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The Three Fights Every Parent Has With Their Kid and How to Stop Them

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

 By Vanessa Van Petten, creator of RadicalParenting.com and author of the parenting book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” (http://www.radicalparenting.com/books-and-products/book-youre-grounded/)

 When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier. In fact we had three of the most common parent-kid fights:

 1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight


            -Older brother gets to stay out late with his friends. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

-Parent gets to have soda, child does not. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

-Teenager cannot buy new outfit for dance because it is too expensive. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

 2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight


-Teen wants to be able to stay out late with friends. Parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

-Teen wants to go away for Spring Break, parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight


            -Parent wants their teen to join band, teen doesn’t want to.

            -Parent expects higher grades and when teen doesn’t do well, a huge fight ensues.

            -Teen does not keep room tidy, parent gets upset when guests come over.

We would have these kinds of fights over and over again until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called RadicalParenting.com.  I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice. Here is what they had to say about solving each of the common parent fights:

 1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

 Emotional Intent: When you hear a teen talk about how unfair something is, what they are often feeling is, “I am not important or special enough.” If you feel like your teenager is constantly arguing about justice or fairness, they are most likely feeling like they are not being heard or cared about enough to get what they want. Of course, this is usually not the case. In the examples above parents would be worried about safety, health and money, while teens feel like they are not as important as their sibling, that their parents do not understand how important the dance is, and so on.

 Solutions: The best way to stop the “it’s Not Fair” fight is to address the emotional intent. The best way to do this is for parents to push into the “it’s not fair” feeling from their children instead of pushing against it. For instance in the new outfit example a parent might say to their teen, “I hear you think this is unfair, will you tell me why?” A teen will most likely respond, “You buy stuff for yourself all the time,” or “But I deserve this dress.” These answers are important because it will show the parent the emotional intent behind the upset and feelings of injustice. If a parent addresses these by saying something like, “I could see how you feel like us not buying this for you is about you not feeling worthy. But the truth is we are trying to save for the big vacation we are taking this summer—which is for all of us. I know how important this dance is for you. Maybe we can get you a new pair of shoes or…” then the fight is stopped.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

 Emotional Intent: Most fights during the teen years are actually based in this ‘treat me like a grown-up’ motivation. The earlier you can catch and address it the better it will be. It derives from the fundamental pulling away that comes with a teen trying to assert their independence.

 Solutions: It is very important for parents to discuss reasons for decisions that are making a teenager angry. This way teens are sure to understand the real reasons for a parent’s choice. Another great way to help teenagers get less upset in fights surrounding their maturity is for parents to help teens feel mature in other ways. For example, perhaps parents do not want their teen to go away for the whole Spring Break because they want to have family time. A great way to address this with teens is to say clearly, “We really want to have family time with you, but we know you are getting older, so how about you do a weekend camping trip with your friends for one of the weekends.” This teaches teens you trust them, but it is all about balancing needs.

 3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

 Emotional Intent: Often times teenagers tell me that they will purposefully keep their room dirty or choose unapproved hobbies just so they can be different from their parents. Parents frequently misinterpret room cleaning or bad grades for laziness, when something deeper might be going on. Teenagers often will ‘misbehave’ or fight with parents simply to show them that they are their own person—even if it gets them into trouble.

Solutions: First, it’s important to make sure that you do want your child to be their own person. Be careful not to push expectations or your own goals onto your kids. Second, make sure teenagers know that some of the requirements you have for them (good grades a tidy room for guests) are not to make them feel less like an individual, but for them to have more choices in their future and to present a nice home to guests. I recommend parents being very direct with teenagers about their need to be ‘their own person’ you might be surprised what common fights are actually based in this emotional intent.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

 Vanessa Van Petten is one of the nation’s youngest experts, or ‘youthologists’ on parenting and adolescents. She now runs her popular parenting website, RadicalParenting.com, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her next book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” is being released in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA.


How to talk to your daughter about love

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Valentine’s Day—what better time to talk to your teen about the crazy little thing called love?

Where to start? A good place is helping her set her bar—her standard for what she believes love is. How do we do that? By having open, two-way conversations. By giving information, like what we believe love is. And by asking questions, like “What do you believe love is?”

