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hypothetical, of course

Suppose you have a daughter. Letís say sheís 13. Further, letís suppose that she has a blog.

Say this daughter has been increasingly sullen and petulant as of late. Oh, and she came out of the bathroom Monday morning wearing black eye shadow and black lipstick.

You happen to read her blog one day and discover that not only is she cursing like a drunken sailor (no offense to drunken sailors, of course), but she is being incredibly rude and disrespectful towards family members and family rules. In short, her blog certainly does not reflect the way that you raised her and you are so disappointed in her that you feel like throwing up.

Do you

a) Confront her with a printed copy of the specific entry and tell her you want to talk about it, knowing full that she will probably move her blog to another location and thus end your chances of knowing what sheís up to, or

b) Hope that she was just showing off for her friends and she really doesn't talk like that in public and she was just exaggerating on the other stuff, or

c) Say nothing to her about but secretly seethe.

[Also keep in mind that in this hypothetical situation, you are concerned that she is being unduly influenced by friends, have said as much to her, but were met with a glare and a stamp of the foot and a declaration that she will never stop hanging out with those friends, even though she has another set of friends that are respectful and studious and just...nice.]

Hypothetically speaking, of course.


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Join the club, Michelle. We went through the same thing recently.... the whole total defiance, hanging out with the wrong crowd, give parents lip, sort of thing. But then there's the angelic side... the side you wish would come out and be the dominant personality. It's hopeless. Just love your child selflessly, though it may not be until adulthood that she realizes how much you mean to her, and vice versa. You know she's going to make mistakes; you know she's going to slip up and mess up if she stays on the same course. Sooner or later it's going to be her choice. For now though it's ok to make those choices for you. She may not realize it until she actually makes the mistakes when she's out of your house, but at least you laid a foundation.

Oops... I meant "make those choices for her", not "make those choices for you."

You whoop her upside the head and tell her next time the shoe comes off, baby!!!

Then you send her off to Iraq in a package labeled Operation Give.

Then, 50 years down the road, people will be admonishing their kids with "Don't MAKE me send you off to Chief Wiggles!!!"

d) Be thankful that she's blogging instead of putting on an abayah, moving to Gaza, burning American flags, and diving under bulldozers.

Sullen: check.
Petulant: check.
Rude: check.
Rebellous: check.
Disrespectful towards authority: check.

Congratulations, you have a teenager. Most of them grow out of it. Lucky for you, your teenager is going through these phases at the usual time i.e. about 13-15. I waited until 16-17 to go through this phase, and it was a lot harder for my parents to put any restraints on me. Fortunately I turned out okay anyway.

I have no useful input, except perhaps that she sounds a lot like me, and I don't swear nearly as much in real life as I do in print.

What I really want to say is: Thank you for the birth control refresher course. I am so not ready.

I don't have kids--that disqualifies me right there. I can only tell you what I'd have done at 13: yeah, I would move the blog if confronted by a parent about it. Oh, and then whine about how I "never have any #$@! privacy," and then stomp off to my room and, uh, apply more black eyeliner.

And I would have been using the blog almost certainly for showing off to friends, and probably real loser friends at that, and not really be nearly such a jerk in reality (isn't that true of plenty of adults anyhow, me included?).

I was pretty much a contrary, sullen, awful child, and looking back I'll always wonder if things might have gone better had my parents sort of ignored things like that, because as a pre-blog child, it wasn't blog entries they'd find, it was letters to friends and diary entries and such. I'd always get called on it, I'd always whine about the invasion of my so-called privacy, and I'd always leave the confrontation determined more than ever to be "friends with whoever I want!" rather than friends with the kinds of kids my parents thought I should be hanging out with. Although nowadays I certainly understand my parents' concerns at the time, I don't think those results were the ones they were hoping for. Based on those memories, then, I'd advise you to let it slide--especially since there's always a chance that, if ignored, she'll eventually get bored with it.

But that's just me. And I'm no parent.

Speaking as a non-parent, and therefore disqualifying myself, I'd say be as horribly friendly as possible to the new friends. A little reverse psychology never hurt anyone. Of course, reinforcing the ground rules I sure a concerned parent like yourself has with her hypothetical daughter wouldn't hurt, either.

