Parents have a severely out-of-control 16 year old daughter...

Hi I'm Yvonne and I have an out of control 16 year old daughter. For the past year and a half we have been having issues on a weekly bases with our daughter. I will fill you in quickly on some of the things that we have been dealing with over this time.

She was wagging school, suspended on 3 occasions for smoking in school uniform, got suspended for drinking at school, left home for 5 days and wouldn't let us know where she was. Started casual at McDonalds in Jan. this year but 1 mo. later decided that she didn't want to got to school anymore so left to work at McDonalds full time but got on average 15 - 25 hours a week and spent the rest of the time hanging out with her friends why we were at work. Then in March got fired for stealing money out of the register (for a friend). Had people over when we weren't here and they did a burnout in our carport and did about $1,000 damage to the new concrete that we installed not long ago got. Has told me that she is smoking weed on weekends when she is with her friends. We have on many occasions had money go missing from our wallet and have to keep them in our room and I take mine to the shower in the morning just in case she comes into our room. We feel that we can't leave anything lying around the house and I feel sick having to live like this in our own home.

What we have done.

I wake her in the morning and she has to be out of the house at 7.30 when I leave for work as I have told her that she can't be trusted after everything that has happened to be left in the home that she has no respect for. 

We use to pay her for doing chores around the house but have stopped this lately as she needs to get out their and find a job and the chores that she does do (not often) is payment for the food, and bed that she has within the home.

We have 2 international students with us at the moment and one had $100 go missing out of his bag and of course we know who took it but she always says that she hasn't. This is the last straw as we have once again had to cover money that she has taken from other people and it would add up to around the $700 or more over the last 2 years.

We love our daughter but don't like the things or the people that she is involved with at the moment and have tried everything we can think of going as far as calling the police who came and had a talk to her.

I know why she does a lot of things she does and that is she is a large girl for her age and feels that no one likes her so she does anything and everything to get attention whether it be good or bad and this is something that we noticed from the age of about 9 years. She has an older sister 21 and a younger brother 13. She gets on well with her brother, just the usual kid fights. Her elder sister and her had a good relationship up until the age of about 12 when the age gap between them started to show and her elder sister didn't want her around any more, and has not been a close relationship since. Her elder sister has just moved to the UK for up to 5 years so is no longer at home.

This is just touching the surface but hope that you can give us some advice. At the moment my husband and I are ready to pack her bags and send her out into the big wide world to fend for her self as we had enough.

Can't wait to hear from you,

Desperate Parents Yvonne and Phil


Hi Yvonne and Phil,

Re: smoking pot and drinking…

Please forward this part of the email to your daughter. I would like for her to read the following:


I am sorry that you feel so lonely and overwhelmed. I can sense the sadness in you and I am here to tell you that you can feel a lot better about yourself and your life. I'm not just saying this to make you feel better. I have worked with many kids your age who got their lives back under control and who became the people they wanted to be. They all were unsure whether they could handle turning their lives around but with their own courage and some support from caring family, friends and talented professionals, they did it.

You and I both know that weed can be very psychologically addicting. If you are lonely, getting a little high or quite stoned can temporarily make you feel better -- but as you know, when the high wears off, reality hits you in the face again. You must let your folks know how you have been feeling and tell them about your use of weed. They must assume some responsibility for their part in this and be the parents that you need them to be. I know that talking to them about this scares you and I don't know what their response will be.

You MUST trust some adult to help you. You cannot do this on your own and it's not because you're a weak or bad kid, it's because right now you are too overwhelmed with sadness and despair. Confide in an adult, school counselor or clergy member whom you trust. Let them take some of the burden. They will be honored that you have chosen them to trust. It's the first big step that you have to take. You need a support system and the knowledge that grownups will stand by you as you show how much courage and determination you have.

You were not meant to fail school, to have no true friends, to dull yourself with weed. You were meant to know happiness and joy. There are many people out there, just waiting for a friend like you - people who don't need you to do drugs with them to be your friend. Let someone into your life who will help guide you and support you as you come back to life, to be the girl you were truly meant to be.

Re: running away…

The following is a brief list of suggestions that can help reduce the risk of a runaway. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions than may help. If the risk is high, and your relationship is extremely poor, including the level of trust, then these suggestions may not help.