But remember, if you tell her “This is what I believe” without asking “What do you believe?” you’re really telling her, “I want you to believe what I believe.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I first have sex?” Personally, I thought I was in love. I also believed that if a guy said “I love you,” or wanted to have sex, he loved me. I know it sounds crazy now.  “No, it doesn’t sound crazy,” says Dr. Julius Licata, Director of TeenCentral.Net (which offers teens anonymous, on-line, free information and counseling). “It’s what many teens think.

“Teens don’t say, Love is this, love is that,” says Dr. Julius. “They believe they know love because they feel special around that person; when a person kisses them, holds them, says, ‘You’re my everything,’ that’s love. Or, if a guy says ‘Let’s hook up’—for many young girls, that’s love.”

If you asked your teen, “What do you think love is?” would she use fulfillment of her own wants and needs as one definition?  Would she say something like, “When you’re familiar with a guy (his traits, likes, dislikes), and you can accept him (for who he is, and the decisions he makes), and he’s important (you include his feelings, wants, needs, beliefs in your choices), and you value him (share what you feel, think, believe)…”

“That’s not typically what you’re going to hear from teens,” says Dr. Julius. “More often you’ll get, ‘Why are you asking?’”

The importance of dialogue

“You have to hear what your teen believes before you can offer your insight,” says Dr. Julius. “Giving your teen a chance to verbalize her beliefs is how you see where you differ, and how she comes to understand what she believes.  Her influences come from the people she communicates with, shares with. This is how she builds her beliefs. If you give orders—“You have to believe what I believe”—you’ll not be one of the people she shares with. Be open to her understanding of what love is. Don’t say ‘You don’t know what love is’. She knows what it is for her.”

“The key is to talk to her every day,” says Dr. Julius, “even if you’re busy. Even if it’s for five minutes. In time she’ll trust you and stop thinking you’re prying or trying to get information to upgrade your rule list.”

Concepts like love are difficult to verbalize. But talking about needs—the fulfillment of needs in a relationship—can help. Typically teens expect only a few needs to be met—like to notice him, desire him, to be interested in every little thing about him, to please him.

Try setting your teen’s bar with information about “getting to know” a person by using her wants and needs—for example, to become familiar with him, listen to him, understand him, value him, be interested in him, and for him to become important to her—as reasons for loving a guy.

Set your teen’s bar to love

Say your daughter meets a guy, believes she loves him and he loves her. Ask her: “Is love a good reason to have sex with a guy?” Then let her talk.

“Many teens will say yes,” says Dr. Julius, “If your teen says yes, there’s really not much you can say to convince her otherwise. But asking ‘What do you think love is?’ is a good opening. If she won’t say, she has no idea. Don’t push it beyond where she wants to go. Truly hear what she has to say, make no judgments, then try sharing with her what you think love is.”

If, after two weeks of knowing your daughter, a guy said to her, “You’re my life, I love you, let’s express our love in sex,” would your daughter believe him? “Many teens would,” says Dr. Julius.

You’d know your daughter was dealing with this issue only if she told you. But many teens won’t. That’s why it’s so important to help her develop a bigger picture of what love is. Share this heart-saving shortcut with her: “When a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words. Love is what you experience when he’s happily meeting your needs and you’re happily meeting his, all the while maintaining your self-respect and meeting your own needs, too.”

That’s not crazy, and it’s not little. It’s love.

Teen Dating Violence

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Have you experienced dating violence?
Say you’re talking to a guy at a party. Your boyfriend doesn’t like it, and later confronts you about it. He pins you against a wall. You yell at him to get his hands off you. As you’re trying to explain that the guy was just asking about one of your girlfriends, your boyfriend smashes his fist into the wall.

Often in teen relationships, violence takes the form of physical aggression, which can be minor — pushing, grabbing or smashing an object, or major, slapping, slamming or punching. You’ve just experienced dating violence. But you love the guy. What to do? read more

Parent Support Services & Bob Prittie Library Invite Parents, Grandparents, Counselors, all to:

Friday, November 5th, 2010

How to Frog-Proof Your Daughter

By Kaycee Jane, author of ‘Frog or Prince? The smart girl’s guide to boyfriends.’

