Spin-Off: Do You Let Your Teen Child Do What They Want or Not? Sex, Etc.

Updated on January 24, 2013
S.H. asks from Kailua, HI
24 answers

So this is just a spin off question, about when you have a Teen, and they are engaging in or doing things that are not "ideal" despite what you taught them or how you raised them, ie: sex, and other "adult" things... what do you do, to your Teen?
Punish or just let them do it, anyway?

The thing is, per what I see here and per what I see/hear from other parents in my own neck of the woods... when their Teen child is say, having sex or drinking, or doing other things that we prefer them not do to... the parents seem to let their Teen, do it. And the reason is: "if you don't let them, they will just do it anyway, someplace else..." So then, the parents let them do it, at their own home, etc.

Then I know of a couple, that has a 16 year old daughter, who has a 24 year old Boyfriend. And they let her have that relationship. Why? Because, their logic is, that if they don't let her, she will do it anyway, and then lie to them about it.
And yah, in my State, I guess a 16 year old can have consensual sex with a person? per the parents.

So the question is, for those who have Teenage kids... what do you do? When or if, your Teen is doing things that you prefer them not, to do... whether morally or otherwise?

This is just a curiosity question.
Not a debate.
My oldest child is only 10.
But still, I am sure many parents wonder, what others are doing. And any parent HOPES, their child once a Teen... behaves, well.


And the thing is: we only know, what our child tells us. When I was a Teen, I was not an angel. But I didn't tell my parents. My parents did punish and guide though, and they were typical "normal" parents. But that does not mean, that your kid will be so ideal or not.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I'm not simplifying it, but rather just don't want to make my post into a Thesis length post. And I feel lazy today. Yes this subject can go on and on.
I just am curious, about it. I know there are so many tangents to this.
I have heard, from parents who actually tell me "they'll do it anyway, even if you don't let them..." kind of logic. And they have Teens.
To me, that is not a way to handle, life.
Anyway, am just abbreviating this.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a dad was telling me about his friends who have a Middle School age child.
He said that their daughter, has a "Boyfriend." The daughter is only 12.
And they let her, with the rationale that "if you don't let them, they will do it anyway."
I hear this so much. So here I am asking about it in my post.

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answers from Miami on

So glad that I have never faced this as a parent. I haven't and don't have this problem with either child.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Well, I don't know. Mine are young. As a teen all I did was go to school and study. I did nothing else. Never smoked, drank, went out, no boyfriends, (no intimate relations) until married, nothing at all in the evening once, ever. Pretty boring, I guess, lol. But a lot of kids in my class died who took risks.

I do know my teens won't drive. They can learn how at 18, if they want to.

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answers from San Francisco on

I have a 19 year old (away at college) and a 17 year old senior and 13 year old 8th grader.
I do not provide them (or their friends) with alcohol or give them permission to have sex. They are well aware of our family's expectations and hopes for them.
Having said that, once they start driving and working part time they are given a certain amount of freedom. I no longer follow their every move because I think 16-17 is the age when they need to start making some choices and decisions on their own. I know some of those decisions will involve sex and/or alcohol/drugs. I think some independence BEFORE going away to college is crucial.
So far we have only had to deal with one serious incident. About a month ago my 17 year old got intoxicated in a limo on her way to a concert with a group of friends (booze provided by someone's older brother) and we had to go pick her up. Her punishment is no more concerts until further notice, no sleepovers away from home and an earlier curfew. We told her having some alcohol was one thing, but the fact that she was very drunk in a public place where she was vulnerable to God knows what was incredibly distressing to us. She put herself in a dangerous situation so we pulled back the reigns. Honestly, she has taken the punishment fairly well. There is a LOT of pressure senior year to "party hard" and even though she wants to be a part of the scene I can actually hear a little relief in her voice when she tells friends "I can't go my mom is still being a jerk."
That's fine, call me jerk sweetie, I love you too :-)

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answers from Salinas on

There are so many shades of grey in this topic. Drinking a beer at 16 at a party is not the same as smoking pot everyday before school. Having protected sex at 17 with your boyfriend who you have been dating for two years and doing it with a boy under the bleachers at a football game are not the same things.

Every situation calls for a different plan or set of expectations. Each child is different, each circumstance unique.

I think the best we can all do is have an open, honest relationship with our kids and take it as it comes. If they grow up respecting themselves and others that's half the battle right there. Kids who see a future for themselves and have goals are less likely to screw up their lives in my opinion. I also think a little bit of fear goes a long way especially when it comes to driving.

