anonymous Asks ...
If my daughter won’t respect my authority or the rules of the house, what can I do? She is 16 and she is not really doing anything that bad. I don’t think she drinks or does drugs or anything like that. I think she is sexually active and she has a boyfriend but I know this is ‘normal’ at her age these days. The problem is when she wants to go out she will just go, even if I tell her not to. She just basically laughs at my authority. The only thing I can think of to do is to send her to live with her grandmother. But my wife’s mother lives in an area that is rife with drugs and the school in that area is very poor/dangerous. I feel like that punishment is too harsh to put her into that situation but I am at a loss to think of another better option. We cannot afford a boarding school. Is there anything else I can do, other than just letting her do as she pleases, which is not an option my wife or I am willing to live with.
David Johnson Says ...
A teenager who scoffs at authority is indeed difficult to tolerate and confusing for a parent who wants to retain influence. The important question is what sort of problems is this causing. You don't say how she is doing in school, so I assume she is doing as well as you expect. You say, "she is not really doing anything that bad," so I'll assume the only problem is that she is being disrespectful.
If that is indeed the case, then I advise you to assume she is also feeling disrespected. If she has generally stayed out of trouble, she has learned good judgment from you and makes generally good choices. She may expect that be recognized with a corresponding increase in freedom and responsibility. From her perspective, the question is whether the rules you attempt to impose seem to serve only the purpose of establishing who is in control. She likely feels her needs and wants are not being considered. So she shows her feelings by being disrespectful.
I congratulate you for not turning this common situation into a huge power struggle with negative outcomes for everyone. I think you have an option available to you that may well solve the problem. Parenting a teenager sometimes means swallowing some pride and surrendering some control. Sit down with your daughter, ask about her feelings that leads to her disrespectful behavior. Negotiate some freedom and/or loosening of rules in exchange for more respectful behavior. In other words, discuss how you might be more mutually respectful and adult-like in your relationship.
Encourage her to bring her concerns to you in the future about your restrictions to renegotiate terms. She is 16, generally making good choices and should be getting gradually less restrictions as she approaches her 18th birthday. Seek help from a counselor if you are having trouble sitting down with her and getting her to talk. But I suspect if you surprise her with a highly respectful approach to negotiate terms, she may notice your change in attitude and work with you.
If she is indeed sexually active, then be sure that part of your discussion is about preventing pregnancy.