Posted on Leave a comment

My teenager has no respect

QUESTION: How do i get my 15 year old son to accept responsibility, and not blame everyone else but himself for the simplist of things, He seems to have not a lot of respect for his family but plenty of respect for his peers, He likes to put people down, and use his power in knowledge to advance himself, even though we see through him and let him know that, He continues to say We don’t know anything, and things are different from when when you were young, (i am 41) we are not that much older than you, things are not that different from when we were also at school, etc

Sounds like you have a fairly normal 15-16 year old boy! (Girls are the same – except that where boys get aggressive girls get hysterical). When boys of this age can’t deal with a situation or can’t win an argument with reason they will quickly seek alternate remedies. As you are seeing, they will either lay blame elsewhere, accuse those around of not understanding, or attempt to demolish a person’s argument by making them emotionally weak. The critical underlying factor here is that they are not thinking straight. As a friend of mine always says ‘you can never win an argument with a teenager because arguments require reason’.

The first thing to consider here is how much of a change this behaviour is compared to 3 or 4 years ago. If your son has historically been allowed a lot of freedom and a lot of time when he has been responsible for himself, it is not surprising that now when he feels like a man (and probably looks like a man) that he wants to take total control. In that case the way of dealing with the problem should be heavily oriented towards helping him discover mature ways of dealing with arguments and relationships.

Secondly, when these behaviours are handled carefully, without over-reaction, over time the boy matures and the attitudes mellow (and the appreciation for the important adults in his life grows). To quote Mark Twain (circa 1900) “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”

Some key steps you might like to try while he is growing up are:

1) Insulate yourself from the emotion. It is very hard to do this because kids can be so hurtful, but the moment you respond in kind you will lose your credibility and the argument. If you want your son to speak to you in a calm and respectful way, refuse to speak to him until he does. Every time you engage in the argument in his way you give him another reason to believe that you are not rational. It is quite amazing how quickly teens see irrationality in their parents and how slowly they see it in themselves.

2) Tie consequences to behaviours. In the end it is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong, it is a matter of who is the parent. Work the consequences out with him when he is calm and be certain to apply exactly the agreed consequence whenever he has behaved in an inappropriate way. Again this is hard to do but you do not have to justify your argument to your son. In fact his logic is so clouded by his emotion that he will never see your logic..

3) Be reasonable. A great way to begin to gain the respect of our kids is to listen to the whole of what they are saying and wherever possible to compromise. Sometimes we are so frustrated by the way they speak to us and others that we become unreasonable ourselves and the whole cycle escalates.

4) Praise the good. This seems like such an obvious and simplistic thing, but it is amazing how consistent, honest affirmation can quickly turn situations around. Not all that is negative about your son’s behaviour right now is about rebellion or insolence. It is almost certain that in some of it he is sub-consciously asking you to acknowledge that he is becoming a man. Every admission that you make is one that he doesn’t have to earn so he will gradually become less obstinate more accepting. Most importantly he will become confident enough in himself to not blame others for his failings. All of this is very desirable because as you are seeing his current method of earning maturity is not very mature!

5) Build the relationship. In the end problems like these are ultimately only solved by the quality of the relationship between the parent and the child. He will not become like you (your values, manners and beliefs) because you are right, he will become like you because he likes you. Look for ways to spend time with him away from all the issues that raise conflict. It might be going to a take away restaurant, or a drive to the city, or even watching TV with him. Initially these moments will have to be chosen carefully, and probably won’t last long, but over time they will build into the foundation of a great relationship.

Posted on Leave a comment

My 15 year old daughter wants more freedom

QUESTION: My daughter is always getting upset when I do not let her go to a party or just let her go out and hang with mates. She always says that other kids in her class get to go out and have a good time but the problem is she says she will go and hurt herself ans she says the reason for her to do this is because she does not get enough freedom. She is only 15 and is my first teenager so what do I do to let her feel that she is getting more freedom?? Please help

Thanks for your question.

Independence and freedom are the most prized ambitions of teenagers, and in many ways they are an important and normal part of growing up. Problems arise though because the desire to be independent comes a long time before the maturity to cope with independence, especially in this age when there are so many dangers so readily available to our kids.

The key to success here is to make some small concessions, and then to stand firm on the new boundaries you have set. For instance give your daughter permission to go to parties but limit the number (say only per month), and the the time she has to be home. If she wants to hang out with her mates make it conditional on all of her homework and household chores being done, and that there is a definite time she has to be home.