As a 16 year old... I guess I sort of understand her point. I hate it when my mom makes remarks about my friends, even if I deep down believe the same thing she says about them. Sometimes it's just more annoying that she was in my business. I'd say the best thing to do at this point is probably to just make sure you ask her a lot about her and her friends. Don't be accusatory; and don't assume anything she doesn't say (yet, anyway). Just ask her kinda how her day went, ask her to tell you about her friends, stuff like that. Maybe even invite her to have the friends over so you can meet them all. This way, you're hearing about them and meeting them- giving them a chance, just in case they're some of those kids who look and seem bad, but really just express themselves in funky ways.

Yeah, just ask questions and try to get her to trust you and tell you everything. I know I feel weird telling my mom some stuff, but I have a friend who tells her mom everything- even the gossip and what boys she has a crush on. And if you let your daughter know- maybe by telling her things that happened to you as a teenager or something- she might tell you a lot, and you won't have to resort to checking her blog. But in the meantime... I wouldn't tell her you've found her blog. She'll probably think you were snooping and won't trust you. :( So, good luck, sorry so long!

You can try the "what should this person I work with do" ploy. You first have to have a plausible person in mind, someone real your daughter may have met, but doesn't really know or have the possibility of contact with. Or, make up someone out of the blue, but make them plausible. New person at your office, some blogger you've been reading, whatever. You mention this person, and that he/she has a kid about your teenager's age, just to lay the groundwork. Later (and you don't want to use this too often) you are having a conversation (or you have simply trapped your teenager in an enclosed space with you, like a car, or an elevator), and you mention that this person you know has asked you what to do about their teenager's unacceptable behavior. Don't put in every detail about what you read on the blog, but make it close enough to the situation for it to be relevant. Then say "what do you think this person should do?" If you are lucky and have played the part well, you will be able to hear in her response whether or not you need to be worrying. Optional: Say what you think this person ought to do before you ask the question. This is sometimes not as effective. This ploy can massively backfire, so be warned. But the important thing is to really listen, and keep the dialogue open. And good luck.

I'm so glad mine are all in their 20's now.

Or you could teach her how to do protected entries on Xanga that only her friends could read.

Serious she is 13. Isnt that the age when kids start lashing out. As long as she not planning to harm anyone or destroy anything let it pass

See, this is all your fault, Michele. If you'd gotten pregnant at age 16, refused to marry the ne'er-do-well father, brought your child up by yourself and became her best friend, you wouldn't have to go through this stuff.

Oh, wait. That's the Gilmore Girls. It's television. Sorry.

My advice is to be firm on the things that really matter, but not to gig her about stuff that's more a question of taste and style. I'd draw the line at being rude and inconsiderate to family members, but I'd allow some leeway regarding lipstick, clothes, etc.

Regarding friends, I'd focus on specific behaviors rather than the "sort" of people they are. She'll have a hard time defending behaviors she knows to be improper or illegal, but it's easy for kids to dismiss parental concerns based on personalities or styles.

Love her more, but don't squeeze to tight, it won't last forever.

As the mother of a just turned 13-year-old boy, I feel for you. Overnight, he turned sullen, disrespectful, lazy, grumpy and outright ugly, and yet, there are flashes of the nice person underneath. Some of his friends are a pain, some are nice, but I treat all of them the same, and funny, they all want to hang out at my house.

I wish I had some real words of advice for you, but honestly, I just remember how I was at this age, and I'm glad he's not worse than he is! All I can suggest is to do what you normally do, love her and set a good example, and ignore the things you can. Good luck!

I do know all of her friends. My house is has been the "hang-out" house for a while. Plus, I'm the mother that always ends up driving everyone everywhere. I've known these friends since grade school - they're just becoming different and I don't like it. I do like her other friends and I wish she would hang with them more often.

Also, privacy isn't an issue here. Everyone knows that there's no privacy in blogging! I don't feel like I'm snooping because she actually told me what the URL is. Wasn't very smart of her, was it?

Well, if she's a public blog and she knows that you have the URL, mention it to her, ask if that stuff is really bothering her, etc. Not so much a confrontation but a discussion opener.
And hell, when I was that age I talked a much meaner streak than I felt; trash-talking is no reflection of her heart. Hell, everyone talks in diffeent ways to different people, and if she hasn't been (too much of an) asshole to your face, let it go as adolescent daring and hormonal imbalance.
What she's doing is normal; assume it's heavily exaggerated (because of course it is), look for the nugget of truth behind the words and let it be a source of information and, if you're lucky, a path to communication and understanding.

I'd confront her, but for different reasons. A lot of bloggers (disproportionately many of whom are young, and female) don't seem to realize that webpages are not private. They write for a bunch of strangers and a subset of their friends, and when someone outside that group finds their blog, they're shocked. The sooner they learn that anyone with an internet connection can find their weblog, the less damage they'll do to themselves and others.

