Thank you for this tremendous initiative, we’re sure that it takes so much of your time. My husband and I are dealing with a serious problem regarding our precious first born daughter. She has always been a sweet-natured and easy going girl. However, she is now in 7th grade, and has become great friends with a troubled girl. She becomes extremely defensive when we bring this up, and this girl is having a very bad influence on her. What can we possible do to remove our daughter from this girl’s clutches without having our daughter hate us? It’s so frustrating watching years of our effort as parents go out the window. Thank you for your help. PRIVATE Cedarhurst
I can understand from your question how concerned and heartbroken you are feeling. You have put all of your Kochos into your daughter, yet she seems to be negatively influenced by this friend.
Before I suggest what can be done to help your daughter, I must ask you to assess whether her behavior is in fact troublesome, or simply normal teenage conduct. As our children become teenagers, many feel the need to assert their independence and express their individuality. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as your child is still treating you respectfully and behaving appropriately, it might not be necessary to turn this into a big issue. Instead, show her love and support and continue to model good behavior.
Your mentioned that your daughter’s friend is “troubled.” Does that mean that she has a troubled personality? Or that she is going through a troubling time and attempting to express herself through rebelling? Either way, I understand from your question that this friend is not acting as sweet-natured and easy-going as you say your daughter is does.
If, in fact, your daughter is showing unhealthy signs of rebellion and behaving disrespectfully, then I will not try to convince you to give this friend a chance. I do realize that many people would suggest inviting her over, and see if perhaps your daughter can have a positive influence on her. However, I’m a bit more of a realist. History has taught me that, as you pointed out, the influencer is usually not the stable child. Therefore, we’re going to concentrate on your daughter.
To better understand your situation, we need to highlight the main places they interact. There are actually four locations that come to mind. Her school, your house, the friend’s house, or anywhere else.
Let’s first discuss how you can minimize their interaction at school. First and foremost, you need to contact the teacher and principal immediately, and ask for a joint meeting. When they ask you what the subject of the meeting is, you can tell them, “My daughter’s future.” At this meeting, carefully explain the issue you’re having. Don’t focus on the issues her friend has, rather focus on the influence she’s having on your daughter. It’ll be even better if you can have your husband accompany you to the meeting.
Your goals are to separate them whenever possible, and make the school aware of the situation. Be prepared for the following questions. Have you spoken with the girl’s parents? How do you know she’s having a negative influence? You do know that sometimes girls in 7th grade like to test their parents occasionally, right? These are all fair questions, and you need to give honest answers. Speak from your heart.
Then next step, is to keep your daughter occupied. We’re talking housework, projects, family time - whatever will keep here away from this friend. That won’t work for too long, but every minute counts. Try not to become too obvious, or make any comments that will allow her to catch on to what you’re doing.
The most important step can really help solve this issue, but you need to do it carefully. Give your daughter a day off from school, and spend some “Mommy & me” time. Go anywhere together, and make sure she really is having a great time. Once she is completely relaxed, you need to have the following conversation.
“You know that Daddy and I have put tremendous amounts of time and love into you. We are so proud of the way you’re turning out, and get such Nachas from you.” Stop the conversation there. Continue to have a great day with her. A short while later, open up to her. Tell her that her behavior has been shaky as of late, and that her teachers and principal have noticed it as well.
Don’t blame her friend. Don’t say, “I knew this would happen.” This is her day. Tell her you defended her to the school, but they realized that she is picking up bad habits. The gist of the conversation should not be the she has to sever ties with her friend. Rather it should be that she needs to be cognizant that she’s hurting herself. Don’t make the conversation long or drawn out. Once you’ve made your point, continue your day.
You need to really have a good understanding of your daughter before doing this. Judging from the email you sent, I’m assuming that you do. Will she get upset at you when you bring it up? Not many girls will, if they’re having a relaxing day. It’ll be much easier if you can anticipate her reaction, but there’s no way to guarantee it. No matter what happens, you’ve put doubt in her mind.
There are other things you can do, but many of them are pretty severe.
Haztlacha Rabba and wishing you Nachas.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.