Young Child Has a Precocious Interest in Relationships With the Opposite Sex

Should I be worried when my preschooler talks about having a boyfriend? I wasn't too concerned until recently when she and a boy of the same age kept going off into a corner of the yard "to be alone" as they played with other neighborhood kids. What do you think about this?

In the absence of more detailed information about your family situation and the background of your little girl’s behavior, we can only surmise that she’s picking up her notions about “boyfriends” and “being alone together” from the television and popular entertainment. As far as we can see, there’s only one other way she may have been exposed to ideas of this kind: through observing the behavior of an older sibling or friend.

Assuming that TV is the problem, we’d encourage you to do some careful thinking about the types of programs you’ve been allowing your daughter to watch in the past. When you do, chances are that you’ll discover that there’s evidence to support our theory. At that point it will be time to set up some strict new viewing guidelines for your family. It should be obvious that some shows are appropriate for preschoolers while others most definitely are not (and that includes most of the teen-oriented programming you’ll find on the Disney Channel).

That said, there’s no reason to be overly concerned about this behavior. What you’re seeing is primarily childish make-believe. Nevertheless, the fact that your daughter is chasing after boys and seems intent on hugging them strongly suggests that she’s imitating attitudes and actions that she’s seen modeled somewhere else. Kids her age don’t come up with ideas of this nature on their own.

What can you do about it? If you observe this kind of activity again, or if she seems perennially obsessed with the concept of “having a boyfriend,” we suggest that you gently take her aside and ask her where she learned about such things. Tell her how glad you are that her group of friends includes both boys and girls. Then explain that girls don’t have to have “boyfriends” until they are much older. It’s as simple as that.

In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


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