Date: Thursday, November 18th, 2010      6:30pm – 8:30pm

For more details Frog or Prince Event

The Tyee

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Waking up after the Pitt Meadows Nightmare

Images of a girl allegedly drugged and gang-raped went viral. What do parents now say to teens? > read more

by Kaycee Jane

Laurence Fishburne’s daughter, Montana, and her entry into the world of porn

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Dr. Julius Licata, Director of TeenCentral.net says celebrities like Kim Kardashian and now Montana Fishburne send a message we don’t want to give our young people: sex is something you barter.  

Did Kardashian influence Montana Fishburne to become a porn star? Montana says that she did. But she also said she likes sex and thinks porn is a good way to explore different fantasies.

Dr. Julius says what’s evident is that sex has become Montana’s currency. She wants media attention. “I can make a name for myself using sex”—the media is doing stories about her. People are talking about her. She now has a career. If she wants to hurt her parents, sex is the way—her parents are horrified. The message this young woman is sending is one that hurts all young woman: use your sexuality as payment and you can get everything you want.

Does Montana have the insight “knowing if I do this now, what affect it will have on me or someone else—to make a choice to become a porn star? She’s of legal age.

Some girls hook up, thinking, “This will get me closer to boyfriend, to love,” or “Having a boyfriend gets me to popular.” Sound crazy? Only if you’re unfamiliar with today’s youth culture. Read Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture. Finding it difficult to talk with your daughter about sex? Read Meg Hickling’s Grown-Up Sex: Sexual Wholeness for the Better Part of Your Life.

Have you talked to your daughter about hooking up?  Check out what Lily, a high-school girl (and fabulous blogger) thinks about hooking up.  What does your daughter think? Does she  know what a girl deserves in a hookup (like safe sex and to feel, not just give, pleasure)? Have you talked to her about the difference between a positive and negative hookup experience? Does she think hooking up is a great way to get to know a guy?

Knowing what to expect from a hookup or relationship—what needs she deserves to have met, and how she deserves to be treated—is a way for her to make informed choices.

What comes to mind is Lynn Glazier’s project “IT’S A TEEN’S WORLD: wired for sex, lies and power trips,” where teens use films to tell us how our sexually charged world influences their choices. Parents need to listen to these voices. Montana Fishburne’s story-line is just as likely to be played out at your teen’s school.  

If Montana Fishburne wants to be in films, maybe it’s because she played the lead in ”Pursuit of Popularity”—girl uses sex to get popularity (or fame, in her case) in high-school. Or “Under Pressure”—girl’s make up stories—so-and-so is pregnant, getting an abortion, has already had sex with four guys, i.e., use sexual gossip to get what they want. After Jamie Fox disses Montana on his radio show she twittered that he was making a gay porno sex tape. Yes I know, she says her twitter account was hi-jacked. Just saying. Not judging. And then there’s the dating violence: Montana allegedly was arrested for beating up her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.  

It’s important to talk to your teens about healthy relationships—how to respect themselves and others while getting their needs met, and how to get others to do the same. Parents need to be mindful that women like Kardashian and Montana Fishburne can become role models for their daughters. But what parents really need to be aware of is that Montana was probably influenced as much by her high-school culture as she was by Kardashin.

I read “Telling it like it is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships” many teens said they didn’t believe in that crazy little thing called love. Remember this? You pull off the first petal and say: “He loves me.” And the next: “He loves me not.” You repeat until you get to the last petal to find out whether your boyfriend loves. Sound crazy? Have you talked to your daughter about love? Or have you left it up to Google?

Talk to her about love—show her a way to see love. Share this heart-saving shortcut: “When a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words. Love is what you experience when he’s happily meeting your needs (and maybe some you didn’t even know you had!) and you’re happily meeting his, all the while maintaining your self-respect and meeting your own needs, too.”

Is becoming a porn star good for Montana? Is hooking up good for girls? It depends on how well a girl knows and likes herself and whether she has the information and skills to make a deliberate choice. Self-respect is knowing what our needs and wants are, learning to recognize what it feels like to get them met, and using that self-knowledge to make deliberate choices.

Healthy relationship criteria can help teens make better choices. They’ll help your daughter figure out what she’s shopping for—hookup or boyfriend? A hookup is a way for a girl to get physical needs met—to desire, to be noticed—with no strings, no commitment. And to get any sex she desires, from kissing to intercourse. If she’s shopping for more than release (to be pleasured and give pleasure)—like caring or commitment—she needs to reset her bar to “boyfriend.”