At 15 it is important for her to feel some sense of control over her own life while at the same time knowing that she is accountable for her behaviours to you. It is the balance between these two developmental elements that enable teens to grow into capable adults safely.

By the way, even with these concessions you will still have arguments. Kids will always push the boundaries and will always have a reason as to why “this time should be different”. One of the hardest parts of parenting a teen is remaining strong, and calm when kids turn belligerent. When a teen realises that logical argument will no longer be effective she quickly resorts to emotional blackmail or bullying. The good news is that, in spite of the hysterics, so long as parents are genuinely allowing opportunities for kids to test their emerging independence, and that other factors in family life are promoting positive relationships, kids will fairly quickly and (begrudgingly) accept the boundaries.

Posted on Leave a comment

My child goes out for too long on a school night!

QUESTION: How do I stop my child going out at night after school for so long on a school night?

Firstly, this is much easier when the ground rules are laid very early. For instance: if you have had an absolute rule with your child up to the age of 14 that school nights are only for family, extra curricular activities (sport, music, drama, etc), homework and relaxing at home then you will not have too much trouble continuing with those rules through senior high. On the other hand, if your child has had the freedom to enjoy other social activities on school nights in his or her pre-teens and early teens that will be a very difficult habit to break.

But if you are reading this question you are in the middle of dealing with this issue now$, so here are some ideas that might help regardless of your history.

The first step is to help your child see the point in coming home at a reasonable time. Most kids who lack personal discipline also lack a sense of purpose in their lives. Listen to what your teen wants to do with his or her life. Then when the issue of late nights arises use that ambition as the reason for the boundaries you are setting down.

Secondly, set clear, consistent rules. Perhaps allow certain days of the week for socialising (choose evenings before the school days that have the lightest academic load). Make the curfew one that allows some freedom but is not overly generous. 10:30 is the latest any teen should be out socialising on a night.

Thirdly, introduce consequences. These should be discussed with your teen beforehand and agreed with by him or her. The consequence should be real, but reasonable, and must be enforceable. Then enforce the consequence, never back down no matter how much abuse you receive. The consistent application of consequences is the best form of discipline (and control) available to parents today.

Fourthly, reward. Make it worth your teen’s while to be at home on school nights, studying. The reward might be extra time out on the weekends, or it might be the building of a bank account towards the purchase of something special. The actual type of reward is not important, the fact that it is guaranteed and centered on something worthwhile to your teen is.

Posted on Leave a comment

My step-daughter is impossible to live with

QUESTION: I am step father to my partner’s 15 year old girl. over a number of years this child has been very naughty (probably no diff to many other children) however now that she is 15 and year 10 (Just – put in a very poor effort last year she has developed a network of friends with which she is in constant contact on her mobile phone up to 2 and 3 am in the morning – we also give her access to the internet which she uses only for MSN and my space and during the time she is on the net she is also constantly still on the phone

– we were concerned that her schooling was suffering as a result of this contact etc. and placed a curfew of 10pm Sun – Thurs to hand her mobile so that she at least gets a reasonable nights sleep – every night this turns into stressful situations as she hates to be without her phone and lose contact with her friends – we think that maybe she feels insecure with her friends and has the fear that during the time she has no contact that she may lose them as a friend ( as a younger child when she played with neighbours in the court she would hold off coming inside to go to the toilet in fear that the friend she was playing with would go and play with someone else) when she doesn’t get her own way she threatens to leave home and live with one of her network friends and has in fact ran off twice and lived elsewhere for a week or so each time – she has not respect for her mother or myself – she cupboard doors etc. and tells us she will do what she likes when she likes and how she likes – to myself because I have not got that maternal bond – I feel quite threatened by her behaviour – very frustrated and life is not very pleasant in our home – I have only touched on a minor area of her behaviour – there are other issues such as drinking, smoking, wagging school, leaving home at midnight and coming back around 6.30anm in the morning, lies, stealing, always trying to con money and material things from us both – my question- at what age can we expect this childs behaviour to change ?????

Thanks for your question, you and your wife are certainly having a tough time.

Your statement that “over a number of years she has been very naughty” makes a response a little difficult. Often the behaviours you mentioned have their origins in an unsettled childhood and they way they were dealt with then will have a large impact on the approach you need to take now. Your daughter quite possibly needs some professional counselling.

In general terms though: Your step daughter’s behaviour, as you describe it, is typical for a 15 year old girl but it is at the very extreme end. Kids in their mid teens are primarily driven by two factors – the acceptance of their peers and the belief that they are adult and should be free to make their own decisions.

