My teenage daughter is self-destructing. I've run out of ideas and I need help.
September 18, 2007 10:32 AM   Subscribe

How can I help my teenager?

I have a 16-yr. old daughter who has always been a great student - a real high achiever, and an all-around nice kid. She's in her Junior year of high school, and she's currently enrolled in a very tough schedule: 3 AP courses, one honors course, plus she's a serious musician (she's drum major in her band, too). Instead of working hard like she needs to do in her courses, she's avoiding work, spending way too much time on the phone, lying to us about where's she's going, and in general acting irresponsibly. My spouse and I have always had a very good and close relationship with her (she calls me her best friend), but our communication has died. WTF?

I know that much of this can be chalked up to normal teenage stuff like testing her wings socially (she has really blossomed in the last year into a beautiful girl). We have tried to talk to her about striking a balance, saving one night for social activity, shutting off the cell phone when she's home, etc. She agrees to these things, then does things like keeping her cell phone on vibrate after she goes to bed so that she can text her friends until 1:30 am. Last week, she said that she was going bowling with her girlfriend, and I then found out that she picked up a boy that we didn't much care for (he's gotten in trouble at school and is a poor student) and went out joyriding. In my car. EEK! We've now reverted to parent-strong-disciplinarian mode: required her to turn over her cell phone to us when she gets home, restricted her computer access, temporarily grounded her for the joy-ride episode.

I've offered to go down to the guidance office with her and help her transfer out of one or more of her AP courses, thinking that she's feeling too much pressure and that this is a reaction. But, she's emphatic about sticking with it. She's a really smart girl, but her grades are slipping, and she's cutting corners by buying Spark Notes, etc. We work with her on her problem sets, and have offered to set up study groups in our home on weekends so that she can combine some study time with her friends. No luck. What now? I'm hoping that there's something other than "I'm your new asshole Overlord who runs your life and doesn't trust you" that will work here. Any suggestions? Just let her fail? Set really firm limits (as we're doing now), wait it out, it'll pass?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
it's not the end of the world. she's 16. I know you don't want to hear this. but it's not the end of the world.
posted by matteo at 10:41 AM on September 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

She doesn't seem like she's doing anything terribly dangerous. Just normal teenager stuff. I'd set baseline limits (curfew, homework done before she gets her cell phone back, etc) and then wait it out. You can't shield her from everything, but if she respects and trusts you, she's less likely to get in any real trouble.
posted by desjardins at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2007

She's 16. Get over the "my best friend" crap. 16 year olds act exactly as she is, and you *need* to be an "asshole Overlord," because (based on what you've said) she's acting irresonsibly and you *shouldn't* trust her. She'll get over it. Removing her chosen responsibilities (such as AP classes) is cutting a path for her to be even more lazy; you'd essentially be making it easier for her to lounge around doing what she wants. Kudos to her for not wanting these responsibilities removed - this shows at least some maturity and some sense of duty. Set very firm limits. For instance, how long was her "temporary" grounding? It should be a time set in stone.

Kids have a tough time, but it's tougher when parents don't want to be parents because they're caught in the "friend" mode. That's in the past and in the future. Today is asshole Overlord day.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

oh, and this is NOT self-destruction. Needle tracks, pregnancy, cutting, prostitution, dropping out of school - that's self-destruction. This is totally within the normal range.
posted by desjardins at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

How about taking her to look at some colleges during the upcoming weekends, so she can see the point of maintaining those grades? The only reason I kept my grades up at that age was because I really really wanted to get the hell out of my hometown and go to college.

I'm not sure why the grades of the boy she likes has any relevance, though.
posted by xo at 10:48 AM on September 18, 2007

From what you've described, she isn't "self-desctructing" at all. I would be more concerned if she wasn't doing these completely normal 16-year old things.

You created another person, and now she's starting to make her own decisions. None of these decisions sound particularly awful so far, unless "slipping grades" means "flunking out completely."

