Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Talk to 15-year-old daughter about why she'd date a man, 21
Tokyo: You posted a question concerning a 15-year-old dating a 21-year-old. I read through readers' answers and there really didn't seem to be a consensus.
When I was 21, I spent a semester student-teaching ninth-graders (15-year-olds) and there was a huge maturity difference between us. On the other hand, some of those same kids would somehow find their way into the college bars on the weekends, and I was paranoid I'd unwittingly end up going home with one of them, so I can see both sides.
Not that you are the tie-breaker, but it is your column, so what's your take?
Carolyn: For those who missed it, here's the original letter I posted:
Q: I am a dad and I just found out my daughter, 15, is seeing a man of 21.
After sleeping on it I have pretty much decided to call the police.
My daughter is obviously not an innocent party, but he is 21 and knows she is 15. I have asked people whose opinion I trust what they think of my going to the police. They all say not to because I will ruin his life. I did not decide to date a 15-year-old; he did.
My plans for my daughter are the following: no computer in her room, Internet turned off at 10 p.m., no going over to anyone's house for at least a month (she used this method to meet up with him), counseling and at least 20 hours of community service.
I also plan on taking her to Planned Parenthood to get tested, etc. I see this guy as a predator; I doubt this is his first 15-year-old, and if he gets away with it she won't be his last. What do you think?
Carolyn: I think going to the police first would be a mistake.
The dad's best move is to talk to his daughter first, and find out what really happened. He could choose to go to the police at any time during the process, but he can't un-go to the police.
She could have lied about her age, and that possibility alone means he should talk to his daughter before hanging the guy out to dry. The more compelling reason is that she's a capable person, who has opinions and ideas and feelings.
Daddy risks alienating her completely if he mistakes "child" (which she is) for "infant" by completely bypassing her in his charge to make things right.
She isn't just part of that process, she's central to it, and he needs to acknowledge that — and I don't think he'll regret doing that even if he ultimately calls the cops.
I also think he should get a family therapist involved to talk to both father and daughter, before he starts in on his multistep plan of groundings and doctors and community service. All of that will backfire if he doesn't calm down, talk to his daughter and base his actions on the specifics of what happened.
A therapist would provide a disinterested viewpoint that could help him keep his bearings, while also teasing out the roots of what motivated the daughter to make such a reckless choice.