DEAR DR. BROTHERS: I am concerned about a behavior my 12-year-old daughter has developed. Rachel is a very outgoing child and has developed a close group of friends through the years. I have noticed that she has gotten into the habit of being — in my opinion — overly demonstrative with her greeting of the girls and boys in her group. There is so much hugging and kissing (on both cheeks or in the air) that you would think they are long-lost relatives, instead of kids she has known her whole life. The other kids do not go nearly as overboard. Is this going to lead to trouble? — S.F.
DEAR S.F.: I am not sure what kind of trouble you foresee, but chances are your daughter will outgrow this behavior or curtail it if she starts hearing remarks from her friends, teachers or others that she is being too friendly or too dramatic with her greetings. Preteen kids in middle school are very much into cliques, and if your daughter’s natural bent is to be “larger than life” with her personality, this may be her natural way of showing her joie de vivre before she has to become all grown-up and “cool.”
Where the trouble could come in, as I see it, is if some boys start misinterpreting her behavior as flirtatious or leading them on. Your daughter probably doesn’t realize that her innocent exuberance could be mistaken for teasing in the hormone-charged atmosphere of middle-school youth. You might want to take her aside and make sure she is aware of what she is doing and caution her to be careful about being too free with her affection. It may sound old-fashioned, but she should reserve those personal kisses and hugs for very close friends so that she doesn’t get an undeserved reputation. She may also be showing off a little, doing some flirting with her buddies to see how it feels. It’s a good time to explain moderation!
Yeah, that’s helpful – let’s perpetuate old-fashioned stereotypes that a girl who’s affectionate and friendly must have an “undeserved reputation” – or that there is even such thing as a reputation to protect to begin with. Affection should only be shown in private, and for a few very close friends – moderate your emotions! Moderate your feelings!
And people say only boys are taught to repress their feelings.