Don't worry too much, don't overreact. Everything is okay.
posted by lemuria at 10:49 AM on September 18, 2007

Something you may want to consider here is that no matter how firm of a disciplinarian you are right now, you're getting toward the very tail end of the time you're going to be able to impose limits on your child at all. She's 16: in a few years she'll be in college, and be largely required to manage her own academic and social schedules, her own time, her own money, etc. So it's really not possible for you to control her to an extent that will make her life exactly as you'd like it to be, anyway, and if you're able to slowly start letting her make her own choices now, rather than in a lump sum later, you can perhaps help guide her into sensible patterns.

You sound loving and worried and a little - I'm sorry - draconian. So she takes her phone to bed and texts her friends until 1:30 AM.

So? What is so terrible about that? That she's exhausted the next day? Part of being a teenager is learning to manage your time. How will she ever learn the benefit of getting to bed on time if she doesn't have a few weeks of utterly miserable mornings and nodding off in class?

So her grades are slipping. So? Is that really a disaster? If so, why? Because of college? Maybe you can sit down and say "Listen, here is why Dad and I are worried about your grades: the way our family finances are set up, we need you to get a merit scholarship to help pay for college. Are you interested in college? If you are, this is the GPA we need you to maintain. How can we help you do that?"

I'm with matteo, above. It's not the end of the world. In fact, it sounds like you have a very easy teenager. Give her some space.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2007 [13 favorites]

I agree with Dee Xtrovert. You are her parent, not her best friend. If you don't want to be an "asshole overlord", just be a parent with an iron fist. I think personally that parents who are "friends" with their kids don't set enough rules and boundaries. Don't be afraid to discipline-and she's acting like a 16 year-old.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2007

i wouldn't worry about turning into the absolute overlord. it sounds like you're doing all the right things (i'm not a parent, but i was once a teenage girl).

i wouldn't set limits on who she can hang out with--the more you disapprove of that boy, the more appealing he'll be to her. instead, talk about using good judgment--why you are uncomfortable with some of the things he does, and you don't want her to feel pressured to participate in them. (as for grades--hard to judge someone on those. remember, einstein almost flunked out.)

meaningful consequences are also good. make sure she knows that she lost her cellphone privileges because she was up too late and was tired the next day, not because she disobeyed you. make sure she knows she is grounded because joyriding is illegal, not because she disobeyed you. make sure she knows she is losing computer time because her grades are falling, not because you're displeased. reward her for things you can verify--when you give her back her phone, take it away if she misuses it again. when her grades come up, let her back on the computer.

the hardest thing to police is whether or not she's with her friends, but you can call and check up with her--if she says she's out bowling with julie, call her cell and ask to speak to julie. if she misses your call, she has to call back within half an hour. if she's going to a movie, she has to bring home her ticket stub. (it's the only thing she'll be doing at night where she might not be able to call back within the designated window of time.) make sure there are consequences for unreturned calls.

basically, what you want to do is reinforce her good judgment rather than your authority, because at this age, you really don't have much authority left.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

This was me circa 1996, except I waited until after I got into the college I wanted. I turned out OK. As my parents tried to place more limits on me, I just became more creative about how to get around them.

I know now that I was overreacting to a lot of the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. At everything. All the time. In my situation, I think easing up on some of the AP and Honors coursework would have helped. Your daughter may feel that way too. I remember dropping ridiculously subtle hints that I maybe wanted to actually take a lunch or a study hall instead of filling my school days with electives, and would have in a heartbeat had I heard any affirmation that it was OK and I was still a good student and person and daughter and all that. But since my parents couldn't read my mind, it didn't work that way at the time. Alas.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2007

You are walking on a tightrope. Do not cancel her out of her AP classes against her will - do you want to torpedo her shot at a decent college? 16 year olds test limits. Bear in mind she's going to be out of your house with no supervision in less than 2 years. She has to learn how to do that and part of learning is screwing up a little.

You have the right idea. You have to set firm limits and goals, but behind the scenes you have to be willing to let her fail. If you keep catching her when she falls it'll just make it that much harder when she moves across country 2 years from now.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2007

I agree with everyone else, especially the college aspect. She's going to do things you won't like, which is different than things that are bad for her. If she can see and set long-term goals she can prioritize herself. This is a very important lesson that many people with strict parents who control everything for them, and thus do not have to organize themselves, don't learn until they leave the house.

