Teenager and school problem

Okay, guys, I’m out of ideas here, so I turn to the brilliance and innovation of the Dopers. I have a daughter who is 17 years old. For three years prior to this year, she has been home-schooled. But this year, she begged to be sent back to public school. Because of a variety of problems she suffers, and problems we’ve had with her, we sent her to the alternative school, which is about 14 miles from here. It has a student body of about 80, and a very high teacher/student ratio. She claims to like school, and is doing well as far as grades go. Here’s the problem. School has been going for about eight weeks now, and today is probably the eighth or ninth time she’s called, claiming she’s sick and wanting to come home early. Also, there have been several days when she said she wasn’t going to school because she was sick, but then decided she was feeling well enough to go in late; this is a win-win situation for her. All of her hard classes are in the morning, she gets to sleep all morning, goes in to school for lunch, art and study hall, and then gets to go out in the afternoon/evening. It’s a PITA to go get her, because it’s so far away, and I have a four-year-old to deal with. Nonetheless, I’d do it if I thought she was really sick. She has a history of lying compulsively, and almost without fail she’s feeling better by mid afternoon. The rule is: if you come home from school early, you don’t go out in the afternoon/evening. But she belongs to AA/NA and on these days she comes home from school early, she’ll tell me “I really need a meeting” and then go to a meeting. This is largely a social thing for her, I think. But I’m afraid to not let her go to a meeting when she says she needs one, because, what if she really needs one?

How would you handle this situation?

Oh, btw, I told her that today she’s just going to have to stay at school because I’m down to an eighth of a tank of gas, and until someone comes later this afternoon to pay some money he owes us, I have no money to buy more gas.

She will keep calling and whining until she gets what she wants.

It only has to work once, what else does she have to occupy her time?

She’ll wear you down eventually, if you cave. I know, been there done that.

Does she have a discipline problem, is the school she goes to for ‘problem children’?

If so, you may just have to let her stay there now and again. You cannot be her taxi 24/7.

But, she is almost 18 years old. Soon, whatever trouble she get’s into will be her responsiblity. Reality has a great way of teaching young people lessons that they refused to learn from their parents. Maybe high school would give you both some breathing space and a chance for her to start being her own person, and not just your daughter. Not much time left.

Ahh, it just seems like she just enjoys being lazy. And since her grades aren’t too badly affected, I would be tempted to say “let it slide”.

However this lying compulsively bit bothers me.

That would indicate that she doesn’t respect authority figures, so I take it that strict disciplinary action hasn’t worked in the past?

The only thing that I can think of is that you need to discourage her from using the “sick” excuse to get off school.
Maybe you could rush her to the doctors everytime she complains she’s sick (and you could be over-dramatic about it).
Or speak with her teachers and get them to enforce attendance?

As a latchkey kid who occasionally had to spend hours in the nurse’s office while really sick: just refuse to pick her up. Staying at school for a few hours won’t hurt her; when she isn’t sick, it will certainly help her.

Yes, I guess I have to just let her stay there now and again; the next logical question would be: if she stays in the nurse’s office through her hard classes in the morning, does she still get to go out in the evening? I’m leaning towards “no”. The school she goes to is for all kinds of kids who just don’t fit in to the mainstream schools; some of them are discipline problems, some are not. I don’t think of letting her go to a mainstream high school as an option. It’s true that next summer she’ll be 18, but my current goal is to keep her alive until then. I think that mainstream high school would be dangerous for her on many levels and until she is an adult and responsible for herself, it would be inadvisable for me to put her into a dangerous situation.

No way! She would love to see this reaction from me! She is always begging to go to the doctor’s or the hospital!

Sattua, thanks! This is exactly the kind of input I’m looking for.

Is there a nurses office in school? Has the nurse called you, stating your daughter is ill? Many schools will not let the child out unless there’s a temperature or vomit.

I have the same problem with LilMiss. She claims headaches when she is tired or stressed out (we’ve had tests run, the whole 9 yards. There is nothing organic behind the majority of her headaches). After missing quite a bit of school last year, it was decided between the school nurse, her teacher, and myself that barring a temp over 100 and/or vomiting, she will be in school. She could not call me from school to tell me she was not feeling well. So far, this year, she’s missed two days. Both days she was truly ill. On those days she had to stay in bed, reading only (no playing, etc), and going no where in the evening. She was not happy about it, but oh well.

Does your daughter get an allowance or work? Make her pay you for the gas/time/effort to go pick her up. 14 miles, one way? $10.00 per incident sounds fair. Payable immediately.

Maybe someone at the school has some insights on how it could be handled?

You are leaning in the right direction.

I think you’re being a little melodramatic. Unless there is some medical reason like she lives in a bubble or something, being in an environment where everyone doesn’t cater to her whims might be good for her.
Look, I don’t have kids and don’t really know much about raising them. I also don’t understand much of this new-age crap about raising kids so they don’t suffer the minorest of inconveniences. Fuck that. My parents weren’t hardcases or anything but there was an understanding that was very clear:

-it was my parents house
-they have final say on the rules
-when I am working a job and contributing income to the house, then they will enterain the possibility of considering treating my brother and I as equals (to them, not each other - the hierarchy was established whenever they left the house)
-if I bother them at work, it better be freakin important
-we are out of the house at 18. This deadline can be extended by attending college.
-if the school a babysitter or neighbors or whoever called up with a problem with either of us, we would be in a world of shit
-it was not important for us to “like” them. It was important to respect them.

