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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 (56)
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
December 17, 2015
Wow.. Hi im a 16 year old and this is exactly what a teenage life is about. Some. Parents and grandparents wouldn't understand what we face daily. Some aren't motivating at all, hence we rebel and do the craziest of stuff. You might think that we dont want to talk to you or we dont do alot of stuff around the house, but as a student, girl, daughter, friend we have alot of challenges some parenrs wouldn't imagine. Some believe that we shouldn't be going through problems at our age, but we do have feelings. But the best thing that we can do is ignore when you guys flare up. That just me as a teen.
Marra
Jamaica
December 1, 2015
Feb 14,2014 update response to real life solutions
wish I had an answer that turned my daughter around. She is now 19 since I last posted. When we let her leave home it was with the hope that she would better find a solution to her problems and because we had done everything we could. She has veered from one disaster to another and finally back home because she has no place else to go. We let her come home mainly to find a career so she can learn to support herself. We have endured all the horrible consequences of her own poor choices that you could possibly think of. She does have a therapist she likes but since she is an "adult" won't follow med recommendations. We have a diagnosis of bipolar type 2. therapist gave ME a book on accepting losses such as having to accept this is WHO my child is. Only God can change her but ONLY if SHE will let him. It's the last time we will let her move in and the last time we plan to shoulder the financial burden. I focus on my own mental health to deal with stress by reciting lots of bible verses
Anonymous
Rockwall
December 1, 2015
Have any of you found a real life solution? My youngest is the same and hates spending any time with us and would rather be with friends families than ours even at the holidays. I'm a good mom and person and raised two other daughters, I'm near the end of my rope!!
Anonymous
November 10, 2015
I am very thankful i found this site. Now I am fully aware of the behavior of my daughter...Hoping that I could built a good relationship with her..
anonymous
philippines
November 5, 2015
My dear! I read all the comments, and I feel the pain of all the mothers, it is horrible disappointment and scary even to think that we are loosing our daughters. In the middle of the teen years it seems it will be always like this, I can not imagine my daughter will ever change. On top of it I'm a single mother no one to talk at home except her, but not as my friend. I just don't understand how much frustration they are able to carry from day to day, and nothing seems good enough for them, that is drives me crazy.
My daughter walks around like she lost her mind, at 2 years old she was much smarter. She just do not like me her grandparents her father and other grandma. She yells at all of them and call everyone names. She elianated herself from every single family member including me. I am sorry about her because no one cares to help her anymore. She puts frustration out she gets frustration back, it is simple.
Nikki
Us
May 27, 2015
As I sit in the waiting room while my daughter is at her counseling appointment I feel glad that I am not alone. My daughter is 14 and for the last two years I haven't been able to talk to my Daughter without the eye-rolling, long exhale, whinging, abuse and meltdowns. I love my daughter but I have given up. I hate who she has become. She has torn me and my 8yro son to shreds. I have enough on my hands with my son having a disability without her obnoxious, rude, brat behavior. She even tells me to stop and that I'm an embarrassment. I hate it so much
Amelia Joyce
ballatat, Victoria, Australia
May 24, 2015
Not just me
Thank you! As awful as it sounds, I was so glad to read someone else saying the exact same thing as how I feel. I just don't understand where my helpful, thoughtful, caring and loving daughter has gone. It started when she was about 12 and now she's 15 and is lazy and rude and doesn't give a hoot that she constantly hurts my feelings. But I don't think you can say it's being a teenager. I honestly was not like that at her age. I always helped Mum and Dad, without being asked, because I wanted to. I was always outside doing something and not laying on my bed involved in my own self-centred world. I don't get what went wrong because she actually helped me more when she was little, around 5, 6, 7 years old. She would always help me vacuum and tidy up when I didn't even expect her to. Now, I prefer not to ask her anything because I know it will end up with her being snarky and me being sad. I can't even have a different opinion to her now, as she thinks I am "having a go" at her if I do.
Joanne
Adelaide
May 11, 2015
OMG! I thought I was the only mother in the world going through this with her teenager daughter. I love my child but I don't like her. I know it's awful to say but it's true. I get to the point where I don't want to be around her. I can't wait until she goes off to college. My teenager, is rude, disrespectful, angry (all the time at me) she lies and O she is a great at manipulation. She wants me to give her big praises for everything she does. If I don't give her praise or the praise she thinks she should get, she goes off at me. She won't do her chores, when I tell her to do her chores or pick something up she goes off. My teenager daughter tells me that she wants to live somewhere else. She can't take my strict rules, my nagging and she doesn't have any freedom. No, she can stay let me leave. I've been dreaming of running away for a long time. I just can't take it anymore. I feel like I' a bad mother and that I've done a horrible job at parenting. I have one TG!
Anonymous
USA
December 14, 2014
Obnoxious Teenage Daughter
I am a foster parent of 4 teenage boys, all from broken homes and some child abuse. They have short tempers, swear at me, threaten to punch me , punch holes in the wall etc. Be thankful that she's only rolling her eyes etc. Your in heaven and you don't know it yet. However my advise to you is pray for her a lot, it will cause you to love her more, and it will cause her to love you more. Buy her the Torah , it can change a life. It changed my life. G-d , is the G-d of miracles. Don't give up. Give her something to believe in. The Torah says "without a vision the people perish". I told one of my boys the Passover story and he told me he'd like to read the bible.. What a breakthrough. He has only lived with me for 2 months.
Bernice Needham
London, Ont/Can
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