You're Your Own Person

By Dr. Robert Wallace

October 28, 2019 6 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm 14, and my parents are really strict with me. I've got an outrageously early curfew; I have to be in my room at 9 p.m. and can't even think of going out with boys this school year. I'm a good, responsible teen and a good student, too. These tight restrictions are on me because my older sister was rather wild when she was younger. She smoked, drank alcohol, dabbled in drugs and even had an abortion when she was 17.

My sister is now 21. She is in her third year of college and is on the dean's list for academic achievement. Her goal is to become a trial lawyer, and I'm sure that will happen. It now appears that her wild side didn't cause her to become a bad person or waste her life. These days, even my parents are very proud of her! Big sister seemed to grow up and get really responsible after her abortion; she stays clean and sober and works hard on her career goals.

By making me sacrifice having a normal teen life and forcing me to be a "good" girl, I feel my parents are risking that I'll become the opposite of my sister. She went from bad to good; could it be that I'll go from good to bad, especially since my life is so restricted right now? I'm actually worried I might start acting out someday soon. Is that likely? — Stifled Little Sister, via email

STIFLED LITTLE SISTER: You can't be compared with your sister. You alone are responsible for your life, just as she is for hers. There is no logical reason to think that you could go from good to bad just because you pine for more freedom right now. You'll gradually get more freedom as you age, especially during your college years, if you plan to seek higher education.

Do well in school. Enjoy your friends. Talk with your parents about how you can earn more freedom gradually. When they do give you a little more leeway, I'm positive you'll continue to be your current responsible self in the future.


DR. WALLACE: My science teacher is very strict. Yesterday, I was 30 seconds late to her class, and she locked the door so I couldn't get in. In fact, she slammed the door in my face. Rather than sit on the floor outside of her room, I went home after five minutes of standing in the hallway because this was my last class of the day.

Now I'm in more hot water because she turned me in for ditching her class. My friend, who is in the same class, said that five minutes before the period ended, our teacher finally unlocked the door and walked out in the hall looking for me. She returned to the classroom, muttering, "She'll pay for this ... "

Now I've got four hours of Saturday detention for cutting a class I really didn't cut and never intended to cut. I'm actually a good girl who follows the rules and does not cause any trouble at our school. I'm a junior and have had a very good track record up until now.

This is the first time I've ever had to serve detention for any reason. I feel embarrassed and ripped off. Please give me your thoughts about this. I'm aware that you are a former high school principal, so I want to know what you think about this situation. — Unintentionally in Trouble, via email

UNINTENTIONALLY IN TROUBLE: If what you emailed me is 100% factual, the teacher could have handled your 30 second tardiness in a much more prudent fashion. Locking you out of class wasn't, in my opinion, a learning situation for you and was not a wise move by the teacher in this situation, given the few details I have about this matter. Students do not learn course material effectively sitting alone in the hall.

However, you did make one key error, unintentionally. Instead of going home, you should have gone to an administrative or counselor's office and informed them of your situation. You could have asked for permission to go home early to work on your homework, or you could have volunteered to go to the school library to work quietly until the period was over. Now, what's done is done, but do take the time to talk with your counselor about what you consider an unfair discipline. It's possible the detention could be shortened or even waived considering it is your first offense and given the circumstances. If not, serve your detention, and don't be late to class again. No matter the outcome, you'll be doing the school administration a favor by letting them know exactly what happened to you. It could be that the principal or a vice principal will speak to your teacher about her practice of locking slightly tardy students out of class.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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