07 Oct
The Fast and the Furious Teenager

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My 13 year-old daughter has been stealing my husband’s sports car and going on joy rides while we’re at work or asleep. She has broken the lock on our room to get the keys out of the dresser, taken keys from my purse while I’m in the shower, and even broken into my husband’s lock box to steal keys. She says she has an addiction to taking the car.

Her father, my ex, just thinks I need to hide keys better and it’s my own fault. I’ve taken away the computer and her cell phone, plus grounded her for the remainder of the year while she’s with me.   But when it’s her week to stay with her dad, he lets her have friends over and he bought her an even better cell phone and four-wheeler. This weekend she’s with me and she wants to go to a party that I won’t let her go to (because she’s grounded), so she’s just staying with him. What should I do?

Signed,

Tired Mother of a Teenager

_______________________________

Dear Tired,

Before I even finished reading your letter, I started madly Googling boot camps because it did wonders for Liam Court on “90210.” Have you seen how much sweeter he is to Naomi now? I think he really loves her. And my gosh, does he smolder with sex appeal.

Oh, sorry. Let me refocus.

Your teenager is completely out of control and she’s only 13. You have six more teenage years ahead of you! Your daughter is not only defying you, but she’s putting herself in serious danger by illegally driving without a license.

Does your husband have another car? I’m assuming “yes,” since his sports car seems readily available. Go park that sports car at a friend’s house. The farther away the better and don’t tell your daughter where it is.   Keep the car there until you can get things straightened out at home. I don’t keep peanut butter cups in my house because we all know I’ll end up licking those wrappers sparkly clean.   Sometimes you just have to remove the obsession to control a behavior.

At this point, your punishments are too severe to even mean anything. Grounded for the remainder of the year? She has no incentive to change her behavior because to a teenager, that is a lifetime. Perhaps she can earn back some of the grounded time with good behavior. Or get her cell phone back for a few days if she helps do chores around the house. Be creative. And of course, make sure she knows that you love her, just not her INSANE Mario Andretti behavior.

Your ex-husband is your biggest challenge in this scenario. Until you two are on the same page, this situation will never get better. He is sabotaging your efforts to discipline your child. I’m guessing the two of you don’t have a great relationship. You need to talk to him and perhaps get a third party involved (an unbiased friend, a therapist, etc.) who can help you both negotiate a discipline strategy for your daughter. And then you both need to sign it and stick with it. Teenagers need consistency.

Finally (I know, I can’t shut-up today), spend some serious quality time with your teenager. As much as you can. Whatever she wants to do. Except car racing.

Good luck to you. Please keep us posted.

Love,

Kelcey, TMH

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7 Responses to “The Fast and the Furious Teenager”

10.07.09#1

Comment by K.

I’m dreading the teenage years.

Good luck.

10.07.09#2

Comment by Muirgen.

I agree with every bit of mouthy advice here… but I’m also a big believer in natural consequences. Let her know (ahead of time) that next time the car is missing, it will be reported stolen. It’s what would happen if she took anyone else’s car. AND THEN DO IT.

Seriously – if she crashes that car, you can be held responsible for any damages, injuries or deaths – if not criminally, certainly in a civil suit. And they’d win. I used to work with crime victims who wanted to file civil suits. This would be a slam-dunk.

If the ex doesn’t get on the page I’d look at returning to court to address custody/visitation.

And if this is a major personality change for her, find out why. I worked with hundreds of kids who got crazy for really good reasons – bullying and sexual abuse just to name two. Right now you don’t really know what’s going on in her precious head – but you need to figure it out together.

Sorry to start the day so seriously, but this is dangerous.

10.07.09#3

Comment by Silverwolf Mama.

This is all great advice and Muirgen is correct, if anything happens you will be held responsible. You and her father should consider counseling for the three of you. If he’s saying it’s your fault, it’s damn good chance he isn’t punishing her or talking to her about it so she won’t do it again. I mean come on, buying her a new cell phone after you’ve taken it away? He’s undoing what you’re trying to do. I agree with to having it reported stolen, maybe that will scare her little 13 y/o butt straight. Let me ask this, has she always acted out? Is there something more going on? Any changes in the family that may have triggered her behavior? Who are her friends (are they good kids)? Could drugs be involved? Is she not getting the right attention from you and her dad? Not just splurging and punishment, but actual quality time to get to know her? Talk to her teachers to see if they’ve noticed any changes while she’s been at school. I know not all kids want to hang out with their parents, I sure as hell didn’t but I wished they would’ve at least tried to treat me with more respect while I was growing up. It’s why I did all the stupid things I did when I was younger. Just a little insight is all.

10.07.09#4

Comment by assomeoneelse.

I have to say that I agree with most of the above, though I would keep the grounding since it’s really not that much of a punishment for her anyway if she just stays at dad’s when it gets in the way of her social life. But making it stick when she’s at your house lets her know how serious you are. (Of course, I’m the same parent who grounded my son for a year when he was caught taking some pretty harmless meds to school. He wasn’t selling them or even taking them, he just got caught with them. But it’s still a crime. IMO a year of grounding is better than five or so in a juvenile center.)

I especially agree that there is more going on here than meets the eye. But I don’t think that dad’s going to be on the same page as you. This is already a conflict, so why no go whole hog and take the issue to court. After all, she already hates you because you’re a mean horrible monster for not letting her go out and risk taking out a family by crashing the car into a living room.

Oh, and I’d put the car in a storage unit instead of at a friend’s house. That makes it even more secure. This sounds like a rather industrious little girl who’s determined to show you just how much smarter than you she is. Some self store places also let you leave the keys locked in the office too.

10.07.09#5

Comment by Roshni.

wow! This is a serious issue. I do agree with the advice and the comments above..I mean, 13 and stealing? A car? Best of luck to ‘Tired’. I hope this situation is resolved soon.

10.13.09#6

Comment by tornshoelace.

this is really good advice that would have worked on me – as a horrid teen

good luck!

12.22.09#7

Comment by Discipline.

“Finally (I know, I can’t shut-up today), spend some serious quality time with your teenager.”

She’d be spending some quality time with me alright. Me and the back of my hand!!!

Holy shit, beat this kid. Kids these days don’t nearly get in trouble enough. “Go to your room!” which has a cell phone, tv and computer in it. Yeah, great punishment. I’m not even kidding you tired. Slap that kid around and I swear to God she will never do it again.

If that doesn’t work I suppose you could take it to Maury.

And to all you “don’t hit your kids” type parents. My parents hit me and chances are your parents hit you and neither of us turned out any worse for wear did we? At least I wasn’t stealing cars at 13. This is stuff you will go to jail for. SLAP HER. It’s not like you’re beating the shit out of her with a bat or even a spoon. Just backhand her. It’s within your legal parental rights.

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