· If you get overwhelmed or upset, tell your child "I'm overwhelmed and a little upset. I need a break and a chance to calm down and think about this." Then tell them you want a 20 minute (or so) break and then you will talk to them again. Be sure to take a break.

· Never call you teenager names or label them with words like liar, a thief, a brat, a punk, childish, immature, untrustworthy, selfish, cruel, unkind, stupid, etc... These words will not help. Your child will only begin to think of you in negative terms and may even start calling you worse names.

· Never dare your child to run away because you think they may not.

· Never explain yourself or argue if your child expects you to justify the fact that you do not agree.

· Never interrupt your teenager when they are talking or trying to explain something - even if you disagree. Waite until they are done.

· Never raise your voice or yell - especially when your teenager is raising their voice or yelling.

· Never use sarcasm or a negative attitude that demonstrates that you do not respect your teenager.

· Remember you can also agree with your child, but you don't have to let them do whatever they want. For instance, you might agree that their is be no significant difference between some teenagers who are 17 years old and some people who are 21 years old, but that does not mean you will allow teenagers to consume alcohol at a party at your house.

· Remind yourself that simply listening and telling your child that you understand does not mean you will agree when they are finished, nor does it mean you will do what they seem to want.

· Stay calm and quiet, make eye contact, and don't respond if your child is angry, shouting or in a rage. Wait until they are calm.

· Talk less and use fewer words than your teenagers.

· Tell you teenager that you understand what they are saying. Say "I understand." And if you don't understand, say "I'm not sure I understand, ...tell me again."

· When two parents are speaking with a teenagers, it is important to take turns, but be careful to let your teenagers speak as much as BOTH parents speak. Both parents should talk equally and use less words than their child.

· When you don't agree and you are certain that you understand your teenager's point of view (and your teenager believes you understand) tell your teenager. "I think I understand, but I don't agree with you. I want to think we can understand each other, but we don't have to agree."

· When your teenager stops talking, ask "Is there anything else you want to tell me." 

Re: theft…

When teens steal, it's recommended that parents follow through with strict consequences. For example, when a teen is caught shoplifting, the parent can take the child back to the store and meet with the security department to explain and apologize for what happened. If the teen steals from parents or other family members, the police should be called and theft charges should be filed. The teen's embarrassment at facing up to what she did makes for an everlasting lesson on why stealing is wrong.

Re: hanging with the wrong crowd…

Don't expect to like all your teen's friends. After all, do you like all your friends' children?

Accept teens 'try out' friends in the same way that they 'try out' fashions, lifestyles and even values in their search for a new adult identity. Avoid over-reacting and take comfort from the fact that many teen friendships are transitory!

Get to know your teen's friends... don't exclude them. You can't hold an opinion about somebody you don't know, as your teenager will be only too quick to tell you. Encourage your teen to hang out with friends at home. Get to know them and understand what your teen sees in them. It's easier to keep an eye on potential troublemakers when they're under your own roof.

Don't sweat the small stuff... base decisions on facts, not emotions. Try to keep feelings out of the picture and avoid unsubstantiated judgments. It will only annoy your teen and send her off complaining to her friends. Look past superficial images to the people they really are. You may find that you like them. Accept experimentation when things don't really matter; hair color and body-piercings are easily reversible. Be firm on rules that are important to you, like courtesy and consideration in the home.

Avoid criticism and keep communication open. Your teenager views criticism as an attack on his own judgment and may resort to secrecy to keep you off his back. Try to initiate positive discussion about your child's general social life and interests. This can also be a good time to subtly encourage other social opportunities such as part-time work or extracurricular activities.

Above all, make sure your teen understands that you are always available to talk about concerns and provide non-judgmental advice. It's the best way to keep track of small problems before they turn into major issues. If facts truly point to a potentially harmful situation, seek expert advice on an appropriate course of action.

Mark Hutten, M.A.



One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

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Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

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The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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When Your Teenager's "Best Friend" is a Negative Influence

"I am reading and reading your eBook, and I like it so far - makes a lot of sense - but the biggest problem for me with my teens especially the 16 year old girl is who her friends are. She has one best friend, and doesn't seem to hang around or call too many others - only one or two on the phone. But this girl is NOT one that is a positive influence in my daughter's life. While she is basically a sweet girl, she has had problems with drugs (in rehab type program) smokes (and now so does my daughter) has run away from home over night she is depressed and says she takes meds for her mood swings as well, and her parents that aren't as stable as would be preferred - and most sad is often accused by other kids of her "cheating" with my daughter's boyfriend, which kills my daughter but she always ends up believing her or at least saying so.

