29 answers

Seeking Advice for Out of Control 16 Year Old

I am seeking advice for a 16 year old who is out of control. A little bit about our sitation - I am 31 single female (no kids)with a 16 year old sister. Our mother died over 14 years ago, so she was raised primarily by our father. Out of pity for my youngest sister, he let her grow up doing whatever she wanted - no disipline whatsoever. In total, my father father has 4 kids - we are all from the same 2 parents. During these past years, ny father did not want us coming around or trying to disipline the youngest. Now at 16, she is beyond control. She disrespects my father in the worst way, is hardly ever home, goes to school when she wants to, is sexually active...the list goes on. My father is now fustrated and now EXPECTS us to step in but NOT tell her anything?? I have researched boot camps but they are way to expensive. I do not want her to ruin her life, but don't know what I can do. I feel overwhelmed at times because I am expected to step in now as the oldest. Is there anything that can be done?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

This works...www.sosinc.org. Enroll her in Basic 1. It's onlyl $79 if you sign up a week prior (it's offered each month). It might be for 18 and up...if so, there is a teen program. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Here is a webpage that lists a lot of different choices, including the Girlstown USA phone number. Hope this helps and have faith... this too shall pass.

More Answers

I'm also a single mom and before you start looking at bootcamps, I would try and be more active with her. My daughter started doing some of the same and I was lost. I tried to think of how I could better monitor her and realized that she wasn't getting any monitoring but somehow a lot of what she was doing I was still finding out about it. It dawned on me that maybe she was wanting to get caught for the attention. When I seeked advice, I was told to laid down the rules and reinforce boundaries but I remembered growing up that when my Dad used to do that with me, it made me want to do it even more. I took the opposite approach. I stopped disciplining and started planning things with her. Going to the movies, shopping, taking her out of school for lunch, sent her balloons. At first, she balked and sulked and acted like she didn't enjoy it and her attitude even got worst. I just never responded. When she got into trouble at school, I would handle it and tell her simply that she knew what she did was wrong and there is nothing else say about it. And then expecting to be grounded or yelled at...I would tell her we were going horseback riding or on a roadtrip. It took a couple months and I almost gave up but I finally saw her respond to me, our outings became more relaxed and we talked more. I know this sounds like parenting fluff but I've found the unexpected gets the point across more often than not. And if nothing else, don't tell her she's ruining her life. It's not great and she'll have to work hard to make up time lost but no one's life is ruined. My daughter had told me that one of things she hated most that I said was "she's ruining her life." She said it made her feel panic and more out of control but when we started doing things together, she felt less pressured and looked forward to things we would do. The biggest thing she shared....she felt guilt when she thought of skipping school and I had taken her to the movies. Guilt is a powerful leverage.

1 mom found this helpful

Girlstown USA in whiteface texas.I was sent there at 15 and it saved my life.They are great and free if they think they can help.All the girls live on campus 50-60 girls in all 10 girls per cattage.They have chores and jobs also lots of activites for positive reinforcement.They attend pulic school in whiteface.While I was there I did rodeo choir and band and showed animals in 4-h.You have what they call status and that is basically how they grade your behavior and that determines your privileges each week.If they decide to graduate from there they give reall good scholorships.They have a program for the seniors call the transistional living program where they teach about budgeting and life in generaal to prepare the girls for life after graduation.There is a chapel on campus that the girls attend wednesday night and sunday morning.I can explain the benfits of sending a child here.It was the best thing that ever happened to me.They will visit about once every month.Minimum stay they reccomend is a year.after my year was up I decided to graduate from there and stayed for 3 years.If you have any questions feel free to email me ____@____.com .

