My 16 Year Old

Updated on September 02, 2010
K.J. asks from South Holland, IL
20 answers

I have a 16 year old daughter who is very smart, but she doesn't do her work at school. She has always just gotten by. This bothers me, because I try to excel in whatever I do, but she just accepts mediocrity and I don't believe she tries hard. I just got her progress report and she is not passing any classes. I don't think she's into drugs. She could probably be having sex because I can't monitor her every move, but she does have to be in the house by 9 week day and week end. Her father and I just put her on punishment for the bad grades (no phone, no outside and no company) But I want to motivate her to do better. She needs to do her best so she can support herself. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. We go to the library, I go to the school for parent nights. I talk to her constantly about how important it is to do well so she can succeed in life. I asked her what did she want to do after high school and she said Job Corp. I almost died. HELP!!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

I know this is coming late, but the next school year is just around the corner :-). I too have a laid back/lazy/uninspired teenager...mine is a boy though.

I don't have much advice, but I will say son had NO IDEA what college was about until we started talking about it more the past few months. He thought he had to choose his major RIGHT AWAY. He thought he had to take 7 or 8 classes each semester. Basically, he thought it was JUST LIKE High School. Since we started talking more about it and we even picked up a catalog from a local community college, he's much more excited about going to college. We also told him that we were fine with him only going part time his first year (but we will NOT allow him to take a year off!) Best advice...TALK to her about her future and what she wants!

A book that has helped me ALOT with how I approach my son lately is Adolescence Isn't Terminal by Dr. Kevin Leman (a Christian). Lots of great advice! My favorite line by Dr. Leman - "Unhappy kids are healthy kids!" - this is obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek. Yet, any parent of a teen knows that this is SO true! We are NOT their friends!

I will also say...YOU are the parent!!! In our house, during the school year, our kids (12 and 17 y/o) must be home for dinner and then typically, they are expected to stay home after that. If we do let our 17 y/o go out on a school night, he's expected to be home by 8:30 and in bed at 9pm. That may sound strict...but he has to be up at 6am. Teens need rest! When the weekend comes...we allow him to be out til 1am on Friday night, but earlier on Saturday night due to church on Sunday. It's our house and our rules! It doesn't matter if they are 8 or 18! When they move out and pay their own bills, then they can do whatever want :-)

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answers from Chicago on

She sounds bored. If I were you I'd conduct a full scale search and seizure. 4th ammendment doesn't apply to her. It's your home your rules. I'd absolutely search her room, backpacks, and purses for any sign of drugs or paraphanalia. What kind of people does she hang out with? Where does she hang out? This is bulldog parenting, but sometimes it is necessary. People in general are not content with mediocrity unless they don't know any better, and it sounds like you have worked hard at showing her that there is more to life. I'd also get her into counseling. This may be a rebellion stemming from your separation, or tough feelings about being an older sister to a baby. She's in the full throttle throes of puberty and all of a sudden mom's busy with a baby. She may just need someone objective to talk to whether she knows it or likes it. Teens rarely agree to talk to counselors so you may have to do some pushing, though I really think it would be the best thing for her.
She sounds a lot like me at 16. I had no problem with my failing grades, or so I made it seem. I don't want to scare you, but I had some "bad girl" behaviors. Good news, my mom and I survived and I went to college. My mother and I still joke that neither of us should have survived my adolesence. OH and I had a curfew which I stuck to, a job, two very involved parents, numerous groundings and punishments, etc... and still found time for my "bad girl extracurricular activities" Teenage rebellion like this rarely has anything to do with the parents doing something wrong. Its usually about a childs disposition as well as peer influence. Just keep in mind she's a teenager, or as my mom called me a pod person. Your daughter will be back to herself by 20.

