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John Rosemond - Parenting Expert

John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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Don't micromanage kids' lives

Q: Our 14-year-old son looks at least two years older and is more mature in many ways than most boys his age. He recently started hanging around with a group of boys who are two years older than him and have driver's licenses. These boys don't have bad reputations; in fact, they're good kids who make decent grades and stay out of trouble. Still, we are concerned. Should we insist that he find friends his own age?

A: If I was in your shoes, I'd leave well enough alone. I can certainly understand your concerns, and if the boys in question were "bad," I'd recommend a more active approach. In this case, however, it simply sounds like your son can relate better to boys who are slightly older. He probably regards the behavior of the typical boy his age as more than slightly puerile and wants to avoid "guilt by association." These older boys have affirmed his image of himself as "older" than his years. They accept him and given that they are good, responsible kids, I have a suspicion that they are acting as good role models, thus helping him channel his social maturity in constructive directions. If my suspicions are correct, the relationship is probably going to help your son take a later leadership role within his peer group. In short, instead of this situation being a prescription for trouble (as it might be under other circumstances), I think it's actually helping your son stay out of trouble.

In my book Teen-Proofing, I caution parents of teens against letting their anxieties drive a tendency to micro-manage their kids' social lives. Not only do parental attempts at micro-management prevent a teen from learning by trial and error (the emphasis being on error) but parental micro-management often precipitates rebellion. Workplace studies have determined that micro-management of employees causes conflict, communication problems, deceit, and disloyalty. Parental micro-management causes the same exact problems and solves absolutely none. You're treading dangerously close to falling into this quicksand. If you want your son to continue being open and above-board with you, then you'd do well to not only back off, but also welcome his friends into your home with open arms.

Yes, keep an eye on the situation, but that's your job regardless. If you sense trouble brewing, let your son know what your concerns are. In that event, you should make it clear that whereas you're not going to try and "choose" his friends, you are going to hold him completely, one hundred percent responsible for the choices he makes while he's with his friends. As I tell parents over and over again, it's not your job to always prevent your child from getting into trouble; rather, it's your job to make sure your child learns what he needs to learn if and when he does get into trouble. In the absence of trouble, you don't have much of a job. So, with that in mind, enjoy the vacation.

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