would you be disciplining her for?
Because she said she loves a boy? That's perfectly normal for a child her age to have a crush, and while children that age don't understand romantic love enough to know the difference between a crush and love, that's not a reason to seek to discipline them.
Furthermore, any discipline would be likely ineffective, and possibly do harm to your relationship with your child, since you lost the moral high ground when you read her diary without her permission (assuming you didn't have permission).
Confronting her over this will likely just cause her to become upset that you invaded her privacy and read her diary.
I know there are countless things to worry about when raising a child, and a diary seems like a good way to find out the sorts of things that are going on in their life that they may not be comfortable sharing with you, but it is a breech of trust, and it is imperative that your child be able to trust you completely.
My main piece of advice is therefore this: stop reading her diary.
As for the situation with the boy, and what you should do about it....
Really, there's nothing that needs to be done. It is a perfectly normal situation, and unless you have reason to believe that there are causes for actual concern (i.e. that she might start exploring ways to express that "love" that are age-inappropriate), you really should just let it play out on its own.
The most I would suggest doing at this point is to ensure that your daughter has basic understanding of how sex works, and what the risks are (pregnancy, disease, the risk of explicit pictures, consent issues, etc.). You could also take steps to communicate to your daughter that you are always available and willing to openly listen (without judging!) if she has any questions or just wants to talk.
How do I deal with the situation? How do I discipline her?
I think a lot of people are equating "discipline" to "punishment", when that isn't necessarily the case.
Unfortunately your question doesn't tell us much about your values or parenting style, so I can only provide a few comments and possible directions you might go in.
First, it's important to recognize that she doesn't understand what love is. The onset of puberty in girls is right around this age, plus or minus 2 years, so whether she's already going through it or not, some of her peers are. There are many, many cultural cues she's newly picking up on that she hadn't noticed before about relationships.
While these changes and new recognition is going on, she is going to be exploring relationships. She wants to understand the feelings she is having, and how her interactions with others alter those feelings. She wants to develop relationships of various kinds.
At this age, depending on how you've raised her, it's unlikely that anything serious will develop. She's just barely exploring her thoughts and feelings - in fact even writing down the words "I love [so and so]" may seem terribly exciting for her, and she might not actually be acting on these feelings.
She's already well past her very formative years. Hopefully you've demonstrated in word and deed what a good relationship is meant to be. If not, you can try to talk about relationships in general, and steer her a little bit, but the reality is that those eyes already picked up and internalized a lot of relationship advice from how you've interacted with men and boys over the last decade. If you've said, "I love you" at appropriate times and to appropriate people according to your values, then chances are she will follow suit.
At this point in time she does need to practice discipline over her body. In the same way you explain how eating affects the body and mind and give her the knowledge and power that allow her to decide appropriate eating habits, you should explain not just the fundamentals of her reproductive system, but how it will affect her mind and feelings, and how those feelings can sometimes encourage inappropriate behavior. She should understand that while she shouldn't try to suppress those feelings, she should try to direct them according to her value system so that she doesn't find herself in situations she doesn't want to be in.
This means you can't rely on school or society's teachings regarding sexuality and relationships. If you let others teach her these things, you give them permission to set her standards and values - and given your concern, I'm guessing that's not acceptable to you. So you have to be proactive and let her know that her sexuality and relationships aren't bad, but that the things you value have sound reasons meant to protect her and strengthen her future relationships.
So don't shy away from this responsibility. This isn't a talk you can have once and then be done - you need to occasionally bring up an aspect of relationships you value or dislike, and discuss that with her. Movies, books, and other entertainment bring up a lot of good examples where a short statement or discussion about the character's feelings and actions can provide that occasional teaching moment.
Over the next several years, try to make it a point to consume entertainment with her that treads the line matching your values. Spend a lot of one on one time with her - she's still at an age where she would love to go out to walk in the park with you, or have a sundae together. Soon enough she won't want to, so develop patterns and habits with her now so she will continue to want this relationship with you, and so she will trust and listen to you because your love for her is obvious.
Others have addressed this, and so I feel like I should as well.
You and your daughter have a relationship that's evolving and developing at a frightening pace. It might not seem like it day to day, but the changes she will experience over the next several years, and the emotional turmoil these changes will cause, should be at the front of your mind. You had to deal with this, and you likely recall many aspects of it that weren't positive. She needs you now more than ever.
As such, you need to nurture this relationship. She needs your support and help. There will be some clashing or head butting, that's natural, but in every interaction you should consider how much you love her.
I don't know what you've taught her regarding private thoughts and feelings recorded in a journal. However if she finds out you've been using that to gain insight into her life, she will lose a lot of trust in you, and may even become paranoid. These would not be good for your relationship.
