Teen sexting - dealing with threats after discipline

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013
Teen sexting - dealing with threats after discipline
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Sun, 03-10-2013 - 10:03am

I just caught my 14 year old daughter with sexually explicit text messages in exchange with a boy who is a classmate of hers (no photos).  She's a wonderful girl - straight A honor student, athlete, student council, church youth activity, etc.  I don't check her phone all the time - trust is important - but I had a sense something was wrong and when I checked, I was right. I went to her and told her I loved her and that I was worried about her and asked if she wanted to talk to me about anything or if I could help her with anything going on with her.  She looked funny, said she was fine, and then I told her what I had found. Her first response was anger that I had accessed her phone without her permission.  I am comfortable that I don't need to her permission for that or that this is not a violation of privacy since I am her parent and responsible for her well being.  Despite my attempts to express love and concern, the conversation continued to degrade by her trying to justify the behavior based on how prevalent it is among her peers and that "this is not the worst of what kids are doing".  I told her that didn't make it right and it didn't eliminate the possible bad outcomes of the behavior.  She has threatened to go out and do "the worst" now, to quit her sport, to quit her honors classes, and has told me how much she hates me, everyone in this house, her whole life, the whole community, etc.  She thinks she needs to move across the country to "start over".  The actions that I took were to inform her father of what had happened (we are divorced and I am remarried with kids from my second marriage) and I also informed the parents of the boy whom she was sharing the messages.  They were grateful and I believe he is likely a good boy too and I wanted each of us to be able to handle this issue with our own children without involving others for the sake of limiting embarrassment, etc.  There is so much pressue for these kids with this kind of behavior.  I took her phone and grounded her for two weeks from it and also from any purely social activities.  Before she gets the phone back, she will have to agree to either drop the passlock or keep it but let me know what it is, and in addition, she will have to turn it in to me by 9:00 every night.  She is still allowed to go to school related activities that she is involved in, including her sport.  I think it's important to keep her involved with the healthy activities instead of taking those away in punishment.  I think that most of her threats were just a lash out in anger that she had been caught and felt embarrassed and feels very pressured on the subject itself, but I am definitely having a lot of stress and worry that she might actually do some of it.  Even if it was just quitting some of her activities, but I don't think she realizes that once she does those things, she's doing damage to the image that she is reliable and hard working - things she will need when applying to schools or jobs.  She has described before the age-old darned if you do, darned if you don't.  If you don't, you're a prude, if you do you're a whore.  Rather than pick her path and stay true to it, she's playing that awful game of trying to be both - one person in front of one group and another person in front of another group.  Things have been up and down between us throughout her childhood, mainly because of the divorce with her dad.  He and I are doing pretty well as separate parents now, but it was rocky early on in our divorce and I know she keeps a lot of anger from that.

Anyway, I'm not doubting my rights, responsibilities or actions as a parent in this situation, but if anybody wanted to tell me if they think I've done the right things or tell me if I could have done something better or different, I'd love to hear it.  I feel really bad and upset right now, mainly because I hoped she would be able to rise above this and also that I'm worried about what else might be going on that is a threat to her well being.  Has anybody else been here on this subject and how have you handled it?  What do you think the chances are she will go ahead with any of her threats and nuke some good things she has going?  I tried to tell her that there was no reason for quitting everything.  No one knows about this except, the two of them, her parents and his parents.  No teachers, school administrators, coaches, law enforcement, etc.  If she starts quitting things, then people will wonder what's going on and she will bring a whole bunch of rain on herself for that.

Thanks for any positive vibes parents - I need them right now!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I remember going to Cape Cod with some high school friends for a vacation after we had graduated from high school & were mostly 18.  Well my friend's mom had put the room on her credit card, probably because none of us had one then (and debit cards didn't exist yet)--there were 4 of us sharing a room, so when we arrived the proprietor was not that pleased.  His first question was "Who is Evelyn?" (the credit card holder) and my friend said "that's my mother."  I think we did get a lecture about being quiet and not causing any trouble but the guy allowed us to stay.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013

I am really loving all of the support here.  The saga is continuing.  I ended up taking her computer the other day also because she was still being so mean and so beligerent over the original discipline of taking away her phone.  Now she's been home sick for a couple of days and she asked for her computer back.  I told her she could have it, but there would be new rules in place for both the computer and phone that I will have any and all ID's and passwords and that there WOULD be regular but random checks on both.  She is as stubborn as a mule and insists that I have no right to her privacy like that.  I am totally solid on my stance and she got even more mad this morning because I refused to engage her put-on act of not understanding the need for all of this. I still have her phone and computer because she won't give me the passwords.  I'm a little bit worried that there is more lurking around that I should know about.

On the comment about self worth, that's a really great point.  I had thought about it, but it was still hazy in my mind.  You helped put some good words to it.