She's obviously not a bad kid, as others have stated. The worst thing you can do is push her into being one, not that such thing is an inevitability with strict parenting. You want her to come to you when she has actual problems. This won't happen if she things she's going to get yelled at and have things taken away. Taking away things is something you do to little kids, not teenagers who are not conforming to what you wanted them to become.

Oh and the last thing you want to do is create a barrier between her and her friends. If they see you as a giant asshole, they will treat you as one. There's a huge difference between being a party mom in Mean Girls to being someone who her friends respect.
posted by geoff. at 10:59 AM on September 18, 2007

I was your daughter - it was my senior year in high school, and back in the day before cellphones and personal computers, but still.

Discipline is good, and yes, she's being a teenager, but I'll add one note of warning: you may want to consider having her evaluated for depression. I was depressed, and hid it well: kept my grades mostly good, continued to do extracurriculars, hang out with friends, etc., but the pressure I felt was enormous. I "acted out" by procrastinating on really important shit (college applications), and my mom practically had to yank my teeth out to get me to admit that I felt horrible and paralyzed and like I was a bad person, a failure. I got some counseling and things got better.

IANAD, and she may not be depressed. But the "good" kids are often the best at hiding it.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

I agree with most of the above advice: she is normal, you are doing the right thing by setting rules and punishments for disobedience, etc.

One thing I would add is that it sounds like she is indeed under a lot of pressure, and she is finding less than ideal (but not terrible) ways to blow off steam. Maybe you could take her to do something fun and relaxing- manicures or a massage, or fun and exciting- baseball game, so that she can have some parent-endorsed, wholesome, non-homework time.

When I was that age, I felt a lot of pressure in school and my parents asked me to drop courses or quit the cross country team. But of course I didn't- of course I could handle all of these obligations, plenty of other kids did and that is how you get into college. She might be feeling the same way.

My dad used to take me to a comedy club sometimes. I think it helped to have an activity that was not school or social pressure-related.
posted by rmless at 11:10 AM on September 18, 2007

So, you're being supportive (offering various types of help but letting her call the shots on what you do for her) yet still firmly The Parent?

You're doing everything right. Seriously. Just hang in there.
posted by desuetude at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2007

I think the above posters are right, but as for a suggestion of what you could do, a mandatory study group could work really well. Maybe she can have three social nights a week, if one is study, where her classmates come over and eat nachos and stay till 11 when you drive them home? That would be fun, habit forming, and challenging I'd think. (personally, I had more than that, and I passed all my AP classes and got into the college I wanted, but that was with a 3.33 GPA only)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2007

More social nights, I mean. I was not well supervised.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:13 AM on September 18, 2007

My parents solved that by letting me do whatever I wanted. They would always say "Oh, you are going binge drinking with your friends until the morning on a school night? Sure, we trust you. You know what's best for you. You've always had." And this was not sarcasm. It was genuine trust. That completely killed my attempt at being a teenage rebel. Also, it made me feel like a fool. I was proud of being top of the class and realized I didn't want to lose that. But I still managed to get drunk, have sex, ride motorbikes and go to trash metal concerts. In an oddly careful and responsible way, if you can imagine that. And to go to college on a high GPA.

Sounds like she enjoys her success too if she doesn't want to give up some AP's. My guess is she's just trying to find a balance and not miss out on those fantastically stupid teenager experiences that make such good stories 10 years later. Clever kid.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 11:25 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

She's not self-destructing.

I agree with those that said limits are good, but not to be too draconian. I had a terrible attitude toward authority as a teenager, but didn't get into too much trouble because my mom chose her battles carefully. In other words, if it's something you can let go, let it go. She'll get to flex her mighty teenage defiance muscles by disobeying you, and no harm will come to her. I didn't clean my room for three years b/c my mom figured I could close my door, no one had to see it but me, and we could fight about more important things. Same might go for texting until 1:30am.