The reality is, though, that if you spent an hour with her every week, one on one, you'd probably gain much more information about her and her life than she writes in her journal.
So there's no real need to snoop. If you felt she was in specific danger, and she's already completely lost your trust and respect, then you might have a compelling need to discover information she may be hiding.
But barring exceptional circumstances, you should leave her diary alone.
Part of the problem is that she will write thoughts and feelings she has no possible way to act on, but once you've read them you may take them to be more meaningful than they actually are. And you can't discover the difference without essentially grilling her, and giving up that you are snooping - which will damage your relationship.
So unless you've already received information elsewhere that seriously concerns you, and she's already lost your trust and respect, then I'd suggest staying away from her private thoughts, and instead nurture the relationship you two already have so it becomes unnecessary anyway.
Go re-read the summary. You love her, and you merely want to help her avoid the pitfalls of life in this world that will hurt her, or prevent her from reaching her capacity as an adult. This time provides a breather before she becomes a full teenager, and launches herself into the world. Use it to gently guide her thoughts and feelings, and she will develop the relationship skills you value. There is no need to punish her for what she's written in a private journal, but now that you've awoken to the reality of your little girl growing up and changing, put careful thought into how you can best guide her into paths of growth and happiness.
The best way to do this is to develop a strong relationship with her, providing opportunities for you to convey your values, and, most importantly, your love and desire for her well-being.
I just found out that my daughter wrote in her diary...
How did you find that out? Did she tell you it was written in there? Did you read it when she expects it to not be read?
If you allow your child to have a diary and tell her that these are her private thoughts, and then you invade her private thoughts without telling her, you are giving her the impression that you are above the law. This will make building trust with her much more difficult and it might make her think that it's OK to create rules and then break them.
How do I deal with the situation? How do I discipline her? ...she is only 10 years old.
Well, what is your desired outcome? You obviously think she's too young for the activities she's engaging in. If you want her to stop writing things like "I'm in love!" in her diary, then you could
<sarcasm> take away her diary and give her a time-out whenever she says she is in love
</sarcasm>. Problem solved? ☺ Naw, I bet what you really want is for her to be wise when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex.
Then first and foremost you have to model this for her. You need to be wise when it comes to relationships. If you're married, it means modeling it with your spouse. It means when you watch a Disney princess movie or a chick flick or listen to a teeny-bop love song you two talk about what was wise and what was un-wise. This will be an ongoing conversation you'll be having with her probably for the next twenty years.
As far as this specific situation, if you read her diary without telling her (and you gave her the impression that you wouldn't) then the first thing you need to do is apologize for breaking her trust and ask her forgiveness, then give her a hug. Then tell her your expectations and the consequences that she'll get if she breaks them, then be prepared for a big conversation.
She'll probably ask you questions like these:
There is not very much detail here and so it makes it difficult to know exactly why you're worried about this situation.
In general, I would not worry. [If it turns out that the boy in question is (a) significantly older or (b) pressuring/forcing her into the idea of being in love, then do be concerned (but don't blame her).]
My daughter (also 10) has had a couple crushes on classmates over the last few years. (These have worked themselves out without any intervention from me, because she eventually realizes the boy in question is just not that great after all.) This stems from social influences -- other girls gossip about boyfriends, TV shows are talking about boyfriends, she knows adults in long-term relationships (married parents, uncles getting engaged, etc.) -- it's just on her mind.
She phrases all sorts of emotional attachments to classmates as being "in love," while having very little idea of what that actually entails, and with no interest in sex or a real relationship.
Developing crushes is a pretty normal part of growing up. Just being "in love" is not a very compelling reason to discipline her -- it imposes a punishment for a feeling she can't control. If you've never had a conversation about crushes, love, or similiar relationship issues, I'd look instead for a gentler introduction to the topic. Helping a pre-teen prepare for the next decade of puberty, with all the emotional and hormonal that will entail, is a challenge.
If you suggest her feelings are bad and should be hidden from you, the pair of you will have a harder time dealing with more serious relationships when she's older (e.g., in high school). If instead she can trust you enough to talk about situations like this, then you'll be positioned to provide good advice that she'll hopefully listen to.
Getting a crush on a boy at ten years old is really normal and reasonable and nothing to worry about. I had my first crush (on my big sister's boyfriend, I might add!), when I was only six years old!
At that age, it is kind-of hero-worship and it is really good for kids to "practise" emotional attachments and social interactions. I think it is unlikely that (unless she has some really strange peer-pressure), a little girl would consider taking love to the physical level (so to speak).
So please, talk to your kids, don't "discipline" them for what is normal and healthy and will ultimately assist their social development.
Well think back to when you had your first love. I hardly think discipline is the correct form of action, it sends the signal that love is a bad thing and I'm pretty sure that's not what you want to do.
