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.



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