My teen's new friend is bringing out the worst in her

Q: Last year, my teenage daughter and her friends connected with a new girl who seems to be a terrible influence because she is extremely negative. This girl hates her parents and doesn't have any siblings, so she often encourages the girls to talk hatefully to their parents and ignore their younger siblings.  

My daughter has been experimenting with rude behavior at home, and trying to get out of things like picking up her younger siblings at school, even though that was part of the reason we got her a car and she knows that. She was never like this before. I wish she could see that this girl brings out the worst in her. What should I do?

A: Regardless of what is going on with your daughter's friendships, it's okay for you to hold her to some basic family expectations.

You might need to re-clarify her responsibilities that were part of the deal when she got the car, ie driving her siblings. Let her know that driving the car is contingent on her picking up the sibs, and if it won't work out for her to do that, then her car privileges may be revoked or curtailed.

If you can't take the car back, you can certainly let her know that gas money and insurance are contingent on her helping out. So if she decides not to help with the driving, she will need to pay for those things herself.
She may not see that her new friend is bringing out the worst in her for a while, but she will eventually wake up to it. And you don't have to give her a pass from her family responsibilities while waiting for that to happen, especially since there's no way to speed it up.

Since the teen years are all about declaring independence, which sometimes includes rebellion, if you were to tell your daughter that you disapprove of this girl, there's a chance that it will only make spending time with her all the more appealing.

So in the meantime, while you are waiting it out, just keep lovingly holding your daughter accountable. And keep doing things with her, just the two of you. Take her to lunch. Listen more than you talk. Do some fun stuff together, with no pressure or agenda for discussion. Just play around. Keep your relationship and your family strong. Your daughter will sort the rest of this out for herself.

One other thing you might try -- this new friends sounds like she's in a lot of pain. If you can find it in you to invite her for dinner, or find some way to spend time with the two of them (maybe manicures or something?) you might get a better sense of what's going on for her.

That old advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer is pretty savvy - not that a teenage girl is your 'enemy', but it does make sense to try to get to know her a little bit, and to invite her to your home for a dose of kindness and compassion. Some warm parental attention from you and some playful contact with your younger kids just might bring out a different side of her ...

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