What to do with the sullen, cranky teen girl? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 07-19-2006, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My boyfriend's daughter turned 13 in March. I do not live with them, but we spend a fair amount of time together. She lives with him during the summer, and on school vacations and holidays and I have known her for about 3 years.

She is entering that stage now where she is quite sullen sometimes, bored, cranky, doesn't want to do anything we suggest, has no ideas of her own, criticizes what we are trying to do and basically won't contribute in any positive way to the "family" unit.

I well remember acting like this with my father. He drank too much and I was mad, so I fought with him about everything - dishes, laundry, chores, etc. I made their life hell because I thought mine was hell and why should I be alone there.

I know that some of this is just normal teenage behavior. But it drives me crazy, and then I start to get sarcastic with her, and then her dad gets mad at her and no one has a good time. She basically sucks all the engery out of the room, and because she is only here for a short time, her dad doesn't want to just send her away (although he does tell her that she can't be rude, etc.). And I also think that some of it might be feelings she has about her life (having her parents live so far apart, having been kidnapped by her mom at age 5) that she isn't able to talk about so she lashes out in other ways.

I bought the book "How to talk so your teen will listen, and listen so your teen will talk" and read it and gave it to my boyfriend. And I'm trying to think how I wish my parents would have reacted to me when I acted that way (that's a tough one - back then I probably wanted them to bow down before me and tell me I was right and they were wrong and of course I should not have to do the dishes, they should do them even though they had worked all day and were trying trying to raise 4 other kids and have a marriage). Now, I don't know, would I have wanted them to try to talk to me? or to just come and sit with me and tell me they loved me and give me space to talk if I wanted to?

Anyone have any tips or advice on what to do in the heat of the moment when the darling girl has gotten on your last nerve?
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#2 of 14 Old 07-19-2006, 07:17 PM
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I think you're right that it has a lot to do with her situation... and I also think the book you chose is a good one. Really, I think she doesn't feel like a competent, worthwhile person, and since she feels crappy, she acts crappy.

I think she needs honest feedback with a focus on problem solving. So, if she's getting on your last nerve, I think it's fine to tell her that, and then perhaps excuse yourself to go cool off somewhere. That's honest feedback on her behavior... as long as you can then come back later and make it clear that it wasn't her as a person you were upset with, but the way she was acting. I would try to use "I" statements as much as you can - for example: "I worked really hard to plan a meal I thought we would all enjoy, and when you told me it looked like dog crap I felt really hurt." Pause for response. If you get something like a shrug and "Oh, well", I'd follow up with, "You're free to eat what you choose, but if you don't like the looks of something I make I need you to keep that to yourself." And I'd drop it at that...

Also, if possible, I'd try to ask her for her opinions about thing. I'd start with little things, maybe related to her interests. If she's into current fashions, for example, you might ask her whether she thinks certain shoes go with an outfit, or whather you should tuck in a shirt or leave it out. My 13 year old enjoys giving me this kind of feedback, and it's the kind of thing where I really don't care much one way or another. I think teens need to feel competent, and the more opportunities they get to do this, the more pleasant they are to be around...

Good luck!

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#3 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 01:24 AM
 
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give her as much space as possible i was the same way at 13 and thats all i wanted
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#4 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 09:32 AM
 
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my 13 year old is like that too. It's exhausting. And she had no trauma like your bf's dd. We go thru phases with her. Right now she's doing great. Sorry no real advice, just a sisterhood hug. (((hug)))
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#5 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 10:15 AM
 
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Ditto everything Dar said.

It's so easy to get stuck focusing on the negative behavior. I'd try to keep my reactions to her behavior low key, and find some positive ways to connect.
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#6 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 12:39 PM
 
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It sounds like you're getting good advice from everyone here and doing what needs to be done. My friend's daughter is doing this a bit, just the normal teenager stuff.

But I just wanted to bring up the possibility of depression. When I was that age and all through high school, I was having serious trouble with depression and anxiety.

It sounds like this girl has some serious issues to deal with along with her coming of age. Does she have someone to talk to about her feelings about her parents' separation and being kidnapped by her mom?

