Q. My daughter is dating a boy whose Twitter feed is filled with profanity, graphic sexual comments and references to drinking and drugs. She says it's just a joke. Her high school friends tell me the boy's trouble. How can I guide her to date boys who respect her-and themselves?
A. Even if he is just joking, her boyfriend is trying to impress people by making them think he drinks and does drugs. So I'd say to your daughter: "I know it's up to you to figure out who you want in your life. But as your parent, it's sometimes my responsibility to ask you uncomfortable questions. Twitter is your boyfriend's public face. If he doesn't do any of the things he posts about, why is it so important to him that other people think he does?" Explain the potentially serious consequences--for her boyfriend if--college admissions staff, internship coordinators or any influential adults are offended by his profile. Remind her that the guy she chooses to date is a reflection of her, and ask whether she's comfortable with that. Don't expect your daughter to agree or to enthusiastically engage in a deep conversation about how she appreciates your good sense. This is a lot to take in. Finish by saying, "If you don't want to talk about it now, I'd like you to think about it and then we can talk later.?" Make a point of checking in with her the next night before you go to bed, so if she has had some epiphanies-- and hopefully she has--you can talk them over.
Q. My 8-year-old daughter doesn't want to be as close as she's been with a friend anymore. I think it's beneficial for the girl and her mother to know this is due to her behavior. How should I bring it up?
A. I'm hoping your daughter has told her friend in a direct—but kind—way what exactly she's doing that your daughter doesn't like. If she hasn't, she needs to. If she has and the behavior hasn't changed, you can tell the other parent: "This is really hard to talk about, but my daughter has told 'Alice' that she doesn't like (X) thing Alice is doing. My daughter doesn't feel that Alice is listening to her, so she's going to take a break from her for a while." If the other parent gets upset, be polite but hold firm. The bottom line: Your daughter has the right to choose her friends and back away from people who aren't treating her well. In fact, this experience offers a good chance to practice a skill she'll need throughout life.