purelove asks: I have a problem with my 11-year-old daughter. She hates us, her parents, for not always giving what she wants, she is always jealous of her brothers and envies her friends. She is turning away from us, and even writes that she hates her parents. She is also entertaining a boy at this age. What should I do?
Hi purelove –
Well, I have good news and bad news. It sounds like your daughter has hit adolescence, and is a teenager a year or two early. The good news is that she will grow through this, and become more like the person she used to be. The bad news is that that might take anywhere from a year to eight!
There’s no perfect and easy solution to changing the behavior of a teenager going through this time. But there are a few things that can help.
First – listen to her as much as you can. Try not to tell her any more than you have to. If she says she hates you, ask her why, and listen. If she’s jealous of others, listen to her about why she is. She may have some really legitimate reasons for feeling this way, and she might also be responding to some deep feelings she doesn’t understand yet. All this is fine and to be expected.
Second – set clear limits. Lots of times kids and teens get very frustrated about what they see as unfairness, because everything in their homes is negotiated. Of course, whenever possible, have the same rules for all your children (curfews, homework, chores, etc.). But maybe there are some other differences (such as if her brothers are much older or younger than she) that make that impossible. Still, set clear rules always. Which will sound like I’m contradicting myself when I say:
Third – make as few rules as possible. She’s entering a time when it’s totally right for her to try new things. Let her, even encourage her, but just set rules to make sure she’s safe from getting hurt or in trouble. For example, if she chooses to stay up till 1:00 in the morning some night, and has to struggle to get through school the whole next day, she’ll learn her own reasons to go to bed early. You’ll have let her do that herself, and somewhere deep inside her, she’ll appreciate that.
Fourth – I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “entertaining a boy,” but if you mean that she’s spending time with a boy, that’s great. But that makes my earlier recommendations even more important. Few rules, but absolute and clear ones. And do everything in your power to make her feel good about talking openly with you, especially about boys! To do that, you’ll have to really earn her trust, which is hard right now.
Purelove, I can’t promise that doing these things will make everything great, but I can promise that not doing them will make things worse. Feel free to write me anytime about her, but in the meantime, I hope my suggestions help.