1 mom found this helpful

This works...www.sosinc.org. Enroll her in Basic 1. It's onlyl $79 if you sign up a week prior (it's offered each month). It might be for 18 and up...if so, there is a teen program. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

First let me say that I am praying for you and your sister. I completely understand what you are going through. My daughter was out of control when she was 16. She was skipping school, hanging out with some really scuzzy people. It is so hard to find help. The only thing the school would do to help was threaten to take me to court because she was skipping school. I would drop her off, she would go in the front door of the school and out the back door. They would call my house and leave messages, which she of course erased along with the caller ID. I too could not afford boot camps. A counselor that we were seeing for anger management - she ran away and the police require them to take it, told me about Boles Childrens Home. It is a Christian organization in Quinlan. About 45 minutes east of Dallas. I got her in there and she lived with a wonderful couple and several other girls for about 6 months. It changed her life. She graduated from high school a year early and got an early grad scholarship. She still had some issues to work through, but sending her away broke the cycle that she was in with these friends. The cost is on a sliding scale according to what you can afford. It is a very open place, you can visit and they get to come home quite often and their summer programs are awesome. Here is a link to their website. www.boleschildrenshome.org

1 mom found this helpful

So what your dad is asking for, is for you and the other older sibs to step in and do/say something to set her straight, but do it without "saying anything" to offend her.


I think first you need to do some tough love with Dad - tell him obviously HIS method doesn't work, and if he wants your help, it will be on your terms, with his support. He either agrees that you ALL get tough with her and deal with it as it needs to be, or STOP ASKING for help.

Tell your dad until he is willing to accept that he enables her behavior by tip-toeing around little sis, there is nothing you can do or say. He either gets on board by being willing to get tough and support what you older sibs want to do/say to re-direct her, or he can deal with it on his own and STOP complaining to you.

You can't fix little sis until you fix Dad, which is the source of the problem.

1 mom found this helpful

The State of Louisiana has a program called Youth Challenge and TOTALLY free. I am sure it is restricted to Louisiana troubled youth but you might inquire if the State of Texas has a similiar program. It is sponsored via the Louisiana National Guards/Army. Google Louisiana Youth Challenge to get contact information. I've been exactly where you are at now but only with a step son who's mother was mental and subsequently died and the boy's father now my husband has no testicles when dealing with his child. I could tell you stories that would make you go yep, that's what I'm going through ... Anyways, Good luck and God bless.

I choose change. It is in Allen on Greenville. Ms. Patrice is a wonderful counselor/life coach. I am praying for you.

Watch CMT's "Worlds Strictest Parents". What I think she needs is some seriously tough love. She needs to know there are consequences for her actions. Follow through, and keep it up. So what if she yells that she hates you. I promise you I promise you, she will love you more than you can imagine if you put your foot down and enforce the rules.

For any parent, no matter what the age of the children, Love and Logic is very helpful. www.loveandlogic.com It will hopefully give Dad a new perspective on parenting and the skills to parent differently. Kyle Bolton at the Keller Church of Christ teaches the class at cost, about $40. I think his email is ____@____.com don't go to the church but drove 40 miles round trip to take the class. Totally affordable and worth the money. All other classes I've taken were then wastes of time and money compared to it. I read responses and think if Girlstown will take her, I'd try it.

Check with your local police station...they often offer all types of free programs for teens, kind of like a Jr. ROTC program.

Honestly, I don't think there is much you can do at this point to undo 14 years of no (poor) parenting. Your father is the one that needs to step in as the parent - he needs to find a good family counselor. But, in my experience, if the child doesn't get the boundaries they need established in these areas by the time they are 10-12, then the teen years go like this and there's not much to do - she has unfortunately not received any moral or social guidance, nor does she have any clue about her responsibilities in two years as an adult. She is likely going to have to learn things the hard way.

You might check with the school district to see if they can provide any economical recommendations. And, your father should check with his insurance policy and HR dept to see what counseling they can provide - mine provides 8 sessions at no cost. And, you could always write to the Dr. Phil show - this sounds like the sort of thing he knows how to deal with - and again your father has as many issues as your sister IMHO. And, at this point, it really isn't your problem. I grew up in a large family and I know the unrealistic expectations parents can make on the older kids and honestly, it's not fair for parents to forgo their responsibilities in this manner nor expect their adult children to fix the mistakes they made as parents.

