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...

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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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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!!!

let her actions dictate the consequences, for instance since she has CHOSEN to ignore you and your husband and has downloaded something and thus has broken the computer, do NOT have it fixed and now she has no computer. Should SHE decide to pay for the repairs, then so be it! Teenaged girls are rough, try to not react emotionally and just repeat calmly that you are simply responding to HER actions, and HER choices. Good luck!

This is totally normal teenage behavior. The computer issue is the perfect opportunity for her to experience the "natural" consequences of her actions. You don't have to punish her or tell her, "no computer until further notice." She broke it, so now it's not available. If she decides to start showing you she can be responsible in other areas, you could consider rewarding her by fixing her computer. it's totally up to her. The hard part with kids, teenagers, husbands ... we moms always want to take care of everything. If you look for the natural consequences, you get out of the cycle of being the bad guy and your daughter will start to look to herself for getting what she wants or needs and adjust her behavior accordingly.
It's not easy by any means but it sounds like you have a basically good kid. Just like anything, the more you practice, the better you'll get at it. With your daughter's help, you'll be an expert by the time your son starts really pushing his limits. Good luck to you.

Sounds like it is the way she get her attention. Your life is super busy and I am guessing that dad's is too. At this age, they need a lot of attention and support from their parents or they will get it from their peers.

I am here only to offer my support. I am (soon to be was) the stepmother of a 12 year old girl. She moved to live with us when she had just turned 6. Things were good between us for quite a while. Then I had two little girls of my own - 4 and 2 and now all hell has broken loose in my house. She just totally ignores everything I say to her and everything I ask of her. It's always a fight and a battle over anything. Her mother is around when convenient for her - she spent some time in Jail - has two more children with a husband that beats her (I also have/had a step-son who is 11). Unfortunately, my husband was not always the support he should have been for me or for her. I am a stay at home Mom and it all fell on my shoulders. I have no love left for my step-daughter or husband and I am divorcing. You should like you still have love for her and definately for your husband - I would STRONGLY suggest that the three of you attend family therapy - and if you have a good relationship with the older siblings - ask them to join. My husband and I tried therapy - but it was already too late for us. I am in a sad and tragic part of my life - I wish the best for you as you get over this bump in the road - hang in there - you have two years to a bit more maturity which might help.....I had six - way to long to hold on.....


I am in the very same situation you are. I have had 2 of my husbands three children come to live with us right before they started highschool. I also have a 6 year old son who was about 1 when my stepson came to live with us. My stepson is now a sophomore in college and my stepdauaghter is 16 and a junior. I feel your frustration - trust me. The last 6 years have been very stressful. I have learned a few things over the years. Based on recent brain research, the teenage brain doesn't function exactly like a mature adults does. There are key developmental components which are just not developed to the extent we think they should be. They really don't have the capacity to think the way we think they should. That's why there is so much frustration when they just don't seem to "get it" when it seems very logical to you. As a result, it is almost impossible to make any sense of why she thinks or does certain things. She undoubtedly feels the same way. Just knowing that there are actually physical reasons for the behavior has made a difference in how I handle at things.

In addition, I have also found that much of the negative attitude and behavior is a result of them trying to get the attention of their father - unfortunately it results in them creating negative attention much of the time.

Things will eventually get better - because they will mature. It definitely is not easy and there will be more frustration. Try not to take it personally (which I know is much easier said than done). I have found that if I give them the benefit of the doubt more often over the little things, we have much less conflict. Obviously there are incidents that require more strict consequences, however most of the time it's not that serious. We tried family therapy but found that it didn't really work for us. - It left too many issues open and on the table and it just compounded the problems. I hope I will have learned something by the time my 6 year old becomes a teenager - but I have a feeling that I might forget most everything I've learned over the next ten years. My friends hope that I can still remember so that I can pass along the advice to them when our young children reach that age.

Best of luck.

Why not try Family Therapy. A professional will help in directing your stepdaughter to open up and say the things that are bothering her instead of acting out.....and you and her Dad will learn how to deal with her properly.
Keep in mind changes have to be made by everyone in order to develop a healthy family unity and this will take time, patience and hard work.

