20 answers

What to Do with a Sixteen Year Old Girl?

I have a 16 year old stepdaughter who lives with me and my husband (her father). She never seems to listen when my husband and I tell her not to do something that is good for her. She tends to not care what the consequences are. She just does it with no regard to any consequences. When I feel that we are progressing in a positive direction with her, she falls off the wagon and does her own thing. For instance, her computer needed to be repaired so she had no access to the internet for a month or so. We just gave her back her computer and told her that we had to go out and buy her a memory card and something to add more megabytes (something like that - not too keen on the computer lingo)... I told her that our friend who fixed the computer told me specifically that she should not download anything until we get a chance to get the card. Not even two weeks of having the computer back up and running, my stepdaughter just told me that the computer is not working, she is getting a blank screen and I asked her to double check the power plugs, everything. Then something told me to ask her if she downloaded something and she gave me this smirk and said yes. I started to laugh but a disappointed laugh and asked her why she went against what we told her. She didn't know what to say. I told her I was upset at her actions and disappointed because we asked her not to download anything. I told her at this point that she has no computer until further notice. I don't get it. We have a good relationship thus far but she has been trying our patience. What to do?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all your great responses... I really appreciate it... The funny thing is, what you all have told me is nothing I have not tried or done. I do spend quality time with her... we drive around with each other and talk, we go out to eat and talk, believe me my husband and I spend time with her...

I have always been consistent with my words and the consequences but she does test me alot. Especially now that she does not speak to her mother at all for the past 4 months. She will be seeing a therapist very soon because as we have been talking, she realizes that she needs to take care of her issues since she doesn't feel that her mother has done anything positive for her. She is beginning to understand the difference between the way or father and I discipline her and care for her the way her mother does (or has in the past.. which has been NO DISCIPLINE).

I definitely feel that I have two 2 year olds to raise because from what I have learned in Human Growth and Development, they act in a parallel.... It is not easy but we are trying to guide her to the right path...

Featured Answers

I think she gave you the answer. She did something that she was told not to do. Now she has no computer. Tell her to get a job and get the computer fixed! no arguments just consequences of her actions.
I am a Mother of 3 grown children. Have been there!!!

More Answers

Teenagers become a little more defiant until they "find" themselves. They're not fully adults and no longer a child, so they sometimes naturally become defiant and test the limits of what they can get away with.

Another thing that it seems like is affecting her is the fact that her "mother has been a mother when 'convenient'", and I'm sure that plays a very big role in why she is behaving the way she is. Maybe she is feeling like if she gets too close that you will not "want" her anymore. You say that you work full time and go to school part time plus have to take care of the household. Do you ever get to spend quality time with your daughter, just you and her? Maybe she is seeking some attention. I would suggest that you and your husband sit down with her soon and ask her what it is that she would like for the two of you to do to help her to get to a comfortable place where she isn't so defiant. Make sure that the two of you let her know that you love her, and please don't "blame" her for things. Talk to her like the adult she is becoming and tell her how much you care for her and want the best for her, and let her have somewhat of a say in how she can feel better about being a part of the family and what would make her happy. Actually listen to her and let her have her say and ask the same in return. Then you can all come to a compromise and work together on building trust in the relationship, as that might be a problem for her since her mother wasn't always around and her defiancy just might be a defense mechanism, so that she can have an excuse in case you don't want her anymore. That might not be the way you feel, but it could be the way that she feels.

I hope this helps. Good luck!!!

In regard to your step-daughter I would say that many teenagers often "test the limits." She is already living with the consequences of her action. Perhaps it would be a good idea if you sat down again with her and your husband and explained that the damage to the computer will now cost you extra money to fix and that you both expect her to think first in the future before acting. If your step-daughter is anything like my daughter, you'll have to say this many times before it has any noticeable effect.

I am not there yet, all my children are still young:however, I saw a report on Good Morning America about the fact that a teenagers frontal lobe is not yet fully formed and that this of course the part of the brain that has to do with their ability to make good decisions...it was about spring break...and why we shouldn't let our kids go etc...if you want to look it up online I'm sure it's probably still availible...the thing I've noticed about parenthood is it really seems to be like a spring, you advance and regress constantly...it just seems that's how it goes..and that's okay... as far as the computer...you guys fixed it once, let her take on the responsibilty of fixing it this time...let her pay for it and buy the memory card...it's a consequence to her action...she's old enough now that if she doen't already have a job she can get one...even if it's babysitting her younger brother..til she can afford to pay for it. Goodluck!

