15 Jan Do You Follow the Law with your Teen?
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.
Dori has provided therapeutic services to children, adolescents, adults, and families since 1994 in several areas of social work including foster care, schools, hospitals, and private practice. She earned her Master of Social Work from The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work in 1997 and her Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She is an Amazon best-selling author and a professional speaker who has been interviewed on ABC, NBC, various podcasts, and radio shows as an expert discussing therapeutic topics and her published works.
Dori offers speaking presentations on various therapy-related topics including, but not limited to anxiety, depression, ADHD, executive functioning, life transitions, effective communication, parenting strategies, work/life integration, and even staying sane while staying informed. She also speaks to businesses and business owners about the importance of hiring for company cultural fit, networking, leadership, and business growth. As a multi-location private therapy practice owner, she provides a culture of accountability, compassion, and creativity, emphasizing the importance of collaboration (with client consent) with parents, teachers, and other professionals to provide the most beneficial services to achieve maximum results for all clients to translate to every aspect of their lives.
As a mother of three, she knows the excitement and challenges of navigating parenting, behavioral and emotional distress, social pressures and rejection, academic successes and struggles, and identity formation. Dori is passionate about providing clients with the tools they need to navigate the challenges they face now to improve their quality of life long after therapy ends.