Also, the person who said to explain why some rules need to be followed is 110% right. "Because I said so," is the fastest way to get a rebellious kid to go do exactly what you said not to do. I broke some rules as a kid, but not the ones against drinking and driving, using drugs, getting pregnant, etc because I knew why those rules were different than some of the others. Being left alone to break some rules let me get my rebellious energy satisfied w/o doing any real harm to myself. And, I knew that if I had questions about any of those things I could go to my parent. You don't have to be her friend to be approachable.

Finally, Sparks notes never killed anybody. I skated on schoolwork, graduated with honors, and did just fine in college and law school (but no more honors).
posted by Mavri at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2007

I agree with the others; you need to keep this in perspective. I know it's tough when it's your kid, but when I saw the thread title I thought you were gonna tell us your kid was taking methamphetamine and dropping out of school.

Your daughter isn't self-destructing. She's being a teenager. If the worst thing you have to deal with is handing out with a boy you don't totally approve of, you've had a pretty damn easy time of it. Be thankful.

Sounds to me like you are handling things pretty well. Being fair but strict if the situation requires it. Being a friend is fine, but make sure you stick to being a parent first. Your kid already had friends but you and your spouse are the only parents she's got.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on September 18, 2007

She didn't want to drop a hard class, so that suggests she actually cares about the outcome of her own decisions. Ease up on the disciplinarian stuff a bit, and instead, try to get her to set some of her own boundaries and rules. For instance, if she wants to goof off from homework, ask her when she's going to finish, instead of demanding that she do so immediately. When her grades come, they will probably be lower than in the past. Don't completely flip out. Do explain that you are very worried, and why. She will know you're upset without you taking away all recreation from her forever, and she'll be upset with herself. The idea is that she'll see that she'll have to start making decisions for herself, not for you. And next semester, hopefully her decisions will be wiser.

Oh, also, does she have a job? Is she in many activities? If not, or not many, it might help. For a lot of students, being busy helps productivity, since you are forced to plan things out. Make sure it doesn't get out of hand though.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2007

You call that self destructing?

As far as "hanging out with a boy you don't care for" because he get poor grades, well, why is it any of your business anyway.

I mean, what's the worst that could happen her? She goes to state school? Lighten up.

Just explain the real-world consequences for her actions (like not getting into a good school), make sure she understands them, and let her make her own choices.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

You need to read Hold on to Your Kids. I know I recommended it yesterday as well, and I really hate to look like a person with an agenda, but it is practically written for parents like you. Even if you don't like the title or the cover, or the entire premise of the book, you should really read it anyway.

I agree with the others that this is not self-destructing, but it can lead to worse problems if you do not handle it well now, and I strongly believe that most of the toughen-up advice you received here is counter productive and will lead to more problems, not less.
posted by davar at 11:41 AM on September 18, 2007

You can't really control this. It is up to her to work hard. I like the suggestion of visiting a few colleges to help her focus on getting ready for the college application process. It would also be a good time to have some discussions about maintaining focus and keeping up with the work. As for the boy, unless he is going to get her into drugs or other trouble I would tread carefully here. Talking is your best mode to helping her, and by talking I really mean listening.
posted by caddis at 11:52 AM on September 18, 2007

I 2nd what davar just said. As soon as I read your post I went and grabbed the link to Hold On to Your Kids. It's an amazing book that will give you a very different perspective on exactly what is happening, why it's happening, and how to rebuild your relationship with your daughter.
posted by Bradley at 11:57 AM on September 18, 2007

Don't cancel her out of AP classes. This is normal teenage behavior. She's probably been under great pressure to achieve all her life and is now hitting that point where she's trying to figure out if she's been achieving for you or for herself. Going from a social caterpillar to a butterfly is also an exhilarating experience--"People my own age like me? As a friend? I'm capable of being liked outside of adults who like me because I'm polite and get good grades? Wow!"

Let this stuff go. Make sure she's got a safe place to come home to. If she does stuff that is absolutely not tolerable--stealing the car to go joyriding, for example--set those limits. But hanging out with friends you don't like and letting her grades slip a bit? Seriously, let it go.
posted by schroedinger at 12:06 PM on September 18, 2007

Everybody should lie to their parents about bowling and go joyriding at least once in their teenage years. Yeah, she was breaking the rules -- that's what makes it fun. Once you're in college you can go joyriding anytime you want, only it isn't joyriding anymore because nobody cares where you are. This is classic growing-up stuff.

