Your teenage daughter is head over heels for her latest boyfriend, but he's definitely not "the kind of guy you want to bring home to mom." In fact, he's everything you don't want in a boyfriend for your daughter, and you really don't want her to have anything to do with him. Telling her that outright is likely to send her running even faster in his direction, so find a careful balance between making your opinions known and acknowledging her feelings for her new beau.
1. Listen to Her, Then Talk
It is essential that you keep the lines of communication with your daughter open and non-judgmental, recommends Michael J. Bradley, psychologist and author of "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy." The more you criticize her boyfriend, the harder she'll feel she has to defend him, just to prove you wrong. Bradley notes that a teen's choice of a boyfriend is part of her effort to separate herself from you -- and, for a rebellious teen, a way to test you and "push your buttons." Instead of judging or criticizing the new boyfriend, keep the focus on your daughter and how the relationship appears to be working for her.
2. Get to Know Him
Inviting him to join your family for dinner or hang out in your home is probably the last thing you want to do with a boyfriend you hate, but it can be a smart move on your part. For one thing, it keeps him where you can see him when he's with your daughter. For another, it gives you a chance to try to get to know him face to face, heading off your daughter's inevitable "you don't even know him" complaints. Bradley adds that another important element of having him in your home is that he experiences your family's interactions and standards, and your daughter can see first-hand that he may not really fit in to your family's life.
3. Monitor The Relationship
Trying to keep them from seeing each other altogether is likely to cause exactly the opposite; instead, try to monitor their relationship and talk to her about it in a non-judgmental way, recommends child and family psychotherapist Beverly Berg. This doesn't mean spying on your daughter and her boyfriend, but it does mean you can set limits on when and where they are allowed to be together, establish her curfew and insist that she adhere to your rules about smoking, drinking and other unacceptable behaviors. And do remain alert to signs that her new boyfriend is leading her into illegal or dangerous behaviors, at which point you may have to put your foot down about the relationship.
4. It's Not About You
How many times have you told your teen that "I'm trying to keep you from making the same mistakes I did," only to have them snap back with "But I'm not you!" There is truth to that statement, and family therapist Chris Cutcher reminds parents that only they can learn from their own mistakes. As hard as it is, you do have to allow kids to make some of their own mistakes -- and, hopefully, learn from those experiences. Instead, recommends psychologist Gail Saltz in the Huffington Post, be specific about your concerns. Don't just call the guy a loser; instead, point out that you are concerned about his involvement with a motorcycle gang or his lack of interest in school, and try to find out what she thinks about these issues and their impact on the relationship.
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