As a therapist and the mother of three teenagers myself, I know firsthand that the more you push your kids, the more they get defensive and dig in their heels. They become reactive in the form of explosiveness or shutting down and ignoring you.

When they are not exploding, they are thinking the following: “My parents don’t have a clue, so what’s the point of trying to explain myself? I’ll just tune them out.”

Clamming up or exploding are both ways your teenagers attempt to manage their stress and defend themselves. In fact, these may be the only ways your teen knows how to communicate when things get intense—which of course only causes more conflict.

Here are 5 secrets that I’ve found to be really helpful for communicating with kids through the difficult adolescent years.

1. Start With Understanding, Even When You Don’t Understand

Here’s a simple secret that will help you in everything you do with your teen. No matter how hard it might be, try to start all interactions with your child with understanding, even if you don’t fully agree or even quite comprehend what they’re talking about.

Here’s an example. You find your child online chatting with her friends when she is supposed to be doing her schoolwork. It drives you crazy because you’re thinking, “She’s barely getting by in school and she doesn’t seem to care or understand that she needs to do her homework.”

Your teen, on the other hand, is thinking, “I have to get online and talk with Skyler. If we don’t make up after the fight we had in the hall today, all the other girls will be against me.”

You and your child are living in two different realities. Ask your child, honestly, why she is chatting. Try to be understanding of her reality, even if you don’t completely get it. Once you know what is going on, try saying:

“I understand how difficult it is for you when you have a fight with one of your friends. I also know that you need to pass this test tomorrow. Schoolwork is your job and it’s your responsibility to do it to the best of your abilities. Let’s sit down and think of a good way you can manage your time tonight.”

Try not to say “I understand, but…” which will simply disqualify what you’ve just said. Start from a place of understanding, and try to put yourself in your child’s shoes first before telling her what needs to change.

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I’ve found that doing this tends to open kids’ ears. Instead of feeling like they have to defend themselves against you, they actually listen.

2. Don’t Get Emotional Or Take It Personally

Emotion is your enemy when you’re trying to get through to your teen. Remind yourself that what he says and does is not a reflection on you. You may not like how he’s behaving—or even how he’s thinking—but keep your emotions out of it, even if his behavior impacts you.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. It’s tough, but it’s very, very effective and is a skill you can learn just like any other. In fact, I tell parents to repeat this mantra to themselves before talking to their kids:

“This is just the job of parenting. It’s not personal.”

When you really think about it, there’s no reason to be mad at your child for being himself. He may be making a poor choice, but the truth is, he might not yet have the skill set to make a better one. So your job is to help guide him to better choices so he can, in turn, develop better problem-solving skills.

Try to just focus on your job as a parent, it will help you be less emotional. When you feel frustrated, remember, don’t take it personally. Initially, your child won’t like you when you set boundaries. Tell yourself that this is simply a problem to solve and part of parenting business as usual.

3. Ask Honest Questions…Not Loaded Questions

Ask your teen for his ideas and be collaborative. Let him see that you believe in him and that you’re not mad at him for struggling in his life. When you let him see that you have faith in his abilities and he has the space to work things out on his own, you will begin to develop true confidence in him.

Don’t ask loaded questions that put your child on the defensive. Questions such as “Why can’t you get up on time? What’s wrong with you?” just lead to conflict, not solution. Instead, try opening a conversation with:

“Eli, do you have any ideas for how you might get up on time?”

If he says he doesn’t know, offer a few of your own and ask which one would work for him. Let your teen know that his problems are his to solve. Don’t step into his “box.” Give him the opportunity—yes, opportunity—to solve his own problems.

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But, be sure to let him know that you are there to help him figure out solutions, to consult with him. Oh, and be sure to let him deal with the natural consequences of his behaviors. Owning the problem means owning the consequences.

Your ultimate goal is to help your child think for himself. Thinking for himself will, in turn, help him feel like he has some control over his world.

Listen openly to what he says and ask him to think critically about each choice. What will work and what will be problematic about each decision? What would be the natural consequences of each choice, and how would he feel about dealing with that?

