disrespectful + irritable = teenage girl? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 08-16-2009, 09:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DD is 13; her younger sister is 10. My older DD has recently gotten to where she is SO MEAN to her younger sister that it is--in my opinion--unacceptable. In fact, I'm about done with writing off disrespectful, snotty, overly irritable behavior as "normal" teenage stuff. I'm ready to Just Say No, to regard it the same way I do other negativity that has gained "normal" status in mainstream society: If we didn't sit here and accept it as normal, maybe the kids will get the message that it's not okay to mouth off to parents, condescend siblings, etc.

My DDs have always enjoyed a wonderful relationship, but recently older DD has hit a different emotional plane. Fine. Normal enough. But the last couple months, every little thing her younger sister does seems to irritate her. To the point where she (older DD) is snappy and flip; younger DD then responds in kind, and they're off on a b- - - - session. I see big DD go out in the world and treat people respectfully. She doesn't snap her friends' heads off or berate her extended family members, but at home, she's gotten very grumpy and rude.

I'm re-reading Hold Onto Your Kids in an effort to get some insight and maintain connection. So far, big DD's moods seem most affected by her sister, but I sense we parents might not be far behind. She's an easy kid in many ways--has nice friends, enjoys family time, gets high grades--so we've not gone on the mat over a lot of this moody behavior, writing it off as "normal." But after another morning of trouble today, I began thinking that perhaps we ought to be regarding it the same way we do mean-girl behavior on the playground. I've never been willing to wave that off as "normal." It's unacceptable, period. Same thing with that old thing about "boys will be boys" and letting them continue to pound on each other. Is it impossible to teach kids that it's unacceptable? That it won't be tolerated?

I have tried to determine whether big DD's irritability is motivated by something significant, but it mostly seems driven by younger DD's immature behavior or simply her familiarity. "She ALWAYS pets the dog like that," fumes older DD. Or (eye-roll) "There she goes again with that awful ponytail. I swear, if she's coming with us, I'm not going. I can't stand to be with her." I feel like this type of communication/behavior is so far outside the realm of our value system that it's deeply offensive not just to little DD, but to our whole family. "It's just her age" seems like such a cop-out reponse.

At this point, I've slammed the door on all snappy attitudes around here. Read the girls the riot act this morning--very calmly and politely, by the way--and told them that this habit of snapping at each other had to stop, that they must find a way to change their tones and their words. I likened it to when they were little and I got into a habit of yelling. One day I caught one of them looking at me, little angelic face all hurt, and I realized I was being way too harsh with a vulnerable child--and unnecessarily so. It took me some conscious thought to break out of the habit, though, and once I put my head to it and changed my tone and my words--which was pretty easy to do when I changed my perspective and remembered that they were just little--things became much more pleasant in the household. I told them I suspect it's the same with this--they've fallen into this habit of grousing and snapping, and now to do anything less when they're irritated just seems impossible. "Well, it can't be," I told them. "Because grousing and snapping is fully against the rules from now on. It's unacceptable." I also had a private conversation with big DD and basically told her that if this attitude she's taken with her sister is about something more than basic irritability, especially if it's something I might be able to help solve, then she should speak up and ask for help. But if it's just general irritability with her sister being younger, then she needs to get over it, remember her manners and treat her sister the way she herself would like to be treated.

I feel like I'm dealing with toddlers again. Has anyone else dealt with this? I'd love some insight because even though it's been nice to hear my two working on adjusting their communication with each other today, I suspect there's more we should be doing than just adopting a Zero Tolerance policy.
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#2 of 6 Old 08-17-2009, 10:14 AM
 
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I understand you've reached the end of your rope. I also agree that rudeness is tolerated and accepted far too much.
However, I'd caution you against prohibiting the expression of all negative feelings. The feelings are real, no matter how ridiculous they seem to us. Some guidance on how to express those feelings so they don 't violate your values system may be in order.

The examples you gave sound like they might be fried on each other.
Do they share a room? Are they watching a lot of TV? Do they play video games?
Have they had lots of time hanging at home with each other this summer?

I am all for family togetherness but sometimes I need a break from everyone so I know my kids do too.
I've been pretty free with the sleepover requests this summer for just this reason.
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#3 of 6 Old 08-17-2009, 11:02 AM
 
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I know what you mean. We don't allow that crap, either.

When the snipping started, we were on it. My kids aren't that snippy to begin with, but there were a few incidents where we could see that we had reached a point--if we didn't address it and put a stop to it, it was going to get out of control.

