Teens Sneaking Out

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Sneaking out at 3 in the morning

October 2008

My daughter is 15, I think she is a normal teen. She gets ok grades, she is boy crazy. But has never had a boyfriend, nor kissed a boy. The worst thing she has done (until last night) is curse at me. My husband and I discovered she was not in her bed at 3:30 a.m. I called her cell, she answered immediately, and said she was on her way home. She was with a girl friend, her age, and the girls 18 year old friend. Who is a boy, but not boyfriend. He technically is a man. He is a freshman in college. I called the girls parents, they said she was home. Maybe, they dropped her off first, so she didn't happen to get caught? The boy was home from college for the long weekend. Daughter said, they hatched the scheme earlier that evening. On confrontation, daughter said she wanted to do something ''bad'' for once. Everyone sneaks out, and she wanted ''bragging rights''. I had poor parent supervision as a kid, and I don't know how to handle this. I know what smoking, drinking and drugged people look and smell like, and she was non of these. Some one please advise me how to handle this. Do I come down like a warden?

She was being rebellious as almost all teenagers can be and testing the waters about what you would do about it. I did the same kind of stuff when I was her age and stayed an A student, did well in college and life. My mother came down very hard on me, grounding me, etc. and also accused me of all sorts of stuff I wasn't engaged in. That made me do stuff I wouldn't have otherwise. My teenage logic was: she is already punishing me for the behavior, so I might as well be doing it. **Teen logic.** My recommendations: get her (and her friend) involved in an evening activity that will get her so tired that she won't have the energy to sneak out. I loved dancing at the local college when I was in HS. There is evening rock climbing at Iron Works, maybe working out at the Y. And, have the ''I was so worried at not knowing where you were, what if there was an earthquake, etc.'' talk. For me at least, that was more logical to my teen brain than the screaming, yelling and grounding. been there

I think the only thing you can do is tell her how it made you feel... scared, angry, betrayed, whatever. Tell her you need to keep being able to trust her. Tell her the reasons you think it's a bad idea, the dangers of a girl just going out with someone you don't really know in the middle of the night. I really don't think panic or overreaction helps and her past behavior and explanation seem reasonable. She sounds like a reasonable, open-minded girl and she will listen and care about what you say whether it seems that way or not. (Keep it brief.) Anon

House alarm!

Also, if she has needs that pertain to fitting in and having boyfriends, those should be brought out and discussed. There are great resources available out there on these issues. My favorite has been Boundaries With Teens, by John Townsend. It covers common issues that occur with teens. Best of luck! Marilynn

I would be really scared if my daughter snuck out at night. I would want to nail the windows shut! I guess she might've been somewhat safe because she was with two other people, but it's NOT SAFE outside that late! Not to mention that you thought she was in her bed!! I would emphasize that to her. Sounds like she's being pretty open with you by saying she wanted to do something ''bad'' and have ''bragging rights'', so maybe you can talk with her starting there. Are there other things that she can do that are exciting or like she's having an adventure without the danger part? (My daughter liked to have adventures and we talked about what is safe and what is not. Who knows what stuck...) All-in-all it's not behavior that makes her trustworthy, and are the bragging rights or doing something ''bad'' worth you losing trust in her and her making everyone so worried? Yes, it's guilt-tripping her, but it's the consequences of her actions that she needs to be aware of. anon

Why on earth would you want to ''come down like a warden''? Sit quietly and ask yourself what you are TRULY feeling and thinking. From how you describe your daughter, I doubt you really want to set up a warden/inmate relationship here. How effective could that be with a non-rebel like your child?

You want her to develop her own internal moral compass, not to calculate her actions based on fear of you and getting caught.

Your daughter sounds like a really good (if not perfect) kid. There are no ''shoulds''. Don't feel like you should feel something you don't actually feel: anger/outrage at what your daughter did, for example. Tell her that you are grateful she trusted you enough to tell you why she snuck out (if true, it's a rather endearing excuse, don't you think?)

Explain to her what problems her actions created and how it affected you - worry, anger, erosion of trust in her, your fears for her safety with an older boy (if these are indeed your concerns). Talk honestly and directly with her and tell her you need the same from her.

Sure, you could devise arbitrary punishment (grounding, removal of privleges are popular in our culture) but these are poor substitutes for developing a strengthened and closer relationship through open communication. I believe in natural consequences - i.e. sneaking out results in we, your parents having less trust in you. That's a pretty big consequence right there.

Sometimes when I'm stumped about how to correct a bad behavior I ask my kid/s what they think - what they'd do in my shoes. You'd be surprised at the thoughtful answers (and sometimes punishments!) they suggest. But best of all we have a good open discussion, free of the fear factor. By the way, a sense of humor can go a long way too in getting a little perspective. Parent of 15 year old girl

We have a rule in our household that applies to everybody. If you are going out you must let family members know where you are and when you'll be home, if you are late you call. My husband and I have always done this for each other and as soon as our daughter no longer depended on us to get her places, we told her she was expected to do this as well. I explained it as a matter of common courtesy. Since we all practice it, she doesn't feel as we are checking up on her. It's a habit now, so I don't even have to nag.

That said, no high school teen should be out at 3:30. I think you need to clearly explain to her the dangers of that behavior. I try to talk to my daughter about making good choices. I have talked with her honestly about drugs, alcohol, rape, listening to her inner voice, etc.

We enforce a weekend curfew of 12:00, although she can get extended time with certain conditions (advance notice, way home, etc.) School nights it's home by dinner time. The key is consistency so everything becomes a habit

Learning how to evaluate risk is an important part of growing up and it is one we tend to neglect in our desire to protect. Think of this as an opportunity you can use to start that process. This is maybe the most challenging phase of being a parent-at least it is for me! oh and breathe. Roxanne

Stop-gap solution. Works for my special needs son that has taken to wondering off, leaving the house and scaring the daylights out of me.

Have an alarm installed. Cost is not that prohibitive they have specials all the time. (I got mind through ADT for 99.00--if you have extra windows you might have to pay more. For large areas you don't use at night, they usually include a motion sensor which would cover the entire room).

Do NOT give her the alarm code. When she tries to leave...wah la...alarm goes off you're up...that particular plan is a no go. Not having the code does not stop ANYONE from leaving the house in an emergency. You simply open the door/window and leave and the alarm goes off.

This serves a dual purpose in that your house will also have security protection. can't afford to have my child wandering out without me knowing

Yes. You do need to come down like a warden, at least in the near term. She snuck out and now has her bragging rights for being ''bad'', and now you can ramp up the control in response. It is likely that she needs you to provide limits and do your parental thing. So figure out how long she will be grounded for or not allowed out at night. And let her know that if she does this again, how you will ramp up the consequences even more. Consequences will allow her to tell her frineds, ''No I can't do Y, or my parents will do X.'' Mom

Ask her how she would react (and what she would do) if she woke up in the middle of the night, walked into your bedroom, and you were 'gone'. mike