- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I need to know what to do about negative peer influences on my 14-year-old daughter. I hate her friends, and I don’t know what to do about them or her.

It’s clear they are leading her around by the nose. Speaking of nose, she came home from the mall a couple of weeks ago with a piercing. We were furious, but she wouldn’t even tell us where she got the money to pay for it.

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All she wants to do is hang out with friends and listen to hideous music. She wants to dress inappropriately, even though she has been suspended for wearing obscene clothing. She has become disrespectful to me and her father, especially when we ask her about this boy she is dating. The boy doesn’t even come in our house; he just honks his horn and she runs out to his car. Sometimes I wonder if she is on drugs or something. We’ve tried grounding her, but it makes me and her father so uncomfortable that we often let her off restriction before the agreed-upon time.

We have younger children watching, and I don’t want them to think her behavior is right or acceptable. Is there a place I can take her for observation? I just don’t know what to do next. — Mom With A Terrible Teen Daughter

Dear Mom,

So, you don’t know what to do with your daughter, huh? Well, when I was 14, I slammed my bedroom door and my mother took the door off the hinges.

Allow me to be brutally honest, OK? You and your husband are allowing your daughter to run all over you.

When I was 16, my mother would allow a male visitor to come to our home, but, trust me, she grilled him: Who are you? Where do you live? Who are your parents? By the way, give me your phone number so I can call your parents right now.

Every light in the living room was on, and he was only allowed to visit for a while. Of course, after the grand inquisition, we probably had a 15-minute conversation. You see, boys could not walk all over our home, and, God forbid, near my bedroom. That would never happen. My mom didn’t even change much when I met and fell in love with my husband; we often laugh about my mother’s actions now.

But personally and professionally, I think parents have changed more than the times have changed. When I was growing up, there was drugs, teenage sex, pregnancy, runaway teens, gangs and violence. But I knew I had one option, and that was not to come “toe to toe” with my mother. Was I afraid of her? Yes, but I respected her more.

You, however, are so afraid of your daughter that when you ground her, it’s more punitive for you than her! You and your husband need to wake up and get your daughter in line now. No, I don’t think she’s on drugs. I think she has parents who are allowing her to behave uncontrollably. Why would you allow a young man to blow his horn and have your daughter leave with him? Why didn’t you and your husband go outside, “jack that young man up” and tell him to never, never do that again? Sheesh!

So here’s some quick advice. Get a home drug test and have your daughter take it.

Second, solicit the assistance of a professional therapist or counselor immediately. This person needs to offer you guidance, support and be a backbone (because you don’t have one) so you and your husband can follow through with a much-needed course of action.

Third, learn about all of your children’s close friends and their parents.

Fourth, get all your children involved in positive social activities that build self-esteem and self-worth. Create opportunities for positive parent-child communication in the home and the community. Role-play common interactions — and those you fear — with your children. Allow your daughter (and other children) to respond. They can even tell you what they think your response should be.

Last, your daughter is 14. You are still the coach in her life, you are the quarterback. Get off the bench, OK?

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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