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We are camping. My daughter said she and her friend were going swimming. Later I saw the girls with two boys on a golf cart, driving around the campsite. Should I punish her for lying to me? My wife says they’re 16 and that I should just leave her alone. What should I do?
While every situation is different – and we’ll get to yours in a moment – the short answer is yes, you should punish your daughter. First, if you don’t punish her for lying, you are in effect telling her it’s OK to lie. Second, once you tell her that lying is OK, she has even less reason to tell you the truth in the future. Third, the fact that your daughter is 16 does not give her the right to disobey you. The older children get, the more freedom they earn and the more ability they have to rebel against your parental authority. It has never been more important to enforce the rules than it is now.
Your daughter is still below the age of majority and under your paternal care. You possess both the right and the responsibility to ensure that she conducts herself appropriately. And in this case, it does not matter whether or not you approve of her driving around on a golf cart with boys. Once she tells you she plans to go swimming, you should expect to find her in the water rather than in a vehicle.
Make sure you stress to both your daughter and your wife that this is a safety issue as well as a trust issue. I am truly surprised that your wife did not see a problem with two girls riding around with two strange boys whose history they do not know. Being 16 is not a safety net. In fact, it is far from one. At least once a month there is a news story about a young woman who disappears, and the parents are usually in the dark about the girl’s whereabouts at the time of her disappearance.
Even if the girl is in harmless company, there is still the problem with not knowing where she is in the event of an emergency with another family member. If for some reason the family suddenly had to pull up stakes, you would not know where to find your child, thus delaying departure.
I can only imagine what the friend’s parents would have thought about all of this, because 16 or not, that child is still the responsibility of you and your wife as long as she is camping with your family.
Your wife’s response to your concerns suggests this has become a marital issue as well. The two of you need to talk about what you expect of your daughter. If your wife knew the whole story and in effect told you, “I don’t care that my daughter lied to me,” then both of you must go back to the beginning and determine where you are as parents. If your wife focused only on the conduct and in effect said, “I don’t care that she is driving around with boys because she knows how to behave,” then your discussion should start with the lie.
Bottom line: If you and your wife have different expectations of your daughter, the girl will see this and use that divergence to play you off against each other. Once that happens, your authority as parents erodes like a sugar cube under a faucet. To avoid this, get on the same page with your wife regarding what constitutes acceptable conduct. Then make sure that both the rules you establish and your mode of enforcement keep you on that page.
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