Why Is My Teenage Daughter So Mean To Me, And What Can I Do?
By Toni Hoy
Updated August 20, 2019
Have you found yourself thinking, "How did we get from sugar and spice and everything nice," to "Who are you and what have you done with my sweet daughter?" From head to toe, there are a lot of things going on in your teen daughter's body. Genetics, personality, friendships, school, and those active hormones can take you on a rollercoaster of your own. More than any other time in their lives, teen girls are going through a host of physical, emotional, and intellectual changes.
The behavior that results from so many changes can be unexpected and challenging. It can be difficult to discern normal behavior from behavior that needs attention. This is a season of life that calls for a vast amount of objectivity and large doses of patience.
A Teen's Perspective Of Their Behavior
While the changes in your daughter since she became a teen are glaring, she may not feel any differently than she has in the past. Try to see her perspective as objectively as possible. She's most likely so focused on herself that she's not aware of how her behavior is affecting anyone else.
Your daughter may be arguing with you at every turn, but have you considered that there's a reason that you always seem to be her target? Teens often see their parents as safe people that they can vent their frustrations to. The teen years bring the lion's share of frustrations. Teens want to feel that they're more in control of their relationships and lives. They're striving for an increased sense of independence. These feelings often translate to disrespectful, rebellious behavior. According to this article in Psychology Today, children can sense parental stress and will react negatively.
Long stretches of strenuous relationships take a toll on parents' health. Don't be dismayed. There are a few things you can do to rein in troublesome teen behavior to navigate the path to adulthood. If your teen's behavior needs to be addressed, you can monitor your behavior and parenting style for the best outcome. If necessary, you can also set up a contract for expected behavior.
What To Do When You Question, "Why Is My Teenage Daughter So Mean To Me?
When parenting your teenage daughter, you can never be sure whether you're climbing the hill of the rollercoaster, speeding around a sharp corner, turning upside down, or coasting to the finish line. That's what makes a parenting journal a fabulous idea. Create a parenting journal using a notebook or set up a file on your computer. Track the interactions between you and your daughter every day and look for patterns. Using an objective lens, consider whether your parenting style is contributing to her behavior.
Bypass the cause of the behavior and focus on her speech and actions. She may not even know why she acts the way she does. You can't always change the cause, but you can always encourage a better response to the cause. Learning to react and respond differently than what comes naturally is a skill that teens can begin to learn as teens. It's a good skill that they can take with them as they journey to maturity.
Teens Will Be Teens
Under the best of circumstances, teens tend to see things myopically. Try to remember that they lack the life experience that you have. In her eyes, you just don't get it.
The teen years are a time where girls are forming strong opinions, perhaps for the first time. It's common for teens to be critical of their parents. It's part of how they become their unique selves as adults. She's bound to make some mistakes. It's important to give all teens room to make mistakes because that's how they learn and grow.
As a parent, you can't change how development manifests. What you can do is to draw some boundaries around how they express their opinions in a negative, critical, and disrespectful manner.
Remain Neutral And Describe The Interactions
Try to put your hurt on a shelf when you start writing in your parenting journal. This is a place to record objective information about your daughter and your interactions with her. Avoid using your journal as a place to make a long list of negative behaviors that you can shoot her way when you're angry at her. It won't do either of you any good. Focus on her overall state of mind and the dynamics that regularly occur between the two of you.
In your interactions between you and your daughter, do your best to remain neutral. Stay calm and objective. Does your daughter treat everyone the same way, or is it just you? Is her behavior different at school than at home? How often are her blow-ups and disagreements occurring? Can you point the issue to a specific cause? Is she having difficulty with friends, boyfriends, grades, or another disappointment?
Make a note of the negative things she's said and done. Also, make a note of the positive things that she's said and done. Highlight this area. It's something that you can build on.
Are you able to find any specific patterns of interaction? What do you wish you'd said or done differently? Look for ways that both of you had some successes and look for ways to achieve the same outcome.
Make it a point to include notes about how her words and behavior make you feel. Her behavior may leave you feeling very wounded by the time she matures. Your notes about how you're feeling could catalyze your healing later on.
Help Your Teen Focus On Behavior By Setting Clear Boundaries And Consistent Consequences
Once you feel that you have enough information, consider sitting down with your daughter and developing a contract. A verbal agreement works well for some families. A written contract makes expectations clear for everyone and makes it easier for everyone to be accountable. If your teen is resistant to a contract, it's often helpful to enlist the help of a therapist to help keep things fair and neutral.
First, sort her behaviors into two groups. List the most frequent and critical issues that are causing disrespect. Agree that you can overlook minor issues such as eye-rolling, pouting, and muttering quietly.
Identify the top three behaviors that are unacceptable and cannot continue. As a note of caution-if threats are becoming physical, be sure to get a professional counselor involved. Set a priority level for each behavior and set a consequence for each infraction. Don't try to tackle more than 2-3 issues at a time.
Increase Your Chances Of Success By Agreeing On The Terms Of The Contract
Choose a quiet, agreeable time to bring up the topic of a behavior contract. Explain that it's a way of helping you get along better and create a more peaceful living environment for everyone. If your daughter expresses opposition, remind her that as she moves closer towards adulthood, she will be entering into many different types of contracts. Getting a job, buying a car, and buying a house all require a contract and will require her to fulfill certain responsibilities.
Post the contract in a visible place and keep an electronic copy as a backup.
The consequences should match the infraction. Refrain from being too harsh. You don't want her to suffer or drive her into even further rebellion. You just want to know that she's able to connect the consequence with her ability to make a better choice next time.
When she breaches the contract, don't underreact or overreact. Be calm and tell your daughter that her behavior is by the contract and enforce the consequence. Don't expound on it.
Model The Behavior You Want To See
This article by AllPsych.com suggests that parents model the behavior they want to see, so it's important to be on guard about your behavior. Your daughter will learn by your speech and your actions on how she can improve her behavior. As difficult as it may be, speak to your daughter calmly and respectfully, especially when you're upset and angry.
When the going gets too tough to handle, it's helpful to seek out some counseling for yourself. The easiest way to find a match for a therapist is reaching out to ReGain where you can be matched with a therapist that understands all the nuances about teen girls.
Your daughter will be watching to see how you deal with conflict in your own life. This is not the time to engage in nasty dialogue with other adults or speak ill of them behind their backs. Teens can smell hypocrisy a mile away. If your daughter witnesses a few harsh words between you and another adult, it can wipe away the little progress you've made. Let your actions and words reflect the behavior that you want to see in your daughter. She'll get it! She's watching you closely.
Finally, acknowledge every little bit of progress. Let her know in words and actions that you love her and that you're very proud of her.
Don't forget one of the unique characteristics of a rollercoaster ride-it goes very fast. Whatever you're going through with your teen daughter, this too shall pass.