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My 15-year-old daughter always has her boyfriend around the house and I don't like the way he talks to her and my family, as the man of the house I would like to show that I am dominant and show that I don't like the way he treats everybody.

I usually don't like to show my feelings towards this, but me and my wife have started talking about this issue regularly now and it is starting to cause arguments between us and our daughter. We are not as close as we used to be and it is killing us to see her drift further and further away. This issue has seemed to have started ever since she first met him at school.

How would I talk to them about his attitude towards our family without hurting my daughters feelings?

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    Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! Please take the tour and read the help center. Can you add more details to your question, especially how your daughter's boyfriend behaves and talks to her and you? – Anne Daunted Sep 13 at 12:47
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    You say that it's causing arguments between you and your daughter as well, so I gather you've raised this with her already? It would be worthwhile to know what has been said, and how that has been received. What does your daughter have to say in response? – David Hedlund Sep 13 at 14:48
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    "the man of the house", "I am dominant". Can you honestly say that this is not just that you feel he threatens you 19th century alpha male position? – Diego Sánchez Sep 18 at 14:34
  • Not being that close as we used to be, or seeing your teenagers drift away seems fairly common to me, isn't it what we call life? – Laurent S. Sep 20 at 13:27
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It sounds like you haven't had any conversation yet, so instead of letting your pent up frustration take over I'd take it slow and start with talking to him man to man directly. Doing this in private is better, as Pascal noted. You should also have something nice to say about him or to share with him so that it becomes a moment of respect and bonding instead of a moment of discipline or failing to meet expectations.

He probably learns this behavior from his home, and it should be important to you to show understanding and acceptance of him as a person, and so it is important to separate your feeling about his behavior from your feelings about him as a person.

Start by taking responsibility for yourself and showing him your character. Let him know that in your house you expect everyone to treat each other with respect and that includes how we talk to each other. Let him know how important it is to you and that if he ever feels disrespected by you or your wife that you hope he will let you know.

Now let him know you have these same expectations of him. After you take this first step you now have a solid footing as a responsible leader of the home. You can then express to him that there are times he comes off as disrespectful to others. Give him a chance to respond and hopefully say that is not his intent. Then explain the behaviors that bother you and ask him to try and do a better job while in your home.

Try and find a subtle way to communicate to him when he crosses the line and when you talk to him let him know you'll do it. Clearing your throat, a slight shake of the head, or a verbal redirect of the conversation/moment. Ask him to follow your lead and explain how helpful he can be in creating a place where everyone feels respected and safe.

If you don't get emotional and he's not an unstable guy you should come out fine. Then just be patient, as he will continually slip up, but you should be able to know his intentions are not bad and he'll at least try.

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What do you think is driving this behavior? I could think of a few things. Understanding the behavior is often key to finding the best remedy. Up until this point, it appears that life has worked out better for him if he acts this way, than what he has tried before. There may of course be even better strategies that he has not attempted.

Perhaps his behavior has won him favors among his peers, such as popularity, or climbing a few ranks in a pecking order. In that case, he may need direction as to what behavior is rewarded in this new context. They're only just dabbling with adulthood, after all.

Perhaps more crucially, this behavior is winning him the appreciation of your daughter in particular. Perhaps this distance between you and her that you mention is the cause here, and not the effect. Again, they're on the doorsteps of being adult, but they're not yet there. They know it will soon be very important for them to get by on their own, and they yearn for independence. Perhaps having something that mum and dad won't like and share is exactly what's exciting. In that case, you may need to back off a bit, and volunteer some distance, so that they don't feel the need to create it.

And that need for distance is something that could come from either him or her, and it's provably not a consciously formed strategy on their part, but either way, granting some extra freedom, space, independence, trust, may help remove that need.

Now, it's a perfectly valid concern to care for how the rest of your family members are being treated, so I think addressing that directly is also on the table. I don't think you'll have much to gain by making a general point about his character, but rather, it would have to be a case by case reminder that you don't appreciate that tone. Even then, I think any progress here will likely be too gradual to really notice.

You're also saying that you would like to show dominance in the house. That's a warning flag for me. For one thing, it won't work. Coming at this from a position of power will have a negative effect. He will feel the need to defend himself. You want him to agree with you, but that becomes almost impossible in this scenario.

More importantly, though, it is at odds with more important goals. You say that you don't want to drift further apart from your daughter. Well the only authority you have is over your home. So if you are playing out those cards, chances are they will just take their undesirable behaviors and influences to an arena outside of your control (and with that, insight). Your daughter is almost adult, but only almost. You could argue with me that you still have a right to veto her companions, but not without the cost of alienating yourself to your daughter.