I live in a place where it seems 1/2 the parents put on blinders and open the front door when their kids reach 12. They just don't want to know. The result is really sad and often dangerous. Maybe it's that way everywhere but I'd rather know the truth, no matter how ugly, then have my teenager living a secret, possibly dangerous, life.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Well, you are over simplifying and lumping together a zillion different circumstances.

I think if you see your child exhibit self destructive, dangerous behavior, making poor choices, PRIOR to the teen years, you handle things a certain way. If prior to the teen years you see your child make smart choices, show self respect, respect for others, ability to stay focused on their futures.....well then you might handle things a different way.

With my youngest being almost 16, what I did has worked very well for them. Not to suggest it would've worked very well for another family with very different kids.


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answers from Amarillo on

You start the morals when the child is young and you wash, rinse and repeat. As they get older you add more to the not so happy list of things you wish they would not do and why.

Teens are going to try and push the envelope to see just how much they can get away with. They think they are immortal and many find out that they are not by what they do or what happens to close friends (drugs and death by motor vehicle).

When you find out that they have done the opposite of what you have instilled you have talks and present consequences. By the time they are 16 all the teaching, preaching, reasoning is in place. It is now time to treat them as "young" adults and start to treat them as such. This may mean giving them a bit more freedom. However, you still remind them of the "Five Pound Rule" (baby) and their future goals.

You are the parent and not the friend as such. Yes you explain things in terms that they can understand. Maybe you point out the cousin that had their life plans changed because of the baby, the accident, or the drug addiction. But they are the ones in charge of their destiny. So by the time they become 21 or 23 you can become friends and remain that way the rest of your lives.

Sticking your head in the sand does not help anyone or anything. It is turning a blind eye to what is happening and maybe changing the coure of a life for life. My husband states that we got out of high school without being pregnant or making a baby. They are now 35 and 39 and thank us very often for being there and standing up for them and showing them the way to be adults.

The other S.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

If you want your child to be immature and irresponsible, then don't be their parent, be their friend. Let them follow their every whim.

If you want a mature, responsible child, then be a parent and discipline them. Even teenagers need boundaries and rules. You might even say that they especially need boundaries and rules.

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answers from New York on

A parent can not be with their teen 24 hours a day and supervise everything they do.

Yes I do let my children drink, and it's not because they will do it anyway. It's because that's the way I was brought up. I was taught to drink responsibly.

I don't "let" my daughter have sex. I do my best to discourage it, but untimately it's her decision. Her boyfriend is not allowed over when we (hubby and I) are not home. However, I don't go on dates with her, I don't make sure his parents are home when she goes over to his house.

If it came to my attention, that my children were doing drugs, hanging out with kids in a gang, etc. I would do everything in my power to prevent it.

As a parent, I choose my battles.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I have thought about this. I know my daughter was having sex before she was 18. She had actually settled down a bit by the time she got pregnant and had my first grandson right after she turned 19.

I believe that I will have a factual conversation with my granddaughter that I am raising about sex. That when she decides she wants to start doing that to please let me know so we can get her on birth control.

I did a research project with a friend in a small town in Oklahoma that had, at that time, almost the highest rate of teen, very young teens, pregnancy.

We did some blind surveys where everyone in the school got one and answered questions then we also invited all who wanted to talk about their choices to a discussion time.

A lot of them said they started having sexual contact as young as 11 or 12. They were starving for positive attention from everyone. They needed hugs, people saying positive things to them instead of always yelling at them what they were doing wrong. They needed a close connection to someone so they picked a sexual partner.

They were having sex parties when a parent went out for an evening. They would think their kids were old enough to watch themselves but as soon as they were out of the house the kids would be inviting friends over and soon they were having orgies for lack of a better word.

Our kids today are bombarded with stuff we couldn't even imagine when we were kids, okay, I know I'm older than most of you but it wasn't the dark ages, it was the 60's, free love, drugs everywhere, even the bus driver would pass joint around if anyone wanted some. It was not a repressed time. But I would play sex games in the back yard with all the neighborhood kids because a lot of them went to "R" rated movies with full on sex scenes in them. So the next week or two we'd play in the back yard actin them out.

This was before I started my period so I was really young too. Thank GOD I didn't get pregnant. I was no more able to understand what we were doing than anything. But if someone wanted to have sex with me on a date it was pretty easy to get me interested. Even if I didn't really like them, sex felt good, better than anything else I had ever felt. So I wanted to do it more and more. My mom never even had the sex talk with me. So I had no idea what we were doing.

