Relationship Connection: My daughter sneaks inappropriate books


My 14-year-old daughter reads voraciously and has had problems once or twice in the past with reading inappropriate sexual books without telling me. Eventually, I found out and talked to her about it, although she wasn’t very open. We came up with the rule that I would read any young adult books she checked out first to make sure they were okay, since it seems many books in that category have sexual and other inappropriate stuff.

Recently, she checked out a bunch of books she had found recommended online (which were young adult) and I’m pretty sure she read them all the way through before I did, but then told me they weren’t appropriate “because of swearing” and that she’d stopped reading them. When I skimmed thru them, there was NOT just swearing, there was also disturbing sexual stuff like rape, attempted rape, groping, casual sex, drinking, eating disorders, suicide, etc. I feel sick just having skimmed thru them!

I have talked with her multiple times about being able to talk to me about anything, but she remains fairly private and closed except in rare instances. I find it especially frightening that it seems she is hiding this. How do I respond so she will not be shamed and will trust me while at the same time help keep her safe? Do I tell her she’s earned a consequence for checking out those books and even starting to read them before I did? Do I tell her I know what was in those books and talk to her about it? Do I ignore it and continue to remind her she can talk to me?


This battle of the books has reached a stalemate and the biggest casualty is going to be the loss of your relationship with your daughter. I recommend you slow things down and approach things in a different way.

First, there is nothing wrong with you having concerns about the content of the books. Parents have the right to protect their children from material that isn’t age-appropriate and contradicts the values they’re trying to instill in their children. We do this all the time with movies, television, and the Internet. Books are no exception.

Second, what if it’s less about the books and more about an adolescent testing boundaries? This is nothing abnormal or to be feared, just something to consider and take care that the boundaries are reasonable and not needlessly exasperating – at least in your first responses to her on the subject.

Your daughter clearly finds these books engaging and interesting. They may do something for her and it’s your job as her mother to help her make sense of the experience she’s having while at the same time working to enforce standards to protect her and your other children. That she told you there was swearing in the books may simply be that she was uncomfortable talking with you about the more serious and disturbing subjects covered in the books.

Sit down with her and acknowledge that you’ve read over them. Let her know that you see how much she wants to read these books and that you want to understand more about what draws her to them. This isn’t an interrogation. It’s a way to understand the emotional world of your daughter.

It may be that she is seeking out things that are sexually explicit, or things that are taboo in your home, because she is not getting answers with candor from a safe resource. Consider that she may be embarrassed to talk about these things with you; often teenagers see their parents as beings from another planet who can’t possibly understand the world around them.

Your daughter may be observing friends who seem to be maturing faster than she is, she may see her “first kiss” on the horizon and be anxious about it, she may have friends that are weight conscious finding their own remedy in bulimia. The point is, these can be very real concerns to a 14-year-old girl and it presents you with a prime opportunity to open the door to some real nuts-and-bolts conversations that can help her navigate “teenagerdom.”

If you can demystify the subjects rather than just place them off limits, the secret discoveries she is coming across in the pages of a book will lose their power.

If it is a matter of your daughter testing limits, you could most certainly punish her for hiding the books from you, but I think it’s a better use of your parental authority in this case to look beyond the hiding to see why these books are so important to her that she was willing to break an agreement. You’re still addressing the breaking of the agreement and sending a message that you’re not okay with it. You’re just going beyond the punishment to get to the bottom of this issue. Finding out what is really going on with her would be more difficult if you simply punished her and ended the discussion.

You can normalize the fact that these themes bring up powerful emotions and physical reactions that may be new for her. She’s not doing anything wrong by feeling these emotions. Just let her know that you’re concerned that you’re not able to help her make sense of these things when you don’t know what she’s thinking or wondering or maybe even going through.

Also, her curiosity and attraction to these themes doesn’t mean there is something wrong with her. It just means she’s having a reaction and needs help to make sense of out it. I wonder if she’s hiding these from you because she believes you’ll think less of her if you know she enjoys reading them. Then again, she may not have been seeking out these themes at all – but she came across them.

Instead of just shutting her down with her book list, use it as a chance to connect with her about what she’s worried you’ll think of her if you see her reading these books and, more importantly, if you see she has questions about these topics. You can still impart your values to her as you discuss what she’s going through, but I would start with listening. Make the environment safe for her to talk about what draws her to these kinds of books, is it the content or is it more about crossing the limits you have set?

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer


Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Giuseppe January 15, 2014 at 11:13 am

    She will not talk to you about these books if you wont ALLOW her to read them. She is a human being and wants to make her own decisions. No to the consequences for reading them. You can not protect her form the content, the content is all around her everyday, unless you live in Colorado City. Trust her. tell her you would prefer she didn’t read books with that content but do not BAN the books from her. Talk to her, not at her let her make her own decisions. She will make the right choice, she is a good kid, trust in her but do not judge her. With or without your permission she will read them. And even if you could shelter her from reading them you can never shelter her from talk at school, evening news, internet and everyday life that is all around her.

