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Boy Crazy

Q. Our 6-year-old is completely boy crazy. She loves attention from boys of all ages and spends a great deal of time primping in front of the mirror before going anywhere. She often begs me to let her wear bright red dress-up lipstick to church (a big "no"). Is this normal for her age? Her father and I give her plenty of attention. I can't understand why she needs all of this attention, and I worry that it will only get worse as she gets older.

A. I am not too worried about your daughter, but let me ask a few questions. What is she learning from you about appearance and primping? Sometimes as parents, we unconsciously send messages about beauty that our kids take to heart. If your daughter sees the adults or older siblings in her life spending a lot of time on their appearance, or hears them commenting about the way other people look, she's likely to assume her looks are an important part of being accepted by others.

Even if she's not getting these messages at home, she is bound to pick them up at school, on TV, and in magazines. Our culture encourages girls to be beautiful at all times and in all places. It's no wonder little girls look more and more like the pop stars of the day. To help your daughter gain some perspective, try to limit her primping time to two or three minutes for everyday occasions, and no more than 10 for a special occasion. Model the idea that while good hygiene is important, it's most important to let her natural, God-given beauty shine (see 1 Peter 3:3-4).

I would also highly recommend getting your daughter involved in sports, if she's not already. Having a balance between looks, strength, smarts, and faith makes one great girl! Not only will sports keep her physically healthy, they'll be an introduction to lots of girls who have more to talk about than how they look and what boys they like. Sports will also help increase her confidence and show her that she has more to offer than a pretty face or perfect hair.

I also suggest you limit the amount of romantic or sexualized television, magazines, and movies she sees.

You'll also want to help her refocus her interest in boys from romance to friendship. When she says a boy is cute, ask her what she likes about his personality. Find out what makes him a nice friend. Use role play to help her find non-flirtatious ways to interact with peers (male and female). Teach her how to talk about her activities or her day at school.

Finally, girls who do a lot of flirting often are looking for more attention from their fathers. Even though it sounds like you and your husband feel she's getting lots of attention from both of you, she might not feel the same. If your daughter isn't spending much time talking, reading, and playing with her dad, do what you can to change that right now. Encourage the two of them to go on some father-daughter "dates" for an ice cream or to a park. Invite him to get on her level and dig into her world a little—even if that means a day at the bead store making necklaces or an after-dinner tea party in her room. She is craving male attention and there's no better place to get it than from Dad.

Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is the mother of two and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is the author of Sticks and Stones (W).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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