My daughter is often depressed and she says things like "I can't take any more" and she says I will kill myself when I tell her I think the other girl is a bad influence. She says she doesn't mean it but it scared me so now she sees a therapist. She had a different friend of exactly the same type but she "left" her for this girl. While she was friends with the other one, she "tried" drinking wine coolers and experimented a lot with sex. I have let her continue to hang out with her supervised at my house - but - I let her go to the movies with her the other night - telling her I decided to trust her - and specifically asked her to "do the right thing" - and stated that meant she was not to leave the movie theatre for any reason and I specifically said don't leave the building to go and smoke. She came home - I asked to smell her breath - and sure enough she smoked outside in front of the theatre - or so she says.

I can't figure out whether I am to allow her to hang out with this girl - I want her so badly to be friends with people who are on the HAPPIER side of life. I understand teenage angst, but these girls are really dark and down. How do I find advice about this? I am so desperate about this."


The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teens who feel isolated or rejected by their peers — or in their family — are more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to fit in with a group. In such situations, peer pressure can impair good judgment and fuel risk-taking behavior, drawing a teen away from the family and positive influences and luring into dangerous activities.

For example, teens with ADHD, ODD, learning differences or disabilities, depression, etc., are often rejected due to their behavior, and thus are more likely to associate with other rejected and/or delinquent peers. Some experts believe that teenage girls frequently enter into sexual relationships when what they are seeking is acceptance, approval, and love.

A powerful negative peer influence can motivate a teen to make choices and engage in behavior that his or her values might otherwise reject. Some teens will risk being grounded, losing their parents' trust, or even facing jail time, just to try and fit in or feel like they have a group of friends they can identify with and who accept them. Sometimes, teens will change the way they dress, their friends, give up their values or create new ones, depending on the people they hang around with.

Some teens harbor secret lives governed by the influence of their peers. Some — including those who appear to be well-behaved, high-achieving teens — engage in negative, even dangerous behavior when with their peers. Once influenced, teens may continue the slide into problems with the law, substance abuse, school problems, authority defiance, gang involvement, etc. If your daughter associates with peers who are using drugs or displaying self-destructive behaviors, then she is probably doing the same.

It is important to encourage friendships among teens. We all want our children to be with peers who will have a positive influence, and stay away from those who will encourage or engage in harmful, destructive, immoral, or illegal activities. Parents can support positive peer relationships by giving their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves.

Specifically, parents can show support by:
  • Be genuinely interested in your teen's activities. This allows parents to know their teen's friends and to monitor behavior, which is crucial in keeping teens out of trouble. When misbehavior does occur, parents who have involved their children in setting family rules and consequences can expect less flack from their children as they calmly enforce the rules. Parents who, together with their teens, set firm boundaries and high expectations may find that their teens' abilities to live up to those expectations grow.
  • Encourage independent thought and expression. In this way, teens can develop a healthy sense of self and an enhanced ability to resist peer pressure.
  • Have a positive relationship with your teen. When parent-teen interactions are characterized by warmth, kindness, consistency, respect, and love, the relationship will flourish, as will the teen's self-esteem, mental health, spirituality, and social skills.

You may not be comfortable about your daughter's choice of friends or peer group. This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors, etc.).

Here are some suggestions:
  • Check whether your concerns about your daughter's friends are real and important.
  • Do not attack your her friends. Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.
  • Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.
  • Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.
  • Get to know the friends of your teen. Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.
  • Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).
  • If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your daughter about her behavior and choices -- not the friends.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your daughter.
  • Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.
  • Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your daughter faces, she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Is your defiant teenager depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both?

