The Negative Influence
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!
5/18/2017 06:38:19 pm
I really thought you would spend more time discussing ways to prepare your daughter. For example, speaking to her about the dangers of a bad neighbor. I enjoyed as always.
5/18/2017 06:47:00 pm
I understand that you didn't want to defend the girl with issues, However, maybe have a separate article explaining how to bring a friend having issues closer to Yiddishkeit?
5/18/2017 06:50:56 pm
You really detailed the conversation. Are you worried that someone will mess it up?
5/18/2017 06:57:07 pm
"Don’t give her dirty looks or say anything that can make her resentful." Always good advice! They're our children, not our friends!
5/18/2017 07:02:25 pm
It's very smart now to give the school the real topic. I've noticed that many schools don't take parents concerns seriously unless they think you're pulling your child out. Kind of sad.
5/18/2017 11:23:37 pm
You are 100% correct! I picked that up from the article as well. I'm sure RR knows this being in Chinuch. Yeshivos don't like dealing with issues, and prefer to let them play themselves out.
5/18/2017 07:38:12 pm
IMHO you hit the nail on the head. It's crucial to have a heart to heart in a non-threatening environment. Treat your daughter like a big girl, and she'll respond likewise.
5/18/2017 07:39:16 pm
I disagree with almost everything in this email. this other girl needs your help! You need to make her a part of your family and work on them together! We're Yidden!
5/18/2017 11:20:04 pm
That's heartwarming, but illogical. it's the responsibility of a parent to protect his or her own child. If the other girl really needs help, the school or an organization can help.
5/18/2017 07:41:28 pm
There are four places they could interact. Your home, her home, school, and number four is...anywhere else? That's a whole lot more than four locations. in any case, I think this is a very important email. Chazak Ve'ematz!
5/19/2017 08:33:03 am
Come on, you know what he meant. Had he written 3 places, you would have been able to ask what about central avenue?
5/18/2017 08:52:22 pm
We had the same thing happen to our son. I'm glad you didn't bring up helping the other child, because that's NOT the point!. My son is my priority, and although I'd love to help the world, it's family first.
5/18/2017 08:53:02 pm
Contacting the other parents is actually a great idea! People are more understanding than you think!
5/18/2017 11:21:30 pm
Really? How would that conversation work? "Hi! Your daughters a horrible influence on my daughter. Please keep her away." It would be extremely uncomfortable.
5/19/2017 08:29:37 am
Tough question. I think you did a fine job, although, I do wonder what a Rav can possibly do to help?
5/19/2017 08:31:10 am
This question came from someone in Cedarhurst. Did she request to be private? I'm confused why she just didn't leave out a location?
5/19/2017 08:34:11 am
This wasn't a problem we really dealt with years ago, since kids didn't hang out so much one on one. They would all play ball together. I'm wondering why the parents can't just tell her to stay away from this girl.
5/19/2017 11:10:38 am
My favorite part of this article was the pause after telling your daughter how great she is. I hated when my parents told me how proud the were blah blah....BUT. You're correct. Take a break. Your Nachas should be unconditional.
5/19/2017 04:14:47 pm
I just had to comment before Shabbos. This is absolute garbage. Tell your daughter STAY AWAY FROM THAY GIRL OR ELSE!! Problem solved. I can't stand psycho babble.
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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.