Back to my granddaughter. If she asks when she will get married we always tell her after she graduates from college. She asks how old that will be and we say at about 23. She says okay and leaves it at that.

With all this said. I want my granddaughter to know that I understand and will be there for her in any circumstance. She can talk to me about anything. If she is going to have sex there is actually very little that I can do to stop that from happening. So my only recourse is to teach her to respect her body and that sex is to be between 2 adult people that care about each other and have made some sort of personal commitment.

IF she choses to have sex before then I want to know about it. I want to make sure she understands the precautions she needs to take and how to say no when she means it and what to do if they don't take no for an answer.

I want her to be in control of her own body and to be able to be empowered when it comes up. I want her to chose to not have sex underage but if she does chose to do so I want her to be prepared mentally and physically for the consequences.

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answers from Seattle on

I am not opposed to teen sex by principle. I am not religious, I don't think anyone should "wait for marriage" or "save themselves" for whatever. I am fine with people for whom this is a religious or spiritual issue, but for me it isn't. I come from a country and a culture where sexual exploration is a normal part of being a teenager and I am comfortable with that. As long as both parties are legally old enough to consent.
My DD is only 5, but when she is a teenager I would hope that she does it because she wants it and does it in a safe way, that is what I am planning on (and have already started) teaching her.

As for other "adult" behaviors like drinking or smoking I expect that she respects the law. When we go to my home country where the legal age for drinking is 16, I will be fine if she wants to experiment. But when we are at home, in the US, I expects that she does not engage in drinking (and I will not serve her or her friends alcohol) until she is 21. It doesn't matter whether I agree or not with this, it's the law!

I don't think punishment is a very effective way to raise a child or teen. I prefer natural consequences and prevention - now and I cannot imagine that that will change as my DD gets older.
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Heck no! You tell them it's wrong no matter what they end up doing so they know over and over again it's wrong. I know I did things that my parents didn't like when I was a kid but I do appreciate now the fact that they cared for my safety and now I know why my parents had rules. I now propagate those rules as "things I thought I knew better than my parents". Hey, it's life and it's worth standing up for.

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answers from Kansas City on

Well we take things away from them, and if it is a MORAL thing....well we have taken them to talk with our pastor, or other friends who can offer better advice than maybe we can. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of others. And we talk to our boys, A LOT. We tell them how things were when we were young, and of course we get the "that was forever ago" thing, but really things aren't that different, just kids are doing stuff earlier. I think having teens is hard, because you have to prepare them for so much stuff, and life comes at you fast. And I really do not believe in that they will just do it anyway so why bother making them stop. I think you have to steer your kids in the right direction, and stick with it. Yes I know it is hard, but I think lots of parents take the easy way out, so they don't really have to BOTHER with parenting. It might get in their way of what they would really prefer to be doing. I want my kids to be good kids, and to be productive. We keep them busy doing stuff at home so they aren't just out doing stuff they don't need to be doing. And they have a curfew too. And they have to call or text me to tell me what they are doing and who they are with, if I don't already know. You gotta keep tabs on them.

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answers from Cumberland on

I did everything I could to make their life a living hell-and it worked.

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answers from Philadelphia on

there is a diference between two 17 year olds having consensual protected sex that have been in a relationship for years then a 17 and a 24 year old doing the same or doing drugs or drinking

i would hope that my daughter waits until she is officialy an adult to do things with adult consequences but if she had sex at 17 and used protection and was dating the boy for quite a while I would have several conversations with her but not punnish her and cause her to lie and hide things.

Now if she was doing drugs or drinking there would be several consequences.
Doing drugs harms your body and can lead to death or harming others
consensual sex with someone (one person) you love and you use protection is not all the wrong in my eyes if you are months from 18.

i guess we all have diferent morals

if my daughter crossed a line for M. morally thats when i would speak out
if she is doing something that i do not consider dangerous that i would rather her wait a few months to a year for i would speak with her a lot

now if she was 16 or under my answer would be completely diferent than for a 17 year old.

i was 15 when i had sex and i only had relastions with one guy until i was 26 when we divorced

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answers from Chicago on

It really all depends on the child, but the key is making the child WANT to change.

My SD was an "oops" baby and her mom was almost still a teen. Then she watched her mom have 3 more "oops" babies, and they have different daddies. She keeps telling me she's not having sex until she's 25 and married! LOL!

When she makes bad choices, like all kids do, we do talk about it and how she can make good choices. If we need to get "real" or "graphic" we do.

