How Do I Stop My 16 Year Old from Sneaking Out and Taking My Car?

Updated on May 02, 2019
L.W. asks from Dell Rapids, SD
15 answers

The sneaking out has been happening since she was almost 16 years old. She has a temper and runs her mouth when shes mad. Then she would run off and not return until late at night. Sometimes she was in the car we got her for school and sometimes she was walking. We had to involve the cops a few times when she didn't return and they have helped find her and picked her up 3 times so far. We decided to move rooms around in order to help prevent the sneaking out from her window and moved her to an upstairs bedroom. But now she just leaves through the main door. I have caught her in the last month doing it about 3 times and recently shes been taking my car. I have no trust left to give her. She sees a therapist once a month..just saw her last week actually and promised she would stop sneaking out. Prom is in 3 days and she expects me to let her go and let her go to after prom party. I'm so lost...I cant sleep at night and when I do I crash so hard I dont hear her leaving. I just catch her sneaking back in right before I get up to go workout. She has already had her phone taken several times and given back. I recently banned all social media and that makes her crazy. I need do I keep doing this?! I have 2 8 year olds that need attention too and we seem to be giving all of the attention to her right now.

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answers from New York on

If she is 16 what type of driving permit does she have? Is it even legal for her to drive a car alone at night?

And, at 16 she is...a high school sophomore or junior? Being allowed to go to a senior prom?

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

Wow, at least this is an easy one:

1. Don't give her access to any vehicles - do you know how to hide a car key? I hope so.

2. Put an alarm on the doors and windows - google security systems.

3. Purchase a track phone - one that makes and receives calls and doesn't have internet.

4. Change the internet password in the home to limit other access to social media OR put settings on it to restrict access

In my house, things were earned, not given. Kids who were sneaking out and not following my house rules, didn't get prom tickets and dresses. While I doubt you could "force" her not to go to prom, that doesn't mean you have to foot the bill. Return the dress, the ticket, and the shoes. Cancel the hair and makeup appointment. Unless she is paying for it all herself, she shouldn't be getting unearned monetary handouts.

Stop engaging and enabling. Take a parenting class. And stop with the excuses.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

um. don't give her access to the keys. that part's pretty easy.

a kid who's chronically running away has discovered that it's a power move, and is training her parents systematically to give in to her. the temptation is obviously to power-up, but you're not very good at it. taking her phone and giving it back. letting her go to prom when she's been acting out so badly. being lost and exhausted and sleepless. it's natural, of course- you can't chain her to the bed. but it's not working, is it?

she needs to be involved in the process. tell her frankly that you can't physically stop her from leaving, but you're going to call the police each and every single time without fail. when she's out on the streets you cannot protect her and she's at risk, so you're going to parent hard and that means calling the authorities. let her know that if she keeps pushing it, the courts may take away the autonomy she thinks she's gaining.

when things are calm, talk to her about coping strategies. when she's running, what is she running from? what are some better ways to handle it? what problems does she handle well, and how can she apply those coping strategies to this one? what does she think are appropriate consequences for constantly breaking the house rules? how would she prefer to have you handle it?

involve her in the process. you want to get her to start thinking like an adult. treat her, within sensible limits, as if she is.

but seriously- stop giving her the stupid keys. and put alarms on the doors and windows. she can still defiantly do it, but she won't be able to sneak any more. if she knows that each time she takes off you know it and are calling the police, that will put a crimp in her plans. but it's the underlying issues you need to tackle once you've got that ironed out.

good luck!


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

No more driving until her behavior improves and stays on an appropriate level consistently.
That means you take away her car. Give the keys to a friend or relative to hold (make sure she doesn't have a second set or she doesn't make a copy. Don't tell her ahead of time that you're going to do this because you'll be giving her the opportunity to make a copy).
Sleep with your keys under your pillow or wherever she can't get to them.

Go to therapy more than once a month. Family therapy will also help to help stop the current dynamic that's occurring in your family.

Take the door off of her room. She can earn it back with good behavior and no more sneaking out.

No more smart phone until she can behave on an age-appropriate level. One of the tasks at this point in her life is learning to be a functioning, productive member of society. After all, in two years, she'll be a legal adult. Teens who aren't showing basic respect of authority (parents, teachers, bosses, rules), don't get to have the privilege of having a smart phone.
If she needs a phone for safety reasons or to contact you for rides, get her the most basic one that just makes calls. Again, once she starts acting appropriately (following rules; obeying curfew; doing homework; helping around the house; passing grades, etc.), she can earn back privileges.

There is no way for us to tell what's driving this behavior, but it's clear she's crying out for some kind of attention or help. You have a small window to help get her back in line and make a difference. In two years, you won't be able to take her to therapy or have the kind of influence you do now. Don't let any more time pass without addressing this with the seriousness this behavior deserves. Wishing you the best with this.

ETA: Get the book, "Back in Control: How to Get Your Children to Behave" by Gregory Bodenhamer. It's an old book, but it contains the language and strategies for dealing with children like your daughter. The author worked with kids who were in the juvenile system and used these methods in that population. It's $10 on amazon and definitely worth it.

Make sure you talk to her about sexual health and behavior. The behavior you described sounds like a kid who's looking to fit in by defying every rule thrown at her, and lots of young girls try to do that by having sex. She is way too young and emotionally immature to be having sex. However, if she is sexually active, she must be on birth control. The last thing you or she need is a baby.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Sounds like you need FAMILY therapy. Something is really off here.
In the mean time, keep the car keys hidden, that's easy. And for God's sake take away her phone! Why would you let her have that kind of privilege when she's behaving so recklessly?
Please get some counseling for your whole family. Sending your daughter alone once a month clearly isn't enough. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Just take your car keys and hide them. How is she taking your car?
You can get alarms for windows and doors. Seems to me the therapist would have suggested these things?


