My 17-year-old daughter is out of control. After years of being a good student and generally good kid, she seems to have lost her way the last few weeks. She keeps blowing curfew, just got kicked out of the school play and doesn’t seem to care about keeping her grades up. She says it’s senioritis, but graduation is 3 months away! I’m all for a little teenage Rebellion — I had my own moments — but this is too much. We’ve started arguing all the time, and I just don’t feel like I’m getting through to her. I’ve thought about grounding her, taking away her cell phone and even threatening to kick her out when she turns 18 this summer and not helping her pay for college. What can I do?
Mom On the Verge of Eviction
It sounds like you have three separate problems here, and you’re conflating them. How about breaking them up? There’s a huge difference between senioritis – which generally means blowing off school once you’ve already gotten into college – and blowing curfew/extracurricular banishment.
I’m much more interested in the change in behavior that you mention than the behavior itself. You say that she was a good student and a good kid for years. Is she exhausted or burnt out? Is she tired of being a good kid and ready to have some fun now that’s she’s gotten into college, which is why she had to get good grades and be a good kid in the first place? You didn’t offer any details about getting kicked out of the school play, but have you considered that she got herself kicked out because she couldn’t bear to tell you that she wanted to quit?
The curfew-breaking is the most problematic thing here because you don’t say what she’s up to when she’s breaking curfew. Maybe you don’t know. Have you asked? Because she might be hanging out at a friend’s house, watching “Breaking Bad,” and eating Cheetos. Is breaking curfew a problem because you don’t know where she is or what she’s doing, or is the actual hour on the clock an issue? I bet it’s the former, so let all that other stuff go. Your anger and frustration are clouding your ability to communicate.
So what can you do? Well, you’ll have to talk to her. Ask her if she’s planning on keeping her college plans. If she is, you have to let her know that the grades have to stay up if she doesn’t want her admission rescinded. (It happens, just call up the admissions office.) Tell her you love her no matter what. Extend that peace branch first. And ask her why she keeps blowing curfew, even though she knows it’s upsetting to you. Listen to her answers. Does she feel like she’s entitled to some more independence? Does she just do it to piss you off? Give her some credit; she knows how to push your buttons. So it’s up to you to defuse and be the adult here, by making a bargain: if she keeps up the grades, gets up for school every morning, and is totally transparent about where she is and what she’s up to, you’ll chuck the curfew in the interest of fostering some independence. Work out the details together. Will she tell you where she’s going before she heads out? Will she tell you when she’s coming home? What happens if she breaks her part of the bargain and sleeps through her alarm on a school day?
Talk to her. Work out an agreement that lets her enjoy some well-earned independence while not compromising her college admission. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter. Take a deep breath. Your daughter is still a good kid.