“My son is dating the most awful girl. Why can’t I get him to see that?” “I really don’t like my daughter’s boyfriend. How can I make her break up with him?” Many parents contact the parent coaching team every week asking questions about how to get their son or daughter to stop seeing the person they are dating. So just what do you do when your son or daughter is seeing someone you don’t like? Many parents are tempted to outright forbid their child from continuing to date the person. This isn’t something we would advise doing, though, because it usually isn’t effective.  Forbidding your son or daughter from seeing someone can actually have the opposite effect because it can in a sense “romanticize” the relationship. (Anyone who knows the story of Romeo and Juliet can understand how this could happen!)

It’s usually more effective instead to limit the amount of time they can spend together. You would do this the same way you would limit time spent in other activities, such as hanging out with friends or going to the mall. It can also be helpful to have them spend time together at your house. As unpleasant as this may sound, it does allow you the opportunity of being able to supervise their time together.

Realize that it’s going to be difficult (if not impossible) to get your child to see the relationship from your perspective. As the saying goes, “Love is blind.” And, the more you try to “make” your son or daughter see their boyfriend or girlfriend’s flaws, the more likely they will be to come to their defense. As James Lehman points out in the article Does Your Child Have “Toxic” Friends? 6 Ways to Deal with the Wrong Crowd, criticizing or attacking your teen’s choice of friends tends to make the relationship stronger. This also applies to boyfriends and girlfriends, maybe even more so. You also run the risk of having your child stay in the relationship as a way to prove they are right and you are wrong.

Offer for FREE Empowering Parents Personal Parenting Plan

I understand where a parent is coming from in this situation. I have been there and it’s not a fun place. My daughter had a boyfriend who seemed to be an okay kid at first, but I really didn’t like how he interacted with her at times.  He would often make plans and then cancel at the last minute. When she would get upset about it, he had the uncanny ability of turning it around on her. As time went on, I started to REALLY not like this boy because it seemed as if my daughter spent more time being upset about the relationship than actually spending time with him. It was heart wrenching to watch and not try to make it better for her.

I knew my daughter well enough to realize it wasn’t going to be effective to try to make her talk about it with me. I would ask her from time to time if she wanted to talk and leave it at that. Sometimes, she chose to call a friend instead. Occasionally, though, I was given the chance to talk about what was going on. We would discuss what I saw happening and how she might be able to respond in a way she might feel better about. I tried to focus on things that could be observed, namely how her boyfriend was behaving toward her. Sometimes, I would simply ask her point blank if the relationship was really worth what she was going through. Mostly, I just tried to help her develop some resiliency in response to a difficult situation. In a sense, we problem solved ways she could deal with what was going on in her relationship. I kept as much judgment of him and the situation out of these conversations as I could. I’m pretty sure my daughter was aware of how I felt about her boyfriend; I just didn’t harp on it. Ultimately, my daughter had to come to her own conclusions and, eventually, she did end up breaking up with him. The silver lining to adolescent relationships is they tend to be short lived!

So, bottom line is, as much as you may not like the person your son or daughter chooses to date, it’s probably not going to be constructive to try and control that choice.  Instead, focus on what you can control, namely your response and the limits/expectations you have around your child’s behavior in general.

Related content: Parenting Teens: Parental Authority vs. Peer Pressure

One thing to keep in mind — teen relationships that are abusive or violent are not what we are talking about here. If your son or daughter is involved in a relationship that is abusive or violent, we would encourage you to contact your local Domestic Violence hotline or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) to discuss possible options for you and your teen.


Denise Rowden is a parent of two adult children and has been a parenting coach since 2010. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

Comments (12)
  • Stressed Mom

    How do you implement safe limits when your child's partner's family has vastly different values? My 17 year old has been dating a girl for 2 months. Everything has been fast and deep since the beginning, and at just 2 months into the relationship they're talking about moving away together.

    While I try to be supportive, there are a lot of worrying things. She does drugs, helps him skip school, and has gotten mad when he talks about plans that would "take him away" from her like military or college.

    Her family is aware of the drugs, skipping, and lies - but has flat out told us they don't care and she can do as she wants.