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answers from Chicago on

I suggest no allowance or financial 'support' AT ALL unless her grades improve. Once they do improve, she should also get a 'real' JOB, so she can see how awful it is when you have to work at McDonalds. She needs to see first hand (telling her something doesn't make it 'real' to her) that schooling directly impacts whether you can find a good job, or a nasty one.
You might want to consider taking her to your pediatritian to have her tested for drugs. Every parent wants to think that their child wouldn't do that, but reality is different. Even if she is on something (check your medicine cabinets, that's what my cousin started with) it's not the end of the world. You can get her help if you know what's wrong.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

sorry i know you dont wanna hear this but put her on birth control right a way i was in the same place as her when i was in high school, i asked my mom to put me on birth control but instead she dint let me out so i stared skipping school and ended up pregnant. i dint finish school and now have a baby to take care of, i dont want to see her in the same way and i know its my falt but i wish my mom put me on birth control when i asked. and try talking to her maybe the birth control and you being okay with her havein safe sex she will be able to be more open with you and tell you whats going on. just dont say she is having sex just say i want you t be protected if you ever want to.



answers from Tulsa on

I once read that kids grow in cycles. They rotate. Some years are emotional, it's not that they are mentally lazy, the are busy growing ELSEWHERE. Some years all of their energy is physical, so they tend to be immature emotionally.

I raised two daughters with this in mind, and it made all the difference between what my girlfriends went through with their daughters vs. what we went through. I am now raising another daughter with this same information in the back of my head - and it has made 15 pretty smooth.

We expect our kids to be mental 24/7 as though they were adults; we forget that as adults, even we forget to pay a bill when we are stressed about a loved one, or run late when the baby is difficult.

Laziness is just a poor way of coping with stress. Maybe take her for a walk in the evening - I have learned some amazing things after about the third walk...some things I didn't want to know lol, but it gave me a chance to give advice that was not seen as a threat or a judgement.

Just something to think on.



answers from Fayetteville on

Some of your tactics I am not sure I agree with. My parents were very very tough on me as well, my Dad was a preacher. She is rebelling just to push your buttons.. If she isn't going to do her work at school, go to classes with here. I am not sure I care for the sex part. If she isn't that is killing her thinking you would think that of her. The 9oclock rule is is really way too tough if she has not giving you any reason to think she is drinking, doing drugs, or having sex, let her breath, she might surprise you! Let the whole subject go for a while, then get info. about collages. I just think you are holding on a little to tight, so she is pulling harder.


answers from Chicago on

Firstly, highschools (and the school system in general) are not exactly designed to help kids discover their passions and potential. I didn't take it really seriously either. Try to find out what she is passionate about, help her find out what purposes God has made her for. Then you can suggest she take a class outside school in something that moves her. An instrument, greenpeace, knitting, ballroom dance, art of some kind, look in your community center booklet for classes and see if anything sparks her interest. If she finds something she is passionate about then she may be motivated to take her "education" more seriously bc of what it can lead her to.
Also, there are many books at the library about how to enrich your kid's life outside of the regular school atmosphere to help them be more successful. Since you're there all the time anyway, check it out.
Lastly, pray for her. And pray that she ISN'T having sex!! 16 is too young--teenage years are intense enough--you say you are a Christian, are you modeling this lifestyle to her? Do you discuss sex and relationships with her? DO you share how much you wish you had waited to be with her father (if applicable). Are you involved in a church with quality people who are real and supportive or one that is concerned with appearances? Is she involved with a youth group? Is there a youth leader that you can ask to talk to her that she looks up to? God Bless you, I will say a prayer for your family.



answers from Chicago on

I am not nearly at the point of parenting that you are, but as I was reading your concerns I thought to m self I wonder if this girl is working, maybe she needs a job??? Then at the end you mentioned she is interested in Job Corps...what's wrong with that? SOme of us just are not school people, and there are plenty of trades and other niches we can find as adults...also, maybe if she is out working in the real world with real adult responsibilities school won't seem so bad...might be just the motivator she needs. I know as parents we all have aspirations for our children and we want the best for them, and we want them to benefit from our mistakes and knowledge/wisdom we have accumulated along the way. Beleive me, college will be strongly suggested in our home to our children as both my husband i are not college educate (although we do have skilled trades), but it is the path we chose, and we all have to walk our own. And honestly, it sounds like you all are doing a great job with raising her, if that's the only thing wrong you're way ahead of the game. = Good luck and I hope things work out how they are supposed to.



answers from Rockford on

Hey K.,
I have to say this Whats wrong with Job corp????? I realize it is not a parents first pick however at least she will learn a trade that will enable her to support herself & prepare her for the real world. Sometimes when a teen is in a slump like this there is a hidden reason that they are not wanting to tell parents about, drugs, peer pressure, sex, boyfriends, trouble understanding school work ( adhd,add,ect.)depression,not understanding mood swings due to her period, not being popular in school, a bully in school, girls making fun of her due to under development and the list could go on and on 16 is a hard age if your daughter is not willing to be totally honest with you get a complete physical done including blood work that will tell if any drugs start there work your way from there to co uncling if need be. Remember just because you are a archiver does not mean your child will be unless you raise her to be from early childhood!
Good Luck & God Speed



answers from Chicago on

She needs to take a walk on the wild side.