Most teens have the edgy part of those attitudes moderated by strength of the relationship they have with their parents and the experience of the clear structure they have grown up with. Some (as you are finding) are driven by their life experience, or genetic makeup, to ignore that moderation.

The good news is that when kids experience constant love and clear structure through their teens, regardless of how they accept it, they almost always grow into capable responsible and grateful adults. In fact they usually become really nice people.

Some steps you might try in the meantime:

Develop your relationship with her

From what you have described this will be hard, but it is not impossible. Don’t expect her to suddenly accept you into her life as her father, or even her friend – that will take a long time. Rather look for some small ways you can interact positively that are totally outside the conflict issues you have and quarantine these from any discipline.

Is there something you both like to do that you can do together? Is there something she likes to do that she may tolerate you doing with her? Or is there something she wants to do so badly she can only do it if you make it possible by doing it with her? Start small and build slowly – these types of things become the foundation not only of your relationship but also of your ability to shape her behaviour.

Don’t expect respect

This sounds odd, but respect is not what you are looking for. Respect implies you are seeking control over her attitude, you are not and you can’t. You are seeking control over her behaviour (for her benefit). Kids today do not give respect easily and they certainly do not give it on the basis of seniority. They only give respect when it is earned and their standards are very high for everyone (except themselves).

When you base compliance with your boundaries on a teen’s respect for you that child is given a quick and certain counter argument. In the frustrated teen’s mind there are at least a hundred things about you that prove you are not worth of her or his respect. In the teen’s logic if you demand or even suggest behaviour on the basis of respect there is no need to follow that path because you don’t deserve respect.

Instead expect compliance with a set of behaviours because they are clearly sensible. In the early days you will have the same battles, and the same defiance, but if you base your expectations of her on the realities of consequences of her actions you will do one of two things; if you are lucky – both. Over time she will be more accepting of the boundaries because she will learn to see the sense in them, and later in life she will use the same system of weighing up consequences to make her own decisions.

Make the boundaries fair, clear and firm

Every restriction you place on your daughter will be met with resistance. As you have already seen, her response to your boundaries will escalate through three stages. First comes emotional manipulation where she makes you feel sorry for her. Then comes deceit where she pretends to do the right thing while actually doing her own thing. Finally, when the other two don’t work she turns to defiance. There is not much you can do about her reaction, your only course is in your response.

I suggest you and your wife establish your absolute boundaries in those areas that really matter and the consequences that will always be applied when those boundaries are crossed. If you can, involve your daughter in the process of setting these boundaries and consequences. It’s much more effective if she knows that at some time she agreed to these things.

Then when the boundaries are crossed apply the consequences, calmly and without a lecture. She will still go through the 3 stages mentioned above but the worst thing you will see is no different to the current situation. There is every chance though that over time you will begin to see positive results in terms of self control and wiser decision making on her part.

You might be interested in the website It is American but it has good information and offers interactive support.

Posted on Leave a comment

My teen is abusive with me

QUESTION: My teen can’t argue without being abusive, what can I do?


Teens are so driven by the immediate they will frequently use every means available to get their way. Sometimes their desires are so urgent they will bypass all standard forms of argument and go straight to emotional blackmail. The subconscious thinking is: “If I can hurt mum enough, she will get sick of it and just give in.”

There are reasons teens are so extreme when angry (and get angry quickly with parents)


While they might like to think otherwise, teens know that in the end their parents control both the money available to them and how they use their time and space. There is very little they can do about that because of their personal situation (they are living at home), the law (they usually can’t leave) and societal expectations (most of their peers are in the same boat). Their verbal lashing out is an attempt to exercise power.


Because you are his parent he has confidence that no matter how unpleasant he is you won’t desert him. Consequently his words and actions are not moderated by the factor that softens most social interactions: fear that you will find him so offensive that you leave.


Quite possibly, deep down, she knows that you are right, but that doesn’t make the decision you are making for her any more palatable. Rather, she is facing an inner conflict where her head is telling her something her heart doesn’t want to hear. Sometimes the abuse you receive is not directed at you at all, it is simply the venting of her inner frustration.


Acting on a whim and treating every experience as a once in a lifetime opportunity is as much a normal part of adolescence as pimples and growth spurts. The teen brain is not good at thinking things through. Your teen is loud, aggressive and hurtful – basically irrational – because the thoughts he or she is defending have come from raw emotion not carefully considered thought.

