Dear Dr. Darcy-
My daughter is driving me crazy. She’s 13 going on 30. She wants to rush through her teenage years as though her life depends on it. She loves everything ‘adult.‘ She has older siblings and only wants to hang out with them (much to the displeasure of my older children). I don’t know what to do to help her relax into her teens. It’s like she’s trying to sprint to 21 and she’s missing the best years of her life. She rejects children her own age even though the girls in 7th grade flock to her. I’ve caught her trying cigarettes and I think I’ve smelled alcohol on her breath but I don’t want to falsely accuse her and I’m not certain that it wasn’t mouthwash. She loves teen clubs and I worry that it’s only a matter of time before she finds a way to get into these clubs on a regular-aged night. Please Help!!
Deep breath, Mom. I’m going to tell you what to do and you are going to follow my advice as though your life depends on it. You’re going to have thoughts about what I’m going to suggest – I’m not interested in your thoughts. I’m not interested in your feelings. I’m interested in getting your daughter through 7th grade with her virginity in tact and unless you listen to me, I can assure you that sex will be the next thing on her menu of adult pleasures.
- You must make sure that you’re home when school is out for the day. Switch your hours (offer to go in at 6 if need be), switch your job, or go on unemployment, but you must be available to supervise her moving forward.
- Tell her that she needs to pick an afterschool activity to participate in. She can join a club through school or through the town recreational department, or if money permits you can do it privately. She loves clubs? Put her in a hip-hop class. Give her an outlet for her affinity for clubs. And let her know that attending teen nights at a club is contingent on her participating daily in whatever activity she decides to join. If she refuses to pick one, pick one for her. Make sure it’s at least 3 days a week.
- Start picking her up at school when school’s out. No more hanging out with friends unsupervised.
- Give her a 5 minute chore to complete every day. Upon successful completion, she ‘s rewarded by getting her phone charged at the end of the day.
- Effective immediately, her cell phone gets charged in your room every night. Take away every charger in the house so the only one she has access to is yours. Each day, she’ll show you that she completed her chore and that night the phone gets charged in your room. Do NOT look through her phone. Better yet, tell her to put a password on her phone so privacy doesn’t become the next battle. If she does her chore, she gets the phone back in the a.m. before school. If she doesn’t, she has a dead phone for 1 day.
- Find a camp for her for the summer. I know it’s a fortune. So is therapy. Which would you rather pay for? She can’t have unsupervised time. She needs to be structured.
Listen, teenage years are not the best time in anyone’s life. I don’t know why adults continue to repeat this ridiculous expression which only serves to underscore the extent to which said adult has teenage amnesia. Being a teen sucks. They’ve got the body of an adult, the hormones of a body-builder taking steroids and the brain capacity of an adult who is mildly drunk. It’s a bad combination. They are mean to each other. They are mean to their parents. They rebel against structure which is the one thing that they need the most…It’s just a hot mess. So stop saying that these are the best years of her life. If you turn out to be right, she’ll be in trouble.
She can’t do the things that you described above if she’s properly supervised and structured. It sounds like she’s had too much down time. Follow my advice and although initially you’ll hate me for it, you’ll see that it’s exactly what she needs.
Writer’s stats: Female, heterosexual.