Dear WholeFamily Counselor,
Hi. I have a 16-year-old that is very resentful and never wants to do anything or go anywhere with me. I've tried forcing her to go to counseling and she refuses to go. She is okay at times but when I ask her to do chores around the house she mumbles under her breath and then proceeds to do whatever I asked her to do. She wakes up in the morning with the nastiest attitude. Many times I just want her to just go live with her father so that she can see how good I really am to her. I pray that someday she will be a happier person.
You are going through what millions of parents of teenagers go through every day. As I'm sure you know, the teenage years can be full of tumult, physical and emotional changes, deep and sometimes disturbing questions of the "who am I" variety and lots of angst. This can result in what looks on the outside like very obnoxious, often rude behavior. Those who have been through it assure us it will pass!
I have several friends -- all wonderful women -- whose teenage daughters refuse to be seen with them in public. So take heart. You're not alone. You say that your daughter does the household chores you ask her to do even though she grumbles about it. It may sound funny to say that this is something you can be grateful for, but not all 16-year-olds will do chores! It also says to me that she is basically a responsible, good-hearted person and I'm sure that side of her will resurface more and more as she matures.
A personal word of advice: My cousin sent her two teenaged daughters to live with her ex-husband many years ago. She has never forgiven herself for doing so and while her daughters have forgiven her, they have not forgotten.
You say that she is okay sometimes. Choose one of those times and ask her to have a talk with you. Structure it as a problem-solving session. Tell her (and show her by your tone of voice or a touch or whatever works for you) how much you love her and care about her and that you'd like to know if anything is troubling her. If she refuses to talk to you, make sure to let her know the door is always open.
If she does talk, LISTEN. Try not to judge or give advice. As she talks, try to put yourself in her shoes; try to remember what you felt like when you were her age. When we are feeling bad, most of us just want someone to listen and understand. The answers to our difficulties are inside us and a loving, listening ear is often all we need to find our own solutions.
Take a look at the drama on our Parents Center called I Can't Go On" and pay attention to how the main character feels when a friend really listens to her. I'm not suggesting that your daughter and Ellen have anything in common -- just that we can all learn from the way her friend listens.
One last thing: Perhaps your daughter is picking up on your feelings that maybe she shouldn't be living with you. You don't say when you split up with your husband, but perhaps your daughter still has unresolved feelings about the divorce.
I also suggest you cruise around our Teen Center to get a feel for what's going on with other kids your daughters' age.
Parent Center Director
Copyright Ruth Mason, 2000