Mostly we talk about her goals in life, and how good choices can make them happen and bad choices keep her from her goals. I can't say for sure, but I think she will be a pretty good teen (with obviously some mistakes and fun, as all teens do!)

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answers from Dallas on

Well I have had 2 to grow up. The best thing a parent can ever do is model the behavior you want your kids to have. Then trust and verify.
If its important to me that my kids lead a moral life then I have to, also. If I want respect, I have to model it. If I don't want my kids to drink or do drugs, then I don't. If I want my kids to serve God, then I have to.

They will make some mistakes. I am never going to encourage them to make them. I am never going to make it easy for them. I am going to discuss why some choices are bad. I am going to have high expectations for them. I would say about a third of high school parents are encouraging bad behavior these days, up to and including supplying drugs, alcohol and rooms. I have never seen good things come out of it.

I am going to make it easy for them to make good grades, to travel, to have good friends, to connect with family, to have their needs met, to see a future, to volunteer, to develope talents, to appreciate their elders and people in authority, to help the needy, to go to youth group, to fully participate in extra circulars. If they have any time left....well, they didn't!

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answers from Victoria on

were not really close friends with people of that sort of thinking. our neck of the woods and people we hear are like OH HELL NO YOUR NOT GOING TO DO THAT IN OUR HOUSE. just who do you think you are. As far as the 24 yr old he would be arrested.

This is a group of people and a trend that seems to be dying out. Mean Girls the movie has a mom who is all "cool" with it. I am not going to be cool. As my parents werent cool with it and it makes it hard to find a place to do things they shouldnt be doing. We came from and are raising a "in my house its my rules" this isnt mean. Its protecting your child as much as you can. Also by the time I was a teen I knew better. I knew not to try to bring home a 24 yr old guy. I knew not to even think about shutting my bedroom door IF they guy was in there for what ever reason. Teens are disrespectful because there parents raised them to be so.

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answers from Los Angeles on

This is really tough. I don't think most people know how you're going to handle it until you get there. We are pretty involved with our kids and keep pretty close tabs on them. But they are also given plenty of privileges knowing that trust is at stake.
My oldest daughter is 20. And we never had to deal with any of this. We talked at great length about sex and our opinions on waiting. And she understood and agreed. But we also made it clear that if she got to a point where she felt differently, we wanted to know because we didn't want her pregnant. As far as we know, and I'm seriously 99.99% positive LOL, she's still a virgin.
My son is 17. And to date, we've had no issues with him either. We've also talked and he knows where we stand on all issues. My bigger concern is the drugs because he takes medication and a mix of the two could be deadly and he knows it.
My youngest daughter is 10. I have a feeling she'll be the one to give me a run for my money! LOL
I guess all we can do is TEACH our children right from wrong, INSTILL in them or values, and then HOPE for the best. But that doesn't mean I won't step in if I have to!

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answers from New York on

Another issue that depends on your child and how you choose to raise your child. I personally discuss ALL aspects of life with my children. Always have, to the point that they come to me with whatever the issue may be. I guide, give advise, give them the rights and wrongs, and make them very aware of the dangers out there and how to protect themselves against them. Alcohol, drugs, sex...you name it, we've talked about it. I give them the ammunition to arm themselves with and the rest is hopes that you taught them right. You will never know exactly what they do, but you leave the door open for them to come in and out and talk when they need to. Your story of the 16yr old and 24 yr old, you have to let that run it's course.You can clearly state..." I do not agree with your relationship, but I will do my best to respect it". The more you fight it or make demands, the sooner you will lose that child. She may marry him to spite you and end up with babies.. The alcohol and drugs, there are parents that tell their children if they wan to experiment, they can experiment with them. Some will feel comfortable enough to say ok and some wouldn't be caught dead hanging out with their parents. I guess it comes down to what you instill and the type of relationship you cultivate with your child. I'm sure you will see that when your children are teens. Everybody is different.

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answers from Hartford on

My children aren't teens yet, although my eldest will be a teenager near the end of the year. We've always had open communication but we've also always been very up front about our expectations for behavior. We are big fans of natural consequences but we're not opposed to enforcing punitive discipline when a situation warrants it and would mimic real life (on a smaller scale).

What that means in the scenario you've laid out is we've laid out our expectations about sex. My 12 year old knows what sex is, and the circumstances that we prefer she have sex and/or consider sex. We're very frank with her about it. She knows how we feel about it. But she also knows that if she comes home and tells us she did it, we're not going to hate her.

