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Ask The Expert: How Strict is Too Strict? Should I Cave to Peer Pressure?

Dear Your Teen:

I feel like I am experiencing peer pressure from parents. My husband and I believe sleepovers should end in 9th grade. We’ve stuck by our rule of no sleepovers. We believe that nothing good happens after midnight with teenagers. We know that in high school, teenagers use sleepovers as an excuse to stay at a house with parents who tolerate drinking. Also, parents rarely stay up until the kids fall asleep, so there is unsupervised, free time.

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How do you stand on your own, when you are the only parent going against a trend? And are we being too strict?

EXPERT | Dr. Deborah Gilboa

First, if you are positive something is best for your teenager, don’t worry about what others think. You can model for your teenager the value of doing what you know is right in the face of great opposition—even theirs.

Empathy for your teenager, for their frustration and suffering, is completely appropriate.

But, you can hold fast to your boundaries and still be empathetic.

Moreover, your empathy does not give your teenager the right to be disrespectful.

The second question is trickier.

You are correct that lots of risky behavior happens in high school and that much of that occurs at night when kids are unsupervised.

Nevertheless, we have to give our kids chances to experience freedoms while we still have some say over consequences when they abuse those freedoms.

In high school, you have the opportunity to help your teen prepare for college, a place rife with risky, nocturnal behavior. How do you prepare them to act like a responsible, resilient adult? Probably not by keeping them under lock and key for all of high school.

Within reasonable boundaries, unsupervised time is crucial to a teen’s development.

Your teen is in the difficult position of separating from you. Weaning involves a lot of struggle because it is so hard … on all of you. Worse, the struggle is drawn out; it takes years.

My guess? Your teen is campaigning for more freedoms than just sleepovers. Let them earn this by starting with a smaller request that you’ve previously denied. Figure out how your teen can earn that privilege in the next month and clearly communicate how you will revoke that privilege if they abuse it. Then, continue to establish this pattern of privileges earned—or revoked—as the months go on.

Let your teens prove that they are responsible. When possible, give them opportunities to make small mistakes while you are still involved. Mistakes don’t have to end badly. Your teen can learn resilience and problem-solving from their mistakes. And, this chance to monitor and follow-up with your teens about actions and consequences is short-lived.

It’s hard to have faith in our kids in a world abounding with temptations. However, most kids deserve that faith.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Deborah Gilboa, M.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. G”), is a family physician and author of Get the Behavior Your Want  . . . Without Being the Parent You Hate. Follow her on Twitter @AskDocG or learn more at AskDoctorG.com.