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My daughter will be 16 in 4 weeks. She was caught shoplifting with a friend (who ditched my daughter and was not caught) and was 'cited'. Her father and I divorced when she was 2 and she lives with me and her step-dad 85% of the time. Because my daughter was going on a week long vacation out of state with her Dad and step mom she convinced me to allow her to delay telling her Dad about the shoplifting incident. She has been back for 4 days and today went into melt down mode when I asked her about when she was planning to tell him. She informed me that she would rather die and would kill herself if I told her Dad. She said he would not understand and that she was not going to do it. I do not believe she means it when she says she's going to kill herself, she's said this type of thing before and she is currently seeing a therapist on a monthly basis. She also decided to take out her anger on me and said I was mean to make her do this and proceeded to verbally assault me in every way you can imagine (she called me names, said that I deserved having my wallet stolen from my purse earlier that day (karma), she mocked me, laughed at me, screamed at me (profanity/expletives), refused to clean up after herself, feed dogs, normal chores etc). What should I do? Tell her Dad anyways? Let it go? Set a deadline for her to do it and if she does not then tell her Dad? In shock and do not know what to do.


Trish Booth, MA Replied: It is a lot more disruptive when a teen throws a tantrum than when a toddler does. Teens have a much larger vocabulary and can say and do very hurtful things. However, both teens and toddlers need the same thing after a tantrum - to have you lovingly yet firmly restate the rules and boundaries of behavior. Have a calm conversation with your daughter that reminds her of the family rules about respectful language and household responsibilities. Also remind her that bad behavior has consequences. This can include loss of privileges that must be earned back through appropriate behavior. Then, explain that is important that her Dad know about the shoplifting incident. It will be better for her to tell him because she can express her regret. She can also explain what she has learned. Empathize with her about how hard it is to tell someone you have done something wrong. Reinforce that taking responsibility for your actions is part of growing up. Tell her that you will be contacting her Dad in three days. That way she has some time to tell him before you do, but the situation isn't drawn out. This approach also saves you from having to ask again whether she has told him. Then, in three days contact her Dad and tell him about the shoplifting. If your daughter's reaction to this conversation includes threats that make you feel uncomfortable, contact her therapist so that you have a plan for her safety. In addition, enforce consequences for any inappropriate behavior.
Posted On 2006-07-07 14:55:50
Annie Fox, M. Ed. Replied: You should definitely not "let it go". At the very least, your daughter made an agreement with you to "delay" telling her dad about the shoplifting incident until after their vacation together. She needs to know that when she makes an agreement with you that you expect her to live up to her word. I'm sure if you made her a promise and attempted to reneg, she'd be all over you. Why not hold her equally accountable for her agreements? From what you've described it sounds like she's doing her darnedest to manipulate you into backing down. (The behavior you've described is absolutely unacceptable, even for an upset 16 year old and no way should you and your husband have to put up with it in your home.) If you "let it go" the message you're sending to your daughter is that you're a wimp and easily intimidated. You're also teaching her that she can get away with anything she pleases because you're not going to hold her accountable. You certainly don't want her to go out into the world believing that there are no consequences for her actions! Speaking of which, what was her consequence for shoplifting? Unless I missed something in your question, I don't see that she got any discplinary action except a "citation" (which mean what... personally... in terms of her making amends?). In addition to whatever the law meted out to her, you and her dad need to put your heads together. Put aside whatever residual guilt you may have over having divorced her father 14 years ago and pay attention to the defiant, verbally abusive, 'I'll-do-whatever-I-please" behavior she's exhibiting. And please don't let her side-track you with threats that she's going to "kill herself" if you bring Dad into the conversation. As you've seen before, this is a bluff used to control you. My advice is that you take the choice to tell or not tell her dad out of her hands. Get on the phone and talk to your ex. Tell him exactly what happened and then TOGETHER (calmly and maturely) talk about a consequence that you are both willing to enforce and get on the same page about what is and what is not acceptable behavior. It also would be wise to talk to her counselor and let him/her know what's going on (because I'd wager that your daughter isn't going to be forthcoming with the information.) Finally, I'd suggest a family counseling session because it's apparent that all of you are having problems communicating, trusting, and treating each other with respect. Time for some outside help not just for your daughter, but for the whole family. I hope this helps. In friendship, Annie Fox PS You should absolutely call the parent of your daughter's friend and let them know that their daughter was shoplifting. Otherwise that girl will not get the message that what she did wasn't okay (and I'm not talking about ditching your daughter at the scene of the crime.)
Posted On 2006-07-02 15:19:59
Keith Muhleman Replied: A sixteen year old who wants to grow up quickly tries to take as much control, therefore, power, away from the adults around her as she can. She does this by crying, melting down frequently and generally attempting to abuse the authority figure mentally, verbally and sometimes physically. In this manner she hopes to intimidate and, therefore gain "adult control" of her life. This is never satisfactory because she will continue to think that power and control are gained through brut force and abuse. Her father needs to be told, whether he "understands" or not. You are the buffer between them if he becomes abusive in any way. Taking away her privileges and letting her father know are a consequence of breaking the law and shop lifting. There are rules of society that do not bend and stretch like many family rules. If they are broken, then a punishment (sometimes imprisonment) is a sure consequence. There is no recourse for you, but to do what you said you would do and tell her father. She should be present at the time so that she knows your stance and can hear the adult conversation that occurs. Taking away privileges is also a consequence of her actions both in shop lifting and for attempting to belittle you to avoid paying the piper. I hope she had a good time on her trip because now she must abide by the rules she set for herself...tell her father AFTER the trip. She should not be seeing her shoplifting buddy without adult supervision. She is not a friend. A suggestion: You should ask the counselor she is seeing monthly if it would be productive to join her in one or two of the sessions for family counseling. It would be productive.
Posted On 2006-07-01 12:12:46
Mark Viator Replied: This is a tough spot for any parent. While you want to protect your child, you know that she must face her consequences. It sounds like you have a multi-level situation. First, you did give her a time frame to tell her dad. When she returned from vacation, she was to tell him. Since she has not, and since you feel it is important for him to know, tell him. Your daughter's threats about hurting herself should be taken seriously, but these are more than likely just threats. Before telling her dad, I would make a call to her therapist to let her/him know what is going on. The bigger situation is your daughter's inappropriate acting out. Her total disrespect for you as well as her disrespect for law signal greater concerns for me. I would suggest that you look into some form of support group, such as tough love, for you to learn some ways to set appropriate boundaries for her. She is becoming out of control with you and unless she understands and experiences consequences for her inappropriate behavior, she will continue to act this way. Her high risks behaviors will continue. Take some time and talk to her dad to see what the two of you feel are in her best interest. I would suggest getting her some more intense counseling as well as attending some parenting support groups or seminars in your area. Good Luck
Posted On 2006-07-01 08:21:16
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