    • Patti January 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Colorado City? Nah there u just see child rape & abuse as well as abuse against women.

  • Innara January 15, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Geez. She’s 14. She’s going through the hormonal stage. Just let the girl explore books that have sexual themes as she’s going through these changes. It’s better than exploring actual sex with a person at her age. Instead, she can explore her feelings in the privacy of her own room, reading a book. What a magnificent thing that is! Sexuality is a part of being human. Let’s honor the sacredness in being a sexual being.

    • Oh My Heck! January 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      There was a time people in these parts were marrying off their daughters by age 14. I think it’s 17 now, right after high school.

  • Coffeelarge January 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Oh geeze, just let her read the 50 Shades of Grey already! Just be glad she’s not out actually being promiscuous.

  • Oh My Heck! January 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Doesn’t a certain religion discourage its members from reading books of other religions? Doesn’t it discourage its members from watching R-rated movies? I think if these people ever heard the lyrics of the RAP that their kids enjoy, they’d be wringing their hands and saying “Oh my heck! Oh my heck!” But certainly it’s not THEIR kids doing this. They probably don’t believe their kids might be partying out on the strip, either. I bet a lot of local parents don’t think their kids drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs or have sex, just because THEIR kids have a certain religious label attached to them. Talk about heads buried in the sand! These ‘Oh my heck!’ parents need to open their eyes and ears to reality. Their little cherubs probably are doing a whole lot more than playing in the splashpad or jumping in a bounce house.

    • JOSH DALTON January 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      The bible is full of rape,sex, and things that a child should not be exposed to. But since its endorsed by God then its ok I guess. pssfft! Btw, i’m not a God fearing man though. Being that we have just opened another discussion about religion on Saint George News site nothing we will ever say hold any water. We are still beating a ded horse.

  • JOSH DALTON January 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    All my wife reads is smut. I guess its an even trade because I allowed to look at porn. I guess women just like to read smut. Guys just like to look at the pictures. Some folks just have to man up and admit it.

  • Hatalli January 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Apparently you have not had open lines of communication with your daughter. Not unusual at all, particularly for a girl of that age.
    I’m going to tell a true story here, in the hopes that you will be able to see the connection. First off, I am not of the LDS faith, nor was anyone in my family. When I was a kid my parents smoked. My dad used to tell me, “I don’t want you to smoke, but if you are going to, do it in front of me.” Of course I smoked. . .Anyway, one day, (I believe I was about 12 years old,) I lit one up in front of my dad. Who then proceeded to whale the living daylights out of me.
    I learned a lesson that day. But it sure wasn’t about not smoking. (Here it is 60+ years later and I still smoke.) It was about trusting my parents, and telling the truth. I learned that some things you just cannot tell your parents, when they fill you up with BS about consequences. I never confided anything in my parents after that, nor did I trust them at all.
    The point that I’m trying to make here, is that if you truly want to have open two way communication with your daughter, you have to be willing to bite your tongue, hold your temper and most of all THINK before you react to stuff. Once you have broken the trust, it is almost, if not totally impossible to rebuild it.
    There are many 14 year olds that are very active sexually. They could probably give both you and I a very detailed lesson in the “how to. . .” Be thankful that your daughter is into reading about stuff, rather than doing it.
    Before you go too far down the road of saying “reading about it will lead to doing it,” realize that this just is not true. Of course it is possible. But if you have raised her to be a moral individual, it is not quite so likely.
    It is hard, really hard, to avoid the smut and licentious behavior shown in the entertainment industry today, whether it is movies, TV, internet or books. It is out there, all around us.
    Far better to accept the fact that it is a part of life. That is not the same thing as “condoning it,” but realize it is hard to avoid. At 14, she is old enough to be allowed to read about life. And then perhaps, just perhaps, she can discuss her feeling, her urges, her questions with you, rather than with her girl friends.
    Open communication within the family is the absolute key.

  • bub January 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    If she’s not having sex, doing drugs, or pregnant what’s the problem?

  • Liesa Swejkoski January 16, 2014 at 12:32 am


    I’m a reader and an author. The big “forbidden” book when I was in middle school was “Forever” by Judy Blume. My mother caught me reading my friend Cecelia’s copy. She and all the other mothers got together and banned this book. Teachers must have been contacted because we were not allowed to even have it in school! Cecelia and I got together, thirty-five years later at Olive Garden and laughed. We still love to read, we are mothers and we are in long-tern, committed marriages. You can take what you want from that.

    -Liesa Swejkoski
    Author of A Sideshow Hourney

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