    We have gone no-contact with her family after a very tense argument when we said we didn't appreciate being lied to.

    But our son is still dating the girl, and we're loathe to forbid it and create the star-crossed lovers issue (which I'm sure they already feel to an extent).

    So how do we put in basic safe boundaries when she and parents have explicitly said they will lie about our son's whereabouts, his wellbeing is not their concern, and drugs are ok at their house? Due to her family being completely hands-off, our son perceives any limits as controlling and unreasonable. It's creating a ton of conflict in our home.

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. I can understand the concern. It's distressing when your older teen seems to be influenced by toxic friends makes choices you don't agree with. Something to keep in mind is that even if your son is being influenced by others, he's still responsible for his own choices and should be held accountable for them. James Lehman wrote an excellent article about this situation you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/does-your-child-have-toxic-friends-6-ways-to-deal-with-the-wrong-crowd/. Another article you may like is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-rules-expectations-everyone-else/

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Kriss
    I have a 14 year old son, 15 in May, who has ADHD and has a heart of gold. One of those kids that will go out of their way to cheer you up because he doesn’t like to see anyone hurting. He just got into his first real relationshipMore 6 months ago. The girl he chose has some skeletons in her closet that she is hiding. I believe she may have bipolar disorder and is a confirmed kleptomaniac. She was caught stealing and almost got my son in trouble. I know I shouldn’t, but I over hear their conversation at times and what I hear really concerns me. She doesn’t want other girls talking to him whether it is friends or school related even though she hangs out with other guys who have confessed their feelings for her and my son has asked her not to hang out with them. She doesn’t like my son hanging out with his friends at all without her. When she is around his friends she causes problems and puts my son in a tough spot to pick her or them. His friends are easy going and very polite and I have approved of them. They just don’t like her because they see her for who she is and have told me because they are concerned. When the argue she degrades him and beats him down emotionally. She has even threatened him with suicide to make him agree with her. However, just with in the last week she is starting to turn him against me because I have been trying to limit their time together. Two days a week with her and 1 day a week with friends and I’m scared of what will happen to our relationship. I love my son with all my heart and will do anything to protect him. My son and I have talked many times of how unhealthy the relationship is, but he is too afraid to break it off and continues to bear it. How do I navigate through this mess. No matter what I say I will end up being the bad guy.
  • Fed up mom
    My 20 year old son recently started dating my other sons ex girlfriend. I do not like this girl at all. She has a 3 year old daughter. When my 18 year old son was dating her she treated him badly. She tried talking him into marrying her after twoMore months of them being together. She also tried getting him to sign her daughters birth certificate after 2 months. She did not like me and she didnt want my son at my house. I was so happy when they split up. She has been out the picture for about 6 months or so. I now find out my older son is dating her now. No one in the family likes her and we really dont like her now. My two oldest boys were extremely close and now I think she has come in between them. I love both my boys but I cannot stand this girl. Do you have any suggestions. I dont know what to do. I dont want the girl anywhere around me or I feel like ill hurt her for doing this to my boys. She knows what she is doing and she tried a couple months ago to get back with my other son but he turned her down. She didnt like so now she has gotten to his brother. I feel like im gonna snap.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out. I can understand your frustration. Being that both of your sons are adults, there's not really anything you can do about the situation. You certainly can set a limit around her being in your home if you are not comfortable being around her or having her in your home.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going.

