Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Timeliness Politeness
10 10 10 10
Comment: Thank you very much for your prompt response to my question about sleepovers. It was most helpful, and helped my husband and I have a better dialogue on this issue.
Subject: daughter making bad decisions
Question: Last year my husband and I made the mistake of letting my then 14 y/o daughter date a 17 y/o boy. Initially I didn't see the harm because he seemed nice, I asked around about him first, and he actually asked me to my face if he could date her. That's hard to come by now days. Anyway that one date turned into a 14 mo. relationship of very high highs, and very low lows. There was seldom a middle ground. It seemed like after the infatuation phase wore off they were breaking up every few weeks or so only to end up back together again. I watched my daughter go from a confidant young woman into a insecure agitated mess.
Late December things came to a head because she found out he had been hanging out with an old friend that was bad news, aka drinking and smoking weed together, and she ended the relationship. I had told her prior to her making the decision that if they ever did break up again that was going to be the end of ALL boys for a while.
Everything she'd been dealing with was far too serious for someone her age. Deciding to take her chances she broke things off anyway. She attempted to contact him a few weeks later so we were forced to revoke several privileges, aka car-cell-phone-going out with friends. She has just as of today been ungrounded and the first thing she does is call this boy to make arrangements to get together. Luckily he is out of state until this weekend so that buys me a little time. It was one thing when they were both attending the same high school but he has since graduated and is in college now.
He still sees the bad news friend often and I know for a fact he's been drinking, if not also indulging in marijuana use. My husband thinks we're stuck since we let them date before, that she's going to have to learn for herself things haven't changed. I on the other hand think we are entitled and obligated as parents to keep this relationship from redeveloping. Not only could he possibly be putting her in danger with his responsibilities but he's been very verbally critical of her in the past. I don't want to see that sort of behavior start up again. I know he was her first love but she knows he's got some serious issues. She deserves better then this. They are at two different phases in their lives right now.
She's got two and a half years of high school left and then college. He's only in college now because his parents were on his case because he couldn't keep a decent job. He wants to party and have a good time. I hate having to keep her grounded all the time but I just don't know what other options I have in keeping her away from him.
Any comments or words of advice are greatly appreciated.
Answer: Dear Anonymous Sounds like you have already discovered the reasons why a 14 year old does not need to date a 17 year old. Even though it was only 3 years it was a definitely different developmental age, junior high versus high school different age. However this is water under the bridge. I think doing something about this relationship is a good idea however probably not the same thing you have in mind. Trying to keep her from him may boomerang on you and they may seek each other out in secret which would be way worse.
Here me when I say: POWER STRUGGLES WITH TEENAGERS ARE NEVER A GOOD IDEA! Even if you win power struggles you still lose because you child now feels like a loser and will make choices from their loser identity rather than from a powerful feeling of being in charge of their life. Really work on your relationship with your daughter.
Spend one on one time with her. Encourage your husband to do the same. She needs her self esteem and quality time with you both to be positive and encouraging. How do you do this with this bad boy in the background. You focus. You focus on complimenting her and building her up in other areas of her life. (Of course she may wonder what is up however consistency and persistence will win her over).
The more you build her up the more she will enjoy your time together and the less tolerant she will be of someone who doesn't meet her needs in a healthy manner. If she brings up the relationship with the bad boy be careful to just listen, let her say whatever is on her heart and mind and don't judge it. Better she is talking to you about him than obsessing in her mind about him.
Silence and listening are not an agreement they are only basic respect. By doing more of the listening than the talking and allowing her to talk more than you, you will be gaining back your power as parents in a different way. The person who does the most listening in a relationship has the most power in the relationship. Always remember this!
Counselors call this bonding through listening transference. When someone listens to you, really hears what you are saying with a non-judgemental open heart you will build an emotional bond which the bad boy cannot touch or even come close to touching. This is the hardest part of parenting you are now facing. She is lucky to have parents who love her so much and you need to trust this love.
M Kay Keller