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16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

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16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

Casual scribe

16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use



I am actually here to speak about my sister in hope of getting some advice for my parents. She is 16 and has absolutely no motivation in life unless it is to go out and party with her friends and drink/do drugs.


It is me (24) my sister (16) and my brother (11) My parents have spoilt all of us however when i was young they were very strict on me and constantly grounded me for things i did wrong. When my sister does something wrong, there is no consequences and they let her get away with everything. My sister has realised this, and now she does whatever she wants because she knows that she will never get punished.


She has now started using recreational drugs and drinking, having sex. She stole a car with her friends and crashed it, and she also got into a car with a driver under the influence of drugs (police called me to tell me)


I have informed my parents of all of this and yet they have not punished her. She has barely gone to school the last year and now she is in Year 11 and has exams. She has not attended any of her exams and instead cries saying she can't do the exams because she's anxious. My mum took her to the doctor to get a psychologist appointment and doctors certificate. Today she missed another exam - she says she's not doing the exams because "they do not count towards year 11"


She is the most laziest person I know. She has been fired from 2 jobs, she doesnt go to school or exams and she is just heading towards nothing. I hate being in the house and seeing this because it just makes me embarrassed for her. It is embarrassing when my friend's ask me why my parents never do anything about it.


My sister tells me she hates drugs and how she's stopped and is never doing it again and then i see her on it the next weekend. She tells my parents she is stopping and they believe her.


They always give her money when she goes out, new phone, laptop, new clothes. When i ask them why they do not do anything they say "no punishment works on her because she is just going to do what she wants anyway" but they never try!!!!!


I am hoping anyone can help me with this if you have been through a situation with a dropkick like this?

Super contributor

Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

Hi, @anastasiak Thank so much for sharing your story with us.

I think your decision to look for suggestions here is a very clever one. Not just because I think this community is awesome, which it is, but because one of your sister's biggest issue is what sounds like a lack of parenting. Or more accurately, a lack of boundaries.


I say this with the utmost respect for your parents and a deep understanding of how hard it can be to decide what type of parenting you are going to use. Especially when it's the third, and last, child and everyone's a bit tired. Immediate peace can so often seem like the ideal outcome but it is absolutely a false promise. Teenagers don't just need boundaries, they are at risk when they don't have them which is exactly what's playing out with your sister right now. She is so desperate for boundaries she's driving herself off the edge of the earth to try and find them.

And unfortunately, when a teenager lives in an overly permissive space or one without boundaries, two things happen concurrently; the first is the lengths they go to when trying to find where the limits are, the second is they become used to living in a particular way and miss out on developing the necessary skills they need to transition into adulthood. And it's this second thing that makes it so hard to get back on track.

If all your sister needed was boundaries then logic would suggest that all your parents would need to do is start to implement some rules and she would immediately respond to them, happy and grateful. But we know this is far from reality. Your sister has become so accustomed to living a life without responsibility or consequence it's now going to be that much harder for her to learn the necessity of those things, as well as their benefits, and she will fight tooth and nail against being forced to take them on.

It's this weird aspect of humans that we can want two completely contradictory things at once. Deep down she wants boundaries but when they happen she doesn't want to experience the discomfort they bring so she fights against it.

Which is the outcome your parents are looking to avoid, by the sounds of things. The period of utter turmoil when they are rearranging your sister's existence and applying rules and responsibilities where there were none.  It's hard, not impossible to do but it'll only work if they are prepared to ride out the difficult period and stay consistent.

My first suggestion would be to sit down with your parents and tell them how concerned you are. Try and keep it framed around your fears for your sister's safety and her mental and emotional development. It may be very difficult for them to hear what they may perceive as parenting criticisms from their daughter so I highly recommend practising your points a few times and even running it past another parent (or here too) and, if possible, include a family member or friend of theirs that sees things as you do. If there's nobody like that, then that's ok. I'm going to post some resources for you to share with them next. I just wanted to post this first and see what you think. Does this sound like what's happening at home?


Super contributor

Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

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The first resource I wanted to share is the ReachOut Parents Coaching. Click here and have a read. 

It's free and delivered online and on the phone by a coach from The Benevolent Society. It's for parents of 12 - 18-year-olds who want to improve their relationship with their teenager. It can take a couple of hours or can be extended if there's more they want to talk about. It's very practical and has already helped a lot of parents.


Then there's some info here about why boundaries are important, how to implement them and what's an appropriate response when they are ignored.


Here's an article about 'Out of Control teenagers' I hate the term out of control but this article gives some good guidance on how important natural consequences are, like getting in trouble with the police if they crash or steal a car.


And here's a link to Parentline. This is a service your parents can call to get some immediate support. It can also be a great tool if they decide to make some changes and want some guidance through the tough times.


I hope this is helpful. Please let us know what you think.  

Casual scribe

Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

Thank you so much! That is very on point with what is happening and it definitely explains why my sister is being the way she is. I will get my parents to read through the resource you provided


There is definitely no rules and even when my parents took her phone away as punishment, they gave it back the next day which showed they didnt go through with the punishment.


