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My fiance and myself have a 16 year old daughter, which was hers from a previous relationship but I've raised with her since our daughter was about 6 months old. We also have 3 other kids together, a 12 year old daughter, 8 year old son, amd 2 year old daughter.

For the past 2 years or so, our oldest has slowly gone from listening to us, talking to us about problems, etc. to absolutely refusing to listen to us at all, and going from 0-60 when we attempt to get her to do anything, telling us we are mean, horrible parents. I understand that teenagers have a hard time adjusting to the flood of hormones, high school, and everything, but this seems to be way past the norm.

For example, our biggest issue that we are trying to work through is getting her to go to school everyday. If she decides she doesn't feel good, as in even just a small headache, she REFUSES to go to school and there is nothing we seem to be able to do short of using physical force to get her out the door and on the bus (which isn't something we've ever done, just to give you an idea of the yelling and screaming that ensues when we attempt to tell her otherwise). She has missed roughly a day nearly every week of school this year.

Even when she really is sick, she refuses to tale any kind of medicine. Right now she says she is very nauseous and has a really bad headache to the point light hurts her eyes, but I suggested taking a Tylenol and Zofran that was prescribed to her. Instead, she curled up into a ball, started sobbing hysterically, and refused to talk to me any further. We are worried for her grades and for her attendance, since it's entirely possible that the school can prosecute for not sending her to school.

We are at a loss, near driven to the end of our collective rope. She has a therapist that she sees weekly, but it doesn't seem to be helping (its her 3rd different therapist, each one seems to only listen and not actually help).

Has anyone else been through something similar? Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. We mainly just want to find a way to get her to communicate, but short of that anything else would be helpful.

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    She often calls in sick, is there any correlation between her being "sick" and her school schedule? perhaps she is trying to avoid certain people.
    – A.bakker
    Mar 22, 2023 at 6:49
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    school refusal like this probably stems from a reason, is she being bullied? is her mental health suffering for some other reason? does she have a trusted, non parental, figure she might talk to? Maybe a different sort of therapy, most therapists help by just listening and getting the patient to realise things about themselves.
    – R Davies
    Mar 22, 2023 at 8:56
  • @A.bakker It doesn't seem to be any particular class, or test schedule, or anything. She just gets it in her mind that she is not going and that's that. Last night I told her she was going to school today, I went to check on her this morning and she was still asleep 5 minutes before the bus because she decided she's not going today.
    – DadInNeed
    Mar 22, 2023 at 13:26
  • @R Davies she just hates school. She said she doesn't like anyone there even though she has a large group of friends that all go with her to school. It isn't even just the school thing, anytime we say anything she doesn't agree with she instantly goes to yelling and being mean, then storms off to her room sobbing. She has anxiety and I get that, especially for a teen, but this is just SO over the top and dramatic...
    – DadInNeed
    Mar 22, 2023 at 13:28
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    What you describe does not sound a-typical for a teenager who wants to start taking control of their own life but doesn't really know how. Have you tries having a "grown-up discussion" with her about what she would like to do in the future and what responsibilities she can start taking to reach that? Mar 23, 2023 at 8:22

3 Answers 3

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Your daughter's behaviors are classic signs of a child that is being bullied and/or abused at school.

Your daughter is screaming for your help, but does not have the words to tell you what's going on.

Go to her, tell her you know something is wrong, and tell her that no matter what, you love her and will protect her.

Go to her and bring a piece of paper and tell her that you know that she may not be able to speak about what's going on, and ask if she might be able to write it down.

If this doesn't work the first day, end your comments by saying in a kind and loving way, "I love you and we can try again tomorrow."

Your daughter is telling you that things are not ok. Now it's your job to dig deep and find out who is hurting your child.

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Teach her that everything she does has consequences.

Your child is currently enjoying the emotional turmoil that she is putting her parents trough by turning everything into a battle of wills.

It will be prudent for you to simply lay out the consequences of her actions and by doing so removing the emotional gratification she gets from defying her parents.

So for instance, if she refuses to go to school, let her. Tell her straight that without a proper GED she will have zero chance of any sort tertiary education. She will have to get a job when she turns 18 and pay her parents rent if she wants to continue living in the family house. With no college minimum wage is probably all she can ever hope for.

I'm reminded of what my father told me. When a child turns 18 he stops being the responsibility of his parents.

Your child thinks that by making poor life choices he can spite his parents, but really he is only ruining his own life.

The child is not going to listen, but the mistakes they are making are there's to make. All you as parent can do is not be an enabler for the child's self-destructive life choices.

You may have to come to accept the only thing left for you to do is to wait until the child turns 18 and tell him then in no uncertain terms to sodd of and don't return until you have seen the error of your ways.

For some children that is the only way.

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  • "Tell her straight that without a proper GED she will have zero chance of any sort tertiary education" That boils down to "if you don't go to school, you can't go to even more school". What teenager have you seen this work on?
    – Flater
    Jun 8, 2023 at 6:55
  • Furthermore, there is a considerable lack of care to this answer. The question mentions things such as a child rolling into a ball and sobbing hysterically in response to what should be a normal request; and this answer boils the entire process down to "the child is enjoying spiting you". The further continuation that even your own advice won't have an impact ("the child is not going to listen") and then the only recourse is to kick them out when you are legally allowed to is effectively parental neglect. That is not an accusation I make lightly, but neither is your judgment of this scenario.
    – Flater
    Jun 8, 2023 at 6:58
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What are the consequences of her actions? Is she punished in any way? You didn't mention anything you've done to correct her actions.

Teenagers are addicted to their phones... take hers away. They are addicted to the internet (facebook, tiktok, whatever)... take it away. She probably likes watching TV and/or listening to music... take it away. Maybe she likes to see her friends... ground her. Does she drive... not any more. Etc. etc.

And every teen's nightmare, drive her to school yourself. And when you do it, dress like the 70's nightmare she probably thinks you are! Walk with her to her classes, and sit in class with her if that's what it takes. My bet is if her truancy is that bad, the school will gladly allow your presence. Embarrassment is a highly effective teenager motivator.

Currently she's forfeited her privileges. And they are privileges, not rights. She somehow thinks she's entitled... as many kids think they are these days. Remind her she isn't.

Now it's time for her to earn some of those privileges back. She goes to school for a month without missing a single day or skipping any classes, she can watch TV again. Two months of success, maybe she gets her phone for an hour a day. Gradually restoring her privileges based on her improved performance.

Stop coddling her. Forget the carrot and go straight for the stick.

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  • mikem - all studies show that what you are suggesting will make any situation worse, and could be considered abusive. Punishment is definitely not the solution for a troubled teenager.
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 29, 2023 at 12:14
  • This approach is needlessly adversarial.
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 29, 2023 at 14:46

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