31 answers

Trouble Disciplining a 17 Year Old

My daughter has always been an exceptionally bright girl. She was in high performance classes at school and would panic if she was getting anything lower than an 'A'. During the winter she was absent from school a lot with migraines (she has always had migraines) and of course I can't prove she has one (no temp etc). Now her grades have gone downhill, she has a boyfriend and all she wants to do is go to his place (he's 18). She works off and on and when she works the 4 to 11 pm shift she can't get up for school the next day. I've asked her manager to schedule her other hours but they said it's up to her. When she's out all night I try calling her cell phone but she never answers so I shut it off for awhile. She lies so much I can't believe anything she says. When I won't let her drive the car she says if I take away her cell and the car she has no reason to obey me. If I tell her she can't go out, she sneaks out anyway. I've threatened to call the cops. I don't know what else to do with her. I've decided to enroll her in an online high school since her absenses are so bad, she still says she wants to go to college but she's only a Junior so we still have a year to go. Any suggestions?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I see this more and more. I always have to ask what her relationship is between her and her dad. Girls that have a tight healthy relationship with dad typically are'nt so willing to run with the boyfriend. Tried counseling? Could be some underlying issues she's not communicating with you about.

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It seems to me, the issues you need to address are two-fold; number one, the boyfriend and number two maybe she's been given too much freedom for the stage she's at in life.

The first issue I'd tackle is the boyfriend. You don't say whether you have a relationship with her boyfriend's family, or if he is still at home and in high school. At 18, he could conceivably be in his first year of college or just on his own, and already living the life of an adult in an apartment of his own, and possibly not accoutable to his family if he's paying his own way. This is a big deal since she will be influenced by who he's accountable to (if anyone) and where he's at with studies, and friends etc.

If he's still in high school, whether you know his family on a first-name basis or not, I'd contact his parents. I'd find out if he has curfew, what it is, and what their expectations are of their son when he's with a date. If there expectations don't match yours, I'd press upon the parents that you'd like their help in seeing that your daughter is home at an appropriate time. I'd also get their buy-in to allow you to call their house to check on her if its getting late and you haven't heard from her. If necessary, you and your daughter should sit down with the boy and his parents to talk about expectations, and why you think school should come first. Put them on notice and say that if they can't agree to your terms (curfew, expectations etc.) you will not allow them to date until school is out for the summer, and maybe not at all if she doesn't keep contact with you while she's out on a date. This should not be allowed at all. The first time she pulls this, I'd suspend dating privileges. Maybe scare the stew out of the guy and ask if he intends on marrying your daughter, and supporting her. You and she will know at least if he's a jerk or serious by how he reacts.

If this fellow is a bonified adult on his own, your work is really going to be cut out for you. You've already allowed her access to someone who she could conceivably leave home and move in with. She could be coming in contact with men older than he is or people who could be a bad influence, adult situations including access to bars, alcohol or illegal substances, sex and more. The fact that she's not upfront with you, and even lying would make me think she's definitely getting involved in situations that could impact her life in a not so good way. Reality is, she's pushed the envelope so far already, when you put your foot down, you could lose her if she gets mad enough.

I'd prepare myself mentally for it, and I'd still just sit down and have an honest talk with her. Ask her what she invisions her future to be. Ask her if she thinks she can really expect to get into college on the grades she's making this year. Ask her if she's even picked one out, and when she plans on applying. (When I was in HS, we had to get apps in by the summer of Junior year if were serious about any good colleges).

More important, I'd get honest about serious relationships too young. We all know that relationships can take an emotional toll on a young woman too inexperienced to handle the complications that come with it. Heck, adults can't handle complications of relationships, let alone a young woman. Plain and simple if she's serious about college and a career, a serious boyfriend at this stage of the game will sidetrack her efforts.