We were in a similar situation with my sister-in-law. Her mother and father (my husband's step-father) had her late in life and she was always "the perfect little angel" to everyone and got what she wanted constantly and as her parents got older they became more and more lax with her and she got in alot of trouble constantly. Drugs, sex, expelled from school, etc. We all tried to do what we could as older siblings but we met the same resistant like you, we were told we were not her parents and we should butt out but if something came up we were all of a sudden asked to step in and try and talk to her. Sadly their mother died suddenly when she was 16 and it did get worst as her father struggled to cope. I can't say that her story has gotten much better but I can tell you that sadly her choices may become more destructive as we saw with our sister. We did get alot of help from our family pediatrician, they offered suggestions of counselors and facilities to try and help her and they monitored her health and behavior very closely with us. When she did go to counseling it did improve her behavior though she did not keep up with it. Maybe if one or all of you can commit to doing sessions with her seperately or together or making sure she goes counseling might help her. Asking the school counselor would also be a good idea. We were not able to call as siblings to get info for our sister so it will have to be her parent but if he is willing to get the info maybe you guys can step in and implement it. I know it is hard, but I think you will have to help. Our sister's father removed himself from the picture and we saw our sister go downhill fast. I hope it goes well for your family. Sorry this is long but i hope you find something in here that is helpful. Good Luck and God Bless.

I did not read all the other advice, so if I repeat something...sorry.
I am almost 30 years old and my youngest brother just turned 15 three days ago. He is a total butt must of the time. My mom says she is to old to do anything about the way he acts. Last summer I set down with him, my mom and dad and our sister, we talked about things he had been doing and it helped a lot to have it all in the open, but it didn't help for long. I think it is best to get more active with her. Follow her around see where she goes, meet her friends ect... If she is doing drugs she needs to be put in a rehab. Find out for yourself what is going on, then take the right steps to help her. Good luck.

There is an AMAZING program you may want to check out at http://createagreatfamily.org/node/12. Their teen and family camp is incredible -- I have seen it change lives drastically. Even hard-core rebellious teens leave the program with a whole new sense of responsibility for their own behavior, and communicating with their families from the heart. Be sure to click on the tab for "tuition assistance" to check out the options if you cannot afford to pay for it yourself.

Try Love & Logic. I took a class that focused on pre-schoolers, but she had examples of big kids too. For instance, the boy was supposed to mow the lawn, he didn't, the mom hired someone to mow it and asked the boy to pay, he said "whatever", so the mom paid the person that mowed the lawn, but took the boy's bike to the pawn shop for the money. Didn't tell the boy until he looked for his bike. It know it seems extreme, but the examples they gave and the reasoning behind it really seemed to work. You give empathy and love, you don't let things get up in an uproar, if they say "I'm having sex" you say "oh, that wouldn't work for me, but if it does for you, let me know if you need anything" and the "shock" factor is over. I'm not explaining it very well, but I think the strategies might work for your sister. Also, remember, your dad is required to provide a place to live, food, clothing, etc. He is not required to provide HER favorite food, or purchase clothes from the name brand stores she wants, nor is he required to provide her with a cell phone, internet, cable tv, car, etc. All of those things are prevliges. I think another idea is to remove everything from her room except necessities and she can "earn" the other things back by going to school, doing chores, etc.

Good luck!

My advice would be for you and your other siblings (minus the 16 year old) to sit down with your dad and get talk to him. There is no way anything will work without all of you being on the same page. Your sister needs discipline like a toddler does... positive rewards along with consequences given based on her own choices. She can make good or bad decisions... it's her choice. But, if she chooses to skip school - she chooses not to have access to a car for the weekend. On the same note, if she chooses not to skip a class for an entire 2 weeks, she earns a reward. If curfew is 11pm, maybe she earns 11:30pm for a night. She can also have time taken off the curfew. This type of thing requires CONSTANT reinforcement. Your dad needs to be really bought in to make this work. I also suggest your sister and dad see a counselor together. Dr. Sarah Nuche at 635 and Hillcrest is awesome. My 17 year old step-son has been seeing her for 2 years. We had a few before her, but she's the best. Her # is ###-###-####. Good luck!

First, I hate that you've been asked to take over this situation withbut your father's help, but remember, you do not have to follow his rules if he wants help with and for her. Not tell her anything? About what? Not tell her that she's out of control and about to ruin her life? Not get his help? Not tell her that your dad may have skipped on the discipline to make up for her loss of her mother or that he might have been too depressed or inexperienced to deal with being the sole parent or had a role model from his parents to making healthy rules and family rituals?

This isn't the way to help her best. You can make some rules yourself. Tell dad that if he wants your help, you want no secrets from you or her -- that he needs to come with you to interview her teachers, perhaps in a group that the vice principal sets up, to learn about what they think. Add in the school counselor too. Dad needs to openly support these efforts and her changes for the better and learn firsthand from them -- not filtered through you or his guilt or his pride. Or, he might "save" her from you because by now, she knows that he is a pushover.