And that would be where we step in—to help her to find a way to do that, with reasons, with answers—to provide insight about what she’s shopping for amidst coercive influences of celebrities and culture! A  big part of a beautiful life—which we all want for our daughters—comes from knowing the difference between a Prince and a Frog.

To respect ourselves and our daughters we really need to be fearless.


Kaycee Jane

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon). Jane blogs at www.frogorprince.ca. When life with your teen seems overwhelming, try www.TeenCentral.net ‘s Parent section and get help from a professional.

Frog or Prince’s ‘Last words about teen dating violence’ at RWJF’s healthy relationship conversation. Criteria vs Concepts.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Youth can identify things that make for a healthy relationship—respect, boundaries, balance, and so on. Can they use these concepts to make smart choices? It is difficult to apply concepts to real-life situations. I believe teens can use healthy relationship criteria to make better choices. When a teen knows how to express their wants and needs (by managing their feelings) they’ll have rock-solid criteria to influence their choices. I take examples of emotional abuse—coercion, jealousy, criticism—and use some tools from Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends to illustrate my point.

I spent five years writing “Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends.” A Prince is a metaphor for a healthy relationship; a Frog is the opposite. I wrote it after my daughter went out with a Frog. I was beside myself: Why was she with him? She either didn’t know the difference between a Frog and a Prince, or else she believed she deserved a Frog. How could she exit? Avoid future Frogs? By acquiring information, skills and tools. And by building a beautiful life. >read more

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

How The Internet Has Changed Teen Dating?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

By Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 60 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, CBS Miami and much more!

When I was in High School I would be at a school dance.  I would dance with a guy and he would be sweaty and gross. Then I would check with my friends to see if he was cute or not (he was usually dancing behind me).  When they approved, I rubbed a little harder and invariably he asked for my number.

3 to 5 days later, depending how much he liked me, he called, we chatted.  Eventually we went on a date and the relationship began.  Now it is a totally different story.

This part is the same:

“I would be at a school dance.  I would dance with a guy and he would be sweaty and gross. Then I would check with my friends to see if he was cute or not (he was usually dancing behind me).  When they approved, I rubbed a little harder and invariably he asked for my…”

But now…

He asks for my Facebook. 3 to 5 hours later, depending on how much he liked me he would friend me.  We would proceed to ‘stalk’ each other, looking at pictures, checking out each other’s friends, applications and wall postings. Then we would poke each other.  Then we would write on each other’s wall. Then we would message or send virtual gifts or rank each other on top friends application.  Then we would Facebook chat, then IM, then text, then talk.  Eventually we might see each other in person.  But by then we might already be boyfriend and girlfriend, broken up and got back together again.

The good:

1)      It takes longer

2)      You get to know each other better through a variety of different channels (IM, Facebook, Email, Text…)

3)      It is a bit more fun, poking, seeing pictures and having chats.

The bad:

1)      There is a false sense of security. You feel so much closer because you have seen all of their pictures and friends, but this is not always real.

2)      It is easy to fake it.  You know how long someone can spend getting the lighting just right for an iChat date? People also can put whatever they want up on their profiles, without you being able to verify if it is true or not. 

3)      You miss facial expression and voice tone.  Even if you are talking, so much of teen dating is now done online…you miss the real life.

I love writing articles for teens and about teens.  I run a website called Radical Parenting.com.  It is a website written by teenagers for adults and parents who just do not get us.  Our teen interns and writers get published, experience and resume value because we LOVE them.  We would be so excited for you to check out our program and our website:

Our Teen intern program: http://www.radicalteenagers.com/ Maybe you want to write a guest post for us?

Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 60 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, CBS Miami and much more!

Does your daughter need dating advice—from you?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Well, there’s more to a healthy relationship than sex—so yes, she absolutely does. Giving your daughter dating advice may sound taboo and weird. But who else will talk to her about the differences between a Frog and a Prince. > read more

Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

When people read Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture, author Shannon Boodram hopes they will learn rather than judge.

One thing I learned was that the difference between a positive and negative hookup experience lies in the same things that make for a healthy relationship. It may be hard to believe that a positive hookup and a healthy relationship would have much in common, but they do.

Two stories from the book illustrate the point. In “The Lido Deck,” by Laurence Anthony, a guy meets a hot girl on a cruise ship. He describes his sexual experience: “Our lips met over and over again… We looked at each other and once I pushed inside, we didn’t stop until every position was explored … It was the cuddling, the spooning, and the honesty that came with it. It all felt natural and oddly comfortable.”

