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16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

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Casual scribe
Littlelost

16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

I have a 16 year old daughter who I adore but I am so confused stressed and sad and I am not sure how to move forward.

My daughter pretty much does whatever she wants and there is no “currency” for me to work with.

I have always been very supportive. Encouraging any activities or interests she has. I haven’t asked for much of her at all. She has generally made good decisions as far as I can tell and attends school and does reasonably well however the last few months have been more concerning.

Anytime she is asked to do anything she doesn’t want to do (clean her room dishes in sink) anything it isn’t with defiance and attitude. Recently we had a text war because she didn’t want to clean her room her only chore (she insists on the texting she said she feels more comfortable this way)

I have tried to approach her the way she feels most comfortable so using text instead of not communicating at all, asking her to do things with me, trying to make general small talk but she is very dismissive and disrespectful of me however if I ask her to do something at all she acts like I have insulted her.

Now she is staying out later and I told her to let me know where she was and not to use public transport after a certain hour. She used to let me know where she was and when she would be home but lately this has stopped and I feel like I am begging for any information.

When she decided not to clean her room I told her that if she didn’t want to contribute to the household in anyway then she could not take from the household and would be responsible for her own laundry, streaming services, wifi, mobile etc. she has a job so this doesn’t bother her and she has no problem living in the mess she creates in her room.

The one and only thing asked of her now is that she lets us know where she is and how she is getting home and she isn’t doing that and basically just ignores my texts

I have no idea how to approach this. I have tried being calm and just asking for a chat but she will only text I have tried telling her I worry and just need to know she is safe that gets an eye roll

Unless she wants something she doesn’t speak to me

I have no idea how to set or enforce any kind of boundary when there is nothing “in it” for her

My 19 year old son never behaved like this so I am at a loss

Any advice welcome
Parent/Carer Community Champion
Birdwings

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

Hi Littlerlost,

I'm not sure how much help I can offer you. I'm Mum to a 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter and both their rooms look like bombs went off. Keeping things organised is something  I struggle with myself, or just avoid, and I try to overcome that by clearing one area at a time. It could well be that a clean room doesn't mean anything to her, and it's only going to be something like having friends over that's going to motivate her- or cash. My son was pretty difficult to budge about getting his L's and his youth leader offered him a tub of Baskin Robbins ice cream if he booked in for his test. It was instantaneous action. 

Connecting with teens can be tricky. One of the recommendations that comes up often in the forum here is talking in the car. While I'd always thought having eye contact was important it can also be confronting and being side by side can be more conducive. Texting usually works well with my daughter but not as our only form of communication. I like op shopping and I might send her photos of really weird or bad taste stuff I come across and we have a bit of a laugh. The idea is to focus on connection, not correction when they're withdrawn. My daughter is an introvert and I'm quite an extrovert but I mostly have a handle on this and she mostly understands I need that contact and have very little social interaction due to my health and covid etc. Finding some common activities would be good too. My daughter bought a kit to gel her own nails and she's going to do mine. Having a home facial might also be good. Baking or cooking together is something that's a bit hit and miss around here. My daughter finds some interesting recipes on tic toc. Setting up a home veggie patch or maybe a pot plants garden is another idea. Hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Birdwings

Mod
Maddy-RO

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

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Hi @Littlelost ,

 

Aw, I can hear how much you love your daughter, and understandably how stressed you feel about her recent attitude.

 

I really like @Birdwings's suggestion of connection instead of correction.

 

When I read your post, I got the impression that your daughter is wanting distance, and is sort of pushing you away. I think it is good that you set the boundary that, if she does not clean her room, then she has to do her own washing, etc. I think that is fair enough. If I were you, I'd just let that be for a little while, and see how it goes, and focus on connection.

 

When I say focus on connection, I think it is important to not be too overbearing though. So, you might want to try to focus on connection but try to meet where she is at, because if all of a sudden you are trying too hard then it might push her away further. You might want to try different things and see how she reacts. For example, you might want to try asking less questions about here whereabouts, and see how that goes. When she speaks, you might also want to try reflecting what she says back to her, instead of asking questions, as this may help her to feel heard without encroaching on what she believes is her personal space. Try different forms of communication and see how you go. You might even want to note it all down so you have a record of it and can analyse it.

