September 5, 2013

Teen Acting Out of Character

Hi Dr. Meeker,

I am wondering if you can help put this situation into perspective. Our eighteen year-old son is acting so out of character. This young man has been on our worship team for seven years; very obedient and respectful, etc his whole life....met a girl from Germany.

He is currently over in Germany, visiting his (first) girlfriend's family. He was only going there for thirty days, now he is there for over sixty days. He failed to inform us of this. We are in shock that his behavior is so disrespectful~! They are upset that we asked for prayer on FB because we did not know what was going on.

His girlfriend keeps telling him that he doesn't have to listen to us since he is eighteen. I know that about the law, but it is so shocking since he has always been easy.

Wondering if there are ways to approach this so that we do not hurt our relationship with our son.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated~


Dear Anne-

First of all, it sounds like you have raised a terrific son if this is the first time that he has challenged you. So take a deep breath. It sounds to me like your son has fallen in love and his feelings are taking over. Since this is his first girlfriend, it's not uncommon for boys (even young men) to fall hard. And- he's probably listening to the advice of his girlfriend because he is in love. But there are a few things that you should do.

He is eighteen and you need to let him know that you respect him as a man, not a boy. He probably feels as though you want to control him and he's bucking that. This is normal and the best thing to do is to give him the sense that you are willing to give him some rein. Let him know that you understand and respect that he is in love. But you also need to tell him that he needs to communicate with you adult to adult because you will worry about him.

Second, putting a prayer need on Facebook is a big NO-NO! You need to honor his privacy. If you are having issues with him, those issues should stay between you and him. Putting something like this in FB is humiliating and makes him feel like a child and it breaches confidence. If you want prayer for him, go to a few close friends and ask for it but only go to ones who will honor confidences. I would apologize to him for posting something so private.

All communication should be through private phone calls or Skype. Avoid email or texting because too much can be misunderstood. When you do communicate, you need to do a lot of listening. Let him know that you really want to understand why he's staying over there so long. And also let him know that you really want to understand why he's acting so out of character. Reach out to him repeatedly with the intent of hearing what he has to say, not with the intent to straighten him out- this will only make him pull away.

Legally, he can stay as long as he wants. But from a family relationship standpoint, you need to still let him know that you love him, respect him and if he chooses to stay there he is fully responsible for making his way financially. You will not send him money.

This is a tough situation but I want to encourage you that if you and he have a solid foundation to your relationship, just stay the course and he will come around. You must be loving, patient and firm. Let him know that you are very disappointed that he doesn't want to tell you what's going on but he may be doing this because he's afraid that you will either not listen or reject him. I understand this because you disagree with him. So let him know that you will always be there for him and that you want to understand. Also- tell him that you want to get to know his girlfriend. Would he bring her to the States?

I guarantee that if you change some of the dynamics of your relationship with him and begin to treat him differently, he will respond differently. It's tough, but you can do it.

Meg Meeker


  1. I agree with some of what they answered back. But I disagree with the part about not putting it on facebook to a point. If all that was said on facebook is what is above, there is nothing there that is all that private. If other things were said then maybe. There is nothing wrong with asking for prayers on facebook that is part of what it is for. Its for communication, keeping in touch with friends and family and knowing what is going on in their lives. Now if they were posting something about their sons sex life or something similar then yes that shouldn't be put on fb. But just saying he went over and hasn't come back or called. Then that's let's people know why you need prayers and what for.
    regardless of his age he should be responsible enough to call bis parents to say that he is going to stay longer. They are his parents and have à right to know. If the girlfriend is telling him he doesn't have to let them know or call then she is being disrespectful and trying to get between them. No boyfriend or girlfriend should say those sort of things. Especially if the person is still in highschool or living at home. We as parents are always going ti be concerned and worried and out of respect you should call your parents and let them know you want to change your plans. If your girlfriend is telling you not to or that you don't have to I would advise you to think more about dating that person. You want to be with someone who is going to respect your parents and your relationship with them. Even if you are 40 years old you should still respect your parents and treat them the way that you would like to be treated. Would she like it if you tried to get between her and her parents and encourage her to keep her parents in the dark and let them worry. Probably not. Kids these days just don't seem to respect their elders and only care about themselves. It is a sad thing the way the world is today.
    I know letting go of your child and letting be their own person is hard and I am sure you don't want your child living in another country. But that is between him and you as his parents to talk over not for her to tell him what to do. I hope that she isn't the kind of person to come between you. Hopefully it is a big misunderstanding and she respects you also. Its a hard situation that your in but no matter what you do just make sure to let him know that your just concerned and worried because you thought something was wrong because he didn't call and let you know he was going to stay longer and I that you love him regardless. That's what we do as parents.

    1. The above question was posted in a private message. (This was not the posted Prayer Request.) I am surprised to see it posted publically. Never my intention to embarrass our children.

    2. The above question was posted in a private message. (This was not the posted Prayer Request.) I am surprised to see it posted publically. Never my intention to embarrass our children.

  2. Sharing things on FB is a HUGE issue with me and my 8 kids. All of them have a different perspective and I have no idea where their perspectives come from? I want to share EVERYTHING well almost everything but they will tell me "That's none of my business" My question is: How can it NOT BE your business when it's your brother/sister/etc. Don't you care about them? And some of them won't even let me be their FB friend just because I'm "MOM" and that invalidates me of being their friend???? This I just can't fathom!!! Also...with my younger children..I think I have the right as their parent to read all their texts and messages etc but they say I'm invading their privacy...Excuse me, but isn't that my job? It's almost gotten to the point where I hardly communicate with my kids at all. I know I come from a completely different paradigm but without communication - it seems there's no connection and for a Momma like me - that's not ok. Please consider writing an article on this subject!! Thank You!!

  3. Putting it on FB was an attempt to control or to implicitly humiliate him. It was NOT a good idea. It was triangling since you didn't go to the source you went to a third party for pressure.

    Would you put the same post on a public billboard? If the answer is no, then consider when you put it on FB you've done JUST that.

    1. I am not so certain that this prayer request had any ill intent, other than a parent who was concerned about the fact that their child was in a foreign country and did not come home, as expected. This child should have communicated to the parents when his plans changed-just out of respect. Fact is, parents worry about their children.

  4. If I use face book at all concerning my kids, it would be a prayer request sent via private message to person(s) whose confidence I trust and have our family's best interests at heart.