16 Year Old, Can't Be Punished.

Updated on December 17, 2014
J.W. asks from Buffalo, NY
23 answers

My daughter is 16 and she does normal stupid teenager things. She spends too much money, doesn't care about school, and doesn't show a lot of respect. She is not a hellion though. She knows what she is doing she just doesn't like me any more.

My problem is she can't be punished. I can't ground her because she doesn't really have friends she wants to hang out with, I can't take away her phone or keys because I am a single mom and I rely on her for help with her siblings sometimes and I don't want her unreachable. She has went through a rough time and if I was in her shoes I might not like me much either but I have tried so hard to do what's right for all my kids.

She turns 17 next month and I told her if she was better behaved she might get a nice party but she didn't care anyways. I don't have the heart to take away the few xmas gifts I got her. It's mostly clothes she needs anyways. I just feel at such a loss with her. I know that she misses the way things were and that she is probably depressed but I don't like how disrespectful she is.

What can I do next?

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answers from Oklahoma City on

It sounds like she is having a hard time. She's probably coming to terms with not being a kid anymore and having to become an adult.

I'd let some of this go. Really, it's not worth it if she's basically a good kid. Perhaps having her help do some of the planning stuff she could see how much work you put into being a family and how much you depend on her

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

Have you thought about making her get a job? Sounds like she needs to start taking a little responsibility for herself. And a part time job will keep her mind of hating you and all the other things she is aggravated with (and earn a little money at the same time).

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answers from Denver on

"16 year old, can't be punished".

Can be loved.

Can be thanked.

Can be listened to.

Can be respected.

Can be appreciated.

Can be understood.

Sure, she's 16. She's been through a lot. She's helping you with her siblings. That's a lot of responsibility. Not many 16 year olds like their parents. It usually begins with dislike, dissolves into loathing, gradually grows into tolerance, and then - shock! - it turns into appreciation and then love.

Give her a simple birthday party, with family, and say "thank you for all that you do". Make a cake, and write her a heartfelt card. Don't focus on her liking you. Focus on liking her, and being the best parent you can be, and modeling the character qualities that you want her to develop.

21 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Considering some of the upheavals in your/her lives over the last few years, yeah I think she has some anger that needs to be dealt with.
And it's not going to be resolved over night.

You had an unplanned pregnancy, your husband left, you have a new baby, you moved, you're working - no kidding she feels like chopped liver.
Teens feel the world centers around them (they really kind of need that to a degree - it's a stage in growth before becoming more independent)
- and it's so obvious to her that NO ONE is centered on her.

Her father's out of the picture, and you are BUSY.
I know you are juggling all the balls you can manage but you have her (you rely on her) catching a few for you and she's forced to juggle some of your load.
Even I don't think that's fair.
And from a teens point of view - "Why do I have to take care of these kids? I'm not the one who got pregnant. I didn't ask for brothers and sisters.".

So 'angry', 'disrespectful', 'depressed' - um, yeah - definitely - no kidding.
I think most people who were in her position would be.

Please get her some help.
She needs some counseling - she's mourning her old life and can't make the leap to start a new one.
The disrespect is a CRY for help - please see it for what it is.
I know it's tough but try to not respond to anger with anger - it becomes a negative feedback loop.
She's your first born and still your baby and you are not done raising her yet.
Cut her as much slack as you can.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Aside from punishment and threatening to take things away from her, what else are you doing?

To me, your daughter sounds like some of her needs aren't being met somewhere. No friends? Having to help with siblings? No vision for her own future (which is obvious if she's not saving money and doesn't care about school)... you know, none of these problems is corrected or even remotely addressed with punishment.

SHE needs to see how valuable she is, for her own self. Have you talked-- not lectured-- but really *spoken with her* about her future? What her dreams or goals are? What she might want to do once she's graduated? Do you have room in your life for her to go her own way without having to be available to you for help with her siblings?

If she's angry about something, maybe you both should talk to a counselor. If your family has been through a breakup or crisis, this may be very necessary for both of you.

