Q. My 13 year old daughter has been hanging around a girl who I believe to be a bad influence. This girl is wild. She dresses promiscuously, lacks supervision at home, skips classes, and encourages my daughter to stay out late. She is rumored to be using drugs. I am worried she will encourage my daughter to do the same. So far, my daughter has only followed her example one time-by coming home an hour after her curfew. She seems to be maintaining her good grades. Should I forbid her to see this girl?
A. The surest way to get your daughter to make the changes you fear is to forbid her to see this girl. Adolescents choose friends that are “wild” for a variety of reasons. During adolescence, teens try on new clothing, hair styles, behaviors and (sometimes) friends in an attempt to explore who they are. At times choosing a “wild” friend may be an attempt to provoke a reaction from parents.
Sometimes teens secretly identify with a characteristic of the new friend. For example. The surge of hormones that is common at this time can cause heightened sexual feelings which can makes some teens feel out of control. Having an overtly promiscuous friend may help make the teen feel more “normal.” If the change in friends is accompanied by a drop in grades, an increase in noncompliance at home, lying, stealing or other antisocial behavior, it may be a sign of a more serious problem, i.e. depression or substance abuse.
Since your daughter remains unchanged in many respects, it sounds as if this is a part of the experimentation that is characteristic of adolescence. What you can do is to continue to set consistent limits and consequences when your daughter violates a family rule. Therefore, if she comes home late, make sure there are fair consequences. Being grounded for a certain period of time or setting a temporary, earlier curfew are typical consequences for this type of rule violation. Your daughter will soon get the message that if she follows her friend’s example, there will be unpleasant results. This will either lead to a rejection of the friend’s values or a rejection of the friend. I have heard many children and adolescents say, “I don’t hang out with her (or him) anymore. She was always getting me into trouble.”
If a parent forbids contact with a new friend, their teen often will tenaciously hold onto the friendship. They will often continue to see the friend secretly and ßmay begin to adopt more of the friend’s undesirable behaviors in an attempt to rebel against parents. Unless your adolescent is in imminent danger, try to be patient and wait it out. Reassure yourself that you are doing something about the problem by enforcing household rules and maintaining firm limits.
Note: This was a question answered by Dr. Cynthia Divino in her column for the Boulder Parent. They are published here to help the BIPR parenting community.