Remember that ALL teens do this, and alot of it is very similar to why toddlers to (frighteningly) similar things, like doing something they know will hurt themselves, or others, or the things they love: they need to prove to themselves that you will still be there, that when they push you you will not go away, or let them be destructive, but keep them grounded. it is so trying, when it goes against all common sense, but this was explained to me 9the toddler-teen connection) as something that comes out of growing very quickly, almost being reborn into a new body/feelings/freedoms, and that can be very scary, so they push and push to make sure you will mommy / father them always. sucks, i know, but this helped me a lto with my three year old and all the teens i work with (for 14 years now). the best way i have found to deal with any of these toddle-teen behaviors is: let the CONSEQUENCES do the talking, not you; and BE CONSISTANT, HOLD YOUR GROUND. the consequences part is quite important, since it keeps you vs them out of the foreground, and makes the real-life consequences the point. i feel like once they feel the sting of those consequences, they learn and move on. ie: so , she broke her computer again. in hindsight, it would have been good to tell her (maybe you did) when you got it repaired that if she broke it again, fill in the blank (no new computer she has to pay for the repair, etc) so she knew she'd be screwing over herself more than defying you if she went against your orders. the consistency thing is also so crucial because they respect you for it and learn they cant whine or cajole their way into getting something they want. OK, hope this helps! it sounds like you care a great deal about your step-daughter. remember this is over in a year or two :)

I don't think she tried to download something to defy you. Most likely she thought one little download wouldn't do any harm and it was probably something really really important that all her friends had on their computers. I'd say fix it and don't give her the computer back until you get the additional memory it needs (sounds like it's an older computer anyways).

When they are teams they know everything. I sure did when I was a teen. I'm sure you did too. Some kids just have to figure it out for themselves. You'll do better once you realise that every decission she makes isn't to get back at you. She's just trying to figure it all out on the road to adulthood.

I agree she is testing you in some way. I would take my time getting the computer fixed, just tell her that your friend is very busy and that he is agrivated that now he has to redo the work he already did.

I think she is looking for attention also. I would try to talk to her, but I think you have already done that. Spending quality time with her is a good idea. And I DON'T mean going to the mall!!!!! You can't buy her respect. Ask her to go to a park and get some fresh air. Just the 2 of you and maybe your hubby. I think 1 on 1 is best right now.

She may be jelous about the attention that the younger children are getting, but is not going to come out and say anything about that. You could ask her advice on how to handle the younger children and see if that helps her to realize that you respect her opinions too.

School: call the child study team and see if they have any suggestions. Maybe they could call her in and talk to her and say that it is a regular "How are things going meeting". Ask them to feel out the situation without letting her know that you called with concerns. Maybe they could suggest a peer support club or group for her to get involved with. Let her know that there are other teens living with the same issues.

She is not alone and neither are you and your husband. Family counceling may help too, but I would try the school first. Get her involved with something other then the computer.

Hi Learni

My daughter is now almost 18, so I've been through what you're going through. I also do emotional healing work as a profession (in a different way from regular counseling), so I've worked with many other situations like this.

I read Diane D's response and liked it a lot. It points out that when we're thinking clearly we can understand a lot better why other people (including people of other ages and stages of development) do what they do. You need to find the place in you that can understand and empathize with her reasons, including the fact that she may have some anger (mostly at her Mom, maybe her Dad and you, too) and is trying to assert her independence as an adolescent.

As you've seen, when she senses you're really coming from love and acceptance of her, she opens up and talks about some of her feelings. So I'd work on exploring what in you is being triggered by her behavior. If you can love, accept and heal yourself (the child and adolescent parts within you) you'll be able to be present with her feelings, reactions and MISTAKES (which is probably what the computer thing was) without getting upset yourself, in a more consistent way.

And in the meantime I'd allow her to make as many of her own choices as possible (anything that doesn't directly affect her safety) and live with the full consequences of them. That's how we learn! The key is not to bring your own emotions into the process of telling/delivering the consequences. I wish you all the best; I know it's not easy!

I think she gave you the answer. She did something that she was told not to do. Now she has no computer. Tell her to get a job and get the computer fixed! no arguments just consequences of her actions.
I am a Mother of 3 grown children. Have been there!!!

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