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daughter's friend's dad

Dear Miss Emily:

I love my six-year-old daughter's best friend, but her father gives me the willies.  Her mother travels during the week and he's the primary care giver.  I am running out of excuses for why my daughter can't play at their house.  How should I handle this situation?
Out of excuses

.............................Miss Emily's advice.........................

Dear Out of excuses:

Take him in your confidence, and tell him that your daughter is going through a “Mommy stage” and that you would prefer to be around when the girls play together.  And let that be it.  This is your daughter, and she is of paramount concern.  If the father of this girl is resentful, so be it!  How would you feel if something were to happen and your instincts had been correct?  If the family invites your daughter on an outing, when the mother is present, you might want to allow it.  Otherwise, hold your ground and risk him thinking you are an overly protective mother who dares to take no prisoners.

disrespectful teenage girl

Dear Miss Emily:

I am a proud single parent of 2 teens.  My son is now away at college.  
My daughter is this terrific kid who has great grades and super
friends.  My problem is that she is verbally abusive to me, but only to  me.  
She is NOT that way to my ex ( who I left 10 years ago for verbal
abuse) and she is not that way to her relatives or friends.  It hurts me
deeply when she tells me to "Just go away" when I am being nice to her.  She can use foul language, too.  I hold it in, then usually blow up at her a month later and, then, feel guilty.  My fear is that she may do it to her husband and children down the road .
Fed up

.................................Miss Emily's advice...........................

Dear Fed up:

Teenagers can sure be a pain in the butt, can't they?  I think it’s too early to threaten cutting her out of your will, although this could be a last-ditch effort down the road. You say that she was witness to her father verbally abusing you?  That is a shame, but the fact that you, initially, took it (without repercussions), makes a statement about you. She may also see some of herself in you, and that means she is essentially lashing out at herself.  But you cannot rewrite the past, no matter how much you try.  Do not engage her in defensive conversation when she is abusive toward her.  Silence speaks volumes.  In a calmer moment, tell her that abusive behavior will not be rewarded, set down some rules and stick to them.  The biggest fear here, is not that she will be abusive to others, but that she, learning from your past, is the one abused.        

At wits end with preteen son

Dear Miss Emily:

My son is 12, and he is starting to hang out with some bad kids at
school. He is always angry with me these days, and doesn't listen anymore. I
am a single mom and I feel out of control. Should I get even tougher
with him or what? Thanks for any help you can provide. I am at the end of
my rope.

Out of Control

--------------Miss Emily's advice------------

Dear Out of Control:

This period is a difficult time for all concerned.  A twelve year-old, at the beginning of puberty, paints an awkward picture.  He is fussy and demanding no doubt and, I’m sure, you would do anything to put him back into footie pajamas. Although I don’t know what these “bad kids” are doing, to be on the safe side, you must provide a more appealing alternative at home. Single parenting is hard, because you can’t be in two places at once.  But when you are together, listen.  Listening is probably the most important thing you can do for a child.  Do not reprimand or find fault when your son is trying to give you information that he wants you to know, but fears your response.  It’s often said that a parent should not be a friend to his/her child.  However, part of what makes  friends so special, is that they do not judge.  Be open-minded and give reasonable advice and support. If he doesn’t pick up his room, offer to do it together. Be spontaneous – go out for ice cream at an odd hour.  Most of all, be kind.  And let Alec Baldwin’s outburst at his eleven year-old daughter be a lesson to us all.   Finally, know where he is at all times.  Have him check-in with you, and let him know the consequences if he does not.  A great book to help guide you through this rough patch is: Positive Discipline for Single Parents: Nurturing, Cooperation, Respect and Joy In Your Single Parent Family, by Jane Nelson (  

Single parent with troubled teen

Dear Miss Emily:

I am a divorced mother of 2 children. A girl 14 and a boy 8.  The Dad is
nowhere in the picture. The girl has started to be mouthy and not tell me where she will be when she goes out.  She comes in late smelling of alcohol and I feel I am unable to keep her safe. She is setting a bad example for her brother
and keeping me on edge. What can I do?  She is a tall, muscular girl and, frankly, I am afraid ofher.  She pushes her brother around when I am not there to supervise them. Since I am at my wits end, I would appreciate any help you can send my way.
in California

--------- Miss Emily’s Advice -------------

Dear Distressed:

I assume you are a single mother who works full time, although that does not set you apart from most families where it takes two incomes to support a household.  A key ingredient to successful parenting is involvement in your children’s lives.  If you are not involved, this may be a reason for your daughter looking for acceptance from friends.  Nagging and disapproval is not the answer.  Fourteen is a difficult age for all concerned.  Remember when you were fourteen?  Sit down with her and say “I need your help in finding ways to be together.”  If she can’t come up with anything, you make suggestions.  A cooking class – movie, yoga class?  If she doubts your sincerity, tell her you think a nonjudgmental activity that the two of you can do would improve your relationship, and see if she’ll get on board.  If she agrees, stick to your commitment.  Her future depends on your being there for her, when it counts the most.  If you fail to follow through, she will have her excuse for seeking careless, and perhaps dangerous activities outside of the home.  If you have already tried this, and you are seriously afraid of her, you need to seek counseling.  Ask the school for some guidance, if you cannot afford private consultation.  Do not leave your son with your daughter.  He should not be the brunt of your daughter’s hostility, and she should not be a built-in babysitter for you.  Find a safe place where he can go when you cannot be there.  Remember, children are an investment – not just in money, but with your time.
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