Uncategorized April 9, 2017

The Three Rules I Made My Daughter Swear To Obey In College

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Talk to them, talk to them again, and then talk to them some more. I’m a realistic and modern mother – I didn’t make her promise not to drink or have sex. My rules centered around her personal safety and it was honestly my greatest fear. Any other mistake, not related to her personal safety, could be fixed, moved on from, or learned from.

I shared with her every article and news report I saw about girls who were sexually assaulted and, in some cases, never seen alive again. You might criticize me for trying to scare her, that’s okay – I can take it. I was trying to scare her. I was trying to impress upon her in the most profound ways I could, how one choice, one decision, one momentary lapse in judgment, could alter her future, forever. After all, no story that ends up with, “and she was never seen again,” starts with, “Five girls went out together and stayed together the whole night.”

They’re eighteen-years-old and we’re sending them away from home, sometimes for the very first time. They are legally adults, but the part of their brain that can see around corners and spot potential dangers isn’t yet fully developed. Scientists and physicians now know that our brains are not fully developed until about the age of 25. Car rental companies are familiar with this research – why do you think they will not rent a car to anyone under the age of 25?


It doesn’t matter how smart teens are or how well they scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet.

The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.

In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

University of Rochester Medical Center

(Read all of our other informative college posts for parents, click here)

So, knowing all of this, I made my daughter swear to follow these three very basic rules. I believe they are just as wise for young men as they are for young women.60 page photo books for $8

1. Leave no-one behind – This, I believe, is THE most important rule. Whoever you go out with, you stay with, and leave with – NO-ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND, PERIOD! There is no situation and no exception to this rule as far as I’m concerned. If five people go to a bar or party together, all five stay together and leave together. This is discussed and agreed to beforehand. No one person from the group is allowed to wander off to another area, out of the view of the group either, period! We can discuss a million different scenarios – I don’t care, you stay with who you went out with and no-one gets left behind. No one goes to the restroom alone. No one steps outside to take a phone call alone. No one is left alone, period.

As parents, we all wonder if our kids are listening to us when we talk – I know I do daily. So, I was so pleased with a story my daughter shared with me a few months into her freshman year. She was out at a party with a group of friends. A few feet away she was observing a girl she knew lived in her dorm but not someone she knew personally. My daughter reported that the girl was obviously intoxicated and talking with a young man who was trying to get her to leave with him; the girl was protesting weakly but they young man was relentless. Finally, my daughter marched over, put her arm around the girl, looked at the boy and said, “She’s with us. She’s not going anywhere, sorry.” The group my daughter was with saw the girl home safely to her dorm and her roommate. Proud mama moment.

2. Watch when your drink is poured, keep your hand over your drink at all times, never leave your drink unattended – This danger wasn’t part of my teen years but it is a very real danger now. It is very easy to slip something into someone’s drink who isn’t paying attention and unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of this opportunity. If you need go to the bathroom, you finish your drink first or leave it with a trustworthy, vigilant friend – and visa versa. If you think, for any reason, that your drink may have been tampered with – get rid of it!

3. NEVER go anywhere alone after dark, PERIOD. I don’t care how close you live to the library, how close the dining hall is, that you really want to go to see your friends at another location, that you need cash from the ATM, or your friends are already out and you want to meet them. If you can’t find someone to go with you, you don’t go. Many schools now have nighttime safety shuttles that will pick you up wherever you are on campus and deliver you right to the front door of your dorm, free-of-charge. The one at my daughter’s school runs until 3am, so there was no reason that she ever had to walk back to her dorm from the library or dining hall alone at night. Each school has its own name for this transportation and many make it as simple as clicking an app on your phone.

Besides the three rules I had for my daughter, I would also make the following recommendations:

Get the phone numbers of one or two of your child’s friends, and make sure they have your number too. I made sure when I met my daughter’s roommate at freshman drop-off, that I got her phone number and gave her mine. This was not to stalk my daughter, but it made me feel better to know that if I was unable to get in touch with my daughter and had a genuine concern for her safety, there was someone in her life I could contact. I have never abused this, although I did call her roommate to help me plan a surprise for my daughter’s birthday. I also wanted her friends to know that they could and should reach out to me if my daughter was every hurt, sick, or for any other reason.

Sign up for the university’s alert system and make sure your child has as well. I would think just about every university now has an alert system where they send out text messages and/or email messages if there is something of concern going on, be it weather, safety, or campus issues.

Put the contact numbers for the campus police and a direct dorm line on your phone. Should you ever have a moment of panic, you aren’t going to want to have to search for these. It gives me peace of mind to know I have these and, thankfully, I’ve never had to use them.

Check out: Clever devices for protecting yourself and your belongings at school.


54 thoughts on “The Three Rules I Made My Daughter Swear To Obey In College”

  1. After just returning from College Orientation with our first college bound child, this is wonderful information! Thank you for sharing!

    1. That must have been an exciting visit! Good luck this year. I hope I produce some helpful posts along the way. Also, be sure to look back at older posts as they are still relevant.

    1. Thank you for your comment. What’s common sense to us as parents isn’t always the same as our kiddos. They really do listen.

  2. I am a mother of a recent high school grad and a and a high school teacher who has a senior level capstone class to help students transition into college, military, or workforce. I will definitely be sharing this information with all “my” kids. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I also drove my daughter by the closest hospital and transferred prescription to nearest pharmacy. She laughed but was the girl who drove her roomate to emergency at 2am bc she knew where it was.