Ultimately, this really isn't about if your kid does or doesn't like you-- find out why she's angry, doesn't seem to perceive a future for herself and is socially isolating herself. This isn't just *her*, you know-- in every relationship dynamic, both parties bring something to the table. When kids act like they 'just don't care' they are usually hurting very deeply inside. Maybe she doesn't care about a party because she feels she doesn't have friends who will show up. Maybe she's afraid to care because she feels like she'll blow it anyway before the party ever comes, or that you will find a reason to take it away. I don't know-- frankly, I don't know your interaction or parenting style. I will say, though, having been a teen myself and remembering similar times-- the opportunity to say what was really on one's mind and heart without fear of correction or being shut down -- those moments are so important. You might also try "How to Talk so Kids will Listen--- and how to listen so Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish.

I'll just say one last thing-- this is an important time to do a lot of unconditional listening (that means sitting and listening to the hard stuff without getting defensive or explaining your reasons), to validate her feelings without letting her use those to excuse her actions. She needs some guidance and direction-- maybe a family counselor can help her with this if you are willing to look at how you are approaching her as well. Punishment only, as a rule, does not work at changing behaviors. Finding out what's beneath her thoughts and beliefs about herself, her situation and her relationship with you is of vital importance. Punishment doesn't start that sort of conversation.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest you focus on positive behavior. Punishment rarely works. Let natural consequences teach her. What you describe sounds normal. I suggest you overlook much of what you describe. Do praise her several times a day.

I suggest you read Love and Logic for Teens by Foster Cline. Disrespect can be managed by not talking with her until she is more respectful. Tell her that and walk away.

I suggest you have her see a counselor since you suggest she may be depressed.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

At this age, my mother used to tell me how much she appreciated my help. She would admit I was a large part of her thoughts all day. She felt I was helping her be a success in her job.

She would talk WITH me about my future. She admitted her mistakes in her life and would ask me what I would have done instead.

She tried to always ask me instead of telling me, what needed to be done in situations. What should we do about all of the laundry that has piled up? How can we tackle it? This way she and I were a team. Both dreading all of the work, but coming up with the solution together.

She encouraged me to make the right choices, because the not so great choices always ended up makng more work for me in the long run. I was 17 as a senior when I was in high school, but she allowed me some freedoms as long as I always told her the truth. She was preparing me for my freshman year in college.

Have a sit down with her. Listen to what she has to say and then tell her what you need and what you are going through. Sometimes insight brings more understanding.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

My mother and I started to have a better relationship when she stopped treating me as if I was useless and a trouble maker. When she started to treat me like a person and showed me respect, I started talking to her more often. For example, she would sit me by her bed and showed me her budget, the amount of money she had for us to survive, even the little money to spare on my clothing. she started talking to me as if I was smart and could offer her some advise, along with that she stopped nagging me about cleaning and home cooking. we became two woman trying to survive our circumstances toguether and i started to feel for her and her feeling a lot more, I never asked for presents, neither i felt I could since I knew the little budget she had and when she still got something for me i became more grateful. dont know if this is a help to you, but i think if your daughter is a help to you, you can overlook her wrongs as long as she is not being a danger to herself.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i totally agree with you, she's at a stage where just yoinking stuff away from her is counter-productive. she's almost 17, and it's time to start really thinking about her as an adult-in-training. in some ways you're already doing that- you count on her for help around the house and that's great.
you can't do an overnight turnaround, but you can start to work on redefining your relationship with her. not being her buddy, but talking to her as if she were another adult, with that ring of respect and courtesy and as if her opinions and perspectives are important. have you worked with her about keeping a checkbook, and how compound interest works? had some long thoughtful conversations about what life will look like after high school? ways she might figure out college or a trade school? the demeanor and tone in which to approach a prospective employer?
rather than tell her what you think she should know, try just asking open-ended questions, and let her feel her way through. tell her about a dilemma you've encountered, and ask her how she thinks you should have handled it. share some stories about YOU with her- smart stuff you did AND some stupid moves you regret. and try to do it in a sharing way, not a 'this is a lesson you should learn from me' way.
this age is so heartbreaking. they can be so vulnerable and desperate, and yet so hard-bitten and unreachable. keep trying, mama! your little girl is still in there, and she hears you!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Just went through this with my kids. At 17 ALL parents are dumb and they hate them.