I'd Ask her if she's ready for the possibly becoming a young mother. If she'd be happy if she wound up working crummy jobs if she doesn't get into college. Ask how she'll feel if she never finishes college and winds up supporting a dead-beat boyfriend who may dump her when he's board with her. Show her a newspaper or just turn on the news and remind her that jobs are scarce and the economy tighter.. only the best will get into college, will get scholarship, will get jobs. I'd cinch the deal with a taste of real life and tell her she can do as she pleases, no curfew, no calls at all, but in order to do this she'll have to pay rent (at the current cost of an apartment today), pay for her own food, pay for her own gas when she uses the car, and pay for her cell phone/service, and any other things you provide for her.

In short, I'd get tough on her. Whatever it takes. YOu know her and her temperament best. But I'd be sure to not let her intimidate you. It's do or die. She's almost an adult and out of the house. I'd try to make the last year(s) count, and it starts with accountability and tough love.

Last but not least, I'd say unless she needs the job, I'd make her quit. It is a distraction from what should be her main focus--academics. It's also one more way for her to access her boyfriend without your knowledge. Do you really know her schedule? Perhaps she's not really working as many hours as you think.

I'd also consider establishing a hard curfew, a confirmed location where she plans to be that you can call if an emergency arises. This is not unreasonable in the era that we now live. You can even say this is for her own safety.

I'd threaten to cut off phone service if she refuses to answer it. This should be an absolute no. I'd also cut off access to the car if she doesn't make herself accessible once she's out the door. The phone may be good for emergencies, but if its becoming an instrument that allows her access to people, and situations that aren't good for her, it needs to go.

Save her before its too late. I hope some of these ideas help. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

boy,...ish! According to my mom friends that have daughters this age, this is typical behavior.

However, if she is truely interested in going to college, schools look at a students highschool junior year transcripts as a source of enterance. Her attendance and grades are important right now.

I'd take her car keys and phone. How else is she going to get around or communicate with her friends, and she does need some punishment. She's trying to punish you by telling her that she will behave differently because of her punishment, so she's going to hold it against you. She will do this anyway, but eventually, she will see that the rules you set are there for a reason and you are the boss. She will see that her punishment is worse afterall and hopefully, will reform.

My daughter (age 4) will try and punish me too for punishing her. I told her she couldn't wear her fancy new shoes because we're saving them for a wedding and want them to be nice)..so, she said to me, "Fine,...I'm going to wear these shoes (dress-up plastic crappy shoes) to the store if you don't let me wear my fancy shoes."

I laughed in her face and said, "You just try and get outta the house with those shoes on and we'll see who's going to win this battle little girl! I'm the boss and you can't talk to me like that..." I basically gave her the roit act and she let it go and I won. You're going to have a battle with her but stick to your guns and eventually, she'll see that you're the boss and she can't treat you like that...even if it prolongs her getting her phone and car keys back.

1 mom found this helpful

Tell her if she misses school then there is no working. If she breaks curfew there is no going out. If she doesnt answer her cell when you call there is no phone.

These are all natural consequences of her actions- not arbitrary punishments. Let her know that is the way life is when you are "all grown up". No boss is going to keep her on if she does what she wants at night and cant make it to work the next day. She obiviously likes her job more than school and will prefer to stay out late rather than make it to work when the time comes.

She says there is no reason to obey if you take these things away. Well there is. To get them back.

She obviously can't go see the boyfriend without a car, or call/text him without a phone. If you let her talk to him on the house phone dont let her have one in her room. Make her be somewhere she could be interupted at a moments notice. She wont have money to do fun things if she isnt working.

At 17 you still have legal control. You could tell her boss what she is allowed to work and what she isn't, or that you will not allow her to have the job.