One big talking to was all it took. We came down pretty hard on them. Basically we told them that any sort of purposeful disrespect was shameful and absolutely forbidden. We talked hard about how as a family we ALWAYS have each other's back. That the four of us (me, dh, and two dds) must ALWAYS be able to depend upon each other for love and support. That our house was our home, where ALL of us should ALWAYS feel honored and safe. That the four of us have a bond that we do not share with ANYONE else, and if one of us is mean to another, they are hurting EVERYONE including themself. That being emotionally mean was as bad as beating or otherwise physically harming someone, and that NO harm would be tolerated in this house or in our relationships. We've modeled this and tried to subtly encourage this from day one, but around the time they were 11 and 8 or so, we had to specifically lay it out for them.

It worked. They have spats now and then, but we just kind of change their focus if we need to. They can debate, disagree, and argue until the cows come home, but they may NOT be mean or disrespectful when they do this. I've only had to really remind them once of our expectations; the rest of the time they keep their disagreements amicable.

They are now 14 and 11; I still feel sad that their relationship isn't as close as it was when they were 9 and 6 or younger. But it's really just different, they are at such different developmental stages in life. I'm hoping that once they reach their late teens/early 20s, they become close again.

ETA: I think modeling is really the key. We also really try to do a lot of things together as a family, and keep our focus on us. The kids have outside friends and interests, of course, but we really work hard to maintain this common bond, develop and deepen common interests, and just spend time enjoying life together. Ultimately, though, I think we got lucky in that we have two fairly easy going kids. No one in our house is terribly high-strung and we all have always gotten along so well. Just putting the talk out there one time was enough to sink it into their heads. Other personality types, other blendings of families would probably need some other motivations or approaches for developing and nurturing those bonds; we just do what mostly works for us.
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#4 of 6 Old 08-17-2009, 01:43 PM
 
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We just don't allow it. I've got a 12 year old and an 8 year old. They are actually very close, but the 12 year old has been trying out the snottiness. We don't allow it, and I find that being firm about it nips it in the bud.

In our family, we treat each other kindly, period. You can be mad or upset, but you cannot treat your siblings or your parents badly.
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#5 of 6 Old 08-21-2009, 06:36 PM
 
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I smile only because I am in the same boat with a different paddle.

I have 2 teen girls, 16 and 13 (and a boy who is 8.5).. I also teach middle school.

I agree that the kind treatment of others must be upheld. There is nothing wrong with expectations, house rules, and our children learning basic respect for others at home. I believe this helps them and is a form of loving them, part of our job. However, the teen years are soooo intense (anyone willing to be 13 again?? They MUST have validation for their feelings and healthy outlets. This could be letting them be surly in their room for hours, giving them art supplies, letting them play loud music or have friends in the house, giving them space to be themselves while also checking in... it is a balancing act for sure. Many of them feel overwhelmed and embarrassed by their hormone-induced feelings and changes and lash out in the home where they feel safe. Again, rudeness is not allowed, but understanding is needed.

Your daughter is acting out and needs an outlet. My mother says "I used to let you stay in your room, listen to dark music, draw those horrible pictures.. I figured you were expressing/processing yourself"... and I was. I painted my walls and drew on them, colored my hair wild colors and wore crazy makeup, listened to music and sang, drew, read horror novels.. all to help me process my world, inner and outer. Find that vein of expression that appeals to your daughter and explain to her that she needs to channel her energy away from her sister when she feels negative.

At the least, they can leave each other alone. My girls have drifted closer to each other now that they are older and through the tumult's storm. To a degree they have to find their way. But modeling and expecting basic respect is more than ok... good luck mama
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#6 of 6 Old 08-21-2009, 10:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hippiemom View Post
However, the teen years are soooo intense (anyone willing to be 13 again?? They MUST have validation for their feelings and healthy outlets. This could be letting them be surly in their room for hours, giving them art supplies, letting them play loud music or have friends in the house, giving them space to be themselves while also checking in... it is a balancing act for sure. Many of them feel overwhelmed and embarrassed by their hormone-induced feelings and changes and lash out in the home where they feel safe. Again, rudeness is not allowed, but understanding is needed.

Your daughter is acting out and needs an outlet. My mother says "I used to let you stay in your room, listen to dark music, draw those horrible pictures.. I figured you were expressing/processing yourself"... and I was. I painted my walls and drew on them, colored my hair wild colors and wore crazy makeup, listened to music and sang, drew, read horror novels.. all to help me process my world, inner and outer. Find that vein of expression that appeals to your daughter and explain to her that she needs to channel her energy away from her sister when she feels negative.
Very wise advice!! I've noticed that when my dd gets moody and short-tempered, it helps if I'm even gentler and kinder with her. I won't ask directly what's bothering her (likely she doesn't really know herself). I will give her a lot of space to herself, and perhaps do something nice - a favourite treat, a bath with her favourite bath products. She's a great kid, and normally very happy, so it usually doesn't take her long to come around.
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