In Shannon Boodram’s own story, “Lane 2,” a girl meets a hot guy away competing at a track meet in Hungary. She describes her sexual experience: “I could feel his body stiffening inside mine, and I held tighter, not prepared to let him go just yet. …All of a sudden he yanked free of my grasp and rushed out of my body…‘I think I got out in time’. ‘No! I don’t think you did!’ ‘Sorry’. Now what? Alex glanced at his Timex. ‘It’s almost one. The bus will be leaving soon, and the coaches are going to get angry. . .’”

A hookup is a way to get your physical needs met—to desire and to be noticed with no strings, no commitment. You can hook up once or many times with the same person. And you can get any sex you desire, from kissing to intercourse. Of course, a hookup means different things to different people depending on what they’re shopping for. Laurence was shopping for “we’re not going to be together forever” sex, caring, pleasure, and spooning. Shannon wasn’t sure—maybe love, maybe a long distance relationship, maybe sex?

Needs are beautiful things, a deep part of ourselves. We all have the same needs but different wants. A want is the way we feel a need getting met. What wants do you notice first in a guy—hair, eyes, smile, height, body? What turns your head? Shannon noticed Alex was “mocha skinned, probably half black and half white, with a clean face and slanted eyes.” Laurence noticed Felicia was elegant—a combination of beauty and simplicity.

The need to notice influenced both of their choice to have sex. Chemistry! When chemistry happens we grow happy and, like magic, feel as if our needs are being met. But other than attraction, what criteria—met needs—do you shop for when deciding to have sex?

Not knowing what needs we’re responsible to meet for ourselves and others, and what to expect in return, makes it hard to make good choices. Shannon didn’t know what to expect from her hookup, or how to meet her own physical needs while respecting herself. Her story shows that it’s a good idea to know what your sexual wants are before you meet your desire need with a guy. What sexual acts do you desire—kissing, touching, hugging, oral sex, intercourse? And what are you ready for? Part of the answer lies in what makes you feel good. And part of the answer lies in “knowing what’s good for you,” how you’ll feel after the sex. Shannon wasn’t sure. During her hookup, Shannon says, “Things were moving too fast, and I was not sure how to stop it, or if I wanted to stop it.” After hooking up with Alex, she felt a physical letdown and emotional confusion.

How can we make good choices when we don’t know what our needs are, or recognize what it feels like to get them met? During sex, Shannon says: “I liked being so close to him in this way. It made me feel important, like I was the only one who could make his body roll this way.” To really get your need to feel important met, a guy has to include your feelings and needs in his choices. Alex didn’t. After “pulling out late” he left her to deal with any consequences, eager to avoid his own: his coach finding out.

Laurence, in contrast, says, “We chatted for hours about school, life, and whose country was better…It was perhaps the most honest and candid I had been with anyone—stranger or not.” He was getting some of his needs met—to notice Felicia, desire her, become familiar with her, listen to her, understand her, be interested in her, and value her (being able to tell her what he thinks and feels). And she got those same needs met in return.

Was Laurence really familiar with Felicia? To really be familiar with someone, you must know what their best and worst personality traits are. If we asked Laurence to describe Felicia, he’d say “elegant, drop-dead gorgeous, sincere, good listener, sharp sense of humor, comfortable in her own skin, and confident.” (If we asked Shannon to describe Alex, she’d list what she noticed: his physical qualities.) Sure, Laurence doesn’t know Felicia’s negative traits. But during her hookup with Alex, Shannon would—“selfish.”

What Laurence and Shannon experienced is directly related to what needs they got met before the hookup; their experience is also related to the need for mutual respect. You can tell if a person respects you by how they get their needs met from you. Do they ask for what they want and then leave it up to you? Do they use character—saying what they mean, doing what they say, knowing right from wrong—to get what they want?

Laurence got his needs met from Felicia while respecting her. Earlier in the week, when they were making out, Felicia said, “Stop…We don’t know each other.” She knows and respects herself. How did Laurence handle his disappointment? “I could think of no greater setting or stage for us to have had sex with one another, but instead of telling her that, I said okay.” They started talking. And Laurence found her interesting without the sex.