4. Don’t “Need” Your Child’s Good Behavior

Don’t feel, or show, as if you need your teen’s cooperation, validation, or good behavior. As soon as you need something from your child so that you can feel better, you have put yourself in a vulnerable position because he does not have to give it to you.

When you need something and don’t get it, you will naturally try harder by controlling and manipulating more. And your teen will become more and more defiant or passively compliant—neither of which is good.

The truth is, you don’t need anyone else to prop you up. You can validate yourself and solve your own problems. So if your child is acting out, that’s his problem. Your problem is to decide how you will choose to behave toward him. That’s in your hands, not his.

Ask yourself, “How do I want to act, no matter how he is acting? What can I put up with and what can’t I?” Take back your power and say to yourself, “If my child is screaming at me, instead of needing him to stop, I can turn around and walk away and not engage.”

Let your child know you won’t talk with him until he can approach you with civility. Here’s the truth: when you aren’t trying to get your child to change or shape up, you will be able to think of better choices for yourself. And your child will be less defiant because he will have no one to resist. When you’re not trying to control him and you’re not reacting to him, he will have to wrestle with himself rather than with you.

5. Don’t Do Anything Until You’re Both Calm

Another rule of thumb is to avoid doing anything until you and your child have both calmed down. The fact is, you don’t have to respond to your child when you are upset or when your child is upset and in your face. You can say nothing. You can take a few minutes or more if you need to.

When emotions have evened out, you can sit down and talk with him. It’s never good to try to bring up a difficult subject or resolve a conflict in the heat of the moment. So if either you or your child is upset, pause and come back when you can address things in a calmer way.

If you attempt a conversation with your child and he’s rude or out of line, that’s when you have to hold on to yourself and make sure you don’t get dragged into a fight. If your relationship with your child currently is such that it’s impossible to have an open, respectful conversation, remember that it’s still your job to stay firmly planted.

Have a slogan that you say to yourself like, “I’m not going there no matter what.” If you can do that consistently, over time the baiting and antagonism should calm down. This is called self-talk and it really works.

And don’t feel badly if you get pulled back into a fight occasionally—staying strong isn’t easy. The good news is that the more you refuse to engage, the easier it will get to stay calm.

Related Content:
Does Your Child Give You the Silent Treatment? 6 Rules for Getting Kids to Talk

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For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Comments (42)
  • Shaz
    Hi. Please help! I have a 17 year old son. He goes to school, after school it's either gym or soccer. He does not smoke or drink and his friend circle is very small. My problem is he does not like school. Feels he does not need school, does notMore do his school work and failed very bad. When I spoke to him about it, he gets upset and tell me it's his life. We get along well accept for when it comes to his school work. His father is now threatening to take him out of school to go work. To not support him or pay for his gym membership. To not take him to soccer practice. I'm in the middle of all of this and can't anymore. Please help!
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. I can understand your distress. It can be upsetting when your older teen starts making choices you don't agree with. The truth of the matter is that your son will be an adult in less than a year and will be able to choose not to continue his education. Your choice at that point will be deciding whether or not you will support his decisions. WE have several articles that offer tips for parenting older teens and young adult children. You can find those here: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/ages-and-stages/adult-children/. In regard to what is going on between your son and his father, that's between them. If you disagree with how his father is handling the situation, you can talk with him at a time when your son isn't present. In the moment when the disagreement is happening between them, it would be best to leave and take care of yourself so you're not feeling put in the middle.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know hos things are going. Take care.

  • Marilyn

    Hi. Please advise. My 25 year old mom to be daughter has completely turned on me, telling me I’ve ruined her life. (Last month and this past year, we’ve been what she called “best friends”.

