My 16-year-old daughter has been invited to go on her boyfriend’s family vacation to a foreign country. He is a good kid from a kind, loving family. They have been dating for a year and a half. My concern is that my daughter is too young to go abroad and that being together may tempt her and her boyfriend to become sexually active. My gut says she shouldn’t go. Am I being too over-protective?
This is a very difficult decision. Five points come to mind that we think should guide your decision-making process with this situation and other difficult ones that arise in the future.
- The boy’s family is going on a vacation that should be reserved for their family. Your daughter is not part of that family, so it’s really not right for her to go, even if she has been invited.
- The fact that your gut tells you “No” should not be overlooked. If you are honest about the temptations you remember facing at 16, you know that being far away in a foreign country can make the temptation to become sexually involved even greater.
- News stories frequently recount how dangerous it is for young females to travel abroad. You are right to be concerned about letting her travel without you.
- If you do decide to let your daughter go with her boyfriend’s family, discuss all of your concerns with his parents. Talk about situations she may encounter and make sure they have a plan for keeping her safe.
- If you decide not to let your daughter go, make sure you lovingly explain your concerns and how you came to your decision. Tell your daughter you trust her and that put a lot of thought into the decision, and that you are saying “No” because you think that’s what’s best for her.
Follow a similar process for future difficult decisions, clearly telling your daughter how and why you arrived at a decision. Discuss your thoughts, and hers, together.
My 3- year-old daughter started playing “doctor” at pre-school and has gotten in trouble for taking her clothes off with another boy. She does this only at school and not at home. What can we do to teach her that this is inappropriate behavior?
At this age, your daughter's behaviors are likely modeling something she has seen on TV. Typically, a child her age does not "play doctor" unless someone else has introduced that to her.
Tell her that her "private parts" are anything her swim suit covers, and that "private" means no one is to touch or look at those parts but her, Mommy and Daddy, and the doctor. Most importantly, tell her that she should let you know immediately if anyone touches or tried to touch her private parts. She also should learn that is inappropriate to look at or touch someone else's "private parts." If that happens, she should tell you right away.
It is not enough to have this talk with your daughter once. It should occur daily, then happen weekly or monthly as she gets older. The world is full of sexual predators and it is your responsibility to do everything you can as a parent to protect your child and teach her how to stay safe.
Our 9-year-old daughter is dealing with the fear of being alone in her own room. She refuses to sleep in her own bed and will often join us in our bed when she wakes up during the night. We’ve been taking her to a therapist for six months, but he’s been no help. What can we do to get her to stay in her own bed?
Being scared is a horrible feeling and we want our children to feel safe and happy in their own homes and in their beds. It’s good that you’ve sought out a counselor to help your daughter work through her fear of sleeping in her own bed. If you’re concerned about not seeing results, ask the counselor what alternative techniques or “calming down” techniques he is teaching your daughter. If you don’t feel confident in the therapist’s rationale, consider finding another therapist; it may just be that your daughter is not connecting with this person and a new counselor would be a better fit.
Meanwhile, if your daughter wants to bring her pillow and sleeping bag to your room and lay on the floor beside your bed, let her. She is at least getting her sleep and so are you. Assure her that it’s okay, but that she should try to fall asleep in her bed, perhaps doing some relaxation exercises or Yoga breathing exercises. Sometimes teaching her a prayer or song she can say in her head when she feels scared can be helpful.
My 12-year-old daughter has become very defiant. She refuses to do her homework or help out around the house and often screams at me. How can I get my daughter to listen to me and stop fighting with me?
Your daughter is testing you, and from what you have shared, she is winning.
There are times when parents need to go back to "square one." When you have some time alone, sit down and list your expectations for your daughter. Expectations could include doing chores around the house and using good social skills like asking for permission before making plans with friends. Another expectation could be calling to tell you where she is if she goes to a new place while she’s away from home.
Next, list privileges she can access by meeting your expectations. Privileges could be using the phone or computer, watching TV, playing video games or spending time with friends. If she does not meet your expectations, she will lose these privileges, perhaps one at a time. She cannot regain access to them until she demonstrates she can meet those very expectations that caused her to lose them.
If your daughter is behaving the way you described, she should have NO privileges until her behavior changes. If you feel this is something you can’t handle on your own, a professional counselor can help you implement this process in your home. Unless you take action now, your daughter’s behavior will most likely only get worse as she gets older.
My 6-year-old daughter is impossible to control. We’ve done all we can to try to manage her behaviors but nothing seems to work. She uses very bad language and states that she wants to kill herself. How can we get her under control?
When correcting harmful behavior in a child, it’s important to have very clear expectations and consistent and meaningful consequences when those expectations are not met. Addressing problem behavior early on is critical; while it takes more time up front, it will pay off in less resistance against established expectations as the child grows up.
That being said, your daughter’s comments about wanting to kill herself are very concerning and should not be ignored. At this young age, she should be monitored at all times. Even if she is in her room, you should check on her at least every 15 minutes. Even at age 6, she could put herself in danger if not monitored.