  4. I graduated college about 6 years ago, and I would strongly agree with all of these rules! Very practical advice!

  5. Great advice! My daughter and her friends( and me) all keep track of each other’s locations as well via phone apps.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I started similar conversations with my daughter last year and she will hear me speak about these topics again before leaving for college in September.

  7. Love it! There is always so much focus on preparing kids academically, financially, and physically for college. Parents and schools need to also prepare them emotionally!!

  8. Great advice! One of the prevalent rumors when I was in college was that campus security were the ones attacking girls. And we believed it, and didn’t call them, even though they would have escorted you for free. Who do you think starts those rumors? The bad guys, of course! Always take advantage of the security that your college offers.

  9. As a college Admissions consultant, I plan to share this article with each of my college-bound students and also post it on my Facebook page. It is very wise advice. Thanks.

  10. Getting ready to send my daughter 10-hrs away for college. These are great tips. Thank you!

  11. Great advice! Safety in numbers had always been a staple. My only issue is that this article makes all young men out to be murdering, roofying sexually assaulting maniacs. Let’s teach our daughters not to go out with low quality men. Our girls don’t need men that are fixer-uppers. And stress you will not change him once he starts to date you. So don’t date him. Campus rape culture is greatly exaggerated but one crime is to many especially if it happens to you.

    1. I’m so sorry that you felt I was bashing young men as it was not my intention. I would say that there are only a very small percentage of young men who would seek to hurt a young woman, but unfortunately, those very few are the reasons for the rules. It’s certainly unfortunate that has to be in their thoughts at all, but the reality of sexual assault on college campuses is all too real. I have a son. He is only 11 but the lessons on respect for women began long ago, much in part to the example my husband sets for him. I wish it wasn’t something my daughter had to worry about. Thank you for the feedback.

      1. I would caution the commenter also that sometimes it’s not the obvious young men who might hurt your child. Sometimes the seemingly upstanding, well bred, “nice” young men are hidden monsters too. We have many many examples of the “nice” boys who hurt girls!

        1. I agree completely! People with bad intentions don’t often look like the monsters they are.

  12. Great article- give me another venue to bring up these serious topics to my daughter. Thank you.

  13. Great advice not just for college bound graduates. All young people entering the work-force, military, gap year…whatever.

  14. Advice to my daughter –you can call me anytime day or night about anything –and make sure you call me first –can call to ask for help or talk about anything anytime day or night –no questions asked –and I would be there for her — guaranteed !!

  15. A friend’s daughter was raped (I was going to put date rape but that makes it sound less than rape) three times because she didn’t watch her drink. Yes, you’d think once was enough, but these kids (they are kids) think their friends would never do that to them.

    Read an article of 3 women in their late 20s who saw a woman go to the restroom and left her date at the table. They saw him put stuff in her drink. They not only warned her, they had called the manager who had video. Manager called police and he was arrested. The woman’s comment, “He’s one of my best friends!” I doubt if he is any more.

  16. My three daughters and I took a Jane Doe no more training class for self defense . Free and so worth it.

    1. That’s awesome. I wonder if that’s a national program? I’ll have to look it up. Thanks for the tip.

  17. Another idea would be to have an adult point of contact or emergency number who lives in the area, if your child is far away at college. If you don’t know someone, and if you or your husband were in a sorority or fraternity, you could reach out to someone in the local alumni association.

  18. Tell them to trust there gut feelings also! If they are aware of how they feel around someone or something they should trust there gut. My daughter went to a party and kept feeling uneasy. She left soon after getting there with her friends. Later that night campus police were called for two assaults and a date rape in that area.

  19. It’s a few years off for my child, but I’m keeping these in mind for her teen years. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Never go anywhere after dark. This is so sad! I hate that we have to live in a world where this blog post exists. I went to uni in Stellenbosch, Cape Town where a girl was raped in the house opposite me. Things like this exist. So I am grateful to this post that other people can get this advice, yet sad that it is needed. Thank you for posting.

  21. This could be applied to high school as well! I have had similar conversations with my daughter, but emphasizing the seriousness is something I need to readdress.

  22. One of the problems with the shuttles and buddy systems that deliver you to your door at 3 a.m.. the crazies could be on the inside – that guy driving the van, could be the one who attacks your daughter. My dad taught my sister with a secure apt. building that all of the loonies are not on the street, outside the security door, they might be your neighbor, on a different floor or next door…. just be careful and aware of everything around you.

    1. Always being aware of your surroundings is great advice. I would hope that universities use a careful screening method for those they put in these positions. Probably a good question to ask at orientation.

  23. My daughter just turned 11, so we are many years out from college, but she is a competitive figure skater and skates on a synchronized skating team. During competition season, the teams all sit together to watch each other and the parents sit elsewhere. The kids love to walk around the arenas, shopping, getting food, and pin trading. But there are teams from all over the country, so we don’t know everyone……and the kids don’t always check with their parents before heading out to “play.”
    As team mom, I plan to share these tips with our teams….ALL of them. We have teams with older skaters, many of whom travel without parents.
    These are rules that girls of ANY and EVERY age should learn and live.
    Thank you!!

  24. I think this is vital information for ALL college students to know, not just daughters….might get more attention if the title were different. I want to share this with my son who is starting college in the fall but I hope he’s not offended by the title and think it doesn’t apply to him as a young man.

  25. When I went to college in 1971 my sorority rule was that you had to drink out of a cup, no beer cans. When my daughter went to college in 1996 the rules had changed. The same sorority rule said you must drink beer from a can because it was to easy to put something n an open cup!

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