    I’ve helped her through SO MUCH. Now she’s about to have her baby, and last week, she said get out of her life. I swear I have NO IDEA where this comes from. I’ve done my very best and my mom, husband, daughters all see that I have . My oldest (the 25 year old) has always been difficult. Now she’s controlling me by using her baby. 😡😵‍💫😨😢

  • Monica
    I have an 18old son. He is in senior year. Started dating a narcisist. He was an honor roll student. With acceptances to many schools with scholarships. And now might not even graduate. He has worked so hard to accomplish what he wanted and he knew what his career wasMore going to be from sophomore year. Worked hard volunteers goes to church. Athlete and part of the young group. Love's acting sinc 4th grade. Has been in musicals in church, school, and local productions. I saw the change as soon as the girl became more demanding. He quite almost everything. No friend,no activities, no family. He hates everyone that isn't her. He even tried to leave home a couple of times. The last time we had a huge fight about the girl. I found out that the girls mother was manipulating my son and threating him. I respectfully contacted the mother asked for her to please not speak or threaten my child. 18 or not that is a number the government says your child is an adult. But not every kid is one at that age. He took their side. Got I'm my face very disrespectful. He grabbed his stuff. Now lives with my mother. He doesn't want to come home. Wont talk to me. I'm heartbroken. It is a great stress on my mother who is 73 raised her children and now has my son as a responsibility. I don't know what to do. Please someone chime in.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents with what sounds like a distressing situation. It's not uncommon for parents and their adult children to not see things the same and many parents are upset with the choices their adult child is making. We have several articles that focus specificallyMore on parenting an adult child you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/ages-and-stages/adult-children/. The transition from minor to adult is difficult for many families. Hang in there.
  • Bhavna
    I read some of the comments below. My problem is quite similar. My daughter is 17. She is rude and foul mouthed towards me. Doesn't tell me where she is going, or when she will be back. Since I am a working parent, I can't keep a watch all theMore time and I worry. She has important exams coming up, but doesn't study. This would not be too much if a problem for me, as she says she wants to be a musician. But in reality she does not practice music at all. Just doesn't study. When I ask her why she doesn't practice music, she says, it's my fault, but doesn't elaborate. I keep telling her she can, she does have a lovely voice. I have provided for lessons, with teachers she is comfortable with. She makes me pay the fees, but doesn't attend. And unfortunately doesn't study either. I am at a loss. Still the most crucial issue is of non communication and her verbal abuse and manipulation. I truly need help. Have tried over the past two years every way to approach her and ask her how I can help. She said she would talk to a therapist, but I have taken her to 5 of them and she doesn't attend more than 1 session.
  • Jessica
    My son is 18. Just graduated HS. We cannot even speak without arguing now. He’s willful and stubborn and thinks all the arguments are my fault. I draw a line and he crosses. Caught him having sex in his room with his gf. I was very upset. He doesn’tMore have a job but CLAIMS he’s looking hard. I can’t get him to simply take the trash out daily without nagging. I literally cannot stand him but I love him so much. I’m so scared we will create a rift too deep to heal. He was such a mamas boy until two years ago. I’m so sad and depressed. What do we do?
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Welcome to Empowering Parents. I can understand your distress. Many parents of young adult children have shared similar stories of arguments and concern for their relationship. We have several articles that focus on parenting adult children you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/ages-and-stages/adult-children/. Hang in there - even though things are challengingMore now, you will get through this.
  • Mel
    I am a lazy parent, my eldest son is 16 now, he's doing great at school but doesn't have a social circle as such, he pretty much lives in his bedroom. We do clash a lot I've failed at being a role model. I suffer greatly with mental health orMore maybe I'm just a horrible person. My son would agree with that. I try reaching out to him when I feel strong some days but he shuts me off and tells me that I'm never there for him so he wouldn't tell me anything anyway. I don't know what to do.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. Many parents feel guilt over things they have or haven't done as parents. It can be easy to second guess choices you've made while raising your children and wonder if this is what has caused your child's struggles. I am sure you have done the best you could as a parent. We have a great article that gives tips for how to let go of this parenting guilt: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/am-i-a-bad-parent-how-to-let-go-of-parenting-guilt/

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Take care.

  • So tired
    I have a 16 year old daughter who has always been strong-willed. However we have always had a good relationship. The last 2 months have been very rocky though. She is extremely disrespectful when speaking to us if she doesn't like what we are saying. AlthoughMore there are several things at the moment she is doing, the disrespect is the one I have the most problems with. I feel like I ha e lost her. I struggle to have a conversation with her, because she is manipulative and tries to turn it around on us. I'm so lost on what to do. The mouthy, disrespectful, girl needs to go.
  • Liza

    One thing I’ve found helpful is to have a conversation with my son as though I’m a consultant. The way I do this is to ask what he wants and why, then outline clear expectations on how to get there.