On the point about the potential for birth control failure, my daughter couldn't have a better example by none other than --- ME!  I had her and her 9 nine year old brother and was stopping.  Ha! That's what I thought!  We experienced a failure of standard birth control and had another girl in 2010.  My husband rushed to have surgery, but then nine months after his surgery, even though he took all of his tests and showed negative, some little swimmer got past us and WHAM! we have another little girl in 2012.  My 14 year old DD knows this, so she should be plenty clear that even when you have something as drastic as surgery to prevent pregnancy, it doesn't always work!  Plus, we have joked that if most women's reproductive tracts have conditions like Siberia, we think mine is more like Myrtle Beach.  So DD should be especially scared because she has a tendency to be very much like me when it comes to physical attributes.

Her bio-dad and I are communicating better than we ever have since our divorce.  We were rough in the first several years, then we just didn't talk much at all, and now we are starting to realize how important that will be.  At least so far, he is totally in agreement with the steps I have taken and we have discussed how to handle other things that we anticipate might come up, such as her threatening me that she will move in with him or ask him for phone use or computer use.  He swears that he is not going to go along with her and he will tell her that she's not moving or getting a phone or getting a computer and that she has all those things, she just has to comply with the rules to have them back.

My biggest stress right now is that I'm just dumbfounded at how far she is taking her beligerence right now.  She is very much like I was at the same age in terms of good student, athlete, involved in good activities like student council and Christian youth groups.  I'm sure I gave my parents grief and thought I was smarter than them, but one thing I did not do was push past a single argument with them when I knew I was wrong.  If I got called on something, I might make one attempt to excuse or justify, but as soon as I was told enough was enough, I shut up, took the discipline, and went on so as not to make it worse.  But mine is really persisting in her belief that I'm the one that is being unfair and out of line.  I also never said the nasty things to my parents that she is saying.  I remember calling my mom a bitch one time.  Once.  She about slapped my face off.  I knew it was wrong and I never did it (out loud) again.  I won't slap my DD though. I used to give spankings when she was a small child, but I think at this age any physical action has the distinct risk of being very damaging to one or both of us.

Thanks again everyone for your comments.  More are welcome.  This is like getting therapy and being able to download some steam pressure without having to share these details with close friends or relatives exposing her even more to possible shame and self worth issues.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000

Sounds like you are doing great. I did have to chuckle at your story of birth control mishaps. I can't imagine having a teen and a baby at the same time! Each so needy in their own way. You are right that there may be something on the computer that she doesn't want you to see if she's that stubborn about giving you the password. I'm guessing when she wants it back badly enough she'll give it to you and try to do any explaining if need be. In the mean time I'm assuming you have a family computer she can use in a public place for homework if necessary.

You mentioned that you were like her in many ways but you never would have been as disrespectful to your parents. I'm sure you're quite a bit younger than me but I think even in the last 10-12 years (when my boys were becoming teens and when your dd was becoming a 'person') it seems that the disrespect is getting more out of control. I know each generation of parents says the same thing but I think there is some truth to it. I think a few things may contribute to it. I think our kids have more of a sense of entitlement - they've always been taught that they are so special just for exsisting. They grew up/are growing up in an era where no one 'wins' and no one 'loses' because we don't want to hurt their self esteem. Most kids have cell phones, computers, ipads, etc. by the time they become teens because it's just the norm these days. Which means instant communication and being able to just blurt out anything that crosses their mind and it's out there for the whole world do see. Back in the day we'd write it down in a diary and lock those thoughts up with the little key we wore around our neck. I also think that the shows/movies that are popular among the young people make it seem that it's normal and natural to disrespect your folks. And part of it is just normal teen stuff - of course we don't know how they feel because WE'VE never been teens in their eyes... Hang in there and keep us posted!

Pam
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Killerbee, these thoughts also come to my mind.

Kids are all different, some are easier than others in the same family and as with everything in life, “Your millage may vary.” Most likely it will vary. What works with one teen or what works in one family may not work with another kid or in the dynamics of another family. So, every parent has to chart their own course, make adjustments as necessary, and do their best, which is what I think you and her dad are doing.

When a couple of any age or any marital status is having sex, both need to have a clear understanding of what “THEY” are going to do “WHEN” she comes up pregnant. Notice I used the words “THEY” and “WHEN.” Pregnancy is very often only a “WHEN” issue and it is always a “THEY” issue and no matter what the couple’s age they need to have discussed and thought about the possibility. And the boy needs to know that the girl can change her mind and it’s just tough fudge for his thoughts and plans. I knew my daughters’ hearts were too tender to be anything other than pro-life; likewise with their guys.

As others have posted, with the technology of today, parents have to be more vigilant and that ain’t easy as, for starters, the teens are typically miles ahead of us old folks in understanding it and no teen likes having rules placed on them. As you are well aware “rule making” is a major part of parenting.

