more advice on teens needed

The other teen advice thread reminded me to start the thread I’d been thinking about. To make a long story short, due to parental illness, I’ve been taking a more active role in my 14 year old sister’s life for the past year. I’ve moved back into their home to be able to help out more. Last year was sort of rough because she fell into the stage of deciding to slack off in school. I was fielding daily phone calls and emails from teachers for much of the year. She does struggle with the work, but does well when she puts forth enough effort. I will say now, that my parents have always been very nice, and there has been no abuse of any sort, but they were too permissive during the early years, because she was their little baby, and the kid they waited so long to get etc. and now it’s coming back to haunt me. She’s a good kid, but she’s also tries to be sneaky sometimes.

What have you done with your slacker kid? I cannot bring myself to take a hands off approach and let her fail, but I don’t really know how much a high school teacher would be willing to work with the guardians of someone who’s just being lazy. I know I can’t make her not be lazy, but this is driving me insane. If she had it her way, she’d just hang out with her friends and talk on the phone all day long. Of, course we’d all like to do that , but it doesn’t cut it. Basically, I don’t want this year to be a replay of last year. General advice on dealing with the teen years would be helpful too.

phew That’s a tall order.

First, you have to sit down and talk with your sister. Does she understand that the choices she’s making now - wasting time, being lazy - will have a profound effect on the next ten years of her life? Make it clear that you love her, and you want her to succeed, and you will do what’s necessary to help her. However, she has to be willing to do the work. If she’s not, no discipline in the world will get her there.

Second, if she decides that she wants to graduate high school and she’s willing to do the work, talk to her teachers. Let them know what’s going on. Stay in touch with them. The teachers aren’t going to seek you out unless there’s something really bad going on. They just have too many kids to keep track of.

Third, determine how you’re going to apply discipline. Make it results based. Require her to earn privileges, like going out with friends, talking on the phone, and getting spending money. The most important part of this is that however you decide to go about it, *be consistent. Don’t change your mind in the middle of things without a compelling reason. Don’t give in to her whining or complaining, because that just teaches her that whining and complaining gets her her way. Don’t slack off because you’re tired. Don’t refuse to take away her privileges because you know it’ll lead to two days pouting on her part and you just don’t want to deal with it. Be prepared to be the bad guy. Follow through with it. Enjoy it. Put on your Darth Vader vibe and rock it.

Fourth, understand that since she’s now a teenager and didn’t have appropriate discipline as a child, you may not be able to help her the way you want to. Don’t kill yourself over it.

I’m speaking as a single, childless woman, but also as a teacher. Take it for what it’s worth.

How’s her self-esteem overall? Does she have non-academic interests that she does well in?

She understands that, but doesn’t seem to think that far ahead on a daily basis. Her plan last year was to slack off until the half quarter reports came in (the school sends out mini report cards at the half way point between each quarter as a heads up), then pull out all the stops during the second half of the quarter to raise her grade. Last year, her gpa in one class rose 30 points in three days because she finished and turned in the past work that she claimed she’d all ready handed in. I’ve told her that in high school most teachers won’t accept a stack of late assignments handed in at the last minute.

Good point. I’d made arrangments with another teacher last year to sign her assignment book, but she always “forgot” to bring it to class. In the end, he got sick of badgering her, and I couldn’t blame him. She’s really too old to have her hand held through all this. Some of the classes post daily assignments online though, which has been helpful. I don’t know how many of her high school teachers will do it.

Thank you. This is all helpful advice.

Sandra_nz, her self esteem is fine. She has plenty of friends and does cheerleading, and plays an instrument. She chose to do both, but still falls into the trap of wanting to do a minimum of practice sometimes. Both teachers feel that she’s doing well, but could do better. This year the school won’t let kids cheer if their grade is below a certain point, so I’m hoping that’ll give her an incentive.

one bump to see if anyone else wants to chime in with their experience.

BE honest and enlist her help in your struggles. Tell her you’re doing what you can to help your parents. Compliment her on her maturity and tell her how much it would mean to know you can count on her to do her part. Get her on board with you, as a team. Treat her like an adult and remind her that when it comes to a few things you need her to be.

You might be surprised by the results. She may not take well to being parented by a sibling. She may, however respond to being an equal on the team.

Good luck to you!