My 14 (almost 15) yr. old son is dating a 17 yr. girl. Just about the time he started seeing her, my almost 17 yr. son came to me because he felt his brother was showing signs of depression. The oldest son is very mature, kind, very religious, and sensitive towards others, particularly his brothers. He showed me how to access his brother's instant messaging e-mails. I was then able to get into my son's head (he's not very talkative) and find out what is going on with his girlfriend because I had some concerns about their relationship. Also in his e-mails, he told his friends that he was very sad but didn't know why and that he doesn't believe in God. I kept on eye on it and didn't see anything more in the e-mail about him being sad nor did I notice him looking down until I grounded him. The younger one has had his moments of bad moods over the years, and with the combination of hormones and having a girlfriend in the picture, I decided to monitor it.

Long story short, I told him I didn't want him to be alone in the car with her. That's what started the terrible outbursts. My husband and I came home to them in our driveway and I knew they were doing more than kissing. I found out more on the e-mail. They are not there yet (physically) but will be if I don't try and prevent it. He doesn't know about the e-mail, of course. After I told him my concerns about being alone in the car with her, he had a major temper tantrum like I never saw before. He swore at me, threw things and screamed at me. I grounded him over the weekend. That meant more tantrums. My husband was out of town so I had to do this all by myself. My son took full advantage of his dad not being around and let it all out. Screaming and crying for hours begging and begging to go out.

He was telling me how very sad he was and that he needed to talk to his friends. Normally, he is a very good kid. Does very well in school (except after I told him about the car issue and the straight A student received a D on a test recently) and has great friends (including his girlfriend). I stood my ground with the grounding, but he was wearing me down. He followed me throughout the house crying and begging. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. I went into the bathroom a lot that day (yesterday) to get away from him. Sometimes he would get into a fetal position. At one point he grabbed a knife and said he was going to use it on himself. I didn't let on but I didn't believe him. The 17 yr old got it away from him. My older son was so upset that he broke down sobbing. I ended up calling the police after he threatened to take some pills. They talked to him and got him on the phone with a crisis center and recommended that he see someone. He told the counselor that if he had had a gun, he would have used it.

Afterwards, he was very tired and calm after 8 hrs of crying and went to bed (it was rather late). I was exhausted. At 6:45, he woke me up (it was a Sunday) to ask if it was now all right for him to see his friends that day. Technically, he was still grounded. After the scare from the night before, and the fact that I didn't want to go through it again...I told him yes. He ended up telling me his plans (his girlfriend was going to pick him up) and they were going out to eat and then her parent’s house to watch a movie. He was smiling when he walked in the door after being with her. He then asked me when dinner was because he wanted to go for some ice cream with her. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop when he was going to approach me again to tell me what his plans were. I didn't want to get into because I wasn't sure what stand to take. Apparently, she couldn't go, so instead of eating dinner, he went to be at 7pm. 
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I am so confused. Is he depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both? Regardless, I know he has a problem of some sort but....... it’s difficult to parent because I'm afraid of what he might do. I am going to seek help. I've already tried someone today but he wasn't available. On Friday, I did put a call into the guidance counselor but he wasn't available. Who should he see?

Thank you


Dear Parent,
Whether or not you feel that he is serious or just wanting the attention from it, you need to get him help. And I do not mean, talking to a counselor at school when he might be available next. I mean inpatient care if possible.

This can be done through a family doctor, or the ER. After any threat or attempt, it is best to have the teen evaluated by medical professionals.

This does several things. It helps to "feel out" if it was a threat or real. If it was real, it will be the first step in getting him help, and in helping him to understand that there are better ways to deal with his emotions. Second, if he was using it as a tool to get what he wants, he will learn very quickly that threatening to harm himself will not get him what he thinks it will - and is not ok to do.

Next time you do ground him, I would suggest to prevent what happened over this instance, don’t just ground him to your house. Take the computer, the cell phones, and tell him he comes out of his room (a) to eat when you call him to eat, (b) to go to the bathroom (but no more than 10 minutes can be spent in the bathroom at a time), (c) for emergencies of course - but not self created ones.

While I don’t advise reading your teen's emails, I feel that in this case you had reason to do so. I am not sure if you ought to read each and every email though. You might want to sit down with his girlfriend’s parents, and address some of your concerns about the physical part of your son's and their daughter’s relationship. It may very well be that they are unaware of the extent of it.

Remind your son, that due to federal and state law, once his girlfriend turns 18, the relationship with her will have to stop. She will be considered an adult, and he is still a minor.

But most important, I wouldn’t wait more then 24-36 hours before he sees someone. Admit him if you have to.


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