As girls progress into adolescence, they may seem to change, almost overnight, from innocent children who dress like what they are -- young girls. They begin choosing revealing and provocative clothing. They start to communicate almost constantly with boys in their classes. Parents dealing with these behaviors often realize their daughters are communicating and acting in provocative ways as they seek attention from the boys they know.
Discuss this issue with your partner. You’ll be better able to identify the causes of your daughter’s attention-seeking behavior if you are both on the same wavelength. As you talk with your partner, decide how you’re going to address the situation, talk to your daughter, then help her to stop her attention-seeking behaviors. If you are a single parent, call your former partner and enlist his help as you work to help your child.
Talk to your child’s teachers and see if they have noticed any attention-seeking behaviors from your daughter. Ask them if they have discussed the issue with her. If they have not noticed any issues, this will alert them to the need to watch what she does. These professionals can become allies, helping you out.
Sit down with your daughter and start a conversation with her. You might take her out for a quick lunch so the two of you can focus on each other. Make your outing about taking time with each other and talk about what’s happening in your child’s life. As you converse, keep in mind that she is at a stage of her life where risk-taking is natural -- but that her attention-seeking behavior could be putting her in danger.
Listen, not only to what your daughter is saying, but what she isn’t saying. Look for non-verbal cues. For instance, she may tell you everything is wonderful with her friends and classes, but her body language may say something different. Keep these cues in mind so you can discuss them at another time. Your goal right now is just to get her to open up to you so that, when you do discuss her approach with boys, she may be more willing to listen.
Explain how your daughter’s approach to getting the attention of boys could put her at different kinds of risk. For instance, if she is seeking the attention of the football captain, who is dating the student council president, she could risk alienating herself from her friends. More significantly, if she is dressing provocatively or sending provocative pictures of herself to different boys, she could put herself at risk of sexual assault or being identified as having loose sexual mores. If she doesn't know that sending provocative pictures of herself, or sexting, is illegal, tell her that she could be arrested, have a criminal record and be required to register as a sex offender.
Spend more time with your daughter. You and your partner could both make time on weekends or during the week to spend one-on-one time with her, taking her out to eat, to buy age-appropriate clothing or to get her hair and nails done. Take her with you as you jog or take part in another fitness activity. Your goal is twofold -- spend quality time with your daughter and introduce her to enjoyable and safe activities.
Stay calm as you discuss the attention-seeking behaviors with your daughter. As soon as she senses you are becoming upset, she will shut down and withdraw from you.
If her attention-seeking behaviors with boys turns out to have causes beyond what you or your partner can handle, get the help of a licensed mental health professional.
Don’t ignore her behaviors. They come from a lack she perceives in herself, and she believes that if she gets the attention of one or more boys, she will be more "worthy." Her behaviors put her at risk of assault.