Short term responses
  • Don’t return fire – it will only escalate the problem. Chose to not speak to your child until he or she calms down and speaks civilly.
  • Don’t panic – if your child is arguing with you it means your child knows it needs your permission (or money) to proceed. You still have the upper hand.
  •  Seek a compromise. It is easy to get into the habit of saying no for no’s sake. A small compromise can often allow the child to experience something of the wish without breaking parental boundaries.
  • Let the moment pass. If you absolutely cannot bend then wait till your teen has calmed down; then talk about your reasons, not his or her behaviour. You may reactivate the argument but if you are reasonable over time your child will be more accepting.
Long term responses

The following strategies will help minimise the number of occasions you have this experience (the earlier you start this process the more successful it will be)

Anticipate – wherever possible lay the ground work for a situation a good two years before the situation arises, it is very difficult to wind freedoms back. Behaviours and freedoms that are cute at 10 can be very frightening at 14. The current trend is to rush kids into maturity, I believe a safer way is to preserve innocence as long as possible.

Consistency – a huge benefit found in thinking your responses and values through ahead of time is that you are able to establish a set or responses that are consistent from one day to the next and one issue to the next. The quickest way to undermine credibility is to create in your kid the sense that they’re never quite sure how you’re going to react.

Balance – Prove yourself to be reasonable by developing a habit of being ahead of your teen in some areas of freedom. A great way to make unpleasant decisions palatable for your teens is when they know that you are also inclined to surprise them by the slack you can sometimes cut them.

Example – As with everything in parenting, the most powerful influence is example. If children see their parents handling disagreements, conflicts and argument calmly and with mutual respect they are very likely to have a similar approach.

Posted on Leave a comment

My teen will not get up in the morning and is too tired for school

QUESTION: Hi, I am wondering why teenage boys tend to want to sleep all day & can’t get up for school? I have a 14 yr old & he hates getting up in the morning, it takes me 2 hrs to get him up & i must say i am over this daily routine. He can’t understand why i get so stressed by the end of it. He then saunters of to to school grudgingly. He has always been a big sleeper but this is rediculous. Any suggestions would be appreciated?


Sleepy teenage boys have been a problem for many parents, and in our society where rooms are so comfy and beds so snugly it is even more difficult. Like most parenting teen issues there are no easy or quick solutions to this – just time and persistence.

Let’s start by giving him the benefit of the doubt: the problem could simply be that he is a teenager. There is a lot of evidence to show that sleep patterns do change during adolescence (it has to do with the timing of the secretion of melatonin) which means that the feeling of sleepiness arrives much later at night. Research has also proven that teens also need around 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night. When you add to this the fact their days are so full of activity and their nights so full of excitement it is little wonder they are often hard to get up in the morning.

Assuming that your son wants to go to school (because if he does not that is a quite different story) here are some suggestions that might help:

1) Work to his needs. Acknowledge that as a teen he needs around 10 hours in bed a night and come to an arrangement with him about what time he goes to bed based on what time he needs to get up.

2) Avoid the stimulants. We can’t blame puberty for all of the problem, many kids sleep late because they play late. TV, music, phone calls & texting, internet games & chat keep their brains aroused and bodies out of bed till very late at night. Setting clear boundaries about the use of these can help. Be especially strong about phone and internet based activity because not only do they not have a defined end point, they have an external party prolonging the interest. Be careful of physical stimulants too. All caffeine products (Caffeinated drinks, Guarana products, etc) should be avoided after the early afternoon and smoking avoided always, but especially after the early evening. Exercise is great in the afternoon, but not late at night.

3) Do things at night. Have your son do as much of what he needs to be ready for school the night before. If at all possible make his only responsibility in the morning that of going to school.

4) Time shift. Use his preferred entertainment to get him up in the morning. For example, if he absolutely must watch (insert his favourite show here – I don’t know your son) make it a rule that he watches it before he is due to leave for school.

5) Reduce the margins. Following on from that, come to an agreement with him about how much time he does need from when he wakes up till when he leaves for school and don’t bother waking him till that time. Better still give him the responsibility to set an alarm for himself. Maybe if he wakes with a sense of urgency knowing there is only just enough time to get ready he might be a little more motivated.

6) Choose consequences that sting. Tie consequences to something other than school. Even if he likes school, missing some of it is not something he will perceive as a personal cost so find something that is (money, social hours on the weekend, TV and internet rights, etc) and make those the consequence of him not getting up on time.

As to grudgingly sauntering off to school – sorry, nothing can be done about that!

