Father Won't Let 16-Year-Old Date

Attempts to control a 16-year-old by forbidding her from doing natural, healthy things that are part of her growth and development may backfire.
I am a 16-year-old female being raised by my father. I only get to see my mother on special weekends. My problem is with my dad. I have done some things in my past (such as writing letters to boys and accepting Valentine's gifts), but I haven't done most of the things that teenagers around me have done (sex, smoking, etc.) In fact, I have done everything I can think of to convince him I am a responsible young adult.

The problem is that no matter how many times I try to talk to my dad about dating, he claims he doesn't trust me. He figures that all boys want these days is something bad and that there aren't any good ones left. He figures he was their age once so he knows what they're thinking. There is one boy I would like my daddy to meet, but I don't know how to bring the conversation up. Please tell me what I can do and how I can get him to see I am mature and responsible enough to date.

You impress me as a girl who has succeeded in avoiding many of the risky activities that teenagers your age often try. You should take great pride in that accomplishment and so should your dad. For that alone, you deserve the admiration of both your parents. I know that it takes strength of character to resist these behaviors, especially when you see most other kids participating in them. In my opinion, having accepted some Valentine's Day gifts and writing letters to boys are not cause for your dad to doubt your present maturity or sense of responsibility. Your father needs to realize that you are a person who has strong values and that you stick to your beliefs.

As a father who raised a daughter and a son and as a therapist who has counseled many teenagers, I would ask your father to focus on the trust and respect that you have earned as opposed to focusing on teenage boys as kids who "all want the same thing." Yes, teenage boys can have romantic and sexual feelings, and so can teenage girls, but not every teenager acts upon those feelings or curiosities. Your dad needs to show you the respect that you have shown yourself in staying true to your values. I don't believe that your father is forbidding you from dating because he doesn't trust you. I believe that he is trying to protect you from boys who had the same ideas about girls that he did when he was a teen. But whether or not you should be allowed to date should not be about your father's hormones when he was your age; it should be about whether or not you should enter the world of dating.

The fact that you would want your dad to meet this boy is very brave on your part. I might suggest that you go out with this boy as part of a small group of kids, as opposed to going out on a date alone with him. That could be your attempt to compromise with your dad. Your father and mother should be proud of the girl they have raised. And your dad should know that his attempts to control you and forbid you from doing natural, healthy things that are part of your growth and development may backfire. But his trusting you to be the responsible, sensible girl that he raised will never backfire. Let me know how things work out.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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