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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 10547
Experience:  I have a doctoral degree in psychology and have a history of providing couple's and family therapy.
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I have a 13 year old step daughter. We have primary custody

Customer Question

I have a 13 year old step daughter. We have primary custody of her and we are having significant behavioral issues. She constantly lies, manipulates, sneaks and does things that not only she shouldn't do but can put her in grave danger. We have tried talking to her (she shuts down, wont respond at all, just stares), having her write things out (she blames instead of accepts responsibility) , taking privilages away, grounding for long periods of time etc. She continues to repeat the behaviors. She shows no remourse, is hurtful to her parents and her siblings, and is just full out rebelling. We have tried bringing her to counseling, but she refuses to talk to them. She will sit and stare or give one worded answers. She wants to go back to her mother, but her mother is a drug addict who treats her like a friend and allows her to do anything and everything she wants, so obviously letting her return is not in her best interest. My husband and I are lost on what to do. We keep extending groundings, but obviously we aren't getting through to her. HELP!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

*This website DOES NOT constitute treatment and only provides information and advice in a Q&A format. For treatment (therapy and/or medications) you must go to a licensed professional in your area.

Hello and thank you for your question. I am very sorry that you are having these issues with your stepdaughter, I can understand how distressing this can be for you. Unfortunately if she is unwilling to take part in therapy, there is only a limited amount of options you can try. It does sound like she may have a Conduct Disorder given the behavior you described which is a purposeful pattern of behavior of breaking the rules and not following societal norms that are expected of her. I would recommend either she enter into a group therapy with other problematic adolescents because she may bond with the other group members and that can help her to break out of this behavior or at least try to work on herself more. The other option would be to try Wilderness Therapy, which is a specific type of therapy designed for children and adolescents that have Conduct Disorder and other behavioral problems. In this type of therapy she would be at a camp for around 8-12 weeks (some camps allow for school credit to be awarded too) where she will be obligated to work in groups with other teens that have a history of behavioral problems doing certain tasks in order to complete them and receive rewards/benefits. The reason this type of therapy works is because the only way to complete a task it to work together, so she will learn how to work with others, communicate, and learn empathy as well. Here is a good introductory article to help you understand how Wildernesss Therapy works

http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/wrc/Pdf/jeev24-2.pdf

I believe this would be a good next step for her to help lessen her behavioral issues.

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