Having tiny children can have its challenges, but once your kids are big enough to be able to go out alone, and get mixed up in all manner of things you don’t want to think about it, that’s when the fun really starts!
We recently had a reader ask for help with her teen on our Facebook page, who is disrespectful, lying, stealing and skipping school. While many of our readers recognised themselves in this description and thought she would sort herself out in the end, others offered words of support and some practical ideas for getting this teen back on the straight and narrow.
If you have a child who is similar – or heading that way – these reader tips could help you too.
I once had a very similar situation. Mine started at 11. Horrendous. Would ride on trains and buses and never answer her phone, chose the wrong crowd, went missing for 10 days, started drinking and smoking, etc. Her temper and attitude stunk. She did not care about anybody. Finally, the police got involved. She was placed under arrest and juvenile justice stepped in. They would meet with her twice a week, and she still had attitude with them. I just kept persisting. The constant worry nearly killed me. I kept warning her she was with the wrong people, but I knew nothing according to her, they were her friends.
She is nearly 16 and thankfully has finally calmed down. We have become very close now and she’s a lot wiser. I always kept my door open. At 14 she took on a part-time job, which was good because she could earn her own money and it kept her off the streets at night. After three years of non-attendance at school, she finally went into Year 10 and has matured. She is now going into Year 11 and wants to do Year 12, and she’s doing a business admin course at TAFE. I am so proud of her today.
My advice is to keep persisting and keep your door open. It was a very hard journey for me, but now I get to see her blossom. It was five years I’ll never forget.
We started my son at Headspace. It’s a free service an it’s amazing! He now has a youth worker who manages his emotional support and we do family counselling once a week. There is almost always something happening under the actions you are seeing, and talking through it so you are on the same page is the best thing.
Get in contact with your local police station – they have a youth officer. Ask their advice on what you can do about your daughter taking off. Do not engage in arguments with you daughter. This is harder than it sounds! I’d just lead her by the arm to her room and close the door.
NO technology at all (TV included).
Empty her room leaving her with a bed and a few clothes that you select.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs to earn back her own belongings and the new school uniform you will need for a different school – dishes, mopping, washing cars, weeding, vacuuming, clothes washing.
No outings or gifts, the bare essentials she needs for school – anything you pay for/amount of money she’s stolen needs to be earned by her.
You must stick to it. It won’t be easy and I’d also look for a counsellor to help, but you’ve made the first step by asking for help.
Take away everything she has and she can earn it back by behaving. Strip her room leaving her mattress on the floor, paper, pencils, books – and go out and buy her a couple of sets of plain colour shorts and t-shirts to wear each day. She can read, write and help out at home until she can earn back the luxuries she had. No TV, phone or iPad and no friends. Get out the job section of the paper and tell her she either goes to school or she is expected to work and pay her own way. In our house it’s ‘be good and good things will happen’. I’m a soft touch and love to give my son lots of fun. But stop being good and your world will change, and it will happen so fast your head will spin!
Sorry, but I don’t agree with all the extremely harsh punishments at all. It’s completely obvious that she is in with the wrong group of friends and she’s keeping up with their feral behaviour. Yes, explain to her that it’s absolutely not acceptable and the reasons why, but the key is to be approachable. Sit down and talk with her. It may take a few goes but eventually if she can see that she can trust you, without any harsh judgement, she’ll open up and explain why she’s behaving like that. It sounds like there are things happening such as bullying at school or elsewhere. If you go hard with punishment you will loser her trust and you will lose her!
Please remember she is still a child. These behaviours, whilst not acceptable, will have reasons behind them. Love her, include her, spend time with her and do not describe her as an absolute nightmare. She is just a kid trying to find her way. Support her.
My niece ran away at 16 and lived on the streets for a few years. It was heartbreaking but her parents never gave up on her. They made sure she knew they were there for her and countless times walked the streets looking for her. She’s 30 now, happily married with three gorgeous children. I don’t have any advice, except continue to make sure that you love her, but won’t accept her behaviour.
While she is 14 you still have a lot of control. The first thing I would be doing is getting a complete medical and psychological evaluation, even if it means admitting her to a children’s mental health unit. The only way to unlock all the issues is to find the key. There are medical issues that can cause total anger and personality traits.
In my experience, some kids act out when they cannot keep up with school work. Sometimes being the class clown is easier than admitting you are struggling with understanding, and the more she falls behind the more she feels like there is no hope. Perhaps the workforce might be an option, if you can find her an apprenticeship or someone willing to give her a go. But whatever you do, don’t let her hear you talk on the phone or to other people about her negatively, as she will feel worthless.
You need to hang in there and stay consistent with whatever realistic rules you lay down. Taking all her stuff away is a brilliant start. Perhaps family outings with all electronics left behind? Perhaps a small getaway as a family away from the environment and the same people and habits? Spend some quality time with her when you’re in the right frame of mind as it is very mentally draining.
Good luck, be kind to yourself and remember if you have other kids they need equal time. Treat yourself, go out and have a laugh with your girlfriends. It may seem bad, but someone always has it worse and even though it seems bad right now, be grateful it’s only behaviour. Just take it one day at a time.
Have you had a rebellious child? What advice would you give?
*Responses have been edited for spelling, grammar, clarity or brevity.