Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

QUESTION: My 12-year-old daughter had a sleepover at a friend’s house and I found out later that the older brother—he’s 16—had friends over that night too. My daughter knew they would be there but didn’t tell me. I never would have let her spend the night if I had known there would be older boys there. Should I talk to the parents?

BBB: I hope your seatbelt is fastened because you are heading straight into the wild ride that is the teenage years. One of the trickiest parts of these years is maintaining the balance between trusting your teen and not really trusting your teen.

From the sounds of it, you already don’t trust your 12-year-old, but I am not sure why not.

Has she given you reasons not to trust her? And do you feel that your daughter was “pulling a fast one,” intentionally not telling you about the 16-year-old brother’s sleepover, knowing you would nix it?

If this is the case, your question should be much bigger than whether or not you should call the parents. It sounds like you might need a little help with how to weather the challenges and storms that are on the horizon. Your days of being able to control your daughter’s world are drifting away…as they should.

Hopefully, since your daughter was a year old, you have been helping her learn what is okay and what is not okay, how to keep herself safe and how to abide by your family rules. It is not just because she is 12 that she now has boundaries and limits to learn.

I hope they are deeply entrenched in her operating system and that she is well aware that there are risks and consequences to her steps and missteps.

One of the sayings for which I am known is “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”

We do this by having those rules, limits and boundaries in place and expect that they be followed. It is from following these that the child learns to keep herself safe and becomes self-reliant.

However, there is no question in my mind that it does take a village to raise a teen. Teens are programmed to do lots of testing of boundaries as they try out their independence and separateness from you.

Having eyes all over the place is quite useful. They are like bumper guards for our kids, reminding them to stay the course. In the spirit of the village, it is always a good idea to preemptively talk with other parents about your rules and expectations for your child.

If it is important to you that your daughter not be around 16-year-old boy sleepovers, or if you feel that their presence was putting her in harm’s way, you should have discussed this with the parents of the host before you granted permission for the sleepover.

I don’t know many kids who would report something like that to her parents without the parents asking first.

In answer to your question, I see no reason for you talk to the parents after the fact. It is over and done, and you have learned your lesson: Be sure to talk to the parents before the event, asking whatever it is you need to know in order to decide whether or not to grant permission for the overnight.

Now it’s time to focus on your daughter.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals. She is the author of the bestselling “Just Tell Me What to Say” and has been featured on the “Today Show.” Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.