    For example, he wanted to buy a car and we sat down and came up with a plan. I asked him what he would need and so we priced a car at about $5,000, then he came up with different ideas for jobs, and then we discussed how to get started. I didn’t tell him what to do, I just helped guide him and talk through ideas.

    My son and I have used a lot of the lessons at a site called preparemykid.com to look at different topics without me having to lecture him.

  • A. Mccarthy
    My son is exactly the same. We moved last year and since then he has become more distant and will avoid participating in any family time whatsoever. He says he can't look at us when we talk to him, He's quiet And almost withdrawn and appears to be very unhappy.More Yet we know that he is completely different around his friends and other people. I feel I have lost my son too and I am totally at my wits end. I think I've been handling the situation all wrong because whatever is going on, he is becoming more distant by the day. He tells me he is perfectly happy and that we have nothing to worry about. We have spoke to his school and can be certain that he is not being bullied, in fact he's extremely popular. I don't know how we go forward on this but I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.
  • Jenifer H
    I have a 10 year old girl who is already displaying a distant/ resentful relationship toward mostly me. She tells me that she will not talk to me and share anything with me or anyone outside of her friends. She makes small talk and she avoids the familyMore at all costs. I want to pull my hair out because over night I lost my daughter. Please Help!!!
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. It can hurt so much when your child is pulling away from you, becoming distant toward you, and refusing to communicate. As painful as this is, it’s also a common aspect of adolescent development called individuation. In this process, a child starts toMore pull away from parents and other family members, and identifies more with friends and peers as a way to start to develop an identity outside of the family unit. While this can make communication more difficult, it’s not impossible. You might find some helpful tips in Adolescent Behavior Changes: Is Your Child Embarrassed by You? This is a tough stage for most parents, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • AB1979

    My 16 year old daughter has become very disrespectful and started doing things a 16 year old girl should not be doing. Up until about 6 months ago my daughter was happy would talk to me about certain things but not all things. I have always been the kind of mother who kept a good amount of control on my daughter due to the world she is growing up in. She got into trouble at school for taking a pic of another girl in a bathroom selfie and the school put her in ISD for 2 weeks since that is not permitted in the school.  I never voiced my opinion of this to her but I did feel it was a bit ridiculous.  She has started staying in her room allot after that and has become more mouthy. I found out Monday that she has adult relations with a boy Saturday night after I went to bed she snuck out of my house to do stuff that she had no business doing.

    I am at a loss as to how to fix this before it gets to bad. She will not talk to me about personal stuff anymore and avoids me at all cost. I did freak out a bunch when I found out about the boy and I did scream at her and now she is mad at me for punishing her for her making a huge mistake. The bad part is I am getting over the Adult relations part I am more upset with the fact that she invited a 18yr old boy to my house and snuck out to do something that she knew I would not approve of.

    • Liza

      I talk with a lot of parents, and they tell me their kids talk back to them and disrespect them. I’ve seen it too. I’m not sure why, but a lot of kids don’t have the respect for adults like they did when I was growing up.

      I also think kids don’t learn communication skills like how to talk to someone if you’re upset or having a bad day, or how to have an adult conversation if you disagree with someone or don’t understand them.

      I’ve worked with a lot of kids, and they mean well, but many of them just don’t know how to express themselves or their feelings and emotions. The interesting thing is that they only need a small push in the right direction to do well.

  • Talk Whisperer

    Hi there, I want suggest what can be the first question you ask that will show your deep concern, and show him that you are on "his" side:

    "Son, I just received an email from your Teacher about your failing grade, and I want to know HOW I CAN SUPPORT YOU so you can quickly get back on-track before we would have to take more serious measures of restricting your social life, or other restrictions that NEITHER of us will be happy with?" 