There are ways to keep her from sneaking out without staying awake and guarding her room. If you need ideas let me know. I had a sis who did the sneak out, drinking, drugging, seeing boys etc. I learned a few things from my parents! ;)

1 mom found this helpful

J., instead of addressing the discipline issue, I'd like to tackle managing the migraines. Weather, stress and lack of sleep are triggers, but so are lots of foods, including wheat and gluten, which is hard to give up; one can also temporarily eliminate all the "trigger" foods, then add them back one week at a time, to learn the cause of your migraine. Common culprits are MSG, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, caffeine, red wine, bananas, but the list is endless (even onions and potatoes, mushrooms, pickles, etc). Here's the list:

Potential trigger foods

Foods that can be Migraine triggers include:

--beans pickles chili peppers olives
--dried fruits avocados red plums bananas
--any fresh yeast product straight from the oven
--yeast breads pizza soft pretzels
--any preserved or processed meat bacon hot dogs sausage
--aged cheeses sour cream whole milk
--alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
-- chocolate
--caffeinated beverages
--anything with MSG
--artificial sweeteners

It can be frustrating to manage food triggers--esp in a restaurant or at parties. Most "Migraineurs" with food triggers find that only a few foods are a problem.

Good luck getting your daughter back on track. Love her, talk to her, find a good counselor --

Hi. Ok, I'm only 20 and my son is only 7 months old. But my age might help in this. Also, I've had cousins in the same sort of situations with school and boyfriends. So here goes:
First of all, I think that they are wrong with the work thing, she's a minor and you should be able to have a say in that. Is there anyone above the store manager you could go to about the problem? Or could you tell her she can no longer work until her grades are up? Or that she can't go to her boyfriend's house unless her grades are up? I'm sure you've tried these things anyway. I think they make cell phones with tracking devices in them, although I'm not sure which providers have them, but you could check and at least if she didn't answer you'd know where she was and could go get her.
As for school, I'm pretty sure you can have cops escort her to school. Maybe if she gets embarrassed she'll decide she'd be better off just going than that happening. Or maybe if you send a cop to her boyfriend's house to get her, that will change something. Just the fact that she is 17 and he is 18 already equals trouble if a cop is going to come over.
You should tell her that if she wants to go to college, she should concentrate more on school and less on her boyfriend. I got pregnant my first year of college and had to drop out and it's really hard to go back when you have a baby to take care of. And that was with using birth control. Things do happen and she should know that.
Depending on where you live maybe you could ground her or tell her she can't go out and maybe even get rid of her car, but maybe you could have a cop drive by every 15 minutes or so and maybe that way if she sneaks out they'd see her do it and stop her? I'm not sure, but I think maybe it'd scare the boyfriend away if you had a cop showing up at his place to pick her up and take her home. She might be mad, but it'll be good for her.
Hope I helped at least a little.

I hope she doesn't feel pressured into getting A's. My stepmother told me I couldn't go to college because I wansn't a honor student. Second, what is her boyfriend like, have you met him.

Next, go through with calling the cops if she sneaks out. You can't say it and then when she does something that she is not supposed to be doing; you don't call. They catch on real quick and believe you were just bluffing. We did this with our second son when he was skipping school. He didn't come home one day, so we waited to see if he would come home in the evening. NOT! We knew where he was, so we called the cops and they went and got him. They brought him home and told him, that if there was anymore trouble; he would wind up in juvie hall. That was not the place to end up. Now, he is a great father and very responsible. I have told him that he should do some talks to those HS kids that don't want to attend and think life is better outside of Mom and Dad's house. He dropped out, but went and got his HSED and was highest in his class.

I am one of those old school parents I guess; but, I think the online schooling tells some of these kids that they don't have to do things if they don't like to. They are going to have to face the fact that there are things in life that we don't like to do, but, we have to do it. We have to go to our job or else we get fired. We can't work online and get paid to stay home (most of the time). When they go to college there is no sympathy for the student. You are in class everyday, do the work, hand it in on time or you are out. I know a girl who was an honor student in HS, went to a Tech College to do her math and other minor classes. She didn't have to take finals in HS because she was an honor student and work came to here easily. Guess what, she got into Tech College and failed. She couldn't handle the attending classes and handing work in on time.
Also, check with your state Dept. of Human Labor and see what their working laws are for kids in school. In Wisconsin, we have limited hours that kids can work when they are in school. I am not sure if 17 or 18 is the cut off for that, but when I was working in retail, the kids couldn't work more than 20 hours a week and couldn't work past 9:00 p.m. if it was a school night.