Call a homeless shelter and see what kind of volunteering they need.

Other people probably have other ideas. But she needs to see what life is like when you can't take care of yourself.


answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,

High school is not fulfilling for many teenagers. So it would be highly unlikely that your daughter would express interest in going into college (not that she won't or won't consider it at some point later). Perhaps it doesn't seem practical or meaningful (at this time). Being that she said she would be interested in Job Corps does not necessarily mean that it is a 'negative thing'. If she knows about Job Corps perhaps she has some idea of what she would like to do there or one of her friends has told her about it.

Is it possible that you can schedule an appointment with a local job corps and take her there? You can see how she responds to the staff there and where her specific interest lies. Once you know what it is she specifically wants to do or at least has interest in (culinary, trade etc) then look for opportunities in your community where she can gain experience doing that specific thing. Perhaps when she has a chance to work in the environment she will hear real life situations from people who work there and the different level of education and training they did to get where they are at. You know even if they say the exact same things as you, sometimes for teens, when they hear someone else that sounds like their parents then they get it!!!

For young people, they often want to do 'something' they just don't know what or think that if they are a teen they waited too late to start to get formal training. It is part insecurity and part bitterness that their parents didn't give them enough [fill in the blank] to be able to do that thing. So when asked they usually blurt out something like military or job corps or something 'hurtful' that they know will 'push' some buttons. As hard as it can be, the best thing you can do is try to be supportive regardless of how crazy she tries to make you. If anything, she will simply not know how to respond and perhaps become truthful with you because she will no longer be able to 'read' you or make predictions.

Alternatively, sometimes an extreme change in environment helps teens to reflect on themselves and see life a lot differently. Call her bluff-

Ask her if she would be happier leaving and being out there on her own if so, then explore options to send her abroad for a year to study in a foreign country or look into boarding school options? Additionally, I think teens can enroll in Job Corps at age 16. So if she says she is ready, send her. It is better to send her away and let her see how the other side really is before she is 18 and while you still have full responsibility of her as opposed to constantly having to worry about her safety and well-being and ultimately having to take care of her because she cannot sustain herself.

Regardless of what you choose to do, hope your situation works out for the best and without too much stress.



answers from Chicago on

I have a 16 year old boy. He has to have his teachers sign his assignment book at the end of the week and give me a weekly progress report. If he has missing assignments then he can't do anything for the weekend. And, also if assignments are missing he still has to do them even if the teacher won't accept them for a grade. He has to turn them in and I have to hear from the teacher that he turned in the missing work. This is only done when missing assignments get out of hand. And, he can't do anything with friends until everything is made up. I don't know what school your daughter goes to but at VHS I can email the teachers to find out what is going on. I only check in once every few weeks. Also, it's driving time. If my son wants to get his license he has to maintain a B average, which he is more than capable of doing. Having them do the assignment book helps them to keep track of their grades weekly. For awhile we had my son have his teachers sign his book everyday to make sure he had the assignments written down and that things were turned in.

He isn't very motivated either right now. I'm hoping that next year when they start doing SATs in 11th grade and other friends start talking about college that he'll become alittle more interested.

My sons teachers tell me that he knows the stuff. His test grades prove that, it's just that he doesn't turn in his work or complete it. But things have gotten better. The 3rd grading period he received all B's except Speech he got a C-. I'm happy with that.

Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

lots of good reading at this website

I would tell her how sad it makes you that she accepts a failure future, when she has every opportunity to be so much more. build her self esteem a little... she could be suffering with low self esteem... she may have depression too - I know when I am depressed, I am less than motivated or positive about the future and I sometimes rely on hearing from others that I am deserving.

there is so much that can cause a teen to accept mediocrity... try to get inside her head, get to her level of thinking (try to recall being a teen and what you went through, and then double it). I'm not a perfect parent... I will admit that - I dont know what I'm doing... it's all trial and error... but I believe that when we humble ourselves enough to understand them, we can go far in helping them succeed.