The big issue with no boundaries is that even when my parents set a rule, my sister breaks it. My parents tell her to come home at 11, but she won't tell them where she is, won't reply to their calls, and then messages them at 2am to pick her up which is manipulative because she knows they will be in bed and won't pick her up and she will have all night to stay out. This is one of the biggest issues they don't know how to fix because no matter what rules they give she will break it

Super contributor

Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

I hear you @anastasiak Setting rules for teenagers can be rough. I'm sure it feels to your parents and looks from the outside like your sister is ignoring the rules and therefore making it impossible to set them, but if yuo step back for a moment and see the slightly bigger picture it might make more sense.


Rules only really exist in the consequences they invoke. Take murder, for example, the vast majority of us don't do it because the consequence of jail is too great and, more importantly, the consequence of the psychological impact of taking a life is even greater. (Our internal sense of what is right and wrong is a very important part of natural consequence. Which is why it's so important your sister start developing that part of herself too.)

So when you have rules that apply to things we don't feel guilty about, we can only weigh it up against the consequences we can reasonably expect. I would love to drive my car super fast. Like seriously fast. And I don't even have guilt around the potential danger because I'm so convinced of my own awesome skills! Smiley Wink BUT I can not live without a license. The fear of losing my license outweighs my desire to go fast. So I don't. I should probably not drive fast because it's the safe thing to do but for some reason that doesn't exist in me (i know, very bad) but the expected consequence is more than I can risk.

So apply this to your sister's experiences. No matter what your parents say the reality is that they don't follow through. So when your sister is faced with deciding whether to leave a party: internally she has no desire to go home, which is pretty normal for a teenager, so there's no motivation there plus she can reasonably expect to lose her phone for MAYBE a day or be told she's upset mum and dad without any other consequences. Essentially she's being asked to do something she doesn't want to do with zero motivation to do it. It's never going to happen.

The other thing she's missing out on is the personal growth that happens when we start doing the right thing consistently, we learn that there are bigger gains than we realised. It might be better outcomes the next day from more sleep or drinking less,  it might be family harmony from a reduction in fighting or it might be an increase in self-esteem from knowing you're doing the right thing. These are important steps to take towards adulthood. By the things you right and the fact you're here, I get a sense you had that personal development. I'm sure you understand why it's better your sister have it rather than miss out.

Whenever I am working with parents who are implementing boundaries after an absence, I always emphasise that it's super easy for me to say this and a gazillion times harder for them to do it. It's not fun for anyone when changes like this are made. Which is why I think it's so important your parents make a bit of a plan. Literally mapping out what they want this to achieve, how will they know what's working and what's not working, what consequences will go with what behaviour, and finally, how will they get support for themselves and your sister during it.  I recommend they write down why they're doing this and put it somewhere they can read when they feel overwhelmed because when your sister is pushing against the new boundaries it can be very helpful to remember that this is all for her and it all comes from love.


How does all that sound? Sorry if it's a lot to take in. 


Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

@anastasiak . Oh boy I have heard this story so much !  I agree with all of @Ngaio-RO strategies . Your Mum and Dad sound like they have given up because it's all too hard . This is the outcome of years of conditioning for your sister and she is ruling the roost . You teach people how to treat you and from your parents the message to your sister is just yell and scream and rebel and  we will give in and you will get what you want .

This is is a family unit problem and unless  your parents get on board then nothing will change .

After they have educated themselves and made a plan that they start to implement SHE WILL GET WORSE . Yep , as she bucks against this new system she will escalate the behaviours in the desperate attempt to regain control . It is imperative that your parents are prepared for this or they will buckle .

Role play with them what  strategies they will implement in the worst case scenarios. If they pick a battle with her they must NEVER lose .  They more she digs in the stronger they must be in their conviction  but keep their cool , remain adamant and repeat the expectation , don't buy into the screaming match .

If she becomes uncontrolleable and violent - call the cops . If she fails to come home at night and is not contactable - call the cops . Now , police have a duty to find her they no longer require you to wait 24 hours . She needs to feel the consequences of behaviours . 

Finally , if you can get her to see a therapist , this may be beneficial I feel there may be more going on hear than just a spoilt teen . She is engaging in some very risky behaviours . 

I cannot stress to you how important it is that your parents  stick to this despite the stress and pain . They may need you to help with this , keeping them focused and on track . Old patterns of behaviour die hard .  Alleviating their anxiety for a short while , by giving in , is  robbing her of  her ability to grow into a productive  independent adult .  If they can really see the bigger picture and its importance , you are half way there .  

My parents did not take a boundary stance with my mentally ill brother and they are suffering the consequences horribly , and he is now 46 !!  It will ruin their future , yours and your sisters .  Be determined and focused it can get better but it requires commitment . 

Best of luck 🙂

Super star contributor

Re: 16 year old manipulative teenager - no school, no job, constant drug & alcohol use

I haven't much to add to the fantastic insight or advice here as everything has been covered by these wonderful ladies. I'm going to checkout the links too.


I just wanted to say @anastasiak that I hear your frustration in your words towards your sister. You wouldn't feel that way if you didn't love her and want better for her. Anger is often the flip side of love. She is lucky to have you as a sister, as you have sourced and reached out for help, when you could have washed your hands.


I hope for your family that your parents can make some changes and choose to stick with it through the turbulent times that are guaranteed. From personal experience it is worth it, and assure them that the behaviour does settle down and they will see positive changes if they can be patient and consistent. Your sister really needs not to be given up on - it's the last thing she wants, despite her current behaviour.


High five to you.