Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I said to a teen aged boy who sent a naughty text to my daughter.

Men, we've all done it - sat around, with our friends, daydreaming about how we'll terrify the young men who like our daughters someday. We talk about greeting young suitors with a shotgun. Or we'd tell them about our time in prison. Whatever we've imagined ourselves saying, the intention is always the same. We want to scare young men out of doing what we all wanted to do at their age.

photo courtesy of Charlie Smith at (CC licence)

But I've discovered that that's not always the way it works out, and perhaps isn't the way it should work out. Let me tell you why.

A few years ago, I married a beautiful woman, and became a father to her two daughters. On the day of our wedding, Scarlett was five and Alura was twelve. Fast forward a few years and now Alura is fifteen (Scarlett grew older too, but I don't have to worry about this stuff with her... yet), which puts her at the center of the target for hormonal young guys. To make matters worse, she is beautiful like her mom.

One day Alura showed Allison and I a text message she had received from a boy in the youth group at church. The content of the text was... naughty. Fortunately, we are good friends with the boy's parents. So Allison called his mom and shared the text with her.

His mother's response was every father's dream. She asked me, "Tim, will you talk to my son on Sunday, and scare the shit out of him?" I humbly agreed to do so.

That Sunday, I bumped into the young man after church was over. I gave him a nice hard slap on the back and said, "Let's go talk in my office." As we walked together, I thought back to all my daydreaming about what I'd say to a young man. Ignoring the legal ramifications of threatening a minor, I imagined myself saying:

If you ever disrespect my daughter like that again, I am going to rip your arms off and beat you with them.  
If you ever talk to my daughter like that again, I'm going to knock your teeth out of your head. 
If you ever even think about my daughter again, I'm going to bury you in the desert. 
We sat down in my office, and I prepared to tear him a new one. Then, just before I opened my mouth, something hit me. I wasn't actually willing to rip this kid's arms off. I also wasn't going to knock his teeth out. And I certainly wasn't going to bury him in the desert. If I said any of those things to him, they'd be nothing more than empty threats. In reality, there was nothing I could do to stop this kid from being disrespectful to my daughter. And even if I was willing to bury him in the desert (which, let me just repeat again, I was not willing to bury him in the desert), there are millions of horny little boys to step up and take his place.

Our daydreams about threatening young men are just that - daydreams. When hormones hit our kids, it won't do anyone any good to make idle threats. It won't protect our daughters from the hoards of beady-eyed young men who only want one thing from them.

If we're going to protect our daughters, we need a different strategy. One that deals with our daughters' hearts, and equips them to navigate the muddy waters of puberty. Here are a few simple ways my wife and I have began working to prepare our daughters to handle young guys like the the one who texted her.

Lead your own life and marriage with respect. Your marriage will teach your kids more about how to do relationships than anything else they come in contact with. When you treat your wife with respect, you'll teach your daughters how they should let guys treat them. Obviously, nobody's perfect at this. So when I am disrespectful to Allison in front of the kids, I'll typically sit them down and apologize to her and to them. Then I'll show them how their mother deserves to be spoken to.

Practice appropriate physical affection with your daughters. I have to give my wife all the credit for this one. Because of her early parenting, my kids are professional level cuddlers. Anytime we watch TV, a movie, or are just sitting on the couch, my kids want to cuddle. That's been great for me, because it's easy to show them how a guy should be putting his hands on them. I also like to hold my daughters hands when I drive them to school in the morning. This helps build my connection with them, but it also fills their need for physical affection, which reduces the need to get it met elsewhere.

Bribe them into thinking about their own purity. Again, I have to credit my wife here. At some point, Alura really wanted a purity ring, but to use her words "not like a cheap one." So Allison took Alura on an over night mother/daughter retreat, at a hotel near our house.

Together they went through a book called What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex. The book was great, because it walked her through setting basic boundaries, such as exactly how far you are willing to go before marriage. When she got home, I grilled her with a bunch of awkward questions about her purity, and then we gave her a 'not cheap' purity ring.

BTW, I still kept my word to the boy's mother
I promised that young boy's mom that I would 'scare the shit' out of her son. While I wasn't willing to make idle threats at him, I was still able to keep my promise to his mother. 

As we sat in my office talking, I asked him if he ever planned on getting married. He told me he did. When I asked him why, he told me that he wanted someone to love, who would love him. I then briefly explained the unfortunate consequences of being disrespectful: 

That's good that you want to get married. But I have to tell you, if you are as disrespectful to other women as you were to my daughter, you'll be alone for the rest of your life. And even if you do find someone stupid enough to marry you, you'll still be alone. Because nobody is going to give themselves to someone who doesn't know how to respect them. do you understand? (nods*) 
Good, now you can get out of my office. 

Oh and by the way, if you ever disrespect my daughter like that again you and I won't be having words about it. Do you understand me? (*nods)
I'm sure he understood what I meant, which was that I'd be calling the police instead of having a conversation with him.

Question: Aside from daydreaming about scaring young boys who like our daughters, what can we do to protect them?

Thanks for reading. You can leave your comments in the space below.


  1. The absolute best thing we can do for our daughters is exactly what you have been doing. Let them know how special and important they are and exactly how a woman should be treated by a man and vice versa. Respect for yourself is the best protection against mistreatment any human can have.

    1. Karyn,
      You're absolutely right. The best lesson we can teach our daughters is that they're special and irreplaceable. It's the opposite of the message the world will send them. Thank you for commenting.

  2. When are we going to talk to our sons in constructive and non-threatening ways? Certainly that must be a central part of the "best thing we can do for our kids" conversations. How else will they learn healthy relationships? Strange to me that this would be omitted, privileging shame over compassion at an honest-to-God teachable moment.

  3. Lac,
    I completely agree with you that talking to young men in a constructive and non-threatening way is crucial. There are some young men who wouldn't benefit at all from a frank and unapologetic approach. And it's important for any leader, parent, teacher, pastor, or whoever to be sensitive to that.

    I also think there's a time and place for everything. The conversation from the article, which was admittedly assertive, connected with the young man so much that he has since asked me to be his mentor. And now we have lots of conversations that focus on compassion.

    I really appreciate your comment. It's constructive criticism like yours that shows me where I need to focus, in order to become a better communicator. I sincerely thank you for your input. Please keep it coming.