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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 (46)
November 7, 2014
Some kids aren't reachable at this age. I have one such child at home. All the stuff in this article, this is how I raised her for sixteen years. But making time for her when she's surly and throws things at me? No thanks. It's already bad enough that she treats me like a cash cow with little regard for anything I want. My daughter has told me that if I asked her to do her chores differently (what, begging?) that she would perhaps be more motivated. Uh huh. Right. I will say this: it is somehow comforting to know I'm not the only one with a nightmare on my hands. I'm sorry for what you all are going through, because I get it.
Anonymous
UK
July 29, 2014
I absolutely understand. I was a single mother of three girls and when they reached adolescence I asked myself why I had children at all. I didn't know how to handle it, I don't know how I handled it but in the end, the three of them came out really nice young adults. When I was an adolescent I was in boarding school so I did not have a chance to have crises with my parents. Believe me, it's better they have them right now that become eternal rebels with a very deep emotional gap. That being said, I have no advice to give you. It's tough. The lack of gratitude and consideration is hurtful, no doubt. I guess the best advice is to try to prepare them for adolescence ahead of time. Otheriwse it's a time bomb that will explode in your face. Cheers!
Gee
Jerusalem
July 7, 2014
Look all of us were teenagers before,doesn't mean we have the same experiences.They get the eye rolling and talking back from strangers,kids at school,or even the TV.I ruined my relationship with my brother forever.I watched a show where no matter what happened the brother and sister always love each other.What I didn't know about my brother....he wasn't the same on the TV.We didn't and still don't get along but doesn't mean we don't love he each other.I mean,he doesn't say I love you or hug me but I hope deep in that heart he loves me as his sister.Its the same as guardians but the one thing is different,it's a female and a female.Females have more hormones and they are always growing and she's being different each day.My advice?Tell her your regret in your life.Thats what I wanted my mom to do,and she did eventually.It made me a better person to my mom to know what I am going through is most of what my mom went through.All moms want their children to be happy.
Anonymous
USA
April 30, 2014
I can't even begin to tell you how hard it has been with my 16 yr old daughter. There is absolutely no respect in our house for us, foul mouthing, 4 letter words are the rule in our house coming from her. I get her everything she wants, but she tells me I do absolutely nothing for her. She wants me to praise her and compliment her like other parents do for their children but I feel that I could do that only if I get the respect I deserve as a parent. Surely that is not too much to ask for !! Many times she will argue, get mad and ask her friends to pick her up and spend the night in their homes. She probably tells them how bad and mean we are; the actual truth is that we do everything for her and it only appears that way to her because we ask her to clean her room, take a shower, keep up her grades etc, usual parenting type things. I face stiff resistance and opposition and getting her to do simple things like cleaning her room is an absolute nightmare.
Anonymous
Texas
April 28, 2014
Why are they allowed to abuse parents these days? What happened to respect? I confess I left my entire family because I was so tired of my 15 yo daughter. The last 2 yrs with her has been a living hell. No matter what I gave her, it wasn't enough. No matter what I did for her, she treated me with contempt. She cursed me out on a daily basis, but then reported me to cps for slapping her toward the end because I was so hurt and so exhausted. Of course, my husband took her aside. I just had enough. He can take care of that monster. He put a restraining order against me so that I couldn't be near my daughter which caused me to miss my son's high school graduation. She is a monster and there is just NO NO NO excuse for this. Nobody I knew when I was growing up did such things to their parents and parents didn't put with it either.
Moving on in Texas
Texas
April 4, 2014
I wish it were that easy. Sorry but "bribing" is not conducive when you have a self entitled teen. All it seems to do is just "reward" their anti social behavior. I've tried everything listed is this article. None of it worked for me. For the last 2 years I've been going through hell with my daughter. She'll be 18 in 2 months and if she does not do a 180 starting now she's going to be out the door. She's incredibly hurtful to me. I'm a working single mom never been on welfare and I've never gotten child support. She's had it very good considering. Nothing is ever good enough. I've given her a good life and now she's putting me down because I'm a waitress. We have a house newer car and nice clothes my job has provided for her very well. That is such a slap in the face. There is no talking to her. She perceives everything as a fight and she's always ready to engage in a battle. Sometimes you just need the info their giving you and just know your own truth.
Anonymous
Sarasota
April 3, 2014
solution
in my opinion marriage is only solution it sound crazy but marriage can make them responsible and more patience and if you dont want her to get married then atleast get her engaged with the boy she think she loves
Anonymous
US
February 16, 2014
So tiring
My 15 year old daughter -Turning 16 next month is so moody, self-centered and selfish. She called me
something this morning that I could not accept and forget and made me tell her to disregard me in her life! Her moods are always changing and she's hardly nice. I am so tired of dealing with her bec despite of what I do for her, we always end up fighting and I would get so mad and hurt.
My husband and I are always fighting when my daughter disrespects me bec I tell my husband he should not be too easy on her! My daughter who just turned 14 is so affected by all these bec once my 15 year old does /says something to me that is so foul, I get crazy that I want her to realize
what she did and the effect to our relationship (my husband ), to her sister and whole family.
I don't know what to do ...don't want her to continue to talk to me like that. I hope she changes for the better very soon!
Anonymous
February 15, 2014
Teen daughter
My 15yr old daughter has hurt me so much, Ive just stopped feeling. Shes tried to have me arrested for abuse, shes tried to have herself removed via child services epic fails on her behalf. Shes threatened to kill me and has tried to talk me into killing myself, shes assulted me, shes run away, shes lied, shes stolen from me. This is all because she wants to be with a boy who is an absolute loser. She blames me for her losing her friends, she lost them because of this boy. Shes dragged me, my husband and our other 2 children through hell, My 7yr old has seen her try to commit suicide she made her watch and she has scared our 2yr old who wont go near her. Iv just stopped talking to her, cos I cant take anymore, especially when I have 2 other children to lookvafter. She turns 16 this year, Im going to kick her out, if I could I would do it today. Im sick of it, I cant take anymore guilt. My daughter is a master manipulater.
Given up
NZ
February 14, 2014
teenageers
I am not Jewish but decided to post anyway...my 17 year old daughter left after 4 years of difficult behavior. The only gift I had to give when she left was silence about opinion on her activities unless specifically requested. I believed doing so would allow her to use ME as the reason her life wasnt working .I told her what my intentions were & that I could have called the police.. had her committed..ect.. After 6 months she started coming around more frequently. She still lives on her own & making choices I really don't agree with. She's also experiencing consequences. Got her GED although school was never a problem but she just would not do her work. She says everyone @ work bugs her all the time about going to college (LOL..but not me). I thought life would smooth out but now her brother who has always been so sweet is acting out. It is hard. She now sees his behavior & says she understands how hard it is for her parents. Pray without ceasing. We did the best we could
Anonymous
rockwall
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