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Dealing With Your Teen's Friends

What should you do when your child's friends don't respect your house rules? Most parents have to deal with this situation sooner or later. Your son's buddy brings cigarettes into your home. Your daughter's friend uses vulgar language. Perhaps you want your kids and their friends to remove their shoes before walking on the carpets.

How should you deal with these and other problems? Better yet, how can you prevent them? Here is some parenting advice for this situation:

First, make your expectations clear. Before a sticky situation arises, see what your child thinks of his or her friends' behavior. This is a good starting point for discussion. Remind your teen of your house rules, and let him or her know that you expect the friends to follow the same rules.

Some kids will take it from there, telling friends what is and is not allowed. But it is possible that you may need to have a nonconfrontational visit with the friends if the behavior continues: "We play video games for 30 minutes and then turn them off." "We carry our snack wrappers to the wastebasket and our glasses to the dishwasher." In this way, you will be able to prevent most problems.

If someone still doesn't follow the rules, or if something comes up that hasn't been covered, be direct and firm. Ask him or her to remove the cap, or leave the gang colors at the door, or remove shoes from the furniture. Your child can put the blame on his "goofy" parents if he or she needs to save face.

If you remain firm but pleasant, your teen's friends will often comply and may even appreciate your straightforwardness. If you run into a visitor who refuses to follow your rules despite all your efforts, you should consider not allowing him or her to come over for a while. If at all possible, you should give him or her another chance after the "banishment." It could be a growing experience for everyone concerned.