Shannon gets her physical needs met from Alex, but without respecting herself or him. Ditto for him. One way to respect ourselves is to meet our own needs—such as to keep ourselves safe from harm. Shannon lacked character because she compromised her sense of right and wrong, exposing herself to the negative consequences of sex—infection, pregnancy, possibly even death (AIDS). (I’m just saying, not judging.)

We all need a bar—standards—for which needs we deserve to get met in any type of hookup or relationship, and for what types of behavior we’ll accept from a guy or girl.

What do we deserve in a hookup? If you’re shopping for sex with no strings, you’re shopping for fulfillment of a sexual want. You deserve to feel good and to have safe sex. And so does your partner. Each of you has to be able to happily accept the way the other treats you.

Needs are beautiful things. Each need has to be met in three ways to feel “just right” and “good.” If your need to desire is truly met you’ll know what your sexual wants are —what makes you feel good; you desire him (want to make him feel good) and he desires you (wants to make you feel good) in turn. And you each deserve to be treated with respect. If your desire need isn’t met in these three ways, your hookup won’t be a positive sexual experience.

Heart-saving shortcut: Unmet needs are good reasons to exit. How to tell? Feelings bubble up. Say you’re in the middle of a hookup and where it’s going, or what he wants, doesn’t feel good. What to do? Stop and exit. Yes, even if you’re so far along that you’re naked. Such self-respect choices build self-worth.

Some girls set their bar too low. A girl might hook up with a guy because she uses sex to get popularity or she wants to get closer to the boyfriend stage, or she believes she loves him. If you’re shopping for more than release (to be pleasured and give pleasure)—like caring or spooning—reset your bar. Needs help us make deliberate choices. If you’re interested in a person, find out more about them—like their traits and how they get their needs met from you—making sure you really know and like them before getting seriously involved. 

Heart-saving shortcut: When a guy is shopping for release, he only needs to notice one little thing about you to feel desire. For Alex, it was Shannon’s beautiful eyes.

Here’s the thing: When we get a need met, we feel happy, no longer wanting. Each choice we make creates a consequence—a met need (good feeling) or unmet need (mixed, confused or hurt feeling). Let’s say you’re hooking up with a guy. Sure, to notice and be noticed, to desire and be desired feel wonderful before (and during) the hookup. But what kind of feelings bubble up after? If you know and like yourself, you’re growing happy—building yourself a beautiful life—not expecting a phone call, not secretly hoping for more, chances are you’re a player. But if you’re waiting for the guy to make your relationship official, sleeping with him is probably leaving you feeling hurt, empty and confused—or worse, feeling nothing at all.

Needs are beautiful things. I know guys can think we’re “needy.” But self-respect is knowing what our needs and wants are, learning to recognize what it feels like to get them met, and using that self-knowledge to make deliberate choices.

Knowing what to expect from a hookup would have helped Shannon get a more positive experience. Knowing what she was shopping for, and how to shop for it, would have helped her. Inform your choices using what needs you deserve to have met, and how you deserve to be treated. Every woman has her own beliefs about when to have sex. The choice is very personal, and partly dependent on your beliefs. A big part of self-respect is making deliberate choices—choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs. And that help you decide not only when to have sex, but—as important—who to have it with.

We all have different rules for how we want to be treated and what needs we deserve to get met. The common factor: in a healthy relationship, our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

These stories show that by using healthy relationship criteria, you can close the gap between negative sexual experiences and the positive encounters you’re shopping for and deserve to experience. Healthy relationship criteria help you make better choices—whether it’s choosing a guy to hook up with, choosing a boyfriend, or choosing whether to stay in a relationship or exit.


Kaycee Jane

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon). Jane blogs at frogorprince.ca. When life seems overwhelming, try TeenCentral.net and get anonymous help from a professional.

Heart-saving shortcut by Dr. Julius Licata of TeenCentral: Thought of abstinence as a choice? When you choose the right time to have sex, you’ll experience being in control; having control builds self-esteem. There’s a right time to have sex. Not knowing the person makes sex meaningless and empty. What does the guy like? Who is he? Why are you and he connecting? Abstinence keeps you safe—no fear of pregnancy or STD’s. And abstinence gives you time to build real love and understanding, so when sex does happen, it’s not just mutual masturbation but the sincere act of caring and affection.

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