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Daughter is Hanging-out with a Bad Crowd

"Can u give me some guidance? I feel my daughter is hanging out with a bad crowd and have been trying to get her to see that but have had no success. She took some of these friends to her 'one-and-only good' friend's sweet 16th birthday party without parent chaperones. These kids thought they could just go in with their cigarettes and all and thought nothing of it. These kids also drink and smoke pot. I have tried to stop her from seeing them but she continues to do so."

First of all, it sounds like you are trying to “reason with” your daughter (a traditional parenting strategy that doesn’t work – and too often makes a bad problem worse).

We, as parents of strong-willed, out of control kids, must pick our battles very carefully. Which battles do we fight? The ones in which we have an element of control. Unfortunately, you will not be able to control who your daughter associates with (unless you ground her for the entire year).

Your daughter wants to be liked, to fit in, and she worries that other kids may make fun of her if she doesn’t go along with the group. Also, she is curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that "everyone's doing it" (whatever “it” is) may influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or common sense, behind.

We have to prepare our kids for peer pressure when they are very young (prevention strategies rather than intervention ones). Thus, when kids are younger, we want to do the following:

1. We want to develop a close relationship with our kids. Kids who have close relationships with their parents are more likely to identify with - and try to please - their parents by doing the right things, and they are much more likely to go to their parents when they are in trouble or are having problems.

2. We want to figure out the reasons our kids are giving into peer pressure and address them immediately. Kids give into peer pressure for many different reasons (e.g., lack of self-confidence or self-discipline). We should try to find the reasons and then attempt to solve the problem.

3. We want to teach our kids to say “NO”. It is tough to be the only one saying NO, but we can tell our kids they can do it. Paying attention to their own feelings and beliefs about what is right or wrong will help them do the proper thing.

These suggestions may not be a big help to you now, but I had to mention that (a) parent’s strategies for helping kids deal with peer pressure need to be implemented early, and (b) once they are teenagers, we have to “let go” and trust that we did something right while we were guiding them through their childhood and preteen years.

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

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