Or a medical reason like being a drug addict (she’s in NA) and public high schools being full of drug dealers? I was a “good kid” and I knew four personally in a small town. It’s not hard to get drugs in school.

I understand what you’re getting at, but no, I don’t think I’m being melodramatic. Over the past three years, she’s used drugs and alcohol, slept with men old enough to be her father in order to obtain drugs and alcohol; attempted suicide three times; run away from home overnight; cut herself repeatedly with sharp objects. The third time she attempted suicide, the police officer that responded said that she was obviously not getting the kind of help she needed, and if she didn’t get help from us, he would take all three of our kids away and have us declared unfit parents. Now, I believe he’d have a hard time doing this, but at this point, I don’t even want to think about the possibility! BTW, she didn’t want to go to the alternative school; she wanted to go to regular public high school. But my husband and I decided that her being out of our line of vision, in a place where it’s plenty easy to get into trouble, for seven hours a day, was unacceptable. Also, as FilmGeek points out, it’s very, very easy to get drugs in public school.

Well, yet another part of our Ongoing Teenage Drama ™ is this: she won’t expend much effort looking for a job (and with the job market what it is around these parts, you gotta be willing to bust your ass to find a job); her allowance is all going towards paying off long-distance bills incurred both here and at her grandparents’ house. However, I do like your idea of not coming home unless there’s significant fever/vomiting.

That’s a damn good reason. There are plenty of other reasons a kid might not “make it” in high school. School can be a very dangerous place.

What about threatening her with homeschooling again, norinew? If she truly begged you to let her out of the house, and now isn’t taking responsibility for it, then take it away. It sure sounds like you driving her ass 14 miles is a perk she doesn’t deserve. What the hell is the point of sending her there if she comes home every day? Just keep her home.

Can I frame this and give it out for christmas? I have a number of friends that need to have this for their children.

Don’t think I haven’t been tempted! However, the Board of Ed is not on my side on this one. According to the board’s policy, a child over the age of 16 can make their own choices as far as education. If I pull her out of the alternative school, I cannot force her to homeschool. She can simply file a “dropout” notice, and she’s off the hook.

She keeps talking about wanting to move out when she’s 18 (she thinks she’s going to move in with her boyfriend), but I seriously don’t see how it’s going to work. If she goes, she’ll have no medical coverage and her psych meds alone run $300.00/month. Not that we’d stop her from going, but if she stays she’s going to have to either be contributing to the household financially, or persuing an education. Also, if she goes, she had best not be looking for us to bail her out, because we’ve already decided that it would not be in anyone’s best interest for us to do so. (Sorry, I kinda hijacked my own thread there).

I have many of the same issues with our 17 year old. He finally moved out and lives with his girlfriend and her mom.

Their baby was just born last week. He is starting to actually get serious, in a weird way, this might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

You cannot control a 17 year old. Don’t try.

Tell her at 18 she’ll have 3 weeks to find a place to live and them you may have to evict her and change the locks. You’ll also want to consider filing a restraining order to cover your bases legally.

Tell her that you love her but that you have to do the right thing for the entire family.

Get counseling for you and your husband.

Don’t blame yourself.

This does not appear to me to be any run-of-the-mill teenage pain in the ass kind of problem. Is she undergoing any therapy other than the aa/na meetings? It sounds to me that the problems here are much more fundamental than a problem with school attendence; I’d think you’d want to focus on those underlying problems rather than the more superficial ones (like school attendence).

Best of luck with this. It sounds like you’ve been through some very tough times, and I sympathize for all the stuff you and your daughter must have been through.

BMalion, I believe you and I have interacted in other threads dealing with my daughter; do you mind if I email you? If nothing else, you could listen to me grouse :wink: .

As far as counseling for my husband and I go, I think it’s an excellent idea, but we can’t afford it right now, and have no insurance coverage for it. Hell, if I didn’t have the “counseling” benefits of the SDMB, I’d probably be completely nutso by now!

She gets drug and alcohol counseling in school; she goes to a therapist weekly; she sees a psychiatrist who controls her meds every couple of months (wow; awkward wording; every couple of months, she sees a psychiatrist who controls her meds). The big problem with all of this is that she is essentially unwilling to work at changing. She wants to blame everything on her bipolar/BPD, and if she fixed that stuff, not only would she have to work to do it, but then her major scapegoats would be gone. At this point in time, she’s very heavily invested in being bipolar/suicidal/depressed/angry/self-destructive. She has no real motivation to fix what is wrong with her, and it’s something no one but her can fix.

norinew - Your problem seems to be much larger than what I thought, based on the OP. I am only qualified to give conseling on TDS (Teenage Drama Syndrome), not on pipolar disorders.

But basically, as you say, until she accepts some responsibility for herself, she won’t improve.

Or you could take BMalion’s advice and unload the problem on someone else.

Boy…I’m just itching to go get my girfriend pregnent now!

I’d be delighted to get an email from a real, live doper! My email address is in my profile.

I do remember you from the earlier thread. It will get better, teenage years are hard with a difficult child but soon they are no longer a child and some things become easier.


That’s not my advice.

I would say, rather, that when one is an adult, then they have their own responsiblity to take care of themselves and stop being a drain on the family. We’re not talking about an autistic, severlly mentally disabled person here you know.

Some birds just need a little bit harder kick out of the nest.