Posted on Leave a comment

Tension because of Asperger’s and ADHD

QUESTION: My 15 year old son has ADD and Aspergers and my 11 year old daughter has ADHD.
We have a very stressful home environment at the moment and would appreciate any information on how to cope better.

RESPONSE: As to your question, while I have never experienced what you are I have encountered many parents in a similar situation. Many find help and relief by sharing with others in similar situations through the various Aspergers/ADHD support groups, I hope you have one close by you. Because I have limited experience in the area I can only offer a more general response.

Firstly, celebrate the positives. In any intensely emotional situation it is easy to become so absorbed in coping and responding that it is easy for the joyful moments, that ought to bring relief, to slip by almost unnoticed. I am sure there are moments every day when your son or daughter do or say (or sometimes don’t do or say) things that surprise or amuse you. Depending on the preceding behaviour it could be difficult to do this, but whenever possible make a conscious effort to enjoy those moments and lock them away in your memory.

Secondly, remember that your kids are teenagers too, much of the behaviour that makes life tense now is a perfectly natural part of adolescent development. It doesn’t make the behaviour any less irritating or stress inducing, it just means that as your children mature the extremes of behaviour will moderate and life will be more gentle.

And thirdly, focus on the medium to long term. This is probably small comfort, but you are almost certainly going through the most difficult time you will ever have with your children. As you consistently and lovingly parent now the attitudes and stability you hope to see in your children will gradually take root and grow. When they are in their late teens and early twenties they will probably not understand the difficulties they caused for you but you and they will enjoy the relationship you long for.

Posted on Leave a comment

My niece is manipulative and threatening

QUESTION: My 15 year old niece is very clever; but she refuses to attend school, has an older boyfriend whom she manipulates. She is abusive to parents & grandmother, & has lately taken to damaging walls & breaking things including a mirror. Parents & grandmother are distraught, especially since they can’t get the child to visit a doctor or psychologist. She also frequently threatens them that if they check her behaviour, she will call the cops. Nobody has laid a hand on her, or abused her in any way. Please advise where parents can obtain help. She does not do drugs or drink alcohol.


Teenagers can be dreadfully emotional and stubborn because they are so posses by the moment. In their minds if the their desires aren’t met immediately they may not be met at all. Add to this the fact that when teens can’t win an argument logically they will usually turn to bullying (as indicated by what you have said about the physical damage your niece is causing) and you have people who are very hard to live with sometimes.

In response to a couple of your points: Every state has a parent help website and live phone counselling (see list here),these are a great starting point for parents in need. For face to face counselling your family could find some great help from Centacare (a counselling service of the Catholic church but open to people of all faiths).

If your niece threatens to call the police, maybe she should be allowed to. If, as you say, there are no issues of abuse the police will very likely reinforce the views of her parents.

Perhaps, though, the other direction to take is to find out why she will not attend school. For a clever girl who is not being influenced by alcohol or other drugs this is an unusual behaviour. It makes me wonder whether there are issues in her life (bullying, inappropriate relationships, academic struggle) that make school a hostile environment for her. Because, for whatever reason she will not open up about those issues she is taking illogical pathways to keep herself from having to confront them.

It is very important during this time for her parents to find some way to maintain and encourage whatever elements of a normal relationship they can. This does not mean giving in to her whims or accepting outrageous behaviour. What it does mean is to be careful to be on the look out for any signs of tenderness or normality she shows and to acknowledge and affirm those. Seek ways to spend time with her away from the tension causing issues. The more that positive side of the relationship can be built up the more likely it is that the negative side of her behaviour will begin to moderate.

Posted on Leave a comment

My son is totally out of control

QUESTION: Hi, My husband and I have a 15yo son who is over 6ft tall. He has not been to school for two years and refuses to go. He smokes heaps of pot ( and probably other drugs) sleeps all day and gets aggressive or violent if we try to challenge him. Hes been in trouble with the police and now facing an unlicenced driving charge.

He wont do the community service from his other charges and just goes bezerk if his father gets in his face or tries to talk to him. I think he has conduct disorder,depression and maybe a learning disability. Three years ago his best friends burt to death in a bush fire and I don’t think hes ever got over it. We are very worried about him and it is hard for us to get ANY help in a remote community. I would like to know if there is anyone who can help him. Can we take him to a “place” that will help him with his addiction and his mental issues before he hurts us or I have a heart attack from the stress.