Saw your message to me but I'll reply so others can see my response.

Your question is lacking info - is she only running off when upset? then she just needs to learn how to handle being upset, or deal with what's bothering her. Are you going to the counseling sessions too?

I'm unclear on what the underlying problem/issue is.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

The one time my kid took my car without permission, I called her and told her that if my car was not in my driveway within the next half hour, I was calling the police and reporting it stolen. And I took her car keys away.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Once a month individual counseling does not sound sufficient. Your daughter is crying out for help, and the question is "why?" What is fueling this behavior?

The whole family should be going for family counseling, so that you can better understand each other and find better ways to communicate and make sure everyone's needs get met. Taking her phone and banning social media are not going to be effective strategies for helping her. Talk to her about your concerns about her (safety I assume?, being tired the next day for school?) and ask for her ideas on how to ensure her safety while allowing her the freedoms she wants.

Where does she go when she runs off? Is she with friends, is she using drugs, what is she doing? If she is putting herself in dangerous situations, then I would have to say "no" to prom, but if she's just going to a friend's house to sleep, then I'd consider it. Let her know it's an opportunity for her to earn your trust by following whatever rules you set, or not.

I'd say no more driving for now. She should be driven wherever she needs to go. Make sure she doesn't have access to the car keys. Put them under your pillow if you need to.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I feel your pain.
First, she should not have ANY access to your keys. If she has keys,take them away. Go to sleep with your keys under your pillow if you have to. I do.
Second, once a month counseling is not enough. It needs to be at LEAST once a week...and you should be involved as well as her dad (if he is in her life). When a child is acting out like this it doesn't just affect her, it affects EVERYONE.
Stop giving her the phone back.Just take it away indefinitely.
Make sure that your home computer has a password on it so she cannot get on the computer when you are gone.
I cannot stress enough how important talking to a counselor is as well as her pediatrician.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Unhook the car battery or hide your keys. If she has her own car tell her she loses the privilege of car ownership if she sneaks out and if she does it again get rid of it. You may need to look for a new therapist...look up family therapy. Definitely get yourself into family therapy as well. One thing it sounds like is that you are not following through on consequences. Work on bonding with her again...getting to know her as a her your time. Hire a sitter for the 8 year olds or set up a playdate at someone else's house and go do something with your daughter every week. Focus on her interests. I'm sorry...this is hard.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New London on

Are you married? I would sit her down at the table and both u and your husband spell out the rules. In my house, we work as a team and we r on the same page. Counseling needs to happen more than once a month. If this therapist is not working-get another. How long have these behaviors been going on? Did parenting fall by the wayside yrs ago? Sounds like your child needs to work outside of the keep busy and not get into trouble. Get some parenting help and help to turn this around. I have a friend who has a husband who does not back her up with the parenting (At all) and the teen knows how to take control. It is so not easy for her.



answers from Richmond on

...simple way to stop the nonsense...tell her you get pregnant..i am not lifting a finger. you take me my car without my wreck will pay for the damages..period. you are using my can help pay for upkeep and insurance..don't have the money..get a job...she wants to have the trappings of being an adult...she can pay the bills that come with being an adult...


...simple way to stop the nonsense...tell her you get pregnant..i am not lifting a finger. you take me my car without my wreck will pay for the damages..period. you are using my can help pay for upkeep and insurance..don't have the money..get a job...she wants to have the trappings of being an adult...she can pay the bills that come with being an adult...



answers from Pittsburgh on

Where is your husband in all of this? If you are single? Where is her dad and what is HE doing about this?

The "therapist" you are seeing is not working. She needs a new and better therapist and needs to go WEEKLY. And YOU need to go too.

If she sneaks out again? Report her as a runaway and let the police deal with her. If she steals the car? It's theft and report it as such.

I see your daughter as trying to get your attention. There is something going on in her life and you are not asking the right questions. This is why you need to go to counseling with your daughter.

She doesn't get a phone.
She doesn't get a car.
She doesn't get to go to prom.
She EARNS her way.

Rules need to be made and the consequences for breaking those rules need to be used and enforced. Right now? She pushes your buttons and boundaries and "oh, I'll take away your phone." NO. I will call the police and report you as a runaway. You take my car? I will call the police and report it stolen and press charges. And IF she does? YOU FOLLOW THROUGH.,

Gets alarms and locks on all the windows and doors.
Sell her car. She doesn't NEED it.
If you need to watch her get on the school bus each day? Then do it. If you need to be there when she gets off the school bus? Then you need to work with your employer to do this.



answers from Columbus on

Please don't call the police on her without talking with an attorney first about the legal ramifications. Although many people give the advice, it has the very real potential to backfire and making the situation much worse. Things do not work the way they did 10 years ago.

When you call the police, you are basically admitting that you can't control your child. And because you can't, the state will act to do so. Once your child is in the juvenile justice system it can be very difficult to get them out of it. Offenses that may seem minor to you, like missing curfew by 15 minutes, can land them back in juvenile detention and there is nothing you can do about it.

Do not give up those parental rights unless you have exhausted every other option. A good friend of mine is an attorney. He has talked to so many parents who have said they never would have called the police if they had realized the ramifications.

The problem with traditional counseling is that it only works if a teen is motivated to change, and many times they aren't. I suggest looking for someone who offers multi-systemic therapy (MST). It's a home-based 24/7 approach that works for many families.



answers from Cleveland on

It would be quite costly to change the ignition and hide your keys. What you should do is report it to the police. If she does get stopped by police, you could get in trouble as if you authorized it.

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