  • Determined Dad
    My wife and I have a 16 year old son who has been in a very destructive relationship with a younger girl. The issue has been emotional abuse from her, and her need to be with him, or in contact with him constantly. In order to keep herMore control of him, she would add on layers of manipulation, including crying, shaming, guilt tripping, affection, and hinting that she would hurt herself. Because we care deeply for our son, we decided to disregard the advice of others and keep them apart - we prohibited our son from seeing her, talking to her, or associating with her in any way after a year of dating. I want to report that IT WORKED. We expected resistance, so we prepared. When he disobeyed, we laid down a punishment, and our expectations were laid out plainly and clearly. We ended up taking his phone and vehicle for weeks or months at a time when he disobeyed. On our end, we had to make the cost of disobeying greater than his desire to be with her. Luckily for us, his time away from her opened his eyes to the depth of the misery he had been living in. In the end, his girlfriend was our greatest help - she found a new boyfriend in a week, which shows that her desire isn’t for any particular boy, but for the ability to control - and anyone would do. In the end, I claimed my legal and God-given right to govern my kid and to keep him safe. It just came to the point where I believed that the result of breaking them up wasn’t going to be worse than where they were in their relationship.
  • Concerned mom
    My 16 yo daughter is in an unhealthy relationship with a 19 yo boy who tells her what she wears is inappropriate because it makes other boys notice her. Yet it isn't something I disapprove of. She is an athlete and very fit. She looks nice inMore anything she puts on, which is one of the things he was attracted to. He has escalated into cheating on her. They have broken up twice. His decision, not hers. She confided in me that he told her that she should kill herself if he doesn't love her because no one else will, they will only want her for sex. That no other boy will live her. He is trying to come back again. Her father and I have forbid it because She has been through counseling and we have feared she would hurt herself. She is very angry that we won't allow them to "talk." I have blocked him on all social media. I know in my heart she will find a way to be with him, but he is unsafe for her. She is threatening do to run away. What do I do? Do I back off and let her see him?
  • Concered mom
    My son will not stop talking to this girl he has been "dating" for 8 months. She is into drinking and recently was caught stealing from girls lockers at school. She has been lying saying she is having health issues and that is why she is going to alternative school.More The real reason is because of her poor choices of stealing. We as parents spend their whole life trying to teach them good and make good choices and show them love. I tried pointing out that it is not allowed and he shouldn't allow her lying to him. He still continues to call and want to be with her. Please any advice would help.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Concered mom

      I hear you. It can be so tough when your child has a very

      different view of their girlfriend or boyfriend. Truthfully, it really is a

      matter of perspective. Looking at it from a parent’s perspective, you would

      rather your son not spend time with this person because she makes bad choices

      and may have a negative influence on your son. From your son’s perspective, he

      may want to spend time with her because he finds her attractive, she’s fun to

      be with, has a great sense of humor, etc. You may not be able to make him see

      your point of view and forbidding him from seeing her or talking to her may

      only serve to drive them closer together. A more effective response to this

      situation is to hold your son accountable for the choices he makes. This

      doesn’t mean you can’t talk to him about this girl and her choices. Try to keep

      the focus on her behavior instead of who she is as a person, though. For more

      information on this approach, you can check out Megan Devine’s article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-control-your-kids-outside-of-the-house-hint-you-cant/. Hang in there.

      Relationships our kids have at this age usually don’t last forever. Good luck

      to you and your family moving forward. Take care.

  • D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
    To "tracy": Thank you for writing in. You ask a great question. Many parents who call in on the Parental Support Line struggle with knowing how to handle "toxic friends". I can understand the frustration around the influence this friend seems to be having over your son. The truth ofMore the matter is your son is being influenced by many things: friends, television and music to name a few. It's important to keep in mind that, ultimately, your son is responsible for the choices he makes, regardless of outside influences. It's probably not going to be effective to forbid your son from spending time with this friend. Instead, focus on the choices your son is making and hold him accountable for his behavior. We would also recommend problem solving with him ways he can deal with the outside influences appropriately. James Lehman discusses these and others techniques for dealing with toxic friends in his article Does Your Child Have "Toxic" Friends? 6 Ways to Deal with the Wrong Crowd . We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this situation. Take care.
  • tracy
    What if an older teenager is hanging out with a friend who we as parents have discovered is being a bad influence on our teen...ie, encouraging him to smoke and watch inappropriate movies, how should we handle that?
  • ehanlonabel
    So easy to want to react by forbiddiding..time limits and supervised time together...sounds great. Teen relationships are shorttermed,our expection ,should make a difference
Advertisement for Empowering Parents Total Transformation Online Package
Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for our newsletter and get immediate access to a FREE eBook, 5 Ways to Fix Disrespectful Behavior Now
We will not share your information with anyone. Terms of Use