Sometimes things are simply too tense between you and your child, and it's time to take drastic measures—sic him on somebody else! The extreme version of this is to have your child live with another family for a few months. Less extreme is encouraging a friendship with a concerned adult.
Many people fondly remember an influential adult from their teen years—not a parent—who was concerned and involved. Friendships between adolescents and adults can be highly valuable to both, as they each gain new perspectives.
It's a Good Idea!
The parent who wants a child to be a disciplinary “success” should do everything possible to set her up for that success, and then stand back.
Want your child to hang out all the time with that “bad element”? Just express disapproval. Want your child to hang out with the right crowd? All you can do is stress your values, listen and talk with your child, and trust that the good, the true, and the beautiful will win out over the forces of evil!
Adolescents are ripe for adult input (and I'm not talking about the stuff that comes from you). Developmentally, they seek role models to show them how to “be” in the world. (They're also prone to hero worship, which can make them quite vulnerable to betrayal.) If your child has a special adult friend:
- It's wonderful for your child to have somebody else to hash things out with. Remember that confidence in friendship is sacred. Respect your child's privacy, don't pry, and don't feel bad if she has secrets. Know that by asking your child to divulge confidences, you are essentially forcing your child to lie.
- In a similar vein, don't ask the adult friend to betray your child's trust, even if you are worried about your child. Get your information elsewhere—the friendship's sanctity should not be broken.
- The vast majority of people are reliable, trustworthy, and will not harm your child. If you don't like your adolescent's adult friend, don't say a word about it unless you fear for your child's safety or you sense something sexual is going on. This is your child's friendship, not yours.
- If you sense something illegal, immoral, or sexual happening, deal with it by talking with your child. Present yourself as an ally. If your child has gotten in over his head in a hard situation, be there to run interference.