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Recent Letter to the ElderWisdomCircle™

CHILDREN: Behavior Problems
Letter #: 393702
Category: Children

Original Letter

Hi there, I'm going through alot of stress as my 11 yrs old daughter is really stubborn, disrespectful to teachers, parents and could be to anyone. Does not do anything at home, no self study, no own room cleaning, just watches tv or gets really really upset when asked to turn tv off. She wants to stay alone. She argues sooooooooooooo much. Her verbal abuse if beyond control. Attending psychologist, but no difference. I need help!!! Thanks Regards Jessleen

Elder Response

It sounds like both you and your daughter are under some stress.  Having gone through a period when my daughter was acting out, I understand how uncomfortable and difficult it can be.  

Children of any age need to understand limits and boundaries.  In fact, they need them.  They will challenge those limits and boundaries, because that’s what growing up is about.  It feels far safer to a tween or young teenager if they bump up against firm boundaries than if there are no boundaries at all.  They feel that they are loved and cared for, even as they are trying to pull away from the restraints of childhood. They also need to learn how to handle the strong emotions that come with the onset of puberty.  And they need to go through the tough process of growing up and figuring out who they are as individuals.  

As parents, it’s our job to facilitate all of those things.  And it’s important and essential to not take anything our children do or say as personal attacks on us.  Rather, we need to remember back to when we were kids -- how we probably thought our parents were dumb and unfair and would never understand us.  This way, we can bring some understanding and compassion to our interactions with our kids.

So first, try to see the world through your daughter’s eyes.  Ask her to explain how she feels, and just listen without arguing or debating or challenging her.  If she doesn’t want to talk, suggest that she write you a letter to tell you how it feels to be her right now.  Let her know that just for that one time, she can say anything she wants to, even if it feels disrespectful to you.  Remember not to take it personally.  

Perhaps after she has a chance to really speak her mind, she’ll be more open to hearing what you have to say.  That’s the time for you to thank her for sharing and then, gently but firmly, take a stand.  Let her know that some things are going to need to change in your home, and that those changes will affect both of you.  Explain that you and she need to establish some standards by which you will be able to live peacefully together.  Allow this to be a collaboration of sorts, but let her know that you take your responsibilities as a parent seriously and that your goal is to help her understand how to get along in the world.  So you’ll consider her suggestions but at this stage of her growing up, you need to have the last word.  Let her know that as she gets older, the rules and limits can be revisited and you can collaborate again on appropriate changes.

You can start things off by talking about being considerate and respectful of others.  You can discuss shared responsibilities for taking care of your home.  You can establish rules about TV watching, doing homework, staying alone, etc.  And you can talk about reasonable consequences when the rules aren’t followed.  Then you can let her have some input about the rules and the consequences.  Stay open to her suggestions and be willing to compromise a bit, but exercise your authority as her parent to establish limits that you’re comfortable with.    Consequences should be related to the offense in both severity and duration, and they should always be consistently and predictably applied.

Jessleen, this isn’t going to be easy, and it’s going to be a process, not a one-time thing.  You will need to be strong in your resolve to not engage in debates and useless arguments, to stand firm with the boundaries you set, to consistently follow through with consequences, and to withstand the (probably temporary) outbursts your daughter will most likely direct your way.  You must be committed enough to stand your ground and not give in to her, even when you are upset and tired and it would just be easier, this one time, to let her have her way.    Always be sure to talk about her actions rather than her personal self.  This means no name calling, no insults, no lashing out saying things you’ll regret later.  Try your best to stay calm and reasonable.

It’s up to you to take the high road and not get sucked in to acting out the way your daughter might.  Avoid saying things like, “Why are you doing this to me?” or “You’re such a brat!” She will learn more from how you behave and interact with her, than she will from the rules and consequences.  Model mature, reasonable ways to explore your differences and reach mutual agreements.  Talk about what she does and why it isn’t acceptable, and how she can atone or face the consequences.  When you do this, you will show your daughter that you value her and her opinion, and you’ll be teaching her valuable skills for getting along in the world.

Please don’t get too worried if she slams doors, tells you she hates you, or says she wishes she could go live with her friend whose parents are much cooler than you.  Those sorts of angry words are pretty typical for tweens and teens.  Just make sure you let her know that while you understand she’s frustrated and angry, you are not going to allow her to speak disrespectfully to you (or to anyone), and that she will have to experience the consequences.

I found a couple of web sites that might be helpful: 




This too will pass, Jessleen.  You may have a few more rocky years, but eventually, you will probably have a delightful relationship with your more mature, young adult daughter.  So keep going to the psychologist and hang in there with patience and persistence.  

Feel free to write again if you’d like to continue this conversation.  Take good care.  I wish you all the best.

Best Regards,



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