 

I thought I'd point out that, if you're from Australia, there are some free services that might be able to support you at the moment:

 

  • ReachOut Parents One-on-One Support is a free service for parents/carers of 12 to 18-year-olds and includes up to four sessions with a professional experienced in supporting families. You can learn more about this service here.
  • Parentline is a phone service for parents and carers of children from birth to 18 years old. They offer free, confidential and anonymous counselling and support on parenting issues. The number for Parentline differs per state. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see which number to call if you're interested. 

Please keep us updated with how you go with everything! 

Casual scribe
Conker

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

You seem like an extremely lovely, kind and generous parent, and no one can fault you there.

 

 

Human beings need motivation in both positive and negative forms. You as an adult, may tell yourself that you don't speed because you are a good person and don't want to cause any deaths, but the moment you back off the accelerator when you see the speed limit sign, you're thinking of the speeding tickets you've got, and nobody is the exception here.

 

Children are motivated by the same combination of positive and negative stimulus, it's a primal thing and it's how our brains work.

 

The bar for what is a difficult task for her to do may be very low, and the annoying feeling of having to do it outweighs any promise of positive action that may follow it. It's in this case that us grown up adults put on a stiff upper lip and just get up in the morning and clean the house or earn a weeks wage - because it needs doing.  We don't want our family to starve, and we don't want to live in squalor.  Those are negative consiquences that we've already had a close enough brush with that we take enough action to keep them at bay.  And as adults it's our job to teach children this fact of life and prepare them for the real world.  It's just as essential a part of nurturing as making them feel safe and ensuring they have fun and freedoms.

 

You are absolutely right that you have no currency to work with - I couldn't see any in your description of your relationship with her, in fact, I couldn't even see a positive currency, let alone a negative currency (or leverage, I should say).  That may just be the way it is, because being a parent is hard to find time for everything, but if you're not "relevant" in her life to the point where she thinks you're just not cool enough to "get it" and nagging her about things that just cause her to have less fun, there's no way you have any positive leverage.

 

You can execute your negative leverage (removing conveniences, etc.) but of course if you don't have the rapport built up, it's likely to cause resentment.

 

Not an easy thing to solve, this problem has been brewing for a long time. But for sure, the immediate problem is she sees no "reason" why she has to do those things. It's just you annoying her. And sometimes, children are too young to really understand the long term consequences of things, so we have different levels of punishments. 

Community Manager
Philippa-RO

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

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@Conker welcome to the forums and thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

I really liked what you said about needing positive currency in terms of relating to young people as without it, using negative consequences can lead to resentment. 
I think that relates well too to what @Birdwings said about trying to focus on ways to connect. 

 

I agree with what you said about people learning from past brushes with negative consequences like speeding fines, etc. There are times where I wish my young people could learn a hard lesson I've learnt without having to go through the pain of learning it for themselves, but I think people learn more from natural consequences that from people telling them things.

 

For example, maybe a tidy room doesn't seem important, cleaning seems overwhelming, or a young person might assert their independence by having a messy room... but then if they can't find something or something gets ruined in the mess, or a friend comes over and comments on the mess - all of a sudden a tidy room might have a higher value. Those natural lessons can have a pretty big impact, but they happen in their own time. 

 

The teenage years can be such a stressful and confusing time, particularly in a COVID world. I think it's really common for things like messy rooms to be the norm because there is just so much going on.

@Littlelost has your daughter been able to talk to you about why she doesn't want to clean her room?

I'm also wondering what it is about a messy room that feels upsetting for you?

 

I think a strong relationship, connection, love and care are foundations for the long term. Do you think it could be an option to focus on connection for the moment and see if that helps at all? 
If so, we have some articles on our website about supportive parenting and communication in case you'd like to take a look. 

Casual scribe
Conker

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

Thanks @Philippa-RO , I thought I would come by here for some advice, but when I saw some of the existing questions, I thought I would stay for a bit and contribute first.

 

I'm having trouble quoting previous replies in a single post, so I'lll make a 2nd post.

Casual scribe
Conker

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

This is the part that concerns me most (far beyond her messy room):


Now she is staying out later and I told her to let me know where she was and not to use public transport after a certain hour. She used to let me know where she was and when she would be home but lately this has stopped and I feel like I am begging for any information.

...

The one and only thing asked of her now is that she lets us know where she is and how she is getting home and she isn’t doing that and basically just ignores my texts

...

My 19 year old son never behaved like this so I am at a loss

Obviously this is an extreme danger and we don't want her to just suddenly not turn up one night. I'm concerned about this and my responses are around this specifically, and I wonder if @Littlelost has anything more to say on it.

