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Rebellious 15-Year-Old Daughter

Question:

I am a single mom of a 15-year-old girl. I am a police officer and I work nights. I am not with her most nights, but one of my older nieces stays with us so she can be with her. I have raised my daughter to have morals. We have always been active in our church, and she has attended a Christian school from kindergarten until the present. 

I have a problem with her wearing inappropriate clothing, wanting facial piercings and gouging her ears. Though I tell her that I do not approve of these things, she goes behind my back to do them and then lies about it.

I recently found cigarettes in her purse despite the fact that I have discussed with her the harmful effects of smoking. I am an advocate of exercise and eating healthy. My girl is my life, and I don’t want to see her ruin her life with these harmful behaviors.
 

Answer:

Adolescence is a stage in which teenagers start testing their independence. They start to make their own decisions, and you can’t tell them that their decisions are wrong. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, it is our job as parents to do just that. Our end goal of parenting is to have our children become successful young adults in society. We help them reach that goal by teaching them right from wrong. 

We do this by providing consequences. They earn positive consequences for behaviors we want to see and negative consequences for those we don’t. If your daughter is making poor choices for herself, there needs to be follow-through from you in the form of negative consequences.

The tricky part is figuring out if your daughter is making poor choices or if she is simply trying to express herself and is finding out who she is. How does a parent determine if a child is making a poor choice or just a different one from what we would make? A good rule of thumb is safety. Ask yourself if this decision will put her in an unsafe situation. Sometimes we have to be supportive of their independence while in the back of our minds we are thinking, “What is she doing?”

This doesn’t mean that smoking and putting extra holes in her body are decisions with which you have to agree. Those do propose a safety concern. It sounds like you set an expectation that piercings are not allowed, and she broke that expectation. Thus, there needs to be a consequence.

Sit down with your daughter and decide together if there is a healthier, safer way she could express herself without doing permanent damage to her body. Temporary hair dye, a specific clothing style and even redecorating her room are all safe expressions of self, and nothing is permanently changed.

If you continue to worry about her rebellious stage, it sometimes helps to have someone other than you talk to her. Sometimes teenagers don’t want to listen to their parents just because they are their parents. Having someone other than Mom talk to her about her decisions might mean that she will listen. 
 

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