Or, if you - the hypothetical you, of course - are the devious type, you can casually reveal that you know all of this classified information, without revealing that you've read the blog. "Say, look me in the eye...hmm. You have this look in your eyes...kind of as though you spent last Saturday at the mall with that cussing, dope-smoking ne'er-do-well, even though you told me you were going over to Betty's house to work on homework."

When I was 13 and flirting with rebellion, my parents made sure to keep telling me what the rules were. Of course, the only thing - the ONLY thing - that gave their words any weight was that they actually followed the same rules they handed down to me.

If the hypothetical parent is not following the same rules he or she wants his or her daughter to follow, then both parent and child are screwed. All the heart to hearts won't do a thing unless the parents have the necessary moral ("ethical" for you non-religious types) weight that comes from practicing what is preached.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

This is a situation where the hubby and I have disagreed for years. He was always snooping through our daughter's stuff, but I would refuse to do so. I grew up with a mom who did, and when she found fictional stories I'd written, she beat me because she believed they were based on true events. Yes, I had a wild imagination, but had I been allowed to express myself privately with my writing, I don't think I would have gone on to express myself in far more destructive ways. Of course, no one knows your daughter better than you, and I can only offer my own experience.

Good luck!

My daughter is 3, so you and the other commenters just scared me to death. She's now locked in the basement for at least 20 years.

My mom never prayed that I wouldn't do bad things, just that I would be caught if I did. Seems to me your hypothetical mom has a valuable source of info in this new blog. Look, we're parents, not our kids' friends. Privacy doesn't matter nearly as much as protecting our kids and helping them make the right decisions. Love them, be tough with them, and love them some more.

Okay, I didn't realize that she'd given out the URL. Scratch what I wrote, then, and I should add:

I'm not a parent, but I remember being a teenager. I wasn't a "bad" kid, by any stretch, but I disobeyed my parents and was disrespectful to them rather often. Looking back (I'm 25 now), I realize that even though I disobeyed them, I am very glad that they made it very clear to me what they expected of me. Sure, I bitched and whined at the time, but I never outright dismissed the rules they had for me. I'd think about why they existed, break them a few times, and eventually realize that they were there for a reason, and that it hurt my parents when I broke them. If you (the hypothetical you, of course) don't confront her, she's more likely to think that these rules aren't that important to you.

As an aside - I take it she reads your blog?

Wait a minute!?!? You mean they aren't supposed to be sullen and defiant until THIRTEEN!?!?! what's the deal with my 3-year-old, then?!?! And the one-year-old stomps her feet and cries when you take something away from her!?! Man, I'm a horrible parent. ;-)

Seriously, if she didn't want you to read her blog, she should't have made it public for the whole world to see. As much as people like to think of blogs as "journals," there's a big difference.

Still, it's a tough nut to crack. I know I was a rebellious teenager, and I hated my parents coming in my room - snooping. Of course, I really hated it because I was doing things I shouldn't have been doing, so...

I guess what I'm trying to say is keep loving her and I have at least 10 more years of respite!

Oh, and hypothetically speaking, I'm assuming this daughter's mom has a hypothetical blog as well, and hypothetically, the daughter reads what goes on here. So you may not have a hypothetical if she reads this post.

I'd say that in general, it's healthy. Kids need to go through a rebellion stage and act out a bit - and this is a relatively harmless form. I'd keep on top of it - heck, I might just create an account on her blog under a pseudonym and participate.

Years later - and I mean YEARS later... when SHE has teenagers... you might want to share this little bit of motherwit. :)

Hypothetically, of course.

Since she gave you the URL, she can't be angry that you looked. I recommend that you talk to her. While teenage rebellion is normal, my mother let things with my sister get out of hand, and sis moved out and in with dad when mom finally clamped down. She and mom no longer talk.

Casually let her know that you think she's cursing too much. "Don't you think all that cursing on your blog is a little much?" And leave it at that.
I don't think you should tell her you don't like her friends, but something like a "Be careful with those guys" or "Watch your back around them" might help. You wont necessarily be telling her not to hang out with them, but she will probably proceed with caution if you tell her to be careful without restricting her "freedoms".

The family members one is a bit tricky. I am asuming it's a sibling thing and that, as a man who grew up with an older sister, wont change for a while. At least until the younger one matures enough to have some freedoms of his own.

