Your teenage daughter's boyfriend is not exactly the Prince Charming you'd envisioned for her. He might be verbally abusive, emotionally controlling, abuse drugs, display delinquent behavior or is inappropriate for her in other ways that causes you concern. Although it's tempting to order your daughter to dump the bad boy on the spot, you have more skillful ways to approach this delicate subject to protect your own relationship with her.
Ask her what she's attracted to in her boyfriend. Shut off the TV, computer and any other distractions, and give her your full, undivided attention. Remain supportive and nonjudgmental. Don't belittle her feelings or tell her she's "wrong" or "crazy," which could cause her to spend the rest of the conversation defending him. Be understanding to show that you're on her side. You might ask "What do you like about him?" or "How does he treat you when you're out with friends?" Showing genuine interest in their relationship will help her feel safe enough to trust you with more information.
Express your concern. Don't list his horrible qualities, or become angry, insulting or cry, but remain calm and in control. Let her know which qualities or behaviors you believe are dangerous or inappropriate. Avoid putting him down by saying, "I can't stand that jerk." Instead, say "I'm concerned when he verbally abuses you" or "I'm concerned when I see him drinking so much alcohol." Listen with empathy to her response, even if she continues to defend his inappropriate behavior. Be patient. It might take awhile for her eyes to fully open, but you've opened a window for her to start questioning her boyfriend's behavior and why she puts up with it.
Tell her about the type of relationship you'd prefer to see her in. You might say, "I want you to feel happy and cared for with a boyfriend" or "A boyfriend should make you feel safe, not stressed." Explain why her current relationship is far from what you'd consider healthy. Share some of your own teenage relationships that didn't work out and what you learned from them. List a few movies or books that illustrate examples of healthy relationships. Stress that dating and relationships should be fun and bring joy, not cause suffering or pain.
Give her space to be angry or react with other strong emotions during the talk. Don't become angry yourself, threatening or lose your cool. Support her, no matter how much she vents. On a deeper level, your words might have resonated with her and she knows you're right, but she isn't ready to admit that you're right or break up with her boyfriend just yet. If she refuses to continue the conversation, let her know that you love her unconditionally and will always be there for her.
Even if she won't break up with him, she should be encouraged to call you in the event of an emergency. If she doesn't own a cellphone, give her one that has your number and 911 on speed dial.
If you feel her physical safety is in danger, forbid your daughter from seeing her boyfriend. If she refuses, contact the police and ask them what laws, if any, can protect her. Speak to school officials, including her guidance counselor, for additional help and support.