Communicate clear boundaries to your daughter and patiently yet firmly correct her when she crosses those boundaries. You also should seek help from a professional counselor to find out why your daughter is expressing a desire to harm herself.
My 17-year-old daughter is not making friends at school. She does fine academically but she doesn’t hang around with her old friends because they’re doing drugs. How can I help my daughter develop new friendships so she has a social outlet without seeming like I’m trying to control the issue?
Your daughter has made a good decision to stop spending time with friends who are doing drugs. Unfortunately, that decision has come with the consequences of not having any friends for a time. You may want to encourage your daughter to get a part-time job. It could help her to adjust to a new routine and provide the opportunity for her to meet a new set of people who are different from her old friends at school.
The more social settings your daughter experiences now, the better she will be able to handle things when she is on her own, perhaps in college or supporting herself with a job. Help your daughter identify her God-given talents and interests. Then, help her find activities that involve those interests. A club, group or job that is centered on her interests will help her develop her natural abilities and make new friends.
My 4-year-old daughter doesn’t want to go to preschool. When I take her to preschool in the morning, she insists that I sit with her in class, which is impossible. I have tried leaving the classroom for 30 minutes at a time, but then she clings more. I don't know what to do.
Dealing with separation anxiety can be tough on both the parent and the child. We're happy to see that you are reaching out for support and guidance before deciding what to do. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to break your daughter’s habit but to do it cleanly and completely. The most important thing right now is consistency. Remind yourself that every time you give in, it takes 10 more times of being consistent for that behavior to change. If she pushes and you give in and stay, then she will push even further next time to get you to stay.
At home, practice what she should do when it’s time for her to go to school. Pretend your living room is the school; tell her goodbye and then walk out of the room. Describe specifically what she should do (i.e., sit quietly, focus on the teacher, etc.) when she starts to feel sad. Ease her anxiety by giving her something small of yours to take with her. This gives her something to hold onto when she thinks of you and helps her feel like you are never far away.
When she makes it through a day at school, praise her like crazy and give her lots of attention for it! The process will just take some time to become normal to her and for a routine to be established. Once this happens, she will begin to understand that you will be there at the end of the day.
My 4-year-old daughter is very attached to her father. Every morning, she throws a crying fit, pleading with him not to go to work. She does not behave like that when I leave for work or when I drop her off at school. What can we do?
It’s very common for little girls to have difficulty separating from their fathers. This type of behavior is called "over-attachment." While it may seem like it will never end, this truly is a phase and it will pass. She may always be a "Daddy's girl," but the crying and begging will end, especially if you don't make a big deal out of it.
My 15-year-old daughter refuses to attend school. I’ve taken her to a psychologist but she is uncooperative. She was always a good student, liked by her teachers and active in sports. That all changed when she started high school. I know changing schools can be challenging, especially for shy children, but I am at a loss as to how to help my daughter.
Your daughter's behaviors are unacceptable regardless of the reasons behind them. In many states, it is illegal to not provide your child with an education. If a youth misses school, the parent is contacted by the county attorney and a court hearing is scheduled.
Your daughter's status in life at this time is a full-time student. She should not be getting a message that she can "call the shots" in your family and can break the law without consequences. As a parent, you want her to grow up healthy, physically and emotionally, and to be happy in the world in which she lives. That’s not going to happen if she doesn't get back on track.
If she had a medical issue and refused to go in for treatment, would you allow that? If she is not willing to go to a counselor, perhaps you could have someone come to your home. Another suggestion is to make home a less fun place than school. Require her to get up and begin working on her studies at the same time school is in session. During a break, she should complete chores. There should be no TV, computer, video games or other fun activities.
Your goal must be to help her control herself and go back to school. Your attempt to schedule follow-up therapy is exactly what needs to occur to help her make that decision if she can't get there without help.
My husband and I have two daughters who are 22 months apart. They are very different from each other. My husband gets along well with the oldest, but is at odds with the youngest. The peace I make between them is always short-lived. I feel like he is not handling this with maturity. I think he needs to recognize that although they are sisters, they are not the same person and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Both parents need to make an effort to connect with both children. Your younger daughter may be seeking negative attention from her father because negative attention is better than no attention.
To illustrate the value of being different, try this exercise with your husband. Write down several categories, such as favorite music, sport, food, best friend, happiest family memory, best vacation, favorite holiday, color, time of year, school subject, book, etc. Have your husband record what he knows about each of his daughters and you do the same. Do not discuss this with each other – just do it.
When you are finished, share your answers. Assess how much each of you knows about each daughter, and stress how important it is to get to know your daughters individually. If your husband tends to take the oldest girl to her sports practices, for example, switch duties with him so he can take the youngest daughter instead. Spending time together is important.
Some dads even schedule a “date” with their daughters. Breakfast out, a cup of coffee, a walk or dinner together are just a few ideas. The more time and attention he gives his younger daughter, the better their relationship will be.