I understand that you as a parent want to protect your child however too much protection isn't really helping as it shelters your child from what the world really is.
Reading a journal is a trust breaker but you could try talking to your child to get them to open up about it. Once an open communication path is open you can discuss your thoughts on relationships and what you feel is too early and why you feel that way. Children respond quite well to open and honest communication.
I hope you did not give her the impression that her diary was private because if you did, then you will do real damage to her trust in you if you let her know that you read her diary. This is the most important thing to take away from this situation in my opinion. Trust is easily lost and regained with great difficulty. She might even start thinking its okay to lie and do things behind your back; after all, you did it to her.
Unless you left out some really bad details in your question, disciplining her for this would be totally inappropriate, in my opinion. A good long talk on the general subject is probably a good place to start.
She is only 10 years old.
There is nothing "only" about being 10. It wasn't when we were that age, and it certainly isn't today when kids get into "that age" sooner than they ever did. Besides, "10" is just a number anyway -- my own girl, at 10, is basically at the same stage physically that her mother was at the age of 14, and that is not extraordinary.
How do I discipline her?
Not at all. There is nothing in your question indicating that your daughter did anything wrong, unless you forbade her to "fall in love". If you did that... well.
How to handle the situation?
By now you should already have taught your kid certain things.
She should know that she can trust you (*), and come to you for advise, counsel, or comfort.
You should already have taught her that her body is her own, and how to say "no". If you think about it for a minute, that implies that her body is her own, and that she might say "yes" as well, to that first holding of hands, the first kiss, the first touching. Those moments that she will remember for the rest of her life.
And if you did things right, the first kiss and the first touching and the first time will hopefully happen close by, so you can rest assured that she said "yes" in familiar surroundings instead of hiding away from your wrath at some uncomfortable place and having her "no" ignored where no-one might hear her.
Make sure she is aware of certain possibilities (heartbreak, conception, ...), and if you feel that way, tell her that you think she is to young for certain... activities. And be aware that forbidding them outright will just make her trust you less, and make the forbidden fruit all the sweeter.
Trust her in the same way you want her to trust you.
(*): She can trust you with basically everything, can she? If she cannot, because of a track record of not respecting her, her choices, and her privacy, then you have already lost this one years ago, and there is very little you can do to "impose your will" on her.
To the contrary, any "show of force" will just make her situation more difficult, because you would be showing her that she cannot come to you, not now and not later when she might really need you. She will either defy you (with all the possible negative consequences), or be heartbroken and blaming you for it.
Since you are obviously concerned about your daughter the first thing you need to do before deciding any actions to take is find out a little more about the boy. This might be tricky because if she feels you violated her privacy in any way you will be very unlikely to get any cooperation, same for if she feels you are pressing her too hard.
Talk to her about it in a casual setting and get her to tell you the information you already know then use it as a starting point to find out what you need to know. If she is anything like my younger sisters were at that age then joking about 'cute boys' could be enough to get a smile or a blush out of her and that can be you "in" to ask more. However she acts it should not be too difficult to trigger a response that will give away her feeling, but make sure the conversation stays friendly and does not turn into an interrogation.
The types of things that would be the most concerning would be an unusual age difference or strange method of meeting.
If the boy is another 10 year old who is in one of her(or her friends) classes then the risk of her getting hurt is very low. Your best course of action is probably to do nothing, just make sure she knows your open to talk about it in case it becomes too much emotionally.
If the boy is a little older and goes to the same school then it would be a good idea to talk about what is appropriate. Can they hang out on school grounds without other friends? Can they hold hands/hug/kiss? There is probably still a low risk factor here and your direct intervention would likely hurt your relationship, take this opportunity to make sure she knows some things are/aren't okay.
If the boy is considerably older or goes to a different school then some level of involvement is probably prudent. Just be sure if this is the case that your daughter knows that you are only getting involved because it is inappropriate and you are concerned about her.
Having a discussion with youngsters about puppy love is a good idea (IMHO). Probably that discussion would best occur before the youngster is smitten, but better late than never. Your question is very short. From your posting, we do not know if the boy in question even knows that your daughter exists. So, don't overreact. Also, from your question we do not know what you fear or what type of discipline you are considering. You might think about the role models your daughter has among her friends and the older sibs of her friends or in the books she reads or the movies she watches. If those role models are good, you are fortunate. You might talk about those role models, pointing out the positive aspects. Discussing poor role models might be helpful also. All this might be done in small doses.
