Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact

Ask Dr. Gayle

Should You Confront Your Teen

QUESTION: I recently noticed that my 16-year-old daughter was spending much more money than her allowance provides. I became curious about where the extra money was coming from and I checked her bank account and discovered that she had recently deposited 300 dollars. The only place that she could get this amount of cash is from her friend's house. When I asked the friend's mother, she refused to believe that my daughter would steal from her. I am very worried and upstet. I don't want to tell her I was looking at her bank book. What is the next step?

ANSWER: You are right to be worried and upset. Your daughter is obtaining money from unknown sources. Though you believe it to be her friend's parents money, she could be vulnerable to other forms of illegal and even more dangerous activity such as pornography or drug sales. Your daughter clearly needs your help. Confronting her with the question of where she is obtaining this money is essential.

The fact that you secretively looked into her check book, rather than asking her to show it to you, reveals an intimidation on your part to directly confront your teenager. Why? It is unfortunate that you talked to her friend's parents before approaching her, but it is no reason to continue to deal with her in an indirect manner.

Going behind your daughter's back is a mistake you can acknowledge, apologize for, and correct in the future. Still, this should not stop you from requiring information about where this money is coming from. Remember that your daughter is also hiding things from you. Her deception contributes to your need to get information in any way you can. In the future, you must give her the opportunity to tell you the truth before sleuthing.

Be willing to approach you daughter directly with the facts. The issue now is not HOW you got the information but that she may be in trouble and needs your help getting back on track.

If you do discover that she has been stealing, you will want to provide consequences for her actions. Some parents, who must deal with their children stealing, do so in a manner in which the process itself is the consequence. For example, one mother insisted that her fifteen-year-old son talk with and write a letter of apology to a department store for accompanying his older friend who was caught stealing. Although her son had not been arrested, she recognized that a lack of action on her part would ignore his participation. By having to face the authorities in the event and being supported to take responsibility for his knowledge and passive involvement, her son experience became an opportunity for growth and clarification of his own values.

All of us are learning, and certainly your daughter is no exception. Handle this situation directly and take responsibility for helping her learn integrity. You are her role model. Finding strength to face her in this situation will be something she will admire and thank you for in the future. But do not delay. Your daughter needs your guidance now!

Return to Article Archive


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com