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Want/need to have better relationship with my 13 year old daughter.

My daughter has always been "strong willed". Attitude has been a struggle for many years...from doing homework to treating us with love and respect. We've always showed the same affection with both kids (also have 9 year old son who is total opposite of 13 year old daughter). I always say "I love you", give hugs, try to cuddle, have "just us time", and try to have an open line of communication with both kids. She spends lots of time in her room and doesn't want to do anything with the rest of us as a family. We show interest in her life and things she's doing by asking questions and trying to talk about stuff, only to get a one word answer or no response at all. She's VERY moody and crabby, especially up to a week before and during her period. When she's tired or had a bad day, the attitude is 100 times worse. I've told her countless times that I'm always here to talk, no matter the situation. (She has come to me a handful of times with problems with friends) She doesn't share much information about anything. She basically treats us like CRAP, especially my husband/her dad and brother. I've read countless books, bought parenting programs and even had her to counseling, only to have nothing change. On the other hand...she's a great friend to others and has many friends at school. She treats other kids and parents, just others in general, with respect and always has a good attitude towards and around them. So I guess we must have done something right in that respect. It seems like when I try to talk to her, it just goes in one ear and out the other, like she zones out and doesn't want to hear it. We've tried positive reinforcement and having consequences for words and actions. I've also expressed how I feel as a parent and how her attitude and disrespect affects me, and even my experiences in things when I was her age...only to get virtually no response, like she doesn't care. Does anyone have any advice on how I can get through to her more/better? It hurts me DEEPLY that she's this way towards us. I can't help but find myself in tears and often wonder what we've done wrong. Is it just a teen girl thing?

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Asked by busymom2818 at 12:24 AM on Oct. 26, 2013 in Teens (13-17)

Level 2 (6 Credits)
Answers (10)
  • I'll be waiting for answers to this question - you just described my middle daughter.

    Answer by SassySue123 at 1:20 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • Yes. The teen girl mantra: "I want to be left ALONE!"

    I used to be the same way with my parents. It wasn't that I hated them; I preferred to be left alone to do my own work, my own writing and my own dreaming. If I needed to talk, I'd talk. But if my mother had hounded me I'd shut down really fast.

    She knows the door is open. Leave it that way. If she's not out and out getting into trouble, if her grades are good and the treating you "like crap" is more of ignoring you than actually calling you names or taking advantage of you by taking money and doing nothing... then let her be. You've already said she comes to you with problems and that's perfect.

    She's moving to the point in her life where you are less of her life. Much as that may hurt, it's normal and it means you've done the job right! You're not raising a child. You're growing an adult. And separation from parents is part of it.

    Answer by gdiamante at 1:53 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • Thank you gdiamante!!! You make perfect sense!!! I guess I never thought of it that way before. You made me feel a little better about the whole thing:)

    Comment by busymom2818 (original poster) at 2:00 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • There is an old book called Reviving Ophelia that might help you understand what she's going through. Like gdiamante says, she's learning to separate herself from you and become her own person. She's dealing with personal conflict regarding her feelings, probably of guilt since she knows her parents love her but she still acts out. Hormones are an issue as well. Never take it personally when you've done your best to provide a good example of how to treat others. She's got to find her way. It's a long road for her and confusing. She probably has no clue what to ask you. It's all good. Of course you may have to wait a long time to see the results of your good parenting!

    Answer by admckenzie at 2:39 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • I don't know how you typically have handled behavior issues & emotions, or how you address those things now (when you're displeased.) That can influence the parent-child connection. So there could be some ways to improve the dynamic JUST through shifting things there.
    But despite that, I think the key in your description is not focusing so much on whether or not her responses to your efforts are the "right" ones, or the ones that you're expecting. Don't let YOUR actions & initiatives be focused on the "result" or "outcome"--the result they're "supposed" to net you! I am talking about the feelings of "but it never works" or "but it never makes a difference." Consider that what you do is what you do; you don't do it "so that" it changes things.
    I tend to struggle with that (feeling very conditional, hence disappointed) and I think it's important to reflect on what unconditional love is, and on how conditional I can end up being.

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:00 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • I agree with comments above: the primary developmental task for teenagers is emotional "differentiation." I also agree with making space for HOW your child is in relation to you, including the "negative" feelings. I personally wouldn't rely primarily on making space by "ignoring" the negative displays; I would reflect them, so that I'm responding in a way that acknowledges the feelings being expressed. To me, this response is desirable because it's an active response to the communication (all behavior is communication) & more constructive than making space for the feelings by ignoring them, which offers no response to the communication (except unexpressed resentment.)
    I believe it's important not to make children responsible for the feelings of adults (we need to own our feelings & reactions.) So that's a primary goal, & reflective listening is a helpful tool when you're triggered.
    But differentiation doesn't imply alienation.

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:12 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • At least, it is not inevitable that kids who are differentiating themselves emotionally from their families of origin have overall conflictual relationships.
    I think there's always room for improving the tone of relationships & strengthening the parent-child connection. I also believe that some parenting practices tend to erode that connection and unintentionally undermine the relationship we share with our kids. So differentiation aside, all conflict & adversarial dynamics are not "inevitable," or something that can't be changed/improved.
    If you are interested in any books (lol, I know you've consulted many) maybe check out Canadian developmental psychologist's book "Hold On To Your Kids." It outlines how many common disciplinary practices parents utilize in early childhood can result in (what he calls) a "peer orientation" that becomes more & more obvious as kids grow. He also advocates a response NOW that helps to

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:18 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • address the dynamic. It is back to that conditional aspect, and what typical parental responses to problem behaviors actually communicate to a child & set up in terms of relationship dynamics. It might be a helpful book both for framing the situation & helping you reflect on the existing dynamic, and also for deciding how you might want to go forward.

    For practical support in the here & now, and ways of listening/talking that help to CREATE a truly unconditional environment (making that space for feelings, even the ones that are very upsetting or triggering to you because she expresses them so offensively, hurtfully, or "primitively"), I recommend the books "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" and also Thomas Gordon's book "Parent Effectiveness Training" (P.E.T.)
    Either, or both.
    P.E.T. explores principles of communication that support close, respectful relationships with teens. HTTSKWL... does, too.

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:24 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • I think it's pretty normal for a teen of either gender to try to separate themselves from their family - sometimes to the point where they'd pretend they hatched from an egg if they thought they could get away with it.

    I wouldn't tolerate actual rudeness or hurtful words from her, but if she's simply ignoring you all, I'd let that go to a degree. If you ask her a specific question and she bluntly ignores you, I'd let her know that is not acceptable. I would ask, maybe once a day, something along the lines of "How was your day?" or "Is there anything you want to talk about?" and leave it at that - whether she answers or not. If she doesn't answer, just tell her you're there if she wants to talk and let it go. If she knows you're there, she'll come to you eventually. If you "harass" her, she'll just pull further and further away.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 8:43 AM on Oct. 26, 2013

  • pretty normal. make sure that you do things together and let her know you are there for her.
    Continue what you are doing- with consequences for awful behavior and let her have her space too

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 3:28 PM on Oct. 26, 2013

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