APSGO Parenting Blog

Dear Helen,

My daughter has just turned 14 and I am having a terrible time disciplining her for anything. Last night I took her phone away as consequence for failing to come home (which she knew the rules before leaving and the time expectation to be home). She was also high and when I took the phone, she started to leave the house. I ended up sleeping at the door for fear she would leave in the middle of the night and walk across the city through a very rough and disturbing neighbourhood to get back to where I picked her up. I came home from work today and of course she is gone.

My question is… Is there anything I can do??? As a parent, do I have any rights to get my daughter back home? I can’t file a missing persons report as I do know who she is with and where they will likely be. She is falling down a steep downward path of destruction and I don’t know how to help her.

Dear X,

You are going through possibly the worst time a parent can go through. It may interest you to know that your daughter is going through an equally rough time. She doesn’t have the experience or power to do much about it, but you do. If you are willing to change the way you do things you can make life so much better for both of you.

It is not your job to discipline her, it is her job. You can help her to do this by not creating a war zone between you. You already know that taking her phone and otherwise punishing her to make her change her behaviour is not working.

I suggest as a beginning, that you write a note to her saying something which will signal to her that things have changed and that you have changed.

“I love you and worry about you. Perhaps I don’t need to but I’m your mother and I guess I always will. It doesn’t mean I don’t think you can be smart enough to make good choices. When you come home you will find your phone in your room. I would like you to use it to call me to let me know where you are and that you are safe. Because of your age, I am obliged to notify the police if I don’t hear from you or know where you are.”

You must follow through with your signal that you have changed by demonstrating that you also have a life filled with things that you enjoy doing as well as other responsibilities. This is important for both you and your daughter. The only real tool any parent has is the respect of their child.

It is seldom easy to let go but ask yourself how easy it is to sleep at the door. This sort of behaviour is not appropriate for a parent and smacks of desperation. You need behaviours which signal confidence if you want to be able to influence your daughter.

Helen Jones


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