Let the vice principle know you both are trying to help her turn things around so you are seeking their perspective from what all her teachers have observed. They may have varied experiences so they should all be involved. Have a counselor on hand too. They see patterns from who she hangs out with. Example: Do they suspect drug use because of who she hangs around with, ADHD, compulsive behavior, self-esteem issues, learning differences, depression, social skills?

Then speak to the counselor alone afterwards. Then the vice principel. Ask them for anything else they'd like to add that they hadn't said or suspect. Ask the counselor and vice principle what resources are in the community that they think might help or get to the source of her issues. Your dad can remain quiet if he doesn't know what to ask or an appropriate way to respond (not defensively!).

Ask the parents of her friends for their perspective, in person, in their homes, without their kids' around. You get the best perspective of their values and lifestyle or similar frustrations that way.

Sometimes .......... talking to one of her better type friends (that aren't messing up so badly) can help. Start by saying .... We want to help her, but we don't know what the biggest problems are. Can you help us figure this out? They might be wanting to help but don't know how.

If your skills or frustration or feelings compromise your ability to talk to her about this, let the counselors talk to her with you there. You'll learn communication skills that will serve you and your dad for life. If you don't keep secrets, she'll be more willing to let the counselor speak to you candidly. There are rules there. Your sister can refuse that but that's okay if needed. She must trust the counselor and you first that you are in it to help her, not punish her.

Don't try to come off perfect. She knows full well that you are not. We all are not. We all can grow. It takes work, but the outcome for all can be fantastic.

I don't know the outcome of bootcamps, but I do know the success of the above steps from a parent standpoint. I suspect a bootcamp might fill them with anger, resentment, and give them other more-troubled friends (or introduce them to drugs if she hasn't been already). People tend to "self-medicate" away their problems with drugs or pills if they don't get the right kind of help.

She needs to see the potential for a better life, not a worse one. You don't want her to run away and seek an "understanding family" through a pimp or drug dealer and his friends. That life can lead to an early death. Good luck!

M., as you know the teens years are very hard, even in the best of circumstances. I feel for you and well know what can happen to an out of control child. My nephew is 24 and still out of control. The sooner you and your dad do something the better. Once a child is declared an adult, you can do nothing without their consent. She definitely needs a wake up call. Are ya'll Christians? Christian counciling would be good. If she gets into too much trouble she can be sent somewhere by the state. Tough love is definitely over due. Write to Dr. Phil. Do something. Buy a book. Put a plan in place and stick to it. Hopefully you will get some very useful advice from others too.

Here is a webpage that lists a lot of different choices, including the Girlstown USA phone number. Hope this helps and have faith... this too shall pass.

Hello M., I agree somewhat with the first respondent but may be able to offer some guidance from my past experiences. I was divorced with three children with not much "emotional support" from the ex. All the discipline was up to me. Unfortunately, my kids got into all the things you don't want them to get into and I was really overwhelmed. I sought help from the Tough Love group. I don't agree with everything they have to say, but, I took from it what I needed and left the rest. At one point my oldest daughter said she was leaving home. There was nothing physically I could do to keep her there so I said, "Fine, let me pack your bag" and let her go. 24 hours later she was calling wanting to come back. That's where the tough love came in and I told her that she would have to have abide by the rules or she would have to find somewhere else to live. Sometimes that is the only thing you can do. Your father is responsible for her actions until she is 18 years old unless she is emancipated. I don't know if you are in a situation where you could take her in or if you even want to, but, if someone doesn't step in she is going to end up pregnant, on drugs or worse dead because of her actions. If your father is not willing to go to counseling or seek help from counselors (if he has the means to do so, if not there are public services available) you may have to tell him that you nor anyone else can help. If she were to live with you and he didn't support what you are trying to do with her and fell back into his continued pattern of "no discipline", that won't work either. There has to be a committment on the part of the adults in this child's life to stand firm against her behaviors. No boundaries growing up means no respect for anyone or anything. She may just have to learn the hard way by getting in trouble with the law and being forced into some sort of juvenile program. Again, your father is responsible. If you could take her in for a while and get some counseling (if she will go)(your father would need to get help too if he is to remain part of the picture) maybe you could do some good for her. It is a lot of hard work and heartache going through this and there are no easy answers. Do your other siblings want to or can they get involved? If they live in different towns sometimes getting the child out of their environment and being forced to abide by "new" rules helps. The best to you and your family. I don't know if you will find this helpful or not. Been there, done that & got the tee shirt!