Hubby’s family are all big hunters. Something his parents did when he was a teen, and he and his brother do now, is keep ALL the guns locked away in a gun safe with nobody, but the father having the combination in his head and in the safety deposit box down at the bank, which only he and his wife have access to. Not even the mother has the combination in her head. Hubby will not even bring ammunition into our home. When the brothers and the nephews got guns for Christmas or Birthdays, those guns always went into the father’s locked gun safe that night, not the kid’s bedroom closet. The reason for this is a couple of incidents from the ‘30s and the ‘60s.

In the ‘30s, one of the uncles was setting an UNLOADED shotgun down in the corner with his hand over the barrel when it discharged and resulted in the uncle wearing a plaster hand for the remainder of his days. The uncle went from being right handed to being a lefty for life because his body and his right hand had separated ways at 16. On the humorous side, most folks assumed that he was a war hero who lost it fighting in WWII.

In the ‘60s a bunch of teens were playing with two pistols that they ALL thought were both UNLOADED when one of the boys, who had never been around guns, pointed one of the pistols at his best friend and said something like, “Bang, your dead,” as he pulled the trigger. The shooter’s best friend was dead before his body hit the floor. Devastating! No humorous side to this story.

Not only are there gun safety rules, road safety rules, there are jillions of rules on teens for their safety and well-being. Special rules for getting a driver’s license, special rules until the teen has driven for a year or reached 18, curfew laws requiring the teen to be off the streets by a certain time, mandatory school attendance rules, child labor laws, liquor and tobacco purchase prohibitions, etcetera. The list is endless. So hold your ground on the technology rules!

Every gift a parent gives a child and every privilege a parent allows a child to have, comes with certain rules, just like the guns in hubby’s family did. Some are spoken; most are just assumed or implied. When you hand over the keys to the car, you don’t expect the family car to be used in a demolition derby at the local race track or used for illegal street racing. If you give a boy a laptop, you’re not giving him permission to go to YOUPORN. At least I would hope you would not—LOL. Seriously, the technology you allowed your daughter to have is not for sexting, but listening to music, searching the web for acceptable information, using acceptable apps, etcetera. So when they use the family car for racing, or the internet for unacceptable texting, they lose the gift or privilege as they violated the rules. THEY DID IT, not you.

Honey, we can do this the easy way, which is how I described it to you, and you can be a reasonably happy teen. Or, we can do it the hard way where, you have NO PHONE, COMPUTER USE ONLY WHEN I AM IN THE ROOM, YOU ARE ANGRY AND UNCIVIL ABOUT THINGS, AND YOU ARE A MOST UNHAPPY TEEN. I personally prefer the easy way because it is easiest on both of us and best for both of us, but you will make the choice, not me.

Try to always keep your cool. Make a joke if you can. I would be tempted to say, “That is Ms. Bitch, please! And when you want to have a civil conversation, Ms. Bitch is ready to have it with you.” Or, “I’m sorry you hate me, but that does not change the fact that I have always loved you, love you more now than ever before, and will always love you. And whatever rules I have I have them because I LOVE YOU!”

A lot of that teen mouthing is what makes certain lines from sitcoms funny. I don’t remember the context but I recall Roseanne Bar telling one of her mouthy TV daughters, “That is the reason that some animals eat their young.” And Bill Cosby expressed the same thought this way, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.”

With a teen, deprivation of privileges is far more effective punishment than spanking or even flogging them with a cat of nine tails could ever be. Without knowing it, she is telegraphing that fact to you with her attitude. It’s like her saying, “OUCH! Mom, that really hurts when you take away my phone and computer.” Well, that’s what it is meant to do.

Whatever you find on that computer, don’t let it affect your love for your daughter.

I don’t care how tough and hard a teen seems on the outside, I think the vast majority of them, IF NOT ALL, are very fragile on the outside and very soft on the inside—much like an egg. They get hurt real easy and they need the unqualified love and support of their parents. This does not mean you buckle under to their whims, but that you are there for them, always forgiving them, willing to listen and discuss things, and a jillion other things. Always be there for them.

This is a good place to come to vent, rant, etcetera. However keep in mind that we don’t know your child, as well as you do, and what we say may not be correct for your situation as we only know a small part of the total spectrum of kids and we don’t know yours as well as you do.

Someone, maybe Rose, posted a few weeks ago, “Grandchildren are GOD’S reward to grandparents for not having killed their teens.” Ain’t it so!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013

Kimmy - I LOVE the 'Ms. Bitch' thing! I'm going to try to incorporate that type of humor if I can (hopefully not needed, but maybe...). 

