By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator
My husband and I have raised six children, ages 14-26. Now our two teenage girls, ages 15 and 17, are giving us a lot of problems. They are starting to have a lot of guys calling our home. They're starting to fib a lot and now I found out they've missed a lot of school. This is hurting my husband and me. We live in a nice home in a nice area - clean house, food galore. We're Christians who raised them well, so why are they doing this to us? We talk and listen to them. We laugh and play around with them and we discipline them, but they still do this. We have meetings with the school officials, and they went outside one time and came back two days later. What can happen when our teens behave like this, even though they are really good teens? What will the school do and what will other agencies do to us and our teens? Help!
I certainly empathize with your situation as it seems you have many issues to consider. Let's start by addressing your last two questions. How the school handles this situation depends on your school and district. However, truancy laws will dictate much of that decision. If the girls are missing too much school, the school could get other agencies involved, but that usually happens only in extreme circumstances. I would recommend that you work closely with the school and the school district if you feel the girl's absences are becoming an issue. Stay ahead of this.
The fibbing that you refer to could be a sign of a few things. It is completely normal for most teens to try to stretch the truth at times. It doesn't make it right, but knowing this can sometimes ease your frustration. The lying could be something as simple as your children not wanting to hurt or disappoint you. Instead of telling you the truth they may be trying to protect you from the truth. It is also possible that your girls are afraid of your reaction. When teens know that mom or dad will "go crazy" if they told the truth, they are less likely to be honest with us when they do something wrong. They do not see any benefit in being truthful. Take a good look at the way you react to a situation when they do something you don't approve of. Changing the way you handle the situation may help to improve their lying.!
Missing a lot of school is a red flag to me that something is going on. I would strongly recommend that you contact the school counselors as soon as possible. Find out what they think and ask them how they plan to help with the situation. Be open to suggestions they make and don't be afraid to implement them. You might also consider seeking the guidance of an independent professional counselor.
One of the things you must not do is to take this personally. You ask, "…Why are they doing this to us?" The reality is that they are not doing anything to you. It does seem like they are acting out and misbehaving in ways that you need to address. But, as long as you feel like your girls are deliberately trying to hurt you it is unlikely you'll be able to help them in the most appropriate way.
Your girls' actions sound like it could be a cry for independence. Your 17-year old is very close to being old enough to live on her own. From your description, it sounds like these are your two youngest, so it's possible they also see the freedom their older siblings have and yearn for something similar.
It could also mean that because these are your last two children you have slacked off a little in your discipline. This is a completely normal progression, but one that may not be best for your girls. You may be doing this without even realizing it. Ask your older children what they think of your current parenting style. It may help you make some positive changes.
Your situation sounds like it has you at your wits' end. If so, I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of a professional counselor to help you with the situation. Good luck.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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