I strongly encourage you to check out www.sosinc.org. This is a wonderful volunteer run organization dedicated to troubled teens and their parents. The cost is minimal. Please, please, please call or write them ASAP and get your sister signed up for Teen and Family Camp. It will be the best thing your family has ever done for all of you! Please call me if you have ANY questions. Sincerely, B. ###-###-####

I teach a very successful program entitled, The Parent Project . Please visit the website to see the classes offered near you. You are not alone!

Unless your sister is WILLING to sit down and talk about what is going on in her life, and WILLING to listen to you or whomever you can get to counsel her, you can't DO anything. She's past the age of forcing her into anything. You can have her checked for STDs and get the doctor to talk to her, but your father missed his chance to lead her into a decent life. She's probably crying on the inside for someone to unscramble her life, but her pride may refuse to admit it. I've reared 5 children, 4 of which were girls. It was hard work, so I rather believe your father was lazy and chose the easy way of parenting. Now it has come home to slap him in the face. Poor kid.

First off you should be saying something to your father, not being mean but ask him why he let it go so far because now you are having a hard time dealing with it. Like you said he let her do whatever she wanted and when you give someone wings to fly especially at 16 they will fly. First off I would have her put on some sort of contraceptive. If she is to still be in school in your State, have the Truancy Officers come out to her. Your going to have to have your father have a talk with her as well. Next thing you know its going to be drinking and drugs, if not already. You being the eldest if you are close to her, maybe call her over, say you want to go shopping or something and try and sit and have a heart to heart with her. I'm sure you don't want her going down the wrong road. I don't feel even though you are the eldest that you should have this burden put on you and your not supposed to say anything. Wow!! I know you don't want to hurt her feelings nor loose complete communication because no doubt your would be worried sick. Try the little talk, ask her whats up with school, do you have a boyfriend, stuff like that but try not to let her know or feel that you are being nosey. Hopefully if she has good communication with you she will talk. Teens' are not stupid either, she will figure it out that your father called you.
Hope this works out for you and you don't get to stressed. Take care,

There is nothing you or your siblings can do. It's up to your father to step up. He is going to have to be her FATHER and not her friend.

I do not know the cost, but here is yet another consideration:

M., I agree with JJ. You and your siblings talk and see what you think, but you can only do so much. Do what you can and accept that this is somewhat out of your control. Your Dad is not being fair to you. You love your sister. It's all complicated, but unless your Dad is on board it will be very rough. He has chosen to enable your sister. You can choose not too and that will help you, but if your Dad continues to enable her.....well, that is just out of your control and so you must protect yourself.

You may want to consider a couple of family therapy sessions. All your sibs and your Dad......or whomever you can get to attend. Find someone who will help guide the family. This does not have to be a long term thing. 2 or 3 sessions could make a huge difference in getting you on track. With or without Dad, but of course with Dad would be much better.

Don't give up M.. Your sister is only 16, but do do realize the burden of this does not rest on your shoulders alone. Love your sister, but don't enable her. Understand you cannot rescue her. Don't judge her, but don't enable her. I think a good therapist could help you know how to do this.

Possibly some of the Mama's out there have a good and reasonable family therapist to recommend.
My Very Best Wishes for the very best outcome for you!

I highly recommend www.sosinc.org. I know one of the gals who runs this organization and she's wonderful...and totally dedicated to helping kids and their families. Lots of lives are turned around here. Best to you and your family.

Wow this is so tough as my friend has a girl like this...she has sent her away to an all girls school for dicipline probs. Her mom doesn't have it in her to get control :-/

You need to take away things that have meaning for her as a consequence for bad behaviour! She needs a job! She needs accountability... Most of all, she needs counciling. If your taking this on then ya'll need to go together.

Dad needs to be a dad. This girl need authority and boundaries!
Good Luck... I fear for her life due to this destructive behavior.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.