Straight Talk Advice

Nov 06, 2012

Daughter falling for high school bad boy

Dear Straight Talk: I have full custody of a talented, intelligent, 15-year-old daughter. She just started freshman year and is moving fast toward having a senior, poor student, drug-using boyfriend. Obviously, I'm not thrilled with her choice. We've never had issues and talk openly, even about sexual topics. I'm afraid, depending on how I handle this, that I will lose our communication and trust. How can I discourage this without causing a rebellion? — Single dad, Toledo, Ohio

Jessie 20, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

Discouraging her could spark the opposite reaction — but you still need to do it. Make rules: she must tell you where she's going, with who, and for how long. Set a curfew. Remind her that a boy who truly cares about her will respect her family, too. Encourage involvement with school friends (they can talk a girl out of a guy better than you). The times I fell for someone who used me was when I felt insecure and unlovable. Give her room to make mistakes but ALWAYS remind her that she is loved, respected and needn't settle.

Taylor 15, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

This is common at my school when older guys can't get girls their age. Freshman year is a self-conscious time and it's flattering when an upperclassman takes interest in you. As a sophomore, I can see the game now. On rare occasion a true relationship forms, but mostly freshmen girls are easy targets.

Brandon 20, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Attraction to bad boys/girls is (sadly) pretty natural in high school. Due to his age, you're in a good position to stop this fiasco: “Hi, I'm so-and-so's father. How would you like to be charged with statutory rape?”

Okay, that might not be your style. But depending on your daughter's past traumas, she may give you fits over this. My single-parent dad knows all about that. Girls do eventually realize — unless derailed by drugs or unplanned pregnancy — that they want a provider, not a loser. Be there for her, mistakes and all, and do everything in your power to help her.

Peter 25, Honolulu, Hawaii Ask me a question

Bad boy he may be, but he's still human. How about inviting him to dinner? Don't shoot loaded questions. Start with, where are you from, what are you doing after high school, how's my cooking, etc. If you break the ice (dessert will help), maybe you'll see what your daughter sees and become a positive influence on him. If not, your daughter will respect the effort.

Nicole 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

You'll never dictate your daughter's choice in men, but you can provide input. When you offer advice, be brief. Remind her that relationships last when both individuals, side-by-side, strive for their greatest potential. If they begin dating, keep reminding her of that.

Dear Dad: Nobody mentioned the rule of no boyfriends or dating before junior year. Many parents use this delay tactic to get their daughters through those “deer-in-the-headlights” years. But parents can't be blind either. She can still hookup at parties, games, dances — even during school.

Seeing you have full custody, I'm going to assume your daughter suffers a “mother wound”. Some risk-taking and space-elbowing is normal for teens, but when it's associated with trauma, you need to be wide awake, your head nowhere near the sand.

Her potential for drug use worries me most — it could really sweep her sideways — and increase dramatically her risk of pregnancy. Be her rock and male protector. Be prepared to clamp down, including drug testing her if she comes home past curfew or doesn't pick up her phone when she's out. All can be done compassionately and with open communication. Trust the panel: Kids don't mind drug testing for cause. If she is seeing a drug user, such absenteeism is cause. 

Editor's Note: Parents who enjoy an open, stress-free, non-head-butting communication with their teen have particular trouble "laying down the law" when times of head butting arrive. Kids really do want parents to be able to call forth a fair, loving and reasonable sternness in a power struggle — not freeze, wimp-out, or throw a fit themselves. They're still kids and they still want a parent. (Face palms may be applied privately.) Teens younger than 18, especially, want/need something solid and fair to butt against.

The parent with the formerly lovely, easy communication, really needs to see the game has changed. Something new is being called from him/her. Split families have a special challenge because not only is there trauma from the divorce, parents are often competing for biggest slacker or have different philosophies on acceptable teenage behavior.

Parents: if you recognize yourself in any of this, get help from friends, family, coaches, counselors, etc., who are good at being fair/kind/stern simultaneously. Have them help you face your teen. Two or more united backbones have always been better than one. —Lauren

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  1. By Lala, age , from charlotte, NC on 12/04/2012

    This is normal for a freshman girl to want to go out with an older guy. This young age is the point where teens start to feel insecure and selfconcious. Talk to your daughter about this and see if this is what she truley wants. Even try inviting her boyfriend to get to know him better. Just be open minded to your daughters side and try looking through your daughters eyes and see what there really is to her boyfriend. Dont worry because if you trust your daughter to do the right thing then she will do it. Just let your daughter know your their for her and support her desicion.

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  2. By Kelsey Weems, age , from Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. on 12/04/2012

    Make rules for your daughter. If her grades, her behavior and she is still acting like her usual self i would leave it alone. But that doesn’t mean don’t stop watching her, but don’t go over board with it. Act normal with her as you would act without her having a boyfriend.

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