My almost-14 1/2-year-old daughter gets furious if I call to see if someone's parents are going to be home when she wants to go to a sleepover or a party. She tells me I am the only parent who does things like that and that I should trust her to make good decisions and not treat her like a baby. So far, she hasn't gotten into any big trouble, but I don't think she should go to a party if parents are not supervising.
Thank you for writing such an important question. Here are my thoughts:
• Be friendly, but parent. No one likes it when their child or teen says, "I hate you!" It's human nature to want others- - even our kids -- to like us. But when we focus on being their friend, we abdicate the far more important job of being our children's parent. Your daughter may be mature enough to usually make good choices, but few young teens are able to "just say no" when their friends are encouraging them to do something that is not in their best interest.
• Trust your instincts. I have worked with enough kids your daughter's age to know that when parents aren't around, there is a greater likelihood that kids will take risks they wouldn't otherwise, whether that means inviting others for an impromptu party, sneaking into the liquor cabinet or heading out for a real party somewhere else. This isn't to say that your daughter and her friends would necessarily do those things -- they may be entirely trustworthy -- but if you feel you should need to connect with parents to ensure they will be around, then by all means, call.
•Don't be naïve. Just because her friends' parents tell you they will be home doesn't mean they will be supervising their daughter and her friends. Many times, parents let their kids have a sleepover or "a little party" and then lock themselves in their room for the night. Unless you know the family well and have a history of experience that they share your commitment to parenting responsibly, chat with them to get a sense of whether they will be supervising or looking the other way.
• Listen kindly. Your daughter has a right to feel what she feels, and it makes sense that she would resent you for doing things that embarrasses her. At 14, there is a powerful imperative to fit in. Don't try to convince her that you're making these calls to parents because you love and care for her. While that may be true, she isn't likely to say, "Gee, thanks mom!" Allow her to express her feelings without interrupting, criticizing or lecturing. Ultimately, she needs to simply be sad about the fact that she cannot control what her mother is doing, vis a vis keeping tabs on what she is up to socially.
Hang in there. Being called "controlling," "suspicious" or "untrustworthy" is extremely common at your daughter's age. Try not to take it personally and help her prove that she is maturing into a young lady who can speak her mind, even when others are trying to influence her to do things that aren't in her best interest, and stay the course. And remember: this, too, shall pass.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach, and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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