my teenager called the POLICE on me!
The history: I had my 17 year old daughter when I was 15. I married her father and divorced him three years later.
She and I have been a pair all of these years, with me being very careful to be a friend when I could, but a parent when it was necessary. Her father would not see her from age 2 until age 9, when he finally came around. Since then he has been good with consistancy of visits, but nothing else.
I am not/have not been a perfect parent - I don't believe anyone can be, but I have always tried my best. Top priorities for me have been education and instilling basic decency. Historically, I have allowed no rated R movies, no swearing, no activities outside the house unless I know where, who, and how long. Homework comes first, chores come second, and social life comes if she gets those things done (her chores hve never been that involved - maybe one a day like scooping the cat litter or loading the dishwasher).
When she was small and got in trouble, she would sit in the time-out chair and SCREAM for her dad. This was during the years he was absent, so I figured it was normal for her to idealize that he might come and rescue her when she was being diciplined. When her dad started seeing her again, it was ok for the first year or so, but then I started to find things out, like him allowing her to watch whatever movies she wanted and allowing her to swear. Then as she got into her teenage years, I was hearing more and more from her about him calling her stupid and a slut. I asked him about it, and he said she was blowing it out of proportion. She did have a tendancy to do things like that, so I sort of believed him...and she still wanted to continue to go to his house every other weekend...so I figured it must not be as bad as she made it out to be.
Then when she was 16, she pulled the old "you say you're spending the night at my house and I'll say I'm spending the night at yours". The true plan was to stay out all night with her friend and a 20 year old boy she met on myspace. I caught her two hours into her plan, anad grounded her. Then I investigated her computer. She had been posting nearly naked pictures of herself on several sites on the internet (bra and thong). I just couldn't understand - I know bad parenting when I see it, and I have never been one. I did try spanking once or twice when she was smaller, and it only made us both feel embarassed and solved nothing, so I didn't do it anymore, but there were always consequences when she misbehaved...she has always been a better than average student, and a pretty good girl.
So I took away her computer and all devices capablel of taking a picture. I discussed what she had done - both the deception of going out to meet the boy and the pictures. I asked her why she would do that for all he world to see - what was bothering her -how she felt when she did that...all were "I don't know" answers. I also grounded her, and with constant violations of that grounding, she kept getting time added on to the original punishment, so by the time she started improving and getting some priveleges back, she had been grounded off and on (more so ON) for almost a year.
Now 17, she has been doing well, improving her grades, following rules, and earned all priveleges back. I still make her hand in her cell phone at 9:30 on weeknights, and she has to ask me before she is able to go online...I thought things were going well. But attitude - oh the attitude...As far as I am concerned, adults are NOT to be spoken to the way teenagers do these days. But she is allowed to talk to her father any way she wants. I've tried to explain that those are not the rules here, but I think she unintentionally slips back into it when we are arguing.
Which brings me to present day (sorry for the long-winded post, but I think all of the above is relevant to my current problem). A couple of weeks ago, we argued because she started talking to me the way she would talk to her father or one of her friends. Her limbs were flailing and she was out of control, so I grabbed her wrists and held them. She pulled one free, and tried to swing at me! So I grabbed her wrist again and slapped her in the face. Bad idea, wrong thing to do, I know...but I lost it, and she isn't 7 anymore refusing to eat her peas, she is 17 and taking a swing at me! I was raised in a military household, and if I had done that to one of my parents, I would have woken up about a week later.
She went crazy so I pinned her on the couch and she was screaming like a banshee and swinging like she wanted to hit me, so I wouldn't let her up until she promised to stop. (she refused to stop for a good 10 minutes. I think she only gave up because she was too tired to continue).
When I let her up, she went to her room and called her dad. It took some doing after his long absence, but for the last 5 years or so, we have been decent terms, and I thought we were on the same side, so I figured he might calm her down a bit...
