Some parents find limit setting to be so difficult and uncomfortable that they just don’t do it. Allowing something that you don’t believe in sends a message of acceptance for that behavior.

Dear Diana,

I have a 15-year-old daughter and we had her 15-year-old boyfriend over. They were caught making out on her bed by her father, with another daughter (she’s 10) in the same room. He had me take the boyfriend home immediately and told him to never come back. This has made a very uncomfortable situation here. I don’t know how to deal with this because she is my first born.

I tried to explain to her several times before that boys only want her goodies and nothing else. She has always been very smart and gets good grades in school. I just don’t want her to ruin her life. Can you help?

Distressed

Dear Distressed,

I applaud her father for setting a firm boundary for inappropriate behavior. Some parents find limit setting to be so difficult and uncomfortable that they just don’t do it. Allowing something that you don’t believe in sends a message of acceptance for that behavior.

At 15, your daughter has a natural interest in boys. Teach her what is acceptable and what you expect of her. Telling her that boys only want her company for one reason tells her she has no value and can’t be appreciated for who she is. It may quickly close the door to your communication, and make her completely disregard your parental warnings or helpful insight.

Rather than use scare tactics to keep her away from boys, focus on helping to build her self-esteem for all that she has accomplished and all that you are proud of. She needs to feel good about herself, knowing that she is smart, works hard for her grades and understands that she can be liked for many, many reasons. With increased self-esteem she can learn how to make good decisions for herself, even when you’re not there to reinforce or guide her.

Teach her your moral values. Talk to her about her future, her hopes and dreams, encouraging her to make it all happen. This may sound idealistic, but it truly is how children, tweens and teens grow up to make important life decisions for themselves. Tell your daughter that you love her too much to allow her to get hurt.

It is important that her boyfriend also was held accountable for his disrespectful, inappropriate behavior. They both used bad judgment. Allowing boyfriends or girlfriends in bedrooms sends a mixed message. You’ve now made your house rules very clear by taking him home and telling him that he is no longer welcome at your home. Trying to keep them apart may be difficult, but you absolutely can prohibit him from coming to your house. Now is a good time to clearly communicate all of your rules and expectations for friendships and dating. Review rules and consequences for curfew, and discuss visiting with friends when parents aren’t home. Unsupervised kids get into trouble.

It is unfortunate that your 10-year-old was exposed to viewing her older sister’s behavior, as her older sister is a role model. However, your 10-year-old did learn that you won’t tolerate inappropriate behavior in your home. You didn’t mention what she was doing in the room; if she was told to keep quiet or if she was the one who brought in her father. I do hope that someone took the opportunity to talk thoughtfully to her about what she saw. Ten is a very tender age.

Some equate teenage years with volatility, as it’s generally tough on everyone. Research from the University of California at Berkeley states that although teens may have the cognitive intelligence of an adult, their emotional development lags far behind. Teens seek thrills for new experiences to increase their understanding of life. Those thrills lead to risky and dangerous behavior.

Teens are greatly influenced by their peers and become highly self-conscious. They have difficulty delaying gratification and regulating their emotions. Their capacity for reasoning and planning is not fully developed. Their brains still are developing. So, although your teen may talk a good game and may sound mature, there is a lot of brain development that needs to occur before good decisions can be made. That’s why she has you.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton OH 44702.