I have a 15 year old daughter who recently came to live with me full time. I have always been a part of her life and felt like we were close.
Recently I found out from an ex-friend of her's that she, and the friend had snuck in two boys and had sex. I sat my daughter down and calmly explained what I had heard and she admitted to doing that. Me and my wife have grounded her. We did not set a deadline to when she would be ungrounded. I explained that she was grounded for breaking the rules by sneaking the boys in, and that our trust will have to be rebuilt.
We have had weekly conversations about sex, diseases, pregnancy and that didn't seem to help when it came down to her decision. I have read several contradicting facts about grounding and would like to know what you think is the appropriate punishment?
From: Cap, Dallas
No, I don't. Grounding tends to be the first response for parents, but I'm not a fan. Teens are clever and will find ways around what they want to do if they are determined enough to do it. (Forgive me for this indulgence: In high school, I had a boyfriend whose parents grounded him for the weekend, literally sending him to his room. He climbed out his window and showed up on my doorstep. As a teenage girl? Boy, was I impressed!) More recently, I interviewed teens to ask them if grounding works. Not one said yes.
Grounding as a consequences only tells a teen, "I"m angry at you, I think you did something stupid," and, especially if used repeatedly, makes a teen resentful and angry which drives a giant wedge down the middle of the relationship at a time when the relationship matters more than ever.
That doesn't mean grounding can't ever be used effectively; I hope we will hear from some parents who have found it to be successful. But I suspect they will say that they use it sparingly; use it only when it is related to the offending behavior (breaking a curfew, for instance); and don't drag it out too long. A weekend, maybe two, for the first missed curfew is plenty.
So what to do in your daughter's situation? My first reaction was, how do you know an ex-friend is even telling the truth? Since your daughter admitted to it, that kinda makes me wonder: did she want you to find out? Did she know you would be talking to this ex-friend?
With the background you describe, your credibility and your relationship are on the line here. Weekly conversations about some of these hard topics -- that's a good consequence. Maybe throw in a required reading on teen pregnancy, girls and alcohol, something you both read and discuss. She might hate it initially, but it could lead to some pretty good conversations where you get to put your values out, front and center, and to a deepening of your relationship.
Some parents, when they find out about something like this, are frightened to the point of inaction. They throw their hands up and say, I've done all I can. Good for you for not doing that. Your daughter is struggling and maybe even looking for attention.
One other thought: At least for the foreseeable future, a more fitting consequence than grounding is that you cannot trust her to be alone at your house, and if she is going to a friend's house, you cannot trust that the parents will be there so you're going to have to call the parents every time she's going to someone's house. She will really hate that. Oh well. She is also getting this message: "Dad really cares about me."
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