Lets look at it from her side, in the last 18 months, her life has drastically changed and she did nothing wrong. She lost her home and family. She now has to adjust to a "new" dynamic. That is tough on anyone but add the hormones, hello!

You need a conversation with your daughter. You need to spend some time alone with her and listen to her. She is crying out and your getting upset because she is affecting you. That about how you and your ex-husband's choices affected her. She is angry. She is disrespectful to you because you are "safe". You won't abandon her like her father did.

You need to get her into counseling. Mom, she is grieving. Help her not punish her. Actually all of you should be in counseling!!! Good luck!!!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Most teens tend to separate from their parents as they are trying to figure out who they are and where they stand in the world. They think they know more than they really do because they don't have the life experiences that come from just living longer and seeing more.

She's not a child at 17 so you can't treat her like a child. By this point you've taught her all the basic stuff in life so now its time to work with her to help her figure things out. Work with her on stuff instead of butting heads.

I'll leave you with my most favorite Mark Twain quote.
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

― Mark Twain

8 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Sometimes you have to suck it up and be the parent. She did not give birth to her siblings she should not be responsible for them in the first place. Take the car away. If you don't you are sacrificing one child to make things easy on yourself with the others. Your life is not her fault.

Before you go all I don't understand I have four kids, one has autism, and I was a single mom for seven years, four of those I went to college full time while working full time. I could not have done it without my older kids, or my dad, or babysitters.... My oldest messed up, I took his car away for a month, I was still his parent too.

She wants you to be her parent! Try that because she sure isn't your nanny!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

A lot of her behavior is typical teen behavior. She is at the age where all adults are stupid and she and her peers know it all. This too will pass.

Show her you appreciate her watching her siblings and helping out. Have a party for her birthday and celebrate her. It sounds as though she needs to know she is treasured and special.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

She's 16. Not only can't you effectively punish her, you shouldn't. You talk to her, tell her what you love about her - she is helping you raise her siblings, she is growing up. I am sure there are other qualities she has that simply amaze you. Tell her. You need to show her respect to expect her to respect you. Treat her like the adult she is growing up to be.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


You need to TALK WITH HER...communication...She's almost an adult. You can't treat her like a child anymore.

Stop with the punishment. If she spends too money? Where is she getting it? YOU?? Does she not get an allowance?

I would be bothered that a 16 year doesn't have friends. I remember when I was 16 and thank God we didn't have cell phones then - my parents would have been going NUTS!! And I remember from 15 to 17 - my parents were STUPID...didn't understand...when I was 20 and had a kid? damn!! they got smart really fast!!!

I would find a counselor that specializes in teens and go with her. Show her you are interested in knowing what's going on in her life...work TOGETHER instead of against each other...communicate!!!

DO NOT take Christmas presents away...that's just overboard.

Tell her how you are feeling....ask her what she needs from you...LISTEN...don't listen to respond - LISTEN...teenage years are tough...I'm at the beginning with my son...he's 14....and YOWSA!!


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I would really consider taking a different approach.

Take her out to lunch, just the two of you. Praise her for all she's done. Really take some time to talk to her about how much you appreciate her, list the things she's done for the family, talk about the ways she is selfless and just let her know how much this has meant to you. Show her that you notice what a great person she is.

Then listen to her. Really listen. Give her a chance to talk about herself, her dreams, her thoughts about the future. Ask her what she wants to do this summer, after high school, a few years down the road. You know she things about these things, right? Ask her about them and listen. Just listen.