    In a question like that, you have:

    1. Let him know you care

    2. Let him know you are willing to help him in any way

    3. Given him an opportunity to take charge of HIS issue and be responsible

    4. Essentially, and "nicely" given him due-warning BEFORE he gets grounded, or restricted in some way

    5. Let him know that you would get NO joy in restricting him so there is less chance he will get adversarial and oppositional towards you because you are ON HIS "TEAM"

    I hope this helps in some way! Report back!

  • Single mom of 4

    My 14 year old son has taken an interest in girls this year. He plays sports and tends to be on his phone talking to his friends more often now than in the past . I'm glad that he has found a social life as I consider this to be healthy for his personal growth, however I just received an email from his teacher where she indicates his grades are in risk of failure . Even she is surprise by the change.

    My question is , how do I talk to my son iabout this without coming actos accusatory . Has any parent gone through this before ? How did you handled it? Did it work ? Did it not? And why.

    Thank you for your help

    Single mom of 4

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Single mom of 4 I hear how concerned you are about the change in your son’s grades, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support.  I can assure you that many parents have found themselves in similar situations with their child, so you are not alone.  IMore hope that some other readers will write in and share their experiences and insight with you.  In the meantime, it’s typically most effective to be direct with your son, and share what you heard from his teacher during a calm time.  We also recommend focusing on problem-solving with him about specific steps he will take moving forward to bring his grades back up.  You might find some helpful tips in our article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/sinking-fast-at-school-how-to-help-your-child-stay-afloat/.  Please be sure to let us know how it goes with your son.  Take care.
  • hoppie1234

    I have a 15 year old daughter and she is

    going through some changes and she is down in the dumps most of the time. Her

    friends that she use to have are changing for different reasons and she is

    trying to make new friends. I really think if she would get involved with some

    school activities it would help with the transition but she is a

    little on the reserved side. I would love to advice to get her to meet some

    good people.

    • Tsparkles71
      You might enjoy a weekly study group of some sort, maybe try a mid-week church/ youth group, or perhaps consider taking an arts and crafts class together, sewing, cooking, volunteer or check with your local Parks and Rec- all great ways to meet new people/friends. Best wishes.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      It can be quite

      difficult for both the parent and child when your teen’s social circle starts

      to change. Supporting your daughter in making new friends, and helping her to

      identify opportunities to do so is a great step.  For some kids, getting

      involved in after school activities can be one option.  Other options might

      include community-based activities, volunteering, or classes geared toward her

      interests.  Sara Bean outlines some additional steps you might take in her

      article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-cool-kids-how-to-help-your-child-or-teen-deal-with-peer-pressure-exclusion-and-cliques/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things

      are going for you and your daughter.  Take care.

  • carine
    i have a 15 year old daughter. she has been living with her father. there is no parenting involved on his part. the word "no" has never been in his vocab. she is now with me and i need help getting through to her. she has done some things thatMore are not good. steal, run away. i try and explain to her that living with us will be good for her. all she's interested in doing is running the streets. but how do i handle her when something comes up and i say no to her.
    • Marissa EP


      It sounds like you are just starting out, trying to

      establish new-to-your-daughter rules and limits in your home. This can be a

      good opportunity to make a list of all the behaviors you have concerns about

      and prioritize them, starting with the most serious ones first. Trying to

      address all of her behaviors  at once will likely leave everyone feeling

      overwhelmed, and can cause inconsistency in follow-through. Empowering Parents

      author Carole Banks has a good article to help you get started titled, “https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/.

      Trying to explain your reasoning to a teenager will often fall on deaf ears, so

      it will be best to establish a couple clear-cut rules or limits, problem solve

      with her how she intends to follow those rules, and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-get-your-child-to-listen-9-secrets-to-giving-effective-consequences/ when she breaks them.  You can also check out our many

      articles on https://www.empoweringparents.com/?s=Stealing

      and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/running-away-part-i-why-kids-do-it-and-how-to-stop-them/ for tools geared to those specific behaviors, and check back with us

      if you have any more questions. Best of luck to your family.