 

From the original post, I get the impression everything has been fine up until the last few months.  Perhaps this is just a phase, she's suddenly had an awakening where she's got in with a group of friends where she's getting to experience more "adult" things, and the life at home has been very childlike and she wants to break out of it now. She sees her mother in the center of that and doesn't think anything she has to say is relevant, because she's only seen her in the context of child rearing.

 

Perhaps it's time to talk to her like an adult, about the kinds of thing she's getting up to, show her you've been there, done that, she'll probably be surprised, even horrified / grossed out, and warn her of the bad things that could happen to her. You probably have some scary stories you personally experienced or things that happened to people you know.

 

I have to credit my grandma giving me a healthy dose of fear around always listening to my parents. I must've been a bit younger than 10 when she told me what I think was a news story centering around children not listening to their parents and coming back home to find them both dead.  It may sound extreme or strange out of context while I'm trying to summarise it here, but the point is -  it didn't mentally scar me, but the chilling story introduced to me just a bit of the reality around what kind of dangers are out there, and to trust your parents to look after you.

 

The other thing is my father and mother both had spanking from a young age as a form of punishment, so to be so rebellious as to flat out ignore them on a regular basis - or even stay out late by the time we were teenagers, wasn't even fathomable. The few times we made a mistake we came home to a crying angry mother that was worried sick about us, and that brought us back into line pretty quick.

 

Hoping by sharing some of my experiences it might give @Littlelost some insight or ideas. Every parenting situation is different and no parenting situation is perfect.

Casual scribe
Littlelost

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

I just want to sincerely thank you all for your input it has been really helpful and I appreciate it.

 

I have taken your advice to focus on connection. It is hard as she spends all day and evening out or in her room and when I ask if she wants to do something (get an ice cream go for a walk etc) she says thanks but no. 

 

I would like to have a conversation with her around independence. She craves it and I think it is a good thing to an extent and support it. I am going to persist with giving her the responsibility for her own washing and cleaning. She has a job and a lot of disposable income for a 16 year old. 

 

We have always been quite relaxed with her as I have always known ultimatiums or consequences dont work with her. For example she does not have a curfew she just needs to check in with us and if it is after 9pm get an uber home rather than public transport. I have told her I feel she is mature and makes good decisions so I choose to trust her and ask that she simply checks in so I won't worry and so I can sleep and that she can call if she is in need and we will always get her. She has generally been good with this although she does treat the home like a hotel but from now on it won't be coming with complimentary laundry and turn down service.

 

Other than a text exchange (as she prefers this method) where I said it is fine if you don't want to clean your room or assist in the house with any chores but you can't expect to take from the Home when you don't contribute to the home so you will need to take care of your own needs. I have not pressed the issue and focused on having nice interactions where possible but no longer allow myself to be a doormat.

 

I think she was surprised this morning when she had tipped all her washing into the communal laundry basket to find it back in the one in her room.

 

It makes me genuinely sad as I adore her I think she is smart funny intelligent and fund to be around but I get pushing away from me is part of growing up. It is hard to strike a balance of making sure I am there and creating positive moments and not being treated like a slave or a fool.

 

I will keep coming back to this thread as a source of strength when things get tough

Casual scribe
Littlelost

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

Hi @Conker I just wanted to reference this specifically.

 

I have had lots of conversations all throughout her life at age appropriate levels. I recently found out she had drunk alcohol a couple of times. I didn't get upset I just said we all experiment with alcohol and that I had by the time I was her age and told her about the time my drink was spiked and another time I had to fight my way out of the back seat of a car because I was too drunk to realise what would happen if I went with someone to his car. I have told her I would prefer she doesn't drink but I am not going to punish her and she can always call me if she needs to if she has done something she is worried I will get mad about booze, sex, drugs I dont care as long as she is safe she should never be scared to call me.

 

She has gotten back to texting and calling to let me know where she is. I think she lies about getting Ubers and is still using public transport but short of calling her a liar not sure what I can do about that.

Mod
Courtney-RO

Re: 16 year old daughter doing whatever she wants

Hi @Littlelost I'm sorry to hear how tough things have been at home with your daughter recently. It sounds like you are trying really hard to connect with her and offer her support. I'm just wondering how you are looking after yourself during this difficult time? It's important to practice some self-care to make sure that you're getting through this too.

We are all here for you.

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