Also stop fixing the problems she causes....let her live with the consequences and be responsible for her own behaviors and choices.
For an example, don't fix the computer for her again unless she pays for the repairs herself in some way. If and only if she asks when you are going to get the computer fixed...tell her when she does some chores for you to pay for the cost of repairs and ask her what chores would she like to take on. (((all in one sentence.))) If she has a negative reaction right off....don't respond.

This is tough, Larrni...but I'd stop "doing everything for her". She sounds like a spoiled teenager. There is no reason in the world why this girl shouldn't be helping you with the household. Dusting, vacuuming, maybe some light cooking. If she doesn't have one, she needs to get a job (doesn't have a car? she can babysit, dogsit, shovel driveways, mow lawns, help an elderly person with their garden etc...). People can always find a job, even if she has to take a bus to the nearest McDonalds or Wal*Mart.
Also, I would not fix her computer...if it was that funny to her, oh well...she doesn't want to listen, she doesn't have the PRIVILEGE of using a computer.

Maybe this seems harsh, but I got ticked reading your post. You aren't raising a girl...you're raising this person to be a productive member of society...does society want her the way she is?

Best wishes to you...I'm a step parent also, to a 17 year old who doesn't like our rules, and therefore won't come to our home...be prepared - you're not likely to win "step-monster" of the year award!...e-mail anytime!

Hi. As a mother of 15 and 16 year old girls I can relate to your frustration. However, it seems there is a lot of regret and rebellion going on in your household. Maybe try a sit down with her to see if she might feel that way toward you or your husband and then make a new set of rules regarding her reaction or non-reaction to both of you. As in all discipline, the consequence must be followed thru no matter how busy you are and no matter how tired you are.
Make her get a job. Seems like she isn't very humble, nor thankful for what you and your husband have given her for the past 5 years. Worse case, you can try and make her "mother" take her back and see if she likes that better?
As far as the talking back or non- response, all experts say that this is normal. Everyone has a different tolerance level. My youngest has a wise mouth that my husband can't stand and I seem to tolerate better. They can go for days without speaking to each other. But when she gets on my last nerve, the punishment begins and she knows she has gone too far. Whoever tolerates your step-daughter's behavior better(personally I think your husband should be the one) is the one who should deal with her.
The computer problem...she directly disobeyed you. Her computer days are over. If she needs to use the computer for school allow her time on yours, supervised, or send her to the library. If she wants hers back, make her pay for a new one. I would not spend another penny to have if repaired again.

I have a 15 yer old daughter and I can tell you that these years are tough. Yours being your stepdaughter makes it a little different because you are dealing with "your not my mother" issue. Most teenagers do not understand consequence, nor do they care. I always try to tell my daugher that every action, every choice she makes in life will have consequences. I also tell her that she is going to make some wron choices...but the wrong choices have to be ones thta are not life-threatening or harmful. It is important for them to understand when they are wrong and to learn from their mistakes. Your daugher using the computer and downloading after you told her not to was disrespecting your authority. You did the right thing in taking the computer away. My daughter knows the first thing I take is her phone...it means the most to her and therefore is the best threat. Not only do their choices have consequences, but there are consequences for their choices. Don't be afraid to take the phone, computer, or whatever means the most to your stepdaughter. And I always make sure to talk to her about exactly WHY her phone or whatever is being taken away. And before I give it back, I make sure she understands again why it was taken in the first place...very important for you to talk to her and explain her wrongdoings.

U heard it before hang in there I have a 16 yrs old boy and its similiar they want what they want when they want it. Girls are worse i have a 13 yr old help lol

JOB CORPS... check out the Job Corps website


You stepdaughter is at the lovely age of trying your patience. She is looking for attention and to her it doesn't matter whether it is positive or negative. Having gone through it with my own daughter I can tell you it is hard on both of you, but if you work through it together and show her you love her she will come through this just fine. Try spending one on one time with her, tell her about how you rebelled too at her age. Try getting out of her if something is going on with her biological mom, for all you know she has done or said something to your stepdaughter that triggered this and if so you really need to stand by her with a lot of love, affection, and support. As a last resort try counciling and/or talking to her teachers, principal, guidance councilor, just maybe they can help.
Love her unconditionally. Good luck to all 3 of you.

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