  • Marg Online
    It becomes necessary for every parent to have good relationship and communication with their children. If they are in their teenage, then it is the vital duty of parents to counsel the children so that they decide to choose the right path to move up in their life.
  • Brenda
    My "child" is 18 and is basically my silent roommate. I'm so tired of it! What should I do???
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      Dealing with someone who doesn’t appear to want any

      sort of interaction must be quite frustrating. As frustrating as it may be, try

      not to give the behavior too much attention. Doing so could give it much more

      power than it deserves. Instead, reach out to your child once then leave the

      ball in his/her court, as James Lehman suggests in the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/does-your-child-give-you-the-silent-treatment-6-rules-for-getting-kids-to-talk/.

      Something to keep in mind - it’s not unusual for adolescents and teens to pull

      away from parents as they progress through the developmental stage of

      individuation. During this stage of development, kids tend to reach out to

      friends and peers for support much more often than they do their parents. As

      long as your child is following other household rules and expectations, I

      wouldn’t put too much focus on trying to make him/her talk.

  • JC78
    I have a 16 year old daughter who I don't fight with all the time but when I do it's bad and usually over her lying to me over something she has done. I keep giving her chances to change her behavior and she repeats the same thing over andMore over. I took her phone away for six months and the next day she was texting a guy, and sneaked out at night to meet him. I thought after six months that she would be more mature. Every time we fight she turns the fight around and blames me for her bad behavior. Example, I don't let her date without meeting the young man and his parents. I try and make sure to know where they are going and what what will be back and who they are with. I'm trying to keep her safe. She lies to me and says she's going to his house (his parents are there) but really she goes to the park with him and makes out in front of her little sister and his little brother. Then when I get upset because she has once again lied to me, she tells me it's my fault that she lies." You don't make it easier to come clean mom." How do I get her to stop lying and take responsibility for her actions?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      Lying is a tough behavior to deal with for a lot of parents.

      It may be helpful to know that lying is more about your daughter’s lack of

      problem solving skills than anything else. She wants to do something she knows

      you won’t allow her to do, so, she solves the problem by doing it anyway and

      then lying about it. It’s not OK, but, it is a common way teens try to avoid

      consequences for their actions. We have several articles that give tips for

      dealing with this frustrating behavior. Two in particular you may find helpful

      are  How to Deal with Lying in Children and Teens & “I Caught My Child Lying” — How to Manage Sneaky Behavior in Kids. I hope

      you find those articles useful. Be sure to check back if you have any further

      questions. Take care.

  • FeelingHelpless
    I have a 16 yr old soon to be hs senior. Her dad and I have struggled with her for the past 3 with her grades, her negative attitude, lies, and disobedience. We have taken privileges away from her, sometimes having to be creative because of constant lying while alreadyMore grounded for a prior offence. Punishments include taking her electronics away(phone, laptop, i-pod), not allowed to go anywhere with friends or have anyone over, not allowed to be upstairs in her own. We have talked to her so many times that we feel like a broken record. She understands our reason for punishment, but after constantly hearing from friends how horrible we are she will start to lash out against us again. Every time we feel like she is maturing she does something to prove us wrong. We know we need to trust her, but we can't with the constant lies. Mind you she has not had her phone for over a year and the her Instagram and twitter that she uses on her laptop I have her login and password (she does not have her password).the reason for this is she would borrow her friends ipods to have access. A problem that we are encountering now is with this access comes access to her direct twitter messages. Here is where I learn of lies before they are told. I think she may be trying to sneak a boy into the house while her dad and I are at work. She is usually home all day with her 10 year old brother. We are trying to raise a strong, responsible adult and we are worried that we are running out of time to do this. We are torn with what to do with this information.
  • thexats