A few moments later, the police rang the doorbell! They said they had a call from a girl saying her mother was abusing her. Nothing happened - the cop just said we need to walk away from each other when things become that heated, and he kind of told her not to call again unless she is being abused. He explained to her that in our state, it is perfectly legal for a parent to spank, that slapping in the face is sort of boarder-line, and then asked if she thinks she is abused and she said no. He left.
But I was SOO embarassed, and later, when discussing the incident with my daughter, she told me that her dad convinced her to make the call to the police.
So after all of this typing, I think I have two problems - #1 - I think her father systematically un-teaches everything good that I teach her, and #2 - I need to know what I am doing so wrong and how I should conduct myself from now until she is done with college. (she graduates high school this year, and I don't know how I will keep my sanity after she's 18 and I lose the little control I have over her) I don't understand this - a month ago, she wanted to stop going over to her dads every other weekend because he calls her names and all sorts of things, and I told her I will not force her to go there, but then when she's mad at me, she calls him and they both conspire to call the police on me. HE KNOWS I DONT BEAT MY DAUGHTER. So why would he talk her into calling the police! And why is she acting this way? the pictures, the behavior...are there lines I'm failing to read between??
The next time she calls the police on you tell them to take her away and put her in foster care. Two can play that little "game". Tell her to tell her father to watch his mouth and becareful of how he treats her. Since she can talk to him however she wants she shouldn't have a problem. You should also talk to her fathe4r. And if you thin there is something wrong with her be persistent in your asking. when I was a kid my mom always made me crack by just not giving up. " I know that something is wrong, what is it? What is it?"
Um, I'm curious how Dr. Mike feels about the "take her away to foster care" advice?
Stop the game - get some rules and a referee
Things aren't really so bad but they could be a lot better. I went through a lot worse than this with my daughter.
Your daughter and her father are yanking your chain. They need to stop. The police really don't want to be involved in your business. Dealing with your daughter is probably easier than dealing with her father- she's still young and impressionable enough to change.
First things first - find a family therapist to help you two agree on ground-rules or family contract or whatever. Ideally her father should be involved but proceed without him if needed. A therapist doesn't take sides - they will work to keep you communicating as opposed to yelling or physical contact. Write down expectations and consequences when you're calm - Everyone is on the same page and this actually reduces the drama.
Second - What my daughter's program called "the 18 card" is actually empowering from a parent's point of view. Supporting your daughter at 18, letting her live in your home, paying for school, etc is now your choice, not your legal obligation. She gets a dose of Reality 101 - you're in the driver's seat.
This is what one parent put together for the Reality Budget (i.e., supporting your child's lifestyle expectations)
Utilities (electric/gas/water) 100
Telephone (land/cell) 100
Cable TV 50
Car Payment 400*
Car Insurance 50
Groceries 200 (+)
Clothes 100 (+)
Entertainment (meals/movies/games/etc.) 150 (+)
Health Care 400
Total $2,500/month x 12 = $30,000/year
Income needed to afford budget - $40,000 gross less $8,000 taxes = $32,000
Costs not included in living expenses budget – tuition; furniture; cell phone;
computer; travel/vacations; sports equipment; workout facility; gifts; etc.
*Assumes eligibility for a car loan and down payment of $1000-2000
take care and be well!
Your first step should be to get yourself to a helper (counselor) ASAP to help you address all of these issues, which are very serious. The odds are that your daughter is mostly reacting to the terrible anger between the two people she loves and needs most in her world: her mother and father. Kids get really crazy when they see that degree of animosity between their parents.
A second thought is to appeal to your ex by saying that while you might hate each other, you both love your child and that for her sake you guys need to control that anger between you. I can almost guarantee that would be very healing (and wonderfully life-altering) for your girl.
I would not engage this kid physically or threaten her with foster care. As satisfying as that might be in the moment, those things will send exactly the wrong message to this child who is wracked with pain for all the losses she’s endured, and can't see her way out of it.
Please act quickly---the stakes are very high.
Dr. Mike Bradley