Of course, my mother would have taken a broomstick to me, but that a whole other story and epoch.

Taking notes...

Mine's 9 and I'm amassing as much info as I can so I can at least have a pretense of what to look forward to when he hits 13.

Hypothetically, I'd confront her. Not with wild anger, but with direct, honest questions about what led to that post, why does she feel she can't talk to you, etc. If she knows you're being honest and concerned while you discipline her for it (I'd do that for being disrespectful and rude.), well, she'll still be a teenager about it. (you're probably in a lose-lose scenario in the short term, regardless of what you do.) She'll learn from you, though and you'll see her grow from it.

Well, the closest I have is an 8-year-old (going on 16) stepdaughter, but I'd thank my lucky stars that she's using a blog as an outlet, and try to vent any knee-jerk anger I felt in directions other than towards her. If she's discovered she can vent her normal teenage angst via words on a web-page she's way ahead of the curve, and probably much lower-risk for expressing that angst in other, less healthy ways.

Also: What the heck is wrong with black eyeshadow and lipstick? At least it's not gigantic pants and pacifiers... or Abercrombie (shudder). My wife and I would be thrilled if either of ours ever ask to borrow our black lipstick... as it is, I fear our girl will be thoroughly Brittnified by 13... sigh, you try to raise a kid right, but they get the strangest ideas in their heads...

yet another disqualified-because-I'm-childless answer here:

Would you feel differently if, for example, she had written the same thing in a notebook, and then you somehow stumbled across the notebook? (say, it was in a basket of laundry or she left it in the bathroom or something like that)

is it the public nature of what she is saying that rankles, or simply the fact that she is saying it?

I kept a journal as a teenager. Now, I was a squeaky-clean, big-geek teenager, so I didn't curse like a sailor, but I did complain about things being "stupid" and "fruity" and things like that. (No, my mom never found my journal, not that I know at least). I would have been mortified if she had read it though.

I think my general course of action would be "c", but then I'm a big wuss when it comes to confrontation. I'd probably come down harder on her with chores and stuff in some demented passive-aggressive way, or maybe let it slip somehow (maybe quoting a catchphrase from the site) that I was reading it, but not say anything more. But I can be one screwed up bee-yatch when I want to.

As for the "bad" friends - I think reverse psychology is the way to go. Offer them all popsickles when they're over, or offer to order pizza and rent a movie and watch it with them. Be Psycho-friendly-mom.

the other option is boarding school. Or a big hasp and padlock on the OUTSIDE of her bedroom door.

My two girls are 21 and 18. Both have tried the rude-crude-profane-hellion act on us as well.

Both were informed, in no uncertain terms, that that wouldn't fly at the Fortress of Crankitude, and that they had exactly one alternative to shaping up: death. Both shaped up, and today are about as civilized a pair as you can find anywhere. A good thing, too, as the younger one now has a third degree black belt in Aikido and could be a real hassle to discipline.

The myth of the obligatory sullen-and-rebellious phase is exactly that -- a myth. I didn't go through one. None of my friends went through one. Those few of our age bracket who did were considered miscreants who would not be allowed into polite society. Of course, polite society needs a bit of resurrecting today, but the task is not impossible.

It's supremely important is to be aware who your kids have decided to emulate, and what sort of pattern that person is laying down for them to follow. If you don't know...why don't you? This is easiest if the person your teen has decided to emulate is you. And if it isn't...why isn't it?

The situation sounds too hypothetical, since "disrespectful of family members and family rules" covers everything from "my brother is an asshole" to "I told my brother that if he told my bitch mom about me smoking crack, I'd kick his fuckin' ass".

Assuming it's closer to the former than the latter, I would mention to her that you read the blog post and were very upset by it, and that you wish she would swear less.

She might move the blog, but you'll be a happier mom if you don't read it anyway. Teenagers say a lot of stuff that their parents shouldn't hear; it doesn't mean the parents aren't raising them right, or that they won't turn out fine in the end.

I know that Michele hates me right now, but if I may be allowed an observation from the conservative perspective:

Kids aren't allowed to drive until they're 18.
Kids aren't allowed to drink until they're 21 (should be 18, but we can discuss that another time).
Kids aren't allowed to join the circus, or buy a gun, until they're 18.

And kids shouldn't be allowed unfettered, unsupervised access to the Internet either, until they can handle it.

Our teenage daughter got into the most incredible amount of trouble this way, so in this matter, I know whereof I speak.

Blogging, chatrooms etc. are a potential stick of dynamite to kids. Don't give them the blasting caps.

