Teens often ask their parents if they can go out with friends, to the mall, the movies, the local hang out, etc. As a parent, your gut reaction may be to say no because of all the potential dangers of saying yes to your teen. But, before you respond to your teen’s request, make sure you follow the law.
Should a Teenage Girl Be Allowed to Go out in Public with Two Male Friends?
Recently, a friend asked on social media if she truly was the horrible parent her teen thought she was when she wouldn’t allow her daughter to go to a mall with two male friends (one year her senior). Many parents chimed in with support for this mom with comments like, “Good for you!” or “Do you remember what you were doing with teenage boys at her age?” or “It’s not her you should be worried about, it’s the boys.” When I read this, I restrained myself from commenting for quite some time. Actually, it was probably an hour or two, but whose counting?
Finally, I offered my two cents…
The Law to Follow
With teenagers, it is best to start from the standpoint from which the United States criminal laws are based: innocent until proven guilty. If a parent tells a teenage girl that she can’t go to a public place with teenage boys (a/k/a guilty until proven innocent), the result will most likely be one of two scenarios: she either will a) obey her mother, while feeling resentful because she feels she is not trusted in her parent’s eyes, or will b) go anyway and lie to her mother about her companions or whereabouts.
Our goal as parents is to teach our children how to make good decisions, so when we aren’t there to tell them what to do, they can still make good choices.
The Guilty Until Proven Innocent Approach and Why it Doesn’t Work
When a teen asks, “Can I go out with my friends tonight?”, the guilty until proven innocent answer from a parent would be something like, “No, because you didn’t do your homework.” What the teen hears: “There is no point in doing my homework because my mom won’t let me go out tonight.” The intent from the parent is for the teen to do his homework before he leaves the house, but the interpretation from the teen is that he cannot win, so he stops putting forth the effort.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Why It Works
Instead, try telling your teen, “Yes, you can go out with your friends as long as your homework is finished.” The teen hears, “If I do my homework, I can go out tonight.” This gives the teen an opportunity to make a good choice without feeling defeated from the start. Does the parent get the same result? Yep! Does the teen feel more motivated for success in this scenario? You bet!
So, the next time you are faced with a difficult decision about giving your teen (or even younger child) permission vs. telling her she can’t do something, set out the expectations and follow the law: innocent until proven guilty.