The worst thing you can do is overreact. Kids are smart. She knows that what she's doing isn't a Big Deal in the scheme of things (drugs, needles, pregnancy, dropping out, running away, etc), but if you start punishing her like she just robbed a liquor score and bought some crack, she could up her crimes to meet the punishment. Set boundaries, enforce them fairly, and don't lose sight of her impressive accomplishments. (Drum Major her junior year? Seriously? I'm impressed.) Reminding her that you're proud of her is a better incentive to good behavior than telling her what a disappointment she's become.
posted by junkbox at 12:10 PM on September 18, 2007

It probably doesn't fit the bill exactly, but this thread is probably worth reading.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:21 PM on September 18, 2007

She's 16, she is starting to take control of her own life as she should and must. The fact that some of the ways she's asserting that control may be somewhat against her own interests suggests that maybe you need to give her more freedom in other aspects of her life to make more of her own choices.

There are a bewildering number of paths through life available to a smart middle-class 16 year old, you can help her by making those paths more understandable. What you can do as a parent is help her understand the choices she has, the consequences of those choices and the compromises the various options entail.

When I was about that age I had very little direction, but I had various interests, and one of them was cooking. It really helped me to have my mother suggest that I might consider becoming a chef. It helped me when my father gave my a New Yorker article by a physicist who was also an excellent writer and once I'd gotten into it, talked to me about what a writer's life could be like. I haven't done either of those things, but it really helped for them to point out some landmarks on the horizon to help me get my bearings.

There is nothing wrong with providing consequences to bad choices, but it's important to make sure she has increacing opportunity to make her own choices, good and bad, and to enjoy or suffer the consequences offered by the wider world.
posted by Good Brain at 12:32 PM on September 18, 2007

All you need to do is lock her down even tighter until drugs are the only way for her to escape your control-freakery.
posted by rhizome at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Two bits of sage advice from my family:

This too shall pass...

At some point you have to let them sink or swim.

Your daughter is going to be the person she is going to be despite all of your best efforts, and how she turns out does not, and should not totally reflect on you as the parent. The values your daughter inherits will not be the product of draconian conditioning but rather learning. It is better for her to learn why she should not do something rather than frame everything in terms of what her parents will do or say. Eventually you won't be around to set her boundries for her.

That said if things go really south you may want to intervene, but a few indiscretion should be expected if not encouraged. Step back and let the kid make her own boundaries. The best you can hope for is that when things go wrong she will come to you for advice. That is the true sign that she is your best friend.
posted by kscottz at 12:45 PM on September 18, 2007

Nthing Lucia's folks did pretty much the same thing, although I didn't hit my "rebellious" streak until late in senior year. And my folks basically said, "keep your grades up and don't get arrested, and don't drive if you've been drinking." Having such tacit "permission" sort of took the fun out of being bad. And, being an A student like your daughter, in the back of my mind, no matter how late I stayed up or how much I partied with my friends, I still had a sort of unspoken "thing" in the back of my mind that I must keep up my grade point average. Many of my fellow AP students also partied heartily, but there was still the peer pressure in that group to score well on tests and turn in papers on time.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2007

I hit my rebellious streak during my senior year when I was 17. Among other stuff, I did the typical thing of ignoring my curfew and staying out all night with my friends to see what would happen. My mom was annoyed, but basically said she knew I would be away at college soon and at that point I would be able to stay out all night unbeknown to her, but until then she just wanted to know that I was safe. Her only request was to please call her to let her know where I was, even if it was 3am. Oh. After that I decided my parents respected me and were basically impossible to piss off, and consequently I respected THEM enough to not want to worry them, so I went back to calling in and being my usual Good Daughter. Note: This probably doesn't work for truly self-destructive teens, but it sounds like your daughter has more in common with me than with a teen prostitute.

