“I Don’t Like My Teen’s Girlfriend — What Should I Do?”

Posted October 10, 2012 by

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“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 1-on-1 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.

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.

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.

About

Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. 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.

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  1. gibbssp Report

    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 in 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?

    Reply
  2. Concered mom Report

    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. 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.

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      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.

      Reply
  3. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    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 of 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.

    Reply
  4. tracy Report

    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?

    Reply
  5. ehanlonabel Report

    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

    Reply

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