Here endeth the lesson.

Like Jenny said, just talking to her can help. Talking about blogging in general (pros and cons), what works and what doesnít could help. Telling her stories about wild and crazy friends who got into trouble vs. the good friendships that last a long time also help.

Iím from the Ďtalk to them till theyíre bored sillyí school. It worked for my son, sort of. He didnít make the same mistakes as I did, he made different ones. Still, he kept the good friendships, dumped the bad ones and so far everything is ok. I hope the same thing works for my daughter (14)

Glares and footstomping are how 13 & 14 year olds communicate - some kind of sign language. You can suggest having ice cream for dinner and you can get that. It usually stops after awhile if it's not rewarded.

I'm with Kim on this one...kids shouldn't have ANY private internet access...you're reading it and obessing as parent, but some pervert is reading it too and thinking how to get to your daughter through her perfectly normal thirteen year-old rebellion.

Kids + private Net usage = pedophile heaven.

Maybe you could ask an older female family member or friend that she admires to read it and let them wing it from there: shock, dismay, disappointment... the works...might embarrass her into watching her mouth...or not.

I don't buy into the "all kids go through it" argument either - I didn't go through that stage. But for various reasons quite a lot of kids /do/ go through an angry, contrary stage in their teens, and one constant I have observed is that when their parents wig out and give them talking-tos (or worse) about the company they keep and the things they say, things almost invariably go downhill. A general state of hormone-flux turns into a parent-child feud, and if there's one thing that's truly unnatural for a parent-child relationship, it's for them to be enemies (unnatural; but unfortunately all too common). I've had my share of disagreements with my parents, but I've never felt like they were my enemies; and I credit that largely to the fact that while they were clear about what they believed was right, they ultimately gave me a lot of leeway, enough that I never really had an excuse to rebel. Net result: I still respect them and listen to them; they still respect me and are proud of me, and I've done my best to face up to and learn from any mistakes I've made that they advised me against. When I compare my loving relationship to my parents with my wife's strained one with hers, I am terribly grateful that mine chose flexibility and mutual respect as the model of their parenting.

My oldest daughter is 13. While I haven't quite had this problem, I am provided with other growth opportunties that I will not bore you with here. If my daughter behaved as you have described, she would have at a minimum, to paraphrase Quentin Tarantino, lost her PC privileges. But since every situation is different, I wouldn't dream of trying to offer advice.

Good luck.

Gee, I am glad I just have a pet cat.


I have been reading your cat's blog, and I think you two REALLY need to have a talk.


Michele, as Kim ever so delicately mentioned, there is Hypothetical Daughter B (your example would be "A"). We had Hypothetical online boyfriend, and group of hypotheical online friends, who were feeding off each other, and entering realms and areas that were inappropriate.

Total ban was called for, 100% security on all machines, all children. No sites unless specifically authorized.

There was whining and wailing for a few days, then they got used to it, and found other things to do instead.

The Hypothetical Daughter B actually was in over her head and didn't know how to get away from it. She admitted as much after she'd been away from it for a while. The total ban actually gave her a way to disconnect.

I will say, that we had some minor problems (similar to yours) before it got totally out of control. We tend to operate from "give them a long rope" approach and pull them in when they violate a trust, but give a little slack, gradually. In hindsight, being unaware of the magnitude of the problem, I should not have given any slack and clamped down completely, when I had the first warning. Live and learn. Hard sometimes.

Now where would she get the idea that cursing like a drunken sailor in a blog was cool?

My 15 year old daughter has a blog. I read it regularly. Very occasionally I will tell her to edit a post, usually when she's ranting and drops an f-word in there. I don't make her take away meaning, just certain words.

We talk about debate and attacks and name-calling. She's blasted me a couple of times, but as long as she does it within our boundaries, I can handle that.

What I learned
Pick my battles: what is really important, here? Green hair - who cares.

Teens need to rebel. Therefore they need something [someone] firm to push against. I want to be the firm, steadfast rock.

They are disappointed if I don't listen to them/read their poetry/read the notes left lying in plain sight on the table, etc. They want me to help 'em decide which parts they want to stand up for.

They never want to ask for help. They'd rather set their hair on fire. They do.

Bring the weird friends in. Nothin' sez psycho louder than around the old familiar dinner table.

They think and change faster than I do.

All their behavior has meaning. Not my meaning -- their meaning.

Trust myself. Trust their father. Trust myself. Trust their father. Repeat.