I met Jessica when she was seven. She was an adorable, fun-loving, and compliant child. When she was ten I was talking to her about her school, particularly her friendships. Jokingly I asked her if she liked any of the boys. I was surprised when she said yes. I asked her about him and she said he was a rebel. She then went on to tell me she liked bad boys. That was an unfortunate foreshadowing of things to come. As a teen, she would get involved in a relationship with an older guy who was possessive, manipulative, and abusive. When she graduated high school she opted to move in with him and forgo college. It was difficult for her parents to understand where things went wrong and what to do in response to her bad decisions.
Jessica’s parents are wonderful. They provided her a beautiful home, loving support, and a good balance of discipline. Fortunately, their experience made me realize that you can never say, “not my daughter.” A strong relationship between dads & daughters can help to raise them with a solid moral foundation and the skills to make smart choices. However, at the end of the day, they are their own person and will chart their own course. We can’t control them, but when they start making bad decisions there are things we can do to give the best possibility of a good outcome. Here’s what to do with a daughter making bad decisions.
Your Relationship Comes First
Your daughter needs to know that your love is always there and your arms are always open.The most important point to remember is your relationship with your daughter comes before everything. It stands above her actions and how those actions impact the family. It comes before you being right. Never give a relational ultimatum where she is cut off. Your daughter needs to know that your love is always there and your arms are always open.
Get To The Roots
Ask her questions to get to the motivation behind her decisions. What is driving her? Is it a low self-esteem? Is she attracted to drama? Is she angry about something or wounded? If her actions bring major risk to her well-being you may want to have her meet with a counselor to help the process. Knowing the cause is the first step to resolving the problems.
Establish Solid Boundaries
Understand that the area of the brain that enables us to weigh consequences and cause and effect starts developing around fourteen and isn’t fully formed until age twenty-five. As parents, we need to set the boundaries for her safety. It’s not only important to be clear what would be considered crossing the line, but what her consequences will be. When those are established it is imperative to follow through.
Stop Funding and Remove Privileges
One place to start is to remove privileges. Taking things away like phones, computers, cars, and time with friends can change behavior quickly. However, if she continues to push those boundaries make her pay financially. If she is unwilling to live by the rules you set then stop funding her and make her pay her way. Have her pay for her own phone, car insurance, perhaps even a part of the cable bill.
Don’t Go It Alone
Seek the counsel of trusted friends with kids the same age. Run your ideas of how to handle the situation by them. The more wise minds are in the process the better. There’s no reason to go it alone. Seeking counsel of those who are older and more experienced is valuable as well.
Find Adults Other Than You To Invest In Her
Engage with adults to invest in her. If they have had similar experiences to your daughter that is even better. They can give her unbiased advice about how bad decisions turned out for them. Sometimes an outside voice has more influence than the parents.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you know a decision you are making is the right one?”