    @Wits end Dear Wit's End- DO NOT give up.  I am no pro (though I am a psychologist, and the 100% committed mom of a very challenging foster boy we adopted at 12, 6 years ago now).  She sounds very typical.  It is her job (and her developmental stage) to push away from you. And guess what our job is?   Be strong, consistent, gentle, loving, and focused.  Hard as hell and when I look back at what we went through, and truthfully, I cannot believe we survived to see him as a decent, capable almost 19 year old. Suffice to say it was a little worse than what you describe with your peanut.   Here are my 'tweet size' recommendations for each of your concerns.    1) 'Getting her to open up'- nothing works like available/unintentional time.  She needs to do it on her time, not yours. You need to 'coincidentally' be in the kitchen when she grabs a snack, ready to drive when she needs a lift to a friend's house or to the mall, tidying the kitchen when she gets home from school/dance/whatver at least every now and then... the more time you free up for them to talk to you, the greater the chances you will get the good stuff.    2)   "Defensive, not doing what she's asked"- see above. It is her job to buck your pleas. Keep asking. Stay 'on message' (the greatest advice we got to avoid getting dragged into absurd fights)  Even if you lose the battle half the time, or she only does half the job you asked, you have also won half the battle and she is the better for it.   3) 'Hates you" - Oh, we all know that one. She just may. Move on. You aren't in a popularity contest- no one likes forced structure- esp. teens!  Do you have curly hair?  It would curl on its own if I repeat the things our beloved boy said to me! For laughs... he scrawled one message on the counter after the housekeeper left... in cursive ketchup-  and texted me with it!!!  I can only laugh about it now, months later   4) "No motivation in school"... my husband and I focused on one goal.. make sure he gets a HS diploma, ideally, convocating with his peers.  To say we moved mountains (private convo's with teachers, constant discussions with VP's, bribes (to him, not the teachers! ..we called them 'incentives"), mom and dad, elaborate song and dance routines every single morning to get him to go, tender/gentle/ painful conversations from school when he thought he would just drop out).   He swore he'd quit every month, every year, and many days!  He is the very proud recipient of a HS diploma today, and heading to college in the fall.  

    Ok, long way of saying... stick it out. She is worth it. A friend of mine, with 4 beautiful young adults who were little sticky hell goblins for much of their teens told me, "concentrate on the person he can be, and will be, not the person screaming like an escaped lunatic at you right now".... I have, did, do, and now he is becoming that person. :-)      Good luck. She will not thank you any time soon (if ever), but society will, for raising a decent kid.

  • Wits end
    I have a 15 year old daughter. I am having a hard time getting her to open up to her feelings and emotions. She gets defensive when she is asked to do chores. Her response will be since you ask me to do it I will not. She says thatMore because of me she is like this. I am not sure whether she hates me for being her mother. She says that she has no motivation to do well in school because of me.
    • RoseBel58
      I feel your pain. I had similar problems and it is a tightrope to walk during this age. My daughter is 17 now and what has helped us is I have tried to maintain my self control and temper no matter what she says. It's hard to hear I hateMore you from someone you love so much. When things calm down I ask her how she would feel if I said I hated her. She would be very upset if I said those things so it is good for her to see that your family should be supported and loved, even when we make mistakes or disagree. I also take her phone (her most prize possession) when she is especially defiant. I try to remember what kind of relationship I want to have with her once we get through this. This too shall pass. I hope you are able to get through this phase and come out closer than ever.
      • RoseBel58
        I would like to add about school work, I stepped back and let her be responsible for her school work and grades. With bad grades, no social activities until her progress report showed improvement. Nothing under a C would be acceptable unless she really did do her best and IMore know she has learning problems in that area. Letting her feel a sense of control over her education helped her a lot. I know every child is different, but this worked well for mine. She worked really hard and started caring a lot about how she was doing in school.
  • concern mother

    Concern mother.

    Thank you for this encouraging article.  I have a 20 year old son who lost his scholarship because he got himself into taking weeds with his friends.  since I could not pay for his school fees, I had him moved to another college where he had some friends from high school but unfortunately, his behavior got worse whereby he and his friends used someone else credit card and other ungodly values.  I have asked him to look for another college and move closer to home but he has consistently refused. how else can I handle this situation?

