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August 3, 2016

My Daughter Is Out of Control

Hey, Bonita…

Dear Bonita,

My daughter is 17 years old, and she's out of control, for lack of a better phrase. Her father and I are raising her in a very religious home, and God is part of everything we do. She was such a sweet child who always did her chores and her homework and never talked back or rebelled. She goes to church camp every summer and was involved in youth ministry up until very recently.

But about a year ago she got a job, and she started buying clothes I don't approve of and buying non-Christian music. Her friends aren't just church kids anymore, and some of them seem downright dangerous. Also, I know she's been alone with boys and has gotten up to things that only married people should be doing. I know she smokes, and I know she keeps makeup at school because I won't let her have it at home.

I'm very worried about my child going astray. The other night, she came in smelling like marijuana and alcohol, and it was all I could do to keep my husband from putting her out on the streets—though she would have certainly deserved it! We are seriously considering kicking her out, since she thinks she's such an adult anyway. Part of me feels like that's too harsh, but I am at my wit's end with this child. Our pastor thinks the shock of being alone in the real world will send her running back into the arms of God, and I think he might be right. Or is he?

A Concerned Mother

Mom,

Your daughter is not going to hell. I was raised in a religious home, too, and now, in my 30s, I am happy to call myself an atheist. But my religious parents didn't freak out about my rebellion, like you and your husband are. Your daughter is one year away from legal emancipation, so she's spreading her wings and figuring out who she is. Why does that warrant her being evicted from her family home? A person can still love God while wearing makeup, smoking weed and having casual sex. Your daughter can be a Christian who listens to secular music. Don't assume she's lost her religion just because she's acting like a normal teenage girl.

And, seriously, DO NOT kick her out of the house. So she's disobeying you and doing things you don't like. Why is it so important that you control her behavior? What lesson are you trying to teach her by kicking her out? Your pushing comes from a desire to see your daughter live the life you think is best for her, but you shouldn't shun her just because she has a different plan for her future. If you do that, she will feel abandoned, and she will know her family's love is conditional, which will lead her to seek out love from others. She will create a new “family,” as opposed to faking piety for your approval.

Also, do you know how dangerous the world is for young girls on their own? You would be tossing your child out of the frying pan and into the fire, and believe me when I say that there is a pimp out there waiting for your terrified, vulnerable daughter to find him.

With respect, your pastor has no idea what the hell he's talking about. If you and Dad keep up with the “iron fist” act, once she turns 18 she's gonna turn to you and her father, lift both of her middle fingers, yell an expletive and storm out of the house, never to return. Plain and simple, she's not a child anymore, and she knows it. At the end of the day, she's the only person who has to be happy with herself, and she's at the perfect age to really lean into self-actualization. Let her, and you won't lose her.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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