Sixteen Year Old Daughter – Public Display of Affection?

Question: “Our 16 year old daughter is very aggressively affectionate towards her 16 year old boyfriend. Her dad and I have talked to her numerous times. She says she doesn’t know what appropriate boundaries are. We’ve talked to him as well and he does understand, commits to keeping the PDA’s to a minimum, but since she is the more aggressive one, he seems to be helpless. She follows his every move, squeezes up against him wherever he is sitting or standing, kissing his face, touching his hair and face, whispering and smiling as though no one else was in the room. We have 4 teens at home. The 18yo daughter also has a boyfriend, but their affection is normal. They’ve both spoken to the 16yo too, but none of our talking is doing any good. The last time we talked, I told her the next time he comes over, she isn’t allowed to be affection at all… a sort of grounding. If she ignores me, I’m going to take him home at the first sign of her inappropriate behavior. I’m also going to insist that she sit down with me and read, “Boundaries for Teens” by Townsend. Hopefully this will help us both understand each other better and maybe she’ll understand better what healthy boundaries are when she reads it by someone else. I also told her that since she has ignored our counsel for months now, she will not be allowed to continue this relationship until she learns to establish healthy boundaries with him and all boys. Am I on the right track? What else can we do?”

Answer: You bring up a common question, how do parents teach adolescents appropriate boundaries, especially in romantic relationships. I’ll attempt to answer your questions and statement in the order you presented them. First of all I doubt that she is unaware of boundaries as she stated. Likely this is merely an “I didn’t know”, kind of justification for her overt public display of affection. Glad you spoke to him, this will help him have some sense of what your expectations are when he is with your daughter yet I am sure he’s confused as he sees that she is boundary-less in some respects. I might add though, to her credit, that she likely is either so infatuated and lost in the relationship with her boyfriend or so clueless to social cues that she to some degree is blind to the display of affection.

From your post it sounds like you are drawing some boundaries yourself with what you feel is and is not appropriate in the home. Now that you’d told her that she is not allowed to show affection to him in your home, have you in fact enforced it? If you have is it working? My thought here is that ‘grounding’ her per se from affection in the home may only encourage her to be ‘all over him’ outside the home. My suggestion would be to have her and him in your home and next time that they are over, I’d bring up the expectations you have in the open. Yes, this’ll heat up things in the kitchen and likely be uncomfortable for them both but again, you’ve laid down the rules and he cannot stop her and she is not listening. I’d confront them both as it is happening, with some comments. Not rude or demeaning or shameful ones but ones that open the topic up when things are happening. Something to another in the room that you are remarking about their behavior like, “Wow, the way Jennie’s got him pinned up against the wall stroking his hair is making me uncomfortable.” or “Jennie, I’ve told you not to make out with John in the kitchen, you know the rules. Will you please manage yourself?” then maybe ask of John something like, “John, how often does this happen with Jennie and is it like that when you are both alone.” Again, yes the questions may seem extreme but the fact is you have given her fair warning enough and she’s not getting the picture. Also, having an open discussion with her and her old siblings of the same gender may help too to do some mentoring and teaching. Yes, you are on the right track. Also, quashing the relationships until she can manager herself is warranted if after you have made multiple attempts to guide, teach, and correct her.

One Response to 'Sixteen Year Old Daughter – Public Display of Affection?'

  1. Velska says:

    I’d be more worried about what they do in private. Or I was when we had five kids between 10 and 18.

    Never a dull moment.