Good Luck,

BE CAREFUL J. ~ seek advice from those who have lived through these years instead of those who speculate from the safety of toddlerhood... There is no way to speculate about how to parent a young adult (she is no longer a child at 17).

My oldest is 20, my youngest is 13. My oldest was an honor student and STILL went through this awful stage (she is now an honor student in college).

Keeping in mind that, at 17, it is fully legal for her to drop out of school and go out to live on her own, you should give her two choices:

1. To move out on her own (the car stays with the family though, and the cell phone she can begin to pay for on her own), or
2. Follow the house rules (have them handy so that she gets what she is choosing).

The important thing here J. is to do this lovingly. Letting her know that you love her and are offering these choices out of your concern for her well-being (as opposed to trying to get her to "obey" you) will help.

Some time ago you and she stopped communicating in a loving way. You have probably grown attached to the concepts of obedience and discipline, which don't work with teens. Teens actually respond much better to limits, love and YOU understanding how they feel.

I would also garner the support of your 26 year old. Older sisters are more important to teens than moms in terms of listening and acting out. Your older daughter could counsel her and "check in" with her, offering support and much-needed sisterly advice.

You might want to do this (check in with your 26 year old) before you have the conversation about moving out. She will probably have advice for you that will surprise you.

It will be best if you listen to her with an open mind J. ~ there is much to learn from the mistakes our children tell us about after we have made them. Since there is no way not to make mistakes as a mom, your 26 year old could be your best source for creating more success with your two younger daughters.

The 17th year is the hardest with (and for) children. The more you can not take it personally, offer clear limits, and stay focused on the fact that you love them, the better it will all turn out in the end.

Gifts of love, small gestures and mom/daughter shopping trips... and/or now and then going out to dinner, just for the two of you.... any of these things will help you both to get through it. Start now with your 15 year old and you will have that one made!

I have 17yr old boy and girl twins. They will be 18 in Oct. We have gone through some similiar situations with both. My son has recently been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Before being diagnosed we had to call the police on him 3 times because he had left. The first time we were not going to call because we figured he would have to learn on his own. He was gone for 4 days. We had been in contact with the school regarding my son long before he had left. I pretty much received daily calls from the school. So after he had left I called the school to let the counselor know what had happened. She told me that I had to call the police because legally we are still responsible for him. 2 days after reporting him gone the police called me to pick him up. They had a long conversation with him about responsibilites and that no matter how old he thought he was he was still a minor. I hate having to bother the police over situations like this because in my opinion there are so many other things going on that is of higher priority. However, after everything that has happened I now see how those "higher priority" situations become. We as parents need to put our foot down and mean what we say. My daughter tried to stand up to me the other day and told me that me grounding her wasn't going to do any good because it hasn't worked in the past. I told her that she was right because I usually tried to give her the benefit of the doubt that she understood what she did wrong and had learned her lesson therefore I let her off the hook. This time I kept to my punishment and while she wasn't happy, she got over it. It took her a couple of days to calm down. I reminded her that I love her no matter how mad she is with me. I know it isn't going to happen over night but we do need to mean what we say and not be so lenient. My son to our surprised has turned a new leaf. He told us that he is sorry for all the trouble he has caused and he hates that he has put himself under a microscope. Not only does he have my husband and I watching him more closely but he now has the attention of the school staff and the police. My daughter won't leave without permission anymore because she sees what has happened with her brother. I also have a 14 year old daughter. I was concerned about her following their footsteps but hopefully it is just like when they were babies we learn from the first one to know how to take care of the next. I wish you well.

Just to add, I read another post where someone had wrote that at 17 someone can legally live out on their own if they chose. This is possible depending on where you live so if that is an option you are looking at please check your state laws first before allowing it.

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