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Obnoxious Teenage Daughter

Obnoxious Teenage Daughter

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Dear Rachel,

I am going nuts. I have a teenage daughter (age sixteen) who has turned into a totally obnoxious individual! She used to be a sweet girl, but for the past year or two, things have been getting more and more out of hand. I don’t think that I have made a request of her, made a comment, or tried to engage her in conversation without some kind of response that involved a major sigh, eye-rolling, or exasperation (“whatever”) in the tone of her response. It has gotten to the point where I spend very little time with her. I am really not interested in being with her, and, sadly, she doesn’t seem to want to spend time with me either. On the rare occasions that I have tried to spend time with her, it usually results in some kind of meltdown, and not just on her part. Is there anything that I can do in this seemingly helpless situation?

Given Up Mommy

Dear Given Up Mommy,

Welcome to the world of teenagedom! Many might call it teenagedoom, because, well, this is a very difficult point in development for both the kids and their parents. Parents everywhere can relate to your tales of woe, and many a potentially or previously good relationship can get either temporarily or permanently derailed around this time in a teen’s life. But, there are things that parents can do to try and make things better for all involved.

The first thing that you should try very hard to remember is that the teenage years are not just hard on the parents. This time in a child’s development wreaks havoc for the teen as well. Their bodies are changing, hormones are surging, and their brains are rapidly evolving as well. All of this is extremely disconcerting for them, and they are not even consciously aware of these feelings. For example, research has shown that the sleep cycle for a teenager shifts. Their bodies naturally want to go to sleep later, and consequently, they want to sleep longer in the mornings. Given the way most people’s schedules work, this is obviously not something that most teens can do, so many of them walk around perpetually tired. Coupling their constant state of exhaustion with body changes that may leave joints slightly achy and hormones grossly surging, and you get one unhappy person.

In terms of the emotional aspect of your relationship, remember that it’s up to you to be a stabilizing force in your child’s life. Make time every day to just spend time with her. There is probably some point in the day when she is more amenable to talking, and you should make every effort to be available then. Use this time just to chat. No requests, no reminders about the wet towel left on the toilet, just a time to schmooze. You may want to try and engage in this by “bribing” her with a favorite activity: going shopping, getting some pizza, going out for ice cream. You may meet with some initial resistance, but over time, with consistent, gentle effort, you should see some improvement.

If she is not willing/able/wanting to talk to you, then you talk to her. Tell her about your day, how things are going, something good or bad that happened during the day. This helps in different areas. First, you are teaching her some important skills, which include making small talk and sharing things about yourself. Second, by engaging her about your day, this will eventually encourage her to share things with you about her day. While you are talking to her about yourself, watch that it is not a ten-minute monologue, but rather that you offer pauses and other ways for her to join in.

Teenagers, like all of us, need to feel valued. Ask her what she thinks about different things in the house. These things could include what to make for dinner, what to wear for an evening out, where to hang a new picture, and how to handle a dilemma that you are experiencing. You are not obligated to necessarily follow her advice, but if you are asking her, then you must be willing to take it seriously, and you should on occasion follow what she says.

Make a point of reminding yourself everyday all of the positive aspects there are about her. “Nachat (appreciation) Reminder Moments” are useful for the parent, especially when there are seemingly few of them. Take out the baby album, watch her when she’s sleeping, or call upon a favorite memory to help sweeten your opinion of her on a daily basis. Even better, making a point of telling her about your special memories will make her feel good as well.

There is a famous book in contemporary Jewish literature called Planting and Building, a book on child rearing. The author, Rav Wolbe, talks about how a relationship with your child, like all relationships, takes time to develop and nurture. Like a growing thing, it needs to be cultivated and cared for to help it reach its potential. Therefore, it is important to focus on what your ultimate goal is for you and her. It sounds like you want to have a relationship with her, and that you would like to be close. This takes time, energy, and patience. Invest in your relationship with her by remaining calm in the face of her distraught behavior. By being a stable force for her, it will help her feel more stable. As mentioned previously, since teenagehood is such a time of upheaval, you are giving her a tremendous chesed by being calm.

I know that it’s challenging, frustrating, and seemingly bears little reward, but if you give it time, you will see how things will improve. Like a seed takes time to grow and reach its full status as a plant, so does your child need the same attention and care to reach her potential. Try to hang in there—being a teenager doesn’t last forever.

“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Beryl Tritel.