If you do that and really give her a chance to talk and really try to hear what's in her heart, you'll have a much better idea of how to guide her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, I am not a single mom so will not try to relate on that level. However, I have a 15 yr old son (16 in March) that does not seem to care about anything lately. His grades have taken a major nosedive this year due to missing work. He has all honors classes and an AP class so it is really hard to watch this happen. He does not seem to care about anything at home either, neglecting chores, not interacting with anyone. Also does not hang out with friends. I also do not want to punish him by taking away Christmas gifts. I have talked to him. I am trying to get him to see things as they can be. No yelling, no put downs, no negative comments. It has kind of worked but I feel I have to force him.

I am going to agree in taking a different approach with your daughter as others have mentioned. Punishment is not always the way to go. I looked at your past posts just to get some insight and it looks like her life has really changed in the past year. If you can, take her out for lunch and just talk. Ask her how she is feeling and try to get her to open up a bit. Do not treat her like a 17 yr old but still be mom. If going out for lunch would be hard, get a movie for the younger ones, and have lunch with just her at home (in my house that would be very difficult but worth a shot). Don;t be surprised if it takes time for her to really talk. You may just get one word responses. That is how my 15 yr old girls are...but then they open up and I try to listen when they are ready.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Those aren't normal teenager things.

More than anything, teens need to know that we love them JUST because they are our kids. We don't have to accept their negative attitude, disrespect, or poor choices, but we do need to ensure that they know that we love them and are on their side. We aren't trying to make their lives miserable. We want them to grow into amazing, successful adults.

I suggest that you read the book "How to Talk So Teens Will Listen, and Listen So Teens Will Talk." It's an eye-opener. Your daughter got to this point because of the way you've chosen to define your relationship with her. It's a harsh thing to say, but truths often are. In order to guide her into adulthood, you're going to have to take a step in a different direction.

Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

She is almost 17, she is no longer a child, and she is struggling to find her footing. Rather then punish maybe try talking to her, listening to her, really hearing her. She needs to find direction and focus to help her succeed in school and prepare for her future. She sounds like she has a lot going on (no friends, has to help with siblings, ect) so a little extra understanding and support from her mom might just help her along.

If she does need to be punished, and you are the one paying for her phone, you can lock it so that she can only call and receive calls from certain numbers (at least you can do this with some phones).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Ditto Marda.

And based on B's response to you, there have been some upheavals in your daughter's life, so in her case the more positive you can be, the better. Don't let her be totally rude or disrespectful -- walk away or refuse to engage when she is rude. Sixteen year old kids often don't "like" their parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I just went through this with my 15 yo. She lost her phone for a month because she didn't get the grades she was supposed to. It was hard to take it from her because you don't want them to hate you, but they need to learn. Of course you can punish her. If she helps with the siblings, she doesn't need the phone or car when she isn't helping. If she's like most teens and has access to their phone, they are on it constantly. So only give it to her when she is unreachable. Or put parental controls on it so she can only call and text. Her punishment can be "slave girl". My friends came up with this for their teen who didn't care about anything else. She basically didn't get to do anything "fun" and had to clean anything she was told too. They did this for an entire summer for her until her attitude changed. And whose money is she spending too much of? Do you just give her money or does she have a job? You can limit that as well. Don't take away Christmas presents. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Where is she getting her money? When you say she doesn't care about school, have you met with the guidance office? Have you considered family therapy? I was the eldest with a single mom and sometimes I bore a lot of responsibility because I had to...and when my mom tried to put me back to being a kid after having to be a pseudoadult, it was hard. I felt punished for taking it on when she needed me to. We had a tough road when I was a teen, though I did well in school. 16-19 are hard ages. I would focus on the behaviors that will affect her future (like her education) and less on the stupid teenager things. And if you don't talk to her (vs talking at her), then make time to talk to her. Make time to get to know her again. Make time to explain (vs lecture) about why these things are important to you, that you appreciate what she does for you with the other kids, but you want to guide her. Sometimes the punishment is natural consequences and your job is to allow some of them to just happen vs saving her.


answers from Chicago on

I'd go with manual labor.
The more she acts up, the more chores/work she has to do around the house or running around for you.
If material things and friends don't matter to her, maybe breaking a sweat cleaning does. And that's an endless bucket of stuff that can get done. Heck, I'd have her cleaning baseboards!

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