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      concern mother

      I can understand your concern. From what you have written,

      your son has made some poor choices. It can be tough when your adult child

      continues to make choices that you know are not in his best interest. Bear in

      mind, your son is now an adult and can choose to live wherever he wishes. As

      his parent, it’s up to you to determine what your limits and boundaries are in

      relation to your son and his choices. So, in the situation you describe, you

      might consider whether or not you will continue to support him, financially or

      otherwise, if he continues to make the choices he is making.  While

      wanting to protect your child is a normal response, allowing him to face the

      consequences of his choices is probably going to be more effective. Rescuing a

      child rarely has the wished for outcome. Rather than offer him the opportunity

      to make a fresh start, which is usually the intent, it may instead encourage

      him to continue making bad choices because he has never had to experience the

      natural consequences of his actions. It’s probably going to be more beneficial

      to switch your focus to taking care of yourself, as Debbie Pincus discusses in

      the article Throwing It All Away: When Good Kids Make Bad Choices. For example, you might

      develop a self care plan, that includes things like spending time doing an

      activity you enjoy or talking with friends. You might also consider looking

      into more formal resources, like a support group or counselor. The transition

      from childhood into adulthood can be a tough one for both kids and parents.

      Finding ways of taking care of yourself can help make it less rocky. I

      appreciate you writing in and hope you will continue to check back to let us

      know how things are going. Take care.

    • Talk Whisperer
      concern mother Hello Concern Mother, I'm sorry this situation has you very stressed about your Son, and his future. Did you mean "taking weeds with his friends" as that he is smoking weed with his friends? Assuming that it is, I will also assume that he got caught by schoolMore officials which caused him to lose his scholarship. This is a terrible shame. Since he is rejecting your urging to have him move closer to home, and that he is a young man of 20 years old, he will have to be responsible for all of his actions, and his future. Instead of pressuring him to do things that he does not want to hear from you, I suggest you take a softer approach with him and ask him simple questions like, "Son, do you feel that you have made mistakes that you now regret? And if so, what are they?" If he doesn't see how these choices are seriously affecting his life, then you do not have enough influence to support him at this time of his life. Is there a father-figure, or another adult role model figure that has influence on him that he would listen to? The bottom line is that you must take a soft, but specific approach to him in truly finding out what he wants for his life so you know what you can say to him that will affect him. Feel free to reach out to me if I can support you in any way.
  • Talk Whisperer
    GREAT article Debbie. ALL useful information here.  I am particularly focused on the emotional control right now with my Parent-Teen clients, as well as my Couples clients. Not preparing for these sensitive, and potentially volatile interactions can cause such damage with what are otherwise, loving family members. I am creatingMore a process for all of them appropriately called a "Timeout," (currently being experimented with my Couples) that is, in brief description, having them both abide by rules that will have them honor an approach if one, or both of them get too worked up, one of them calls a Timeout, and they will agree to come back together at a designated time by the member that called the Timeout initiating the conversation later on. Whether its time to process information, or simply cool down and compose themselves so they can communicate at their best.
  • Angelchelsea2015
    I have a 26 year old daughter still living at home and only helps out with chores and cooking when I ask. Now she is pregnant n her and the boyfriend do not know what to do. I think it is time for her to find her own living accommodations.
  • SeriousDad
    Why are we taking so much time and effort to figure out how to deal with these obnoxious brats? We are raising people that in the real world, cant get things done, are irresponsible and will never learn the value of relationships. Everytime there is a situation our kids create,More we as parents hunt for solutions. If any person, even your own child, displays behaviour that you as an indivdual will not tolerate, why try to help them see the error of their ways? The fault is YOU tolerating the behaviour. Someone who is respectful and capable of living with others in harmony, does not constantly cause trouble and ignore the basic rules that govern mankind. They will not make it in the real world. If they become violent or there are drugs involved, when they leave home they will end up in jail. Why protect them from this because they are your children? I have spent the last 10 years searching and reading help on how to be a better parent. The result; our kids need to search for help on how to be better kids. Put the responsibility of their actions in their own hands and let them start learning from a young age what it truly means to build healthy mutually beneficial relationships. Your childs behaviour is NOT your fault, nor is it your responsibility to cushion the consequences of their actions. They can cook food when they're hungry right? They can clean dishes when they need a clean plate too. Furthermore, they can say sorry when they have been disrespectful and we as parents should make that difficult enough for them to have to find help sometimes too.
    • RoseBel58
      Well said!
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