Your situation sounds very difficult and I can appreciate the pain and frustration you are feeling. Your question contain many indicators that your son needs professional counselling, especially in terms of the death of his mates. Unresolved, a trauma like that one would certainly easily lead to the kinds of experiences you are no having with him. I suggest you phone Kidshelpline  (National: 1800 55 1800) or Parent Helpline (WA: 1800 654 432 1800 654 432; SA: 1300 364 100; QLD & NT: 1300 30 1300; VIC: 13 22 89; TAS: 1300 808 178;NSW: 13 20 55; ACT: 6287 3833)

In terms of directly addressing the problem you would probably get more appropriate direction from one of the organisations I have listed below. They are much more experienced in these issues than I am.

In terms of you and your husband though: Whatever the reason, your son is so established in his patterns of defiance that the road to change will be quite long, but it is not impossible. What you can do in the short term is to reinforce the positive in your son (wherever you find it and however small it is) and resist the temptation to engage with him on his terms. You need to build a platform of security in your relationship and acceptance of him as your son to give you the confidence to pursue his behaviours that are totally unacceptable.

For a whole range of reasons, including and probably beyond the ones you have indicated, he wants you and his society to be angry with him. Every time he provokes you to rage he wins, and you lose. It is not easy to stay calm in the face of an abusive teen but it is the most important weapon in your arsenal.

Something that may help you is to keep in mind that the problems that most concern you at the moment are not yours. If he is not attending school – that is the problem of the school, Department of Education and Police. His community service and pending court appearance are the problem of the courts and the police. I know it sounds impossible, but at this point in your situation the only focus for you and your husband should be on small domestic matters. Look for a chink in his angry armour, some small softness and receptivity, and build on that – that will be the most likely starting point to bring him to recovery and will help bring you some peace.
The eBook mentioned in the My Teen is Out of Control link below has some really good sections on the importance of looking after yourself in this and strategies to focus on the problems that are yours.

Now as to the organisations that are best placed to directly help:


Tough Love is an organisation that has over 30 years experience dealing with situations like yours, they will have people who understand what you are going through and have good advice to offer.

Youth Off the Streets is an excellent organisation that has a wide range of residential programs that may suit your son’s situation. If not they will have a very current view of what is available in Australia. Information and contact details can be found on their

Teen Challenge is a Christian organisation that has residential programs in most states. Queensland has one for 16-25 year olds  and South Australia has one for 18+ but they will make exceptions Both programs require a willingness to accept a Christian approach to treatment and voluntary admission. Like Youth Off The Streets their staff would be up to date with other programs available today.

Headspace, the national mental health initiative website has a range of information and contact points that might help you.


There is an company in the USA called My Out Of Control Teen that provides training and online resources and counselling for parents in situations like yours. The cost is a one off charge of US$29. I cannot vouch for the quality of the program but it seems well credentialed. I have attached a copy of the book they sell on the website – it will help you decide whether the material is suitable for you. They also have a very active forum and online counselling program. The website is

Posted on Leave a comment

My daughter wants to move in with her boyfriend

QUESTION: My daughter is 15 and is telling us she is going to move out at 16 and live with her current 17 year old boyfriend. We have concerns about this and have spoken with her. If she leaves home at 16 and get into any trouble with the police or in debt will we be held responsible for her actions even if we can’t make her stay at home. She believes that when she is 16 she can legally move out is this right or is it 18 or 21.

You daughter is right, She can leave home without your permission at 16. Unfortunately laws have been framed this way because of the need to protect some of our children from dreadful experiences at home and in the process they sometimes make it harder for responsible parents to guide their children in the right direction.

The reality of the situation is that even if it wasn’t lawful, your daughter is of an age that if she wants to move in with her boyfriend there is very little you could do to stop it. The issue is not serious enough for the authorities to act.

Let us hope she does not get into trouble with the police, but if she does she will be the one accountable for it. Similarly with debt: the only way in which you could be held responsible for it is if you sign leases, contracts or rental agreements.

The first place to start though is to lay a foundation so that whether your daughter leaves home or not your relationship will survive. While it may not seem like it to her now (and at times it may not even seem like it to you) that relationship is going to be very important to her life in the near future.

Perhaps there are areas in which you could lighten up which give her a greater sense of independence without compromising your family expectations and values?

Also, it is important to build the relationship in spite of the current tension. It would be a very good thing to find some opportunities to spend positive time with each other in which the conflict areas are not discussed. Maybe have a weekly lunch date during which you both are banned from talking about anything to do with the boyfriend or her leaving home. This won’t be easy at first but if you persist it will become very valuable time during which you will almost certainly rediscover your mother-daughter relationship. It is that relationship that will ultimately give your daughter safety and security and you peace.