You have to deal with it smartly and make it a win-win situation. First of all don't feel bad about people telling you that reading that diary without her "permission" was wrong. Parents have super-admin rights and whatever they do they do with the good-will of their children in mind. Just as a super-admin does everything in the interest of the system. At least, most parents will not knowingly harm their own children. That kind of time has yet to come ... but God forbid. Talk to her like a friend if you were just the same age. Make her to herself share what you already know. And that is your test as a parent! From there delicately try to change things without using brute force as far as possible.
lastly dont assume that she is wrong. Many great love stories did start at a young age (Romeo-Juliet?, Devdas-Paro), ... matters of the heart defy logic.
Why are people going bonkers about a parent reading a TEN YEAR OLDS DIARY. Privacy? No honey, A ten year old doesn't have privacy at least not in the absolute sense. That will come when she's sixteen or so. Of course maybe she's super-mature and has the mental age of a 21 year old. In that case the dairy is likely just bait or a false lead to see if mommy/daddy are spying.
OP you wrote your question rather vaguely. You didn't give us insight into what is going on. Are you worried that something is wrong so you read her dairy? Is this just a mom/dad moment with you just looking after her (periodically reading her dairy to see what's happening thru her eyes. I know we WANT to be there). I'm sure A LOT of people will scream bloody hell at this most vile parental intrusion into the "private life" of a ten year old. I'll ask those people this: Should we be allowed to change our babies diapers or is that also an intrusion into their "private life"? Simple answer for you all : If she NEEDS mommy/daddy to take care of her then her "private life" is by definition very limited.
Honestly the people who think ten year olds should be thought all there is to know about sex. People screaming foul at a parent doing what is RIGHT compared to what is in their opinion moral. Does lead me to believe people are way overly sexed and have no clue what parenting is. A ten year old is NOT a mini-adult. A sixteen year old is NOT responsible enough. They lack the experience needed. Well duh, they are just getting started acquiring that experience.
That was actually not random ranting. Parents need to WORK on parenting instead of being lazy! Some assume kids are mini-adults. FALSE 99% OF THE TIME. And don't go preaching about that 1% if it happens to you, the parent, you will be caught with egg on your face and believe me you will truly st that moment feel what pride and happiness are.
Others will baby them too much. This leads to weak willed kids who need mommy/daddy for everything. you all know what the scary thing is. There IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. That is what being a parent means. YOU HAVE TO decide what is best and how to go about doing it.
With that said. OP if you honestly want REAL help you must give far more information regarding the circumstances then what you did. We can't parent for you. Nor does anyone have a magic answer for you. If you're worried about her being "in love" then DON'T! Instead nurture her feelings of what love at it's heart is supposed to mean. No not sex, not crushes, but that special feeling of caring and bonding. Of wanting to share your happiness with another (think caring for a pet, or loving a younger sibling etc) Nurture those feelings in her. Those are the very seeds of a warm caring heart.
If you are worried about her being too trendy (Which BTW you mention nothing about, so I'm going by my imagination here.) Make sure she understands that LOVE is a feeling that can best be described as "the object of your love making you happy and him/her getting that same feeling in return, of wanting the other to be happy and knowing that the other feels the same for you. Meaning you must first be happy or the object of your love can't by definition be."
Sex is just a physical manifestation of this in a certain form of relationship yet can never be it's root, it's cause or it's substitute. Of course this is IMO a bit much for a ten year old. Still the first part about what "love" is should be celebrated and nurtured. The talk about sex will come a bit later. But do keep that door open. She'll be asking about that in one way or another much sooner then you'd think. But don't go breaking in that door by yourself either.
That's the best advice I can give regarding "disciplining" her.
Hope this helps.
I don't want to meddle in how you parent more then just trying to answer your question to the best of my ability. But I take special interest in the reading your daughter's dairy part. My thoughts about it. Firstly it is a white lie to do so. But it is also one thats potential for good far exceeds any sort of moral wrong that people may come up with against it. But it should be done right. You should NOT use the information gathered from her dairy for anything but the most serious concerns. I'm talking kool-aid cults not innocent crushes. Talk with her, reaffirm what love means to you. Bring up topics from when you were her age regarding these things. Heck even make up stories if it helps get the right conversation started. But unless you have a very valid reason for revealing that you in fact do read her dairy. Keep that part a secret. That is how you respect her privacy. It's hard, it's very hard but it's supposed to be that way.
If you feel you need more advice and opinions from people about what to do, then please provide us with more information about the situation. So far it looks like you are panicking over something very natural and innocent. I do honestly believe you are doing the right thing by keeping a eye on what is happening in her life when you aren't there (reading her dairy). But you should only act on that information when a situation calls for it.
Right now just use the fact that Valentines day is soon to strike up a conversation about love/boys/crushes. Right now it looks like she needs you to be the kind knowing voice in a sea of unknown feelings that she is beginning to feel. Don't be afraid to talk to her about that. Use common sense and the values you want for her as your guides.
Again, hope this helps.