Beryl Tritel, MSW, is a therapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh. She has been living in Israel for over 10 years with her husband and their 5 kids. She also offers Skype sessions. She can be reached at BerylTritel.com.
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Discussion (65)
September 12, 2016
Nice to read about other parents with teenage daughter's that make u can't stand being around.I'm a 40 yr. old father of a 17 year old that hate's me and my wife.My 40 year old wife has Mastatistic breast cancer in her lungs.It come back from 08'.Trying to stay strong for her and trying to keep daughter on a straight path with school.Thanks for having post for me to read and not feel alone.
Anonymous
Parkton
July 17, 2016
eb 14,2014 update response to real life solutions
I posted originally on 2/14/14 and again on 12/1/15. It is now 7/17/16 and things have finally shown a little bit of improvement. This all began when she was 14 and she is now 20. I see that the last post calls the advice patronizing and I sense lots of anger there. I completely understand the anger part because I was so mad at my daughter for everything she was doing to herself..her family ...her father who never seemed to lose his temper and ME! I hated her and could not believe I would feel that way. Anger, shame and pain were all I have felt. I learned to be grateful for 5 min of happiness...learned compassion for other parents...to set hard boundaries and avoid expecting her to change. I learned to remove expectations even that she might outlive me. Too bad her 14 yr old sis is acting up. But I am an experienced mom now and I know that if someone wants to learn the hard way let them. I am grateful for this site because it lets me know I am NOT ALONE.
Anonymous
Rockwall
July 15, 2016
The advice is patronizing
I found this site because I have struggled with my daughter since she was three. My first two children were fine ...ups and downs but fine... She has put such a horrible strain on the whole family. Now divorced after twenty years I've had to deal with her on my own. Since she was eight (now seventeen) she has the ability to send me in the depths of depression and I find myself hiding in my bedroom with a lock on the door. I've tried all the advice detailed here as I m sure most of you have. I think you come to find places like this because you've tried all the options described and nothing seems to work.
Anonymous
England
May 9, 2016
We learned several months ago, that our daughter is bipolar and has general anxiety disorder. Once she was put on medication, something she refused for years, many things have improved. her moods are now much more stable, she eats some meals with us and talks to her dad. She is much easier to parent and get along with.
Anonymous
May 8, 2016
Wow I am so glad I found this thread. My 14 year old daughter is the most disrespectful, ungrateful, selfish person I have ever known. I feel like no matter what I do for her it is never enough. We constantly fight because I am so over the disrespect. She has gotten suspended from school twice this year and once was for fighting. She acts like it's no big deal. As sad as it sounds I count the days til she is 18 and old enough to move out. She says I'm a bad mom because I'm in her business. She does nothing to help me around the house, constantly talks back and treats me like crap but yet I'm supposed to bend over backwards for her and give her everything she wants. I'm at my breaking point.
Anonymous
Florida
March 17, 2016
NO!!!! this woman is telling you how desperate she is and all you can do is advise her to do the things she has tried to do and failed!! This 'teenage' behaviour is torture and I for one am looking for a flat and moving out of our home because I am becoming depressed and ill due to the constant stress and unpleasant atmosphere in my home - directly caused by my teenage daughter. So cut her some slack when she says she is struggling its a nightmare that we cannot wake up from.
Anonymous
local asylum
March 12, 2016
I posted about 2 years ago and my situation was about as sad as it could get. Things aren't perfect now but they have vastly improved. My husband and I have divorced and maybe that was the real problem. But my daughter and I have patched things up with better understanding. She and I are a great deal closer. I posted this because I wanted all of you to know it does get better! They grow up and we grow as adults.
Not in Texas anymore
Kansas
March 9, 2016
obnoxious teens
I an not Jewish, I'm an Irish Protestant but thanks for the advice! It appears vile teenage girls are univerally dreadful - will this end? I am ashamed to say that mine has just made me break down and cry - she is hormonal and I am menopausal - not a great combo!
Anonymous
Dublin
February 14, 2016
yep i totally understand i have a 15 year old daughter living with her dad who has taught her its ok to steal lie and disrespect me..we currently have no relationship because i refuse to accept her behaviour
Anonymous
January 30, 2016
I am a single father of a 16 year old behaving the same way. But there is another layer she puts us both in that is frightening and that's the legal system. She is extremely defiant not only to me but to the courts and probation. This is not a phase but a path she's putting us unnecessarily both in. I gave up and I just don't have the energy to try anymore.
Garrett
Denver, CO