Oh, and do NOT get your daughter out of any AP classes. Having mom and dad help her shirk her chosen responsibilities does not prepare her for college or the real world.
posted by gatorae at 1:27 PM on September 18, 2007

Wow, I can't believe some people are calling you "draconian" and a "control freak." I think you seem to be striking a pretty good balance between being The Parent (which is still your job), and the friend.

I strongly disagree with those who suggest you should basically allow a 16 year old to make decisions without consequence. I did a lot of stupid things when I was 16 ("surfing" on top of moving cars, dangerous levels of drinking, etc.) that I wish I hadn't done. I believe that most 16 year olds lack a proper perspective or sense of what is safe and what is dangerous. To a great extent, it's the role of the parent of a teenager to do his or her best to make sure the child is staying within reasonable boundaries. While, yes, I turned out fine, the people who didn't turn out so fine aren't around to post on MetaFilter.

As far as "hanging out with a boy you don't care for" because he get poor grades, well, why is it any of your business anyway.

Um, because she's her mother? (Also, nice editing -- she said poor grades and trouble at school). Sorry, bub, if she believes the kid is a negative influence on her daughter, it's her business. A 16 year old in love doesn't have a great sense of perspective about the future.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:31 PM on September 18, 2007

Um, because she's her mother? (Also, nice editing -- she said poor grades and trouble at school). Sorry, bub, if she believes the kid is a negative influence on her daughter, it's her business. A 16 year old in love doesn't have a great sense of perspective about the future.

But the daughter isn't getting into trouble at school, so how is the boy actually influencing her? How does Mom know that her daughter isn't actually influencing the boy to become more responsible? Or if neither one is emulating the other, but both have the same taste in music or sense of humor?
posted by xo at 1:54 PM on September 18, 2007

Reasonable consequences, keep the lines of communication open as you have been (explaining why you are taking privileges away), and do NOT take her out of AP classes. My parents were wonderfully loving and supportive, to the point where I didn't accomplish as much as I could have because they were always satisfied with me, no matter how little I tried. A little firmness is called for.

Your daughter's not on drugs and she's motivated enough not to want to drop her AP courses. Sounds like you have done a lot right here. If she slips up and has to take summer school or work harder next semester, it's a lesson she can apply later in life.

By the way, what's wrong with cutting corners and buying Sparks notes? She IS 16, and she has a full plate with that course schedule and her music. Sounds to me like she just needs to have a little fun and blow off some steam. I'd relax the "working with her on the problem sets" thing, and let her know that when her grades come back up, the restrictions are off. That will motivate her to work hard, so that she can enjoy some down time, which it sounds like she desperately needs.
posted by misha at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2007

This was me in 11th grade. I was testing out my social interactions and seeing what it was like to let my grades slip a bit. I nearly failed 11th grade math, then panicked and studied hard enough to pull up to a bare C on the final. I goofed off. I worked and spent money on restaurants and clothes and other fun things. I talked on the phone till 5 in the morning. I partied. I hung out with people with colourful histories. And then I went into 12th grade. I took the math course over and got 85%. I won scholarships. I focused on getting into university. At university, I did a great job of managing my money, school work, jobs and friends. I went on to move up quickly in my career, start a business and complete graduate school. So I'd suggest letting your daughter experiment. She'll need the lifeskills to manage the rest of her life. I'm sure it's not easy to let go, but the mistakes she may be making now may provide her with the tools she needs to succeed in the future.
posted by acoutu at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2007

1) Don't worry too much. I'm actually jealous that your daughter has such a happening social life. I sure didn't when I was her age, and I'm still slogging through college.

2) Have a nice long talk with her about birth control and STDs. No offense, but she's probably been "joyriding" in the very real sense. To me, pregnancy at 16 is far, far worse than graduating with a 3.2 GPA.
posted by Avenger at 3:25 PM on September 18, 2007

You can't make her want to buckle down.

You can insist that she not lie to you, and that you know where she is.

She may not like you much for awhile. That's okay.

Please try not to live your life thru your daughter's achievements or future possibilities. Right now your responsibility is to keep parenting her the best you can-the rest is really up to her.

