Q. I told our 17-year-old daughter she could meet us at our last family get-together. She was two hours late, didn't have a good excuse and hardly talked to anyone. What can I do to make her shape up?
A. When one of my kids behaves badly at home it's annoying, but I deal with it and it's done. But if they're bratty around other people, their behavior is not only irritating—it's now also embarrassing. In your case it's happening in front of your family, where maybe you have an aunt or a sister-in-law who loves to criticize everybody's parenting. To solve this problem, first recognize that your embarrassment makes the situation feel worse than it really is. Then talk to your daughter and tell her exactly how her actions made you feel. Basically, you were worried because she was late, then upset because she was being rude.
Ask for her side of the story. Do the family get-togethers happen too often—or are they taking up an entire day? Is the only person her age a cousin she hates? Listen to her answers, clearly state your expectations for her behavior at future events, take away a meaningful privilege for a week, and then compromise for the future. Maybe she goes every other time or you agree before the event that she can come late or leave early. No matter what you come up with, she, at 17, owes it to you and to herself to articulate her needs without behaving like she's 5 years old.
Originally published in the November 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.