Good luck to you... I will be in your shoes in a few years, so I have been trying to do all I can to keep up with the psychology of parenting :)



answers from Chicago on

I have the same issue with my son. How does she test on Isat test and other test? My son tested very high and was told he was ver intellagentbut. That he was lazy and just didn't care, and didn't hand in finished home work. With alot of quuestions and concerns from teachers and health professionals he was diagnoised with ADHD which can be tricky to diagnois and that all kids are diffrent. He is on a low dose of meds and the school work and attitude has been much better.

Funny thing is 62% of adults are diagnoised with ADHD through there own childs diagnosis. So now we are going thru this together. I see him in a diffrent light and he see's me in a diffrent light.

By far I know you will get other responses and ideas but you can check this out just with her own medical Doctor and go from there.



answers from Rockford on

It might be a phase. There is some good advice here to check for drugs and have her checked medically for any imbalances or depression. Is she having trouble with her boyfriend or is he possibly abusive or influencing her in some way? Maybe she is sort of lost in school and does not know how to help herself. She might just be in some sort of angst about not knowing what she wants to do. Is there a lot of pressure in her school? There's probably lots of ideas like this to check out, and on the other hand she may truly not see anything wrong with where she is. You did say you constantly talk about success, so maybe it has been too much for her and she feels she can't attain what you see as success. Not that what you say to her is bad, but maybe relax it a little so she does not feel too much pressure. Also, she may just be being a 16 year old and will come out of it with time.



answers from Chicago on

It is so frustrating when our kids don't see how important it is to do well in school. I did good in school, probably could have done better, but received decent grades. Now I am also a perfectionist in the things I do. Some of that comes with age (I think). So it drives me crazy when my kids don't see it the same way.

I have my own direct sales business and I'm always trying to tell my kids that if I didn't do what I needed to do, I wouldn't have a business and wouldn't be able to support them. Some day maybe they'll really get it!

Anyway, one of the things that we've done with my son is to make him give us an hour a day of school work when he comes home. It doesn't matter what he brings home, but for an hour a day he has to sit at the kitchen table or in the family room (without the TV) and do something. This way, I can check on him and see that he is actually doing something, even if it's reading an assignment. It makes him accountable so that when I check his grades online and see that he has missed something, I can say, why didn't you do that yesterday or the day before while you were giving me your hour.

Sometimes I think it's a lack of planning or just not getting when they should study. One example was a test my son took on Monday. He told me he did study, but it was on Friday. Now you and I both know he should have studied Sunday night, but in his mind, since he studied on Friday, why would he restudy on Sunday. Once we had this conversation, the light bulb went on in his mind and hopefully he won't make the same mistake again.

I hope this helps. My son is only in 7th grade, but things seem to be picking up. He is extremely intelligent, tests off the chart on standardized testing, but his school grades still aren't reflecting his intelligence. This is helping him and it is also keeping our yelling and screaming to a minimum. He knows what he has to do and when grades don't come back as they should, this has allowed us to talk about it productively and keep a game plan going.

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on


I do not have a teenager (my boys are 2.5 and 8 months) but I have a 16 year old sister. Both my husband and I have been a very active part of her life as my mom is a single mom. She's asked to come live with us more than once while fighting with my mom. Anyway, I work in a small office and have 3 parents with teenagers.

#1 - 16 yr old boy who has a 3.8 GPA (out of 4) and in some honor classes. Unfortunately, he has no social skills. No friends (I'm not exaggerating) and is very rude and arrogant. He doesn't have the desire to be social because he "doesn't like the quality of the kids at school."

#2 - my sister, 16 yr old girl. Maybe a 3.0 GPA and makes little or no effort to do any better. BUT, she's very social and involved in church, sports and friends. She's very strong willed and battles with my mom on a daily basis. But, she's a very polite and respectful young lady with everyone else.

#3 - 18 yr old boy. Straight A student who received a scholarship to college. He played varsity sports and was very social. I've spent time with him and he is very polite and respectful. All around a good kid.

There are all sorts of kids out there and they all excel in different ways. Obviously, non-passing grades are not acceptable but I would take a "C" student with good manners, an active social life and a good sense of self over high grades.

Personally, I don't think you can force your daughter to be a "good student" so to speak. We are all motivated in different ways. I was a high B student but easily could have done much better. It just wasn't that important to me. I don't even know what my mom could have done to motivate me to do better. Once, she said she would give me $100 if I got straight A's. Didn't matter.

