Coping with the dating lives of teenagers can be a strain on any parent, but it can become even more difficult when you particularly dislike your teenager's boyfriend. Parents must walk a fine line when they dislike their teenager's choice in a mate, as too much objection can push your child away, while pretending to be overly supportive can help the relationship flourish. Thus, if you truly dislike your teenager's choice in a boyfriend, your best option may be to remain relatively neutral.
Withhold any obviously disapproving behaviors or comments that would let your teenager know you are unhappy with her selection in boyfriends. This includes suggesting that your teen date someone else, telling her to wait until she is older to date, making negative comments about her boyfriend or deliberately avoiding your teenager's boyfriend and excluding him from family activities. Parents want to avoid the "Romeo and Juliet Effect," where their interference or disapproval can make their teen become even more committed to the relationship. To prevent this, avoid any overt disapproval of the relationship. Give your child the freedom to make her own decisions.
Avoid approving behaviors or comments that would make your teenager believe you are overly supportive or happy about her relationship with this particular boyfriend. Relationships that receive social support and approval can thrive. Thus, if you do not want the relationship to continue, you'll want to avoid providing overt support and approval. However, it is important that you don't cross the line into overt disapproval. Be friendly when your teenager's boyfriend is around, inquire with your child as to how the relationship is progressing, but avoid bending over backwards to facilitate their relationship or to show signs of exuberant approval.
Give your teenager freedom to have her own experiences and make her own decisions. Dating during the teenage and young adult years is an important process of learning how to be in an intimate relationship with another person. More often than not, dating experiences during this time will help your teenager make better decisions in the future and learn about the qualities and traits that she values in a partner and the ones she finds to be problematic. By remaining neutral, you will give your child the best chance of making these decisions on her own, free from your influence.
- Parental Reactions to Dating Relationships: Do They Make a Difference?
- Parental interference and romantic love: the Romeo and Juliet effect.
- Perceived Social Support for Relationships as a Predictor of Relationship Well-Being, Mental & Physical Health in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Relationships: A Longitudinal Investigation
- Perceived social network support and well-being in same-sex versus mixed-sex romantic relationships
- Let your teenager know that dating is normal and that you take an interest in her dating life. If you remain open and positive, your teenager will be more likely to seek and respect your advice when she is struggling with relationship decisions.
- Sometimes a parent's intuition is accurate. If you truly believe that your teenager's boyfriend is bad for her in a way that could put your child in danger, it may be necessary to exert your parental powers in attempting to end the relationship.
Karen L. Blair has been professionally writing since 2001. Her work has been published in academic journals such as the "Journal of Sex Research," "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" and "Psychology & Sexuality." Blair received her M.Sc. in psychology at Acadia University and her Ph.D. in social psychology at Queen's University. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow and research consultant.
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