So what I'm going to choose to do is trust her based on the fact that she has (at her very young age) decided not to have sex until she's married or at least engaged to be married. She's very dedicated to this promise she's made herself. I didn't make her make this promise. I didn't encourage it. She decided this on her own through all of the years of discussion and education and health classes at school. I'm very proud of her. We've even discussed scenarios where she may change her mind or be pressured to change her mind and she can't imagine a situation where she would lose her willpower. So I'm fully supporting her.

When it comes to my younger daughters, I'll do the same thing.

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answers from San Francisco on

That's really hard to answer, because my kids never pushed the boundaries that much. I'm normally of the mind that they are going to do it anyway, so you might as well educate them, get them on birth control, etc.

But I would have a really hard time with a 16 year old dating a 24 year old, for example. I think I would have to outlaw that one. That's where I think a lifetime of choosing your battles comes in handy. If you're not always heavy-handed with kids, when you do lay down the law they are more likely to listen.

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answers from Biloxi on

I have a 16 year old son.
The best that I can do is to instill in him a strong moral compass. Teach him "right" from "wrong", teach him the consequences of high risk behaviors, and the laws that govern said behaviors. I have an amazingly open communication with him - more so, even he admits, than his friends have with their parents. We have always discussed everything. And I mean everything - sex, relationships, birth control, abstinence, drugs, alcohol, family addictions and patterns, politics, world news, local news. I draw from my experience as a teen and older and use examples, both good and bad, from life. Mostly as a way to show him that even if I made choices, I came through them, and to teach him, first hand, of consequences to poorly thought decisions.

But, he is 16. Becoming a young man, gaining and earning more and more independence. What I hope, is that he uses the tools that I have given him to make good choices. Do I expect him to make mistakes? Of course, he is 16. Will I be there to support him through them? Of course.

Am I permissive - oh, heck now. I was a helicopter parent before I even knew what the term was. Turns out I practiced attachment parenting - even though I didn't know what that was either.

I know his friends, and their parents. I do know where he goes and with whom. I expect that will change over the next couple of years also. He is very open and honest with me. But I also know that there are things that he does tell me - he has a right to keep some things to himself.

I raised by a very permissive father - the one that figured that we would drink, therefore better to do it at home. The one that let our boyfriends stay over. I knew going into this parenting thing that I was not going to be that parent. It confused me as a teen - not to have clear boundaries. I would rather my son have clear boundaries, and chafe a little at the rules, then have the anchor-less feeling I had as a teen.

Eh, essay over.

Thanks for the thought provoking post!!!!

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answers from San Diego on

I have a 16 year old girl and a 13 year old boy. Luckily we haven't had to deal with this yet but here's how I think I would handle this. First of all, I am somewhat open w my kid's regarding sex, drinking and drug use. I've stressed that sex w/o commitment is not ok for a variety or reasons, including pregnancy, STD's and even more so heart break. My husband and I had a condom break shortly after we started having sex, (dating and in college,) and I got pregnant. I ended up miscarrying that baby, (one of 4 miscarriages,) but Thank God for that because I wasn't in a position to have a baby. So my kid's and I have talked about that. When she was a freshman she liked a senior so talked about age and maturity and what a senior who had been sexually active in the past would want w a freshman. That barely relationship broke her heart so she realized I was right on that one. As far as drugs and alcohol are concerned my kid's know that it's the law for no alcohol until 21 and no drugs. My daughter has told me that at sometime she would like to try pot and I have emphasized the whole "gateway drug" thing and that she has no idea if she's going to be the person that likes it and becomes addicted. I've also stressed that she's worked really hard to keep up her grades and she has a good group of friend's and that could change all that.

So in answer to your question, I don't know what I would do, but am really trying to keep the lines of communication open.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My children know what I expect and my morals and values. At 15 and 17, they've already figured out how this translates to them. My son is easy in regards to this b/c he rarely pushes these boundaries. My daughter (15) is just starting to test the water with relationships. She is very strong in her beliefs and convictions and I pray that she holds on to those against peer pressure (specifically teen boy pressure). She comes to me and talks to me about it and has discovered its not quite as awkward as she thought it would be. I've told her that I trust her until she gives me a reason not to.
Would I endorse drinking or sex? Nope, but I want them to be open and safe. I haven't allowed it in my house and want them to wait, but I'm realistic. Drugs, to me, is completely different. In my state, there is no legal use and there is addiction on both sides of the families (not with my ex or myself directly), but it makes them a lot more prone to it. We've had a lot of discussions about this and so far all's good, but they're teens and their world changes daily.

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