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Friend Is Bad Influence

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 15-year-old daughter took the family car for a three hour midnight ride with another girl the same age. We called the police, reported the car missing and she was given some advice by the officer when she got back at 4 p.m. She is not a problem girl, but she is action-inclined and our family is on the flat side. The other girl is the opposite, always in trouble to get attention and has family problems. Should I not allow her to hang around with her friend or should I just keep an eye on them to make sure they are not getting into trouble?

A: Your daughter is old enough to realize that her joyride was an irresponsible, illegal act. She apparently is feeling a need in her 15-year-old life to have more excitement. This is quite normal for a teenager at her stage of development. Unfortunately, her friend may not be the best influence right now.

I am sure you have made your opinions known on why she cannot participate again in anything so dangerous as this secret ride. I would talk calmly with your daughter about the values of your family and the responsibility you all have to act according to those values. Tell her you understand that her girlfriend has a need for attracting attention to herself, and that it may be very hard for her to say no to some of this girl's suggestions. Speak of your trust in your daughter and your belief in her goodness. Mention that anytime she ever needs your help to solve a problem, you will be there for her -- to help without judgment, not to blame or criticize.

I would suggest that you have a talk or two with her and this friend, together. Explain your family's rules of behavior and the limits that you set, and give the reasons behind these rules and limits. Tell them you want to see them earn your trust and that you are looking forward to an improved relationship among all of you based on mutual respect.

Do not attempt to parent this other girl. If anything, have a few conversations with her mother and share. Tell her what behaviour you expect of your daughter and hers. I recommend that you purchase, The Parent's Guide: Systematic Training for Parenting of Teens, by Dinkmeyer and McKay to give you a good foundation as regards parenting responsibly during adolescence.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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