Love, Infatuation, and the Pre-Teen Crush

Boys will be boys, they say, which is usually an excuse for any sort of foolishness short of downright criminality. It should come as no surprise when a young man begins to notice that young women are different in ways that seem interesting rather than irritating. There’s nothing wrong in that – God created the differences and celebrates them in Scripture – but like everything in life, there are side paths, crossroads, pit falls, and traps that we need to guide our sons through and around.

What do you say to a boy with a crush?

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That “boy” of course can be any age from a first-grader to a college student. For a younger boy, here’s how we’d approach it:

Take him seriously – and give him some grace. There’s an old adage – “It may be puppy love, but it’s still love to the puppy!” If your son has set his attention on a particular girl, his emotions are already involved. Listen and respond with some understanding, even if he’s very young; if there’s ever a matter of the heart and feelings, this is it! You want to move carefully because you never want him to put “my parents” and “my romantic interests” in separate compartments.

Always, go back to the Word. There are many passages dealing with relationships.  One piece of advice that seems to stick with our sons is the proverb,

Prepare your outside work,
Make it fit for yourself in the field,
And afterward build your house.

(Proverbs 24:27)

The Hebrew word translated “house” can also mean “household” or “family” – not just the building you live in. That’s why we offer it as advice about relationships – not just farm management. And the New Testament says that a believer should be taking care of his own family, or else he’s denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8) – which should warn a young man not to start a family until he’s able to support a wife and child!

Now, we need to be careful not to take that too far. Some people seem to expect a young man to have a paid-off house and large savings account before he seeks a wife. Many of us parents haven’t achieved that in our forties … so don’t place an unreasonable burden on your boys.

For younger boys, though, this practical question is usually enough: “Son, are you able to support a wife yet? Do you have an idea how much it will cost to provide a home, pay for groceries, and so forth? Do you have a job that would earn enough for that?”

You can be gentle about it, but it’s appropriate to say, “Son, you’re just not old enough yet. Be friends with lots of girls, and be patient – there will be time to choose a wife later.”

Help them see the road ahead – it’s longer than they realize. When the romantic feelings get involved, a man and woman are entering a pathway that’s meant to lead to marriage. When our sons begin to entertain romantic interests, we need to remind them of that fact and get down to real life. Is he mature enough to support a wife and family spiritually, emotionally, and financially? He shouldn’t start that kind of relationship until he is, or at least is getting close to it … and that holds true no matter how old he may be!

But friendship between sexes is a good thing. Paul advised Timothy, a young man himself, to treat the young women in the church “as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:2). That short passage says a lot; for one thing, relationships between guys and girls should always be marked by purity.

It also tells us that friendships between the sexes are not a doubtful thing when handled properly. Is your relationship with your siblings standoffish, hesitant, contrived, or suspicious? Of course not! Neither should it be sexually driven. Friendship between boys and girls can be open and confident, but with that boundary of propriety that any observer can see, “These are friends, not lovers.”

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This is always a coaching opportunity to guide appropriate behavior. Robert Fulghum famously claimed, “All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” The basic rules of civility need to be taught early, and they often need to be re-taught as maturity brings different situations to bear. For example, a young boy needs to learn, “Boys don’t treat girls roughly,” and he shouldn’t expect to wrestle with them in the back yard. A young man nearing adulthood needs to remember that same rule as, “Always speak gently to a young woman, and never, ever let anger with her turn to violence.”

We knew the message had registered when one of our young sons, maybe a second-grader at the time, was asked by the barber, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Startled, he replied, “No, sir! I don’t have a job yet!” All the older men burst into laughter, but they agreed – a simple, straightforward check before diving head-over-heels into a romantic relationship at any age!

Hal and Melanie Archway For older sons, the questions get more complex and more pointed … and we’ll talk about them next!

Yours in the Battle,

Hal and Melanie


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