Dear Dr. G.,
I'm really in a bad spot. My teenage daughter—age 14—has always been a great kid. Like my other 2 kids she has always been well-mannered and has followed my rules. Recently, I have noticed that when she hangs around with one particular girl (who I will call Sophie) she acts differently. When she is with Sophie she is rude to me and my husband and she breaks rules. It's not like she's doing drugs or anything (at least I hope not) but she comes home late and has been lying about things like getting her homework done and where she is going. I recently caught her lying. She told me that she'd be at Sophie's house and instead both of them were at a boy's house.
I really doubt that my daughter would be acting this way if she wasn't being influenced by Sophie. I should tell you that my daughter has been friends with Sophie since kindergarten and until recently Sophie was a dear sweet girl and a good influence. I hate to see her lose Sophie as a friend but you always say that it is a parent's job first and foremost to keep their kids safe and to help them make good choices.
Should I forbid my daughter from Sophie time and the friendship in general?
A Worried Mom
Slow down just a little here, ok? You are right when you say that I say safety and helping your teen make good choices are very important ingredients in the good parenting recipe. I understand that you have a great kid who seems to have changed. Now, let's talk a little bit more about how to handle the Sophie situation. It is very possible that Sophie has changed a bit and is taking a bit of a detour during her teen years. It would be a shame if you simply told your daughter to drop Sophie who has been a long-term friend. It is possible that your daughter and Sophie are experimenting with breaking rules and acting out a bit together and that it is not totally Sophie's influence that is causing your daughter to break rules.
Consider the possibilities:
1. Your daughter may be influencing Sophie.
2. Sophie might be influencing your daughter.
3. The 2 girls may be experimenting a bit with defiance as a team during the teen years.
I am concerned that simply telling your daughter to drop Sophie as a friend may not solve the problem. It might aggravate things and make your daughter angry and lead to more rule-breaking. My suggestion is that you talk to your daughter about the behaviors that are unacceptable rather than about the friend as unacceptable. We all know that devaluing a friend leads to nothing good. Teens defend their friends strongly.
Set clear consequences for broken rules and lies so that your daughter experiences feedback and accountability for her own behavior. This is very important. Throughout her life your daughter will meet many people who may be negative influences. It is important for your daughter to practice being her own person and not being influenced easily.
I hope that the friendship with Sophie is salvageable. Long term friendships are very meaningful. Please sit down and have a calm discussion with your daughter about the change in her behavior. See what happens in the next month. If she is able to resume her formerly good habits and behavior then perhaps Sophie will follow suit.
Good luck and please get back to me.
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