After realizing his friend finds himself in a similar position with an out of control teenage daughter, a frustrated father turns to ‘Dear Dad’ for advice.
A friend of mine is going through a difficult time, and I can kind of relate to it. I had issues with my daughter acting out when she was 14, but nothing quite like my friend’s kid. His daughter lives with him and his wife primarily, but goes to see her bio-mom for one week at a time. It turns out, while she’s with her bio-mom, she allows his daughter a ton of freedom because all she wants to do is be her daughter’s best friend. Some of those things include hanging out with the wrong people. My friend’s wife stumbled across the daughter’s phone that she had left on, and she found lots of nasty sexting pictures on it. Shocked, the stepmom dug a bit further and found that while with her bio-mom, his daughter has been fooling around with a whole LOT of boys, including giving/receiving oral sex at a public park.
What is your take on this (since the way I handled my daughter – mega-grounding/ dialogue – did not immediately work)? What do you think he should do? Punishment? What to talk about and how? Any help or tips?
Dear ‘Friend of a Dad In Need of Advice’,
I need to start by saying I don’t have teenagers quite yet, but played a role in the lives of my now grown niece and nephew, so I do have some experience with the uber rebellious years. I think your approach of “mega-grounding and dialogue” is absolutely the way to go, but I do not think it is nearly enough in this particular situation. If this child is ‘sexting’, I believe she (and the recipient of said texts) are committing crimes and they need to be dealt with swiftly and sternly. From what I understand, despite being under the age of 18, this type of situation is dealt with under sexual exploitation and child endangerment laws.
My advice is to tell your friend he and his wife need to immediately seize that phone. His wife needs to confirm that those sexts and pictures are still there (and advise him some things can’t be unseen – she should be the one to search the phone). Upon confirmation the texts/pics are still there, the two of them need to confront his ex as a united front. I think when approaching any problem, it is always best to find the most amicable way to finding a solution, and they should try to get the “best friend mom” on board with the seriousness of this situation.
In a perfect world, “best friend mom” will see how horrifically inappropriate this behavior is and re-think the amount of freedom she is giving her daughter on her watch. She will recognize that in a way these non-erased, found-on-a-phone-left-turned-on incriminating photos/texts are a cry for help. The three of them can act as a stern partnership to help steer this wayward girl on the right path and limit her freedoms until she proves herself responsible and appropriate.
Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and I suspect your friend and his wife will be met with someone with the mentality and judgment that allowed all this to happen on her watch in the first place. I believe your friend may have to report what happened to family court and possibly the police and I feel there is reckless endangerment here. I assume the court will ultimately have to intervene, and that visitation may need to be revisited to protect this young girl from “best friend mom” and her totally permissive/borderline abusive parenting style.
Once that situation is dealt with, I think it is also crucial that your friend and his wife have a conversation with their daughter about the importance of self-respect, and the dangers of social media and sending pictures over the internet. Once a picture has been sent, it will stay with her for life. They need to make sure she understands the importance of self-respect and decency and fully comprehends the dangers that come with the freedoms/benefits of social media.
The time to act is now, as the older teens get the more they rebel. The reigns need to be tightened and these parents need to go to any extreme to make sure their daughter is protected. I hope this advice helps and that your friend takes it seriously, because this IS serious and is a crime. Please keep us updated.
All children rebel in some way or form in their teen years, and as parents we have to hope we’ve instilled enough common sense and have enough boundaries in place to safely guide them to young adulthood. What would you do if you were in this situation?
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