All that being said, I think you need to find what gets to her. I know my sister responds to having things taken away from her. Kids have SO much more than I did growing up. Internet, cell phones, video games, etc. Which I'm fine with, but with privilege comes responsibility and maybe it's time to take away some privileges until she shows more responsibility. Not just for a couple of weeks, but until the grades are better.

Just an idea.


answers from San Francisco on

Her grades could quite possibly have to do with her peers. Some just goof off and don't pay attention and she may be following suite. Perhaps she feels that having to be in by 9pm. is childish and her friends could very well be making fun of her. Most and I'm not saying your wrong in what your doing, but most 16yr.olds are allowed to stay out until 10 on wk.days and 11 on wknds. By taking things away from her may just work in the opposite of what you are trying to get through to her and she will be worse for it instead of better once the punishment is over. She knows she can do better but for some reason (I personally think peers) have gotten the best of her. When she says she wants to do Job Corp. that should give you some clue as to where her friends want to go. Maybe its time to sit down with her, tell her, both of you that you want that much more for her. Ask her what it would take for her to better herself, is it something that both of you are doing, or is it something thats bothering her at school? Tell her that neither one of you are going to berate her for what she says. Its best to know now. Honesty is the best policy and let her know that both of you are willing to help in anyway.
Good luck!! She won't talk about her peers because you may not like them and tell her she can't hang out with them. Let her know that this isn't so.



answers from Chicago on

Hi K.,

I have a 17 year old son whom I like to call laid back.(To keep from calling him Lazy) He has always been a laid back calm kind of kid. From the day he was born he was very calm and quiet he didn't cry a lot and has never been in a rush.

He is a junior in high school and his grades are just alright. Just like you, I strive for perfection in everything that I do as well. But what I had to realize was that my son is not me (and he moves at his own pace) and all I can do is continue to talk to him about the importance of his education and encourage him to do the best that he can. Every child is not an "A" student so as long as he does the best he can, then I am happy with that.

Continue to stay on your daughter when necessary, but sit down and try to talk to her. It may be something else going on that may be causing her problems in school. These children have so much to deal with just to go to school in this day and age.

Another idea, maybe your Pastor or your spiritual leader can help you out with some counseling or maybe the youth pastor(if you have one)can sit down with your daughter. (Sometimes teenagers respond better to other adults)Maybe her aunt or older cousin can get through to her.

But remember, you said that you are a Christian, then don't forget the most important thing that you should do and that is PRAY. Begin to pray for your daughter, pray over your daughter daily, pray over her mind, pray that the Lord intervene with some of the decisions that your daughter is making and let God do the rest.

I hope that this has been of some sort of encouragement.
Stay strong and Prayed up!



answers from Chicago on

Oh my goodness I have come to the same conclusion as always. My son is 17. He could be the male version of your daughter. However many times we nagged, cried, moaned, his answer was always that he doesn't like school, doesn't like homework and was it not wonderful that he was passing. He wants to be a chef so he thought once he got accepted to chef school (which he did and we can't afford and we can't get scholarships because HIS GRADES ARE BAD) he still doesn't think it was that major and he is just opting for community college instead. He is however doing better in school this last year once I shut up and decided to notice the things he does do. For example he has leads in the highschool play right now he's in 'Highschool Musical'. He was involved with sports, went to all the practises, was in other plays with lead parts and has of course a very active social life. He really is a good kid, I've worried about drugs and sex and when he comes home. He comes home when he is supposed to for the most part, give or take a few minute. I am trying to see the positives in what he does do. I'm not saying this will work for you, I'm saying this is what I look at. He does not care now about his grades and he will live with the consequences in his future if those are something that will affect his life. I couldn't understand why he wouldn't be interested in school. I'm a college graduate, went to school nights to get a paralegal certificate and have subbed many years. Perhaps that is why: just because. So in the words of my mother if at all possible 'JUST IGNORE IT" this will either work itself out or not. But your daughter will be the one that must accept the consequences. I believe you have done your job which is to let her know that there are consequences for her behavior, in addition to the ones you have set. If yours didn't work then she will be looking at her life and seeing that. And by the way I went back to get my paralegal certificate, about twenty five years after I graduated college with not so good grades with a 3.6 grade average. Because I too had finally learned the consequences of what my early choices had caused.

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