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Boyfriend Problem is a Romeo and Juliet Phenomenon

Hi Mark, Here's the big question (at least for now). What to do about the boyfriend? I thought that, after the prom night fiasco, this relationship should end, but I offered the compromise of letting her see him with my supervision. Daughter says she won't accept that. If she goes off with him without my permission, should I call the police immediately, or is there any other consequence I could impose?

>>>>>>>>>>Calling the police would only be a temporary fix …but it will drive them closer together in the long run too.

I've thought of telling her that she cannot take JROTC next year if she goes off - I was against it this year because I don't think it belongs in schools and I don't want to feed her military obsession, but let her have her choice. I think that would fit the crime because she met the boyfriend and this older group that drinks and smokes pot through JROTC.

Right now our worst fights are over the boyfriend. Before she met him, the main "battles" were over the internet. I've had the pregnancy/ STD talks with her, but of course she thinks she's immune. Yesterday we had the worst one yet when I wouldn't let her go out. Ironically enough, he didn't even ask her out! (I'm praying that, like so many teenage romances, this one will die a natural death).

There will be another fight over the boyfriend today, I'm sure. One of the house rules is no dating on school nights (today would be the first day off the two weeks grounding, but if I let her date on a school night once, then she will expect that all the time).

>>>>>>>>>>> Two weeks is about 11 days too long.

>>>>>>>> You have a Romeo & Juliet phenomenon on your hands that will need to be diffused (if not, they will continue to work harder at sneaking their rendezvous behind your back).

Unfortunately, if your daughter wants to be with someone -- she'll find a way, no matter what you say or do. Parents can only guide their children in the right direction and hope for the best. If they do a good job, their daughter will make the right decision all on her own. Since you will not be successful at keeping those two apart, you must adopt a philosophy of if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em. In other words, they should be able to see one another within reasonable limits. For example:

· They can be together at your house only during those times that you are home and can monitor their behavior (if not, he has to leave)

· You could schedule some activity for them in which you would be a distant chaperon (e.g., take them to a shopping plaza and tell them to meet you back at the coffee shop in exactly one hour)

· Your daughter is allowed to go over to her boyfriend’s house for a designated time period (if she violates the time limit, there is a consequence that is commensurate with the “crime”)

You will not win this battle. Figure out a way for your daughter to see her boyfriend in a way that will keep her safe. This is the best you will be able to do.

I've let her go to a friend's on a school night, but these are friends I know, not this older group she wants to associate with. She doesn't see that going to a friend's on a school night is different from dating.

Re: the internet: So far all she's done to earn computer privileges is to make honor roll.

I take computer privileges for one day if she stays on it too long. The problem now is that she often has homework (and now has two research projects) for which she needs the computer, and I've given in and let her use it to get her homework done.

>>>>>>>>>>> Computer use is still a privilege, not a right. Out of control kids often use the excuse of needing to do research or homework in order to get the parent to reinstate computer privileges. You’ve just been punked – again!

What she's been doing is multitasking, doing some homework but mostly IM'ing her friends or wasting time on MySpace. So I guess I should keep her off the internet, homework or not. Should I use the 3 day grounding rather than just taking the computer for one day?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> This is covered in the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid.”

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

She says she doesn't care about school, but it did bother her last time when she missed honor roll for the first time (all A's and a C in Algebra II).

Re: suicide threats: Thanks for your answer; it relieves many of my worries. Next time she does it, I'll put on the "poker face" and as you said, keep an eye on it. I'm just worried about her if the boyfriend breaks up with her, as she's quite impulsive.

Re: living situation: There's a maximum one-year time frame for staying here. I'm due to finish my PhD dissertation by May (passed all exams and have most of the research done), and I'm going on the academic job market, which will mean moving to wherever I can find a tenure-track job. My mother's health is getting worse, but she says she'd rather move to a retirement home than come with me.

Actually, although my mother owns the house, she is dependent on me because she cannot maintain it or even do her own grocery shopping. For now, after daughter had the worst tantrum yet when I wouldn't let her see the boyfriend (she's still on the two weeks grounding for prom night), Grandma has agreed not to interfere when I discipline daughter. There's something of a Catch 22 - total self-reliance with a low paying full time job now could also give her the message of quitting the degree when things get difficult (full time work would mean no time for the
diss; I've tried).

>>>>>>>>>>> I agree …it is a catch 22. You have to weigh everything together and pick the lesser of the two “evils” so to speak (i.e., which course of action will be less problematic).

I used the statement you suggested - admitting I made mistakes parenting, apologizing, making amends, letting her know there will be some changes. And I also admitted I was wrong to yell back at her. Reading the ebook, I think the biggest mistake I've been making is to let the arguing escalate. I'm ashamed to admit this, but all too often I yell back at her and get extremely angry at her. For example, a few days ago when she screamed "I hate it here" I yelled back "OK, if you want to go to foster care, you can" and she cried "my family doesn't want me." We both have said very hurtful things to one another. I've apologized and own my part, but she continues to blame me for everything.

I see my major task for Week 1 as practicing the "poker face", breathing deeply, and saying "I'm not going to argue with you" no matter what she says, and enforcing the rules re: the boyfriend and internet. Does this sound about right to you?

>>>>>>>>> Here’s the bottom line: If those two want to see each other, nothing will be able to stop it. The more attention you give it, and the more intensity you provide when “things are going wrong” (i.e., the two of you fighting over this boyfriend), the more those two will bond.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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