I have three adult children. They have by turns delighted and freaked me out at some of their choices in life. But I am proud of how they are turning out now.
posted by konolia at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2007

Wow. I really can't believe this thread. I mean, it feels like you are talking about this girl like she was a dog or something. At 16 she's practically an adult, only two years away from sovereignty. She sounds like she wants to work hard and accomplish a lot, but chances are she wants those things for herself, not for you. You can help provide structure if she wants it, but really it ought to be up to her.

If she was into drugs, crime, etc, then obviously things would be different. But personally nothing you described seems like something the parents of a 16 year old really ought to have control over. A 14 year old, sure, but as teens get older they deserve more liberty. Treating a 17 year old the same way your would a 12 year old isn't appropriate.

Make sure she understands her choices, but don't restrict her like that.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on September 18, 2007

One thing to point out: It's September. She's been back to school for what, a month?

If it comes up to an actual bad report card, sit down and have a serious conversation. But limiting cell phone usage, etc., is just going to make your daughter tug harder.

Oh, and as for the boy you don't like? Tell her you don't like him, and leave it at that. Forbidding her to see him will just make her idolize him. She'll realize sooner or later that either (a) you're wrong about him or (b) he's not all he seems.
posted by brina at 4:24 PM on September 18, 2007

You know how, when kids get to about age 6, their milk teeth fall out and their adult teeth start to grow in?

I think exactly the same thing happens with brains, a year or two after puberty. Teenagers lose their milk brains. For a few years, their judgement just goes all to shit.

This is normal. This happens to everybody. If your own memory is OK, I'm sure you will recall it happening to you. Also, the assumption that it will happen to everybody is built right in to society. So, provided you can help her avoid doing things that really are going to seriously fuck up her body and/or mind for life (like falling off the roof of a train, or becoming unexpectedly pregnant, or getting a smack habit) she'll come out fine.

You need to get clear in your own mind the distinction between stuff that affects her actual physical safety, and stuff that doesn't. She will quite literally have forgotten everything she knows about that, and she needs you to sub for her judgement until her adult brains grow in. It's OK to go the Asshole Overlord on safety.

But you'll find it's counterproductive to go the Asshole Overlord on achievement. She'll be moving away from being motivated by pleasing you, and toward being motivated by forming and pursuing her own goals. This will probably suck for you until you get used to it. It's basically the time in your life where you get to sit back and watch, and find out whether any of that stuff you've been showing her for the past 16 years actually is worth anything.

You should not try to be her best friend any more, either. This will suck for you too; you will end up feeling like you've been dumped for no good reason. This is basically because you have been.

But you're the adult, so you get to deal with this in the adult way, and just learn to be there for her when she really, really needs you to be. As she will. And in a few years, when those brains have grown back in again, you may well find you have one of the best adult friends you'll ever have.
posted by flabdablet at 5:32 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can't make her want to buckle down.

You can insist that she not lie to you, and that you know where she is.

She may not like you much for awhile. That's okay.

sage advice
posted by caddis at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2007

If she wants to do something, and it doesn't affect you personally, let her do it. Her life is hers to nurture, hers to ruin.
posted by tehloki at 6:29 PM on September 18, 2007

Rent Freaks & Geeks. Watch it.
posted by robcorr at 7:52 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

To be honest, I would be concerned if she wasn't doing those things. Around this time, kids need to test their boundries, find out how to take care of themselves, make their own choices.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:34 PM on September 18, 2007

If you're still reading this...pick your battles. Out joy riding late at night -not good AT ALL. Leaving your phone on vibrate so you can text your friends -who cares? She's sixteen-she will grow up and get over it. It sounds to me like you're hovering and she's rebeling as a result.

If these are the worst things she ever does, you're a very lucky parent. Again, PICK YOUR BATTLES.
posted by rcavett at 9:19 PM on September 18, 2007

My son is finishing school this year. With his cooperation, his grades have moved from C- to B+ in most classes because I sit at the kitchen table with him for two hours every week night while he does his homework/ study/ assignments. He occasionally chats with me about stuff (eg what the hell is this in the Great Gatsby) but mostly, I think, it's that I have to suffer too, so therefore it's worthwhile.

Lectures, suggestions, threats, none of these worked.
posted by b33j at 1:42 AM on September 19, 2007

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