Keeping all of that in mind, my ideal approach would be to present your concern, and ask your daughter what the solution is. Something down the lines of:

"Hey, I see that you really enjoy hanging out with X. I'm really happy about that, but at the same time, I bet you've seen how I think he can ruin the atmosphere around here when he does X and Y. I get that a lot of that is probably just me being old and I need to get along with how people talk these days, but I also think that everyone can at least be expected to Z. As your father, I am off course excited to embrace him as part of the family, but that's not really working for me right now. And I also get that this family is the least of your concerns right now, and that you probably only want to do your own thing. I respect that, and if you want me to back off and leave you two alone a bit more, that's what I'll do. But if you think that this one is a keeper, and you want to bring him into our family, you need to remember that in this family we're nice to each other. The two of you will have to make that work."

  • I really like this answer, especially the reasoning behind the suggestion to deescalate instead of escalate. The only part I feel somewhat ambiguous about is the last paragraph - the template for the talk with the daughter. It sounds a bit too defensive to me ("a lot of that is probably just me being old...", "I need to get along with how people talk these days..."). If the kid really is rude, and maybe rude on purpose, I feel you shouldn't be so defensive about asserting it. I think you could get the daughter on the same page without retreating so much. – Pascal Sep 14 at 15:12
  • @Pascal: My reasoning was that a teenagers default position in a conflict with a parent seems to be that the parent doesn't understand their point of view, and I figured that by granting that you could win some credibility. And that views on what's appropriate conduct is likely to contain a component of age gap. But sure, the theory behind that quote was key. How it's put to practice is of course best judged by the parent in each case :-) – David Hedlund Sep 14 at 16:45
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A lot depends on whether he's aware of his rudeness or not. For this answer, I'll assume he's unaware, or at least not trying to antagonize you on purpose (if he is, maybe he thinks that's the way to impress your daughter - but in any case, this answer won't apply. Maybe @DavidHedlunds answer will be a better fit in that case).

How would i talk to him/her about his attitude towards our family without hurting my daughters feelings?

Maybe you could use your daughter as a go-between. Sit her down when the boyfriend isn't around and tell her the truth - you think some things the boyfriend says to her and the rest of the family are rude (make sure to distinguish between what the boyfriend does and what he is — he might say rude things, but avoid using language to the effect that he is a rude or badly raised person. You can prepare a few examples of what you mean by "rude" - some things he has said when your daughter was present, too. Then tell her that in your home, you expect everyone to be polite, and that goes for the boyfriend too, so this issue must be addressed. He's her boyfriend and as such is welcome in your home, but he'll have to follow the rules that are in effect here if she wants to continue bringing him home.

Finally, ask her whether she'd prefer to have you talk to him about avoiding the rude behavior or whether she wants to take care of it.

The basic idea here would be to involve your daughter in deciding on the solution. I don't think you can completely avoid hurting her feelings, because you don't like something about a person she loves. But it will probably help if you make it clear that it's some of his behavior you can't condone, not her choice of him as a person. Also, since you're involving her in finding a solution, you show you trust her to act like a grown-up.

As the man of the house i would like to show that i am dominant and show that i dont like the way he treats everybody

I understand your wish to establish dominance, and that's also doable - he's fifteen, after all, and he knows your his girlfriend's father, so if he's smart he realizes he needs you to have a positive attitude towards him - but if you do try to establish dominance by seeking out a conflict with him, then your daughter will probably take his side, her being a) a teenager and b) in love with him, so this will lead to more arguments between you.

This is why I think the best-case scenario is the one where your daughter gets him to stop being rude in your home and you don't involve yourself directly.

If you do confront him directly, though, be polite and calm when you talk to him. You can simply lay out what the problem is (again, give specific examples of what kind of behavior of his you don't condone) and ask him to stop this; these are the rules in your home, they are not negotiable, and , he's welcome in your home as long as he respects them (You don't even have to tell him he won't be allowed back if he doesn't change his behaviour - that follows implicitly from the last sentence). Then take it from there - if he sees the error of his ways, or promises to do better, things will probably turn out well. If he becomes rude or doesn't take you seriously, you'll have to follow through and tell him he's not welcome until he decides to follow the rules, but again, stay calm and firm and avoid any shouting.

I think it would probably be better to talk to him without your daughter present, but not to keep it a secret - you should tell her you'll talk to him, because if you don't and he tells her, again this will lead to conflict between you and your daughter.

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