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  • Why 'He's Mean Because He Likes You' Is a Dangerous Phrase to Tell Your Daughter

    By saying this, you excuse the bad behavior and blame your child for getting hurt.
    by Kate Borbon .
Why 'He's Mean Because He Likes You' Is a Dangerous Phrase to Tell Your Daughter
PHOTO BY iStock
  • When a young boy teases our young daughters, we assume there is a childish innocence to the behavior. An easy way to explain it is that he has a "crush" on her. But experts believe telling a young girl that her male friend is teasing her because he likes her or because he wants her attention is far from harmless — this response, especially when coupled with similar statements, might only begin an unhealthy way of thinking in the child. 

    Why girls should never be told, “He’s mean because he likes you”

    Previous articles on SmartParenting.com.ph have discussed certain phrases which parents are encouraged to avoid telling their children because it perpetuates gender stereotypes and other forms of harmful beliefs. One of these is “He’s mean because he likes you.” It's a phrase often told to young girls when a male classmate or friend has been bullying them. Here are 4 reasons why this phrase is dangerous.

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    It teaches her that love equals abuse

    Arguably the most dangerous thing a child can learn when they are told that someone is being mean to them because that person likes them is that abuse is a way of expressing love and affection. This can make the child believe that she can prove someone truly loves or cares for her if they hurt or abuse her in any way.

    “When you tell your child that they were harmed because another person likes them, you’re connecting pain with love. That not only normalizes being abused, but also abusing others,” Joanna Schroeder, a writer and mom, writes in an article published on Good Men Project and Babble.

    Schroeder also says, “Love equals kindness and respect, and it never, ever means touching someone in a way that will hurt them.”

    What can you do instead? Talk to your child, emphasizing that abuse will never mean love. “Depending on the child’s age we can add some explanation of why some kids might punch, hit, etc.,” psychologist and life coach Dr. Lisa Kaplin tells Good Men Project. “We would explain that that is about control, not liking or caring for someone.”

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    It excuses the behavior of the aggressor

    When someone harms or mistreats someone else, intervention is needed to prevent the incident from happening again. By saying “He’s being mean to you because he likes you,” you excuse his behavior and permit him to do it again.

    “Of course we don’t want girls to get it in their minds that this is an acceptable expression of affection. We also don’t want to use that rationale to excuse boys,” Dr. Judy Y. Chu, author of When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity, tells the New York Times. “When we give boys a free pass in that department because of stereotypes, we’re really holding them to a lower standard of human behavior.”

    It is a way of victim-blaming

    By excusing an aggressor’s bad behavior, you inadvertently give your child the message that it was her fault she was hurt. But as Schroeder points out, no matter how a child acts toward her peers — whether she teases or even acts flirty with them — she is never asking to be hurt.

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    This message might also cause your child to think she can’t count on you for support now that she is feeling upset and prevent her from opening up to you if she gets hurt again in the future.

    “Your child did not ask for this negative attention, regardless of the aggressive kid’s intention,” Schroeder notes. “Even if your child was acting flirty or teasing, nobody asks to be hurt.”

    The New York Times article also says that “comments that excuse bad behavior as an expression of affection take away the child’s right to object to being treated that way.”

    The article reads, “A girl may feel as if she is expected to be flattered rather than angry, while a boy may sense that the commenter is suggesting that he is less masculine if he can’t endure a girl’s supposedly affectionate aggression.”

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    Children’s friendships shouldn’t be romanticized

    Kids are innocent when choosing who to befriend; they don’t add any weight to becoming friends with those of the opposite sex. It is usually adults who tease them and make them think that a boy and a girl can’t be friends and not have romantic feelings for each other.

    Schroeder says, “Kids need the opportunity in childhood to have friendships with boys or girls, regardless of their gender, without grownups introducing the adult notions of romance or attraction."

    She adds, “Strong friendships with kids of all genders are important for kids, and parents shouldn’t make their kids feel funny about them.” And if one child ends up developing a crush on the other? It’s okay, and it’s innocent — and adults shouldn’t try to add any malice to it.

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    Books to teach your child the importance of respect and consent

    Books are a great and enjoyable way to teach children certain values. These can also help your little one start becoming familiar with concepts that might be a bit more difficult and sensitive, like consent and sex. A Mighty Girl suggests great books you can read to your child that will help teach her those important subjects.

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    For children 4 to 7 years old: Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

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    This book explores the concepts of personal boundaries, respect, and consent in a way that preschoolers will understand and enjoy. After all, kids need to know, from a young age, how vital it is to respect other people’s boundaries and to ask for their consent before entering their personal space.

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    For children 3 to 7 years old: My Body! What I Say Goes!

    A Mighty Girl writes that this book teaches children “about personal body safety, feelings, personal boundaries, safe and unsafe touch, private parts, secrets and surprises, consent, and respectful relationships!”

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    For children 6 to 9 years old: It’s So Amazing!

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    If you’re at a loss on how to respond to your child’s questions about where babies come from and how they’re made, here’s a great book to help you out. It can help kids understand more clearly how their bodies work as well.

    For children 10 years old and above: It’s Perfectly Normal

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    At this age, your child is starting to enter puberty and is experiencing lots of changes in her body. Help her figure out those changes by reading this book to her, which also tackles sexual health for children and teenagers.

    For parents: For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Value, and Health

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    Al Vernacchio, a sexuality educator, has created a new category of sex education with this book: sex-positive education, which strays from depicting sex as something shameful or bad. Instead, the book gives adults the tools they need to promote healthy sexuality, values, and body image in young people.

    How do you pick age-appropriate books for your little one? Click here for an expert's guide.

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