 I totally agree about continuing to show love.  I have told her that throughout this whole thing.  I get the whole "NO YOU DON'T OR YOU WOULDN'T BE DOING THIS TO ME!" thing.  Of course I remind her it is HER that is doing this to her and not me.  Endless argument that is. She has been sick for the last three days.  We fought yesterday morning because she wanted to escape to school from her boredom, but she had a fever and terrible cough.  She slept most of the morning and I kept checking on her, brought her food, etc.  By the end of the night, she was asking me to watch a movie with her.  No apology from her, but I figured that was effectively what she was doing when she asked.  I think she is wearing down, but she has a very strong will.  We will see how long it takes to cough up the passwords. 

 I agree about the entitlements too.  My husband and I talk about and worry about that as well.  We live in a very wealthy community.  We do alright with income, far better than either of our parents ever did, but even with a just over 6 figure household income, we are some of the "poor" people around here.  There are neighborhoods a stone's throw away from us where the minimum square footage is 8,000 and some going up to 20,000.  She has numerous friends and classmates who literally have full sized gymnasiums in their basements as well as theater rooms, swimming pools, hot tubs, game rooms, bars, 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, etc. (that is no joke or exaggeration).  Needless to say, many of those kids have everything else - iphones, ipads, fancy cars, vacation homes in three different  tropical locations, go to every pro sport game, concert, vacation they want to, etc.  These things make teaching a child to appreciate what they have very difficult because her only basis for gauging value is what she's sees her friends have (yes, she sees other stuff through her youth group activites that aren't so good, and she feels grateful for her things and life briefly, but it's quickly forgotten). We moved here when she was 3.  This community has one of the best public school systems in the country, so we thought we were doing a good thing when we chose it, but I did not anticipate the issues that come from being around too much wealth. 

Also agreed that no one knows my child the way I do, but I still am finding I LOVE this community because I believe I am communicating with other parents either more experienced than me or at least going through the same thing at the same time.  Plus, I also find value in getting comments from people who are TOTALLY uninvolved and don't know us or all of the details because I think they are more likely to give fresh ideas and observations because they are unaffected by the things that they don't know.  I'm a pretty analytical person and I have a certain amount of pride in "knowing what to do", but I have figured out that when it comes to kids, as was said about them all being different, a forum is much better than a vacuum!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I think it would be very difficult to live in such a rich community and try to give your kids the message that material things aren't the most important things in life--however, some families do manage to do that.  I think the Kennedys managed to instill in their extended family that public service was important and I'll bet that Bill Gates' kids will grow up knowing that it's important to use their wealth for the good of others, considering  how much of his money he has given to charity.  But I think that it's hard for a young teen to realize that, esp. when it's so glorified on TV.  those houses remind me of some show that was on TV where rich kids would show off homes like that.  i'd watch the shows with amazement because no one I know lives like that and it's not that it seemed like they were bad families.  The parents would always say things like "we have all these things in our house because we want our kids at home and want their friends to be around" but there are some families who can give their kids a lot of "stuff" and have no family values and use material things as a substitute for spending time with the kids.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013

Shoot me with a marshmellow and knock me over!  I think we might be getting somewhere!  We had one final argument this morning about her being required to give up passwords to have any of her electronics back.  She has missed four days of school now because we found out last night she is positive for influenza B (yuck!!!). I woke her up this morning to tell her she needed to find out what her assignments were so I could go get her books and whatever so she can be working over the weekend on her make up stuff.  I told her I wasn't hearing any of the excuses about how she didn't have a computer to do so because she does have one, but she just can't use it because she won't give her password.  I said if she fell back on homework, that would be on her too, not on me, and further discipline would be issued.  I made one final speech about how all of the pain and stress right now is because she wants to avoid rules that are clearly fair, within my rights and certainly meant to keep her safe.  I made it clear that if she and I can have a friend-LY relationship, then that was great, but it wasn't my job to BE her friend, it was my job to be her mother and keep her safe.  Finally - finally, finally, finally - she came down and gave me her computer password.  She wanted it right away and I refused and told her I'd bring it up after I'd inspected the computer. Thank the Lord, there was nothing on there.  So she was either smart enough to get rid of anything before I took the computer, I'm too dumb to find it (but I'm not a computer idiot - just not as savvy as her) or she really never did anything wrong with it.  So why all the heartache this week over the stupid password?? No clue.

Anyway, she looked up her homework, I went to the school and I have just been checking on her for illness since.  Now that she has the computer back, she's been on it today, and just a little bit ago I got on Facebook, and there was another surprise for me - not the bad kind though... she changed her profile picture to one of her and I together!?!?!?  They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and if this is any proof of it, then I don't know what else would be. I don't care - whatever pain we've been through this week, it is worth it if she finally and really "got" this.

Thanks for all of your comments and support, ladies.  I really like hearing everyone's comments and stories too. I've been reading other people's posts, wanting to be of use somewhere, but haven't found one where I could make a useful contribution.  I'll keep looking!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2001

I'd say that the picture change is a big ol' sorry and thank you mom!  Kids are funny.

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