If it seems like more than just run of the mill teenage angst, I would suggest that she see a therapist. I wish my parents had taken me to see someone. I ended up seeking therapy when I was in college because I just couldn't deal with it on my own anymore.


I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#7 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 03:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, This has all been good advice. I think some of it may be depression also, her dad gets depressed and I have brought up to him in the past having her go to a therapist, but I don't know if he or she is ready to do that yet.

I was talking to my sister about this and she remembers being 13 as well and realizing that you have the power to hurt the people around you and make them miserable, and thinking that maybe if you hurt them you will feel better. It is a lot about finding her indepedence and trying out new ways of acting. I just need to keep my head and try to not react negatively to it.

When she is being pleasant we do connect over things like fashion and sewing, etc. And we have a nice time together, it's just when she starts to act like this that it becomes difficult.

I did send her an email apologizing for picking at her, and saying that I remembered being 13 and mad about things that I couldn't define or didn't want to talk about so I pretended I was mad about dishes or chores, and that I hoped she had someone she could talk to about what was bothering her or at least a journal to write in. I said that I really like her and want us all to be able to get along.
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#8 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 08:55 PM
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I forgot to mention - Hold On To Your Kids is a good book for this stuff, too...

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#9 of 14 Old 07-20-2006, 10:03 PM
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I suppose it will vary from kid to kid... I mean young adult. I often find myself falling back on things that worked when my dd was 2 and three years old. What worked at that age was a trust in the child that she was always trying her best, liked to test limits, loved to push buttons, wanted to be noticed, hugged and respected. And of course sometimes they need help verbalizing new ideas and concepts. Well ok. I can still do that. It's not to say I treat her like that long lost two year old. She'd not stand for that. I rephrase what she tells me- so she can hear it back. I ask lots of questions but not the ones that are condesending (sp?). And when she needs it, I give her space to work it out on her own...
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#10 of 14 Old 07-21-2006, 02:03 AM
 
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good luck, especially with getting her to a therapist! It is a great idea and very hard to implement. With my own daughter, completely refraining from criticizing, no matter how justified has worked wonders.
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#11 of 14 Old 07-21-2006, 09:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well I was dreading going over there last night, but of course her mood had changed 180 degrees.

She had woken up with cramps, so her grandmother took her to the dr. and she (the dr.) said that she would probably be getting her period soon. Her dad told me this, and when I went over there she was all happy and chatty and telling me about her day and shopping with her g'ma and oh yeah, she went to the dr. too. I could tell she wanted to talk about it, but I wasn't sure how much and I didn't want to let on that her dad had told me, so I just sort of asked her questions (not too probing) and then at one point invited her to go get a movie with me while her dad showered, in case she wanted to talk about it. She didn't mention it, but she jumped at the chance to go with me which was nice. She never said what the dr. had told her, but she might have known her dad told me. It made me glad to see that even when she is miserable one day, she'll be fine the next day (or the day after), and that she doesn't in fact hate me.

iamthesmilingone: Those are good ideas. I can't actually fall back on what she was like at 2 and 3 since I didn't know her then, but I can remember that she is going through lots of developemental changes just like at that age.
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#12 of 14 Old 07-22-2006, 07:04 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pranamama
I forgot to mention - Hold On To Your Kids is a good book for this stuff, too...
: That book is fantastic, although I've read it with a 10-year-old boy in mind (who can also be impressively surley when he feels like it!) as opposed to a teenager. I remember being 13, and just feeling challenging and mad at the world sometimes (without having any particular provocation or difficult situation to deal with). Hormones can contribute to moodiness, as, I'm sure, her situation with her parents does. It sounds like you are handling it really well and I'm interested to see what other MDC mamas have to contribute to this!
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#13 of 14 Old 07-22-2006, 11:18 AM
 
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I have two daughters who are 18 (almost 19) and 15 years old.

The 18-year-old went through a very cranky stage and was actually diagnosed with anorexia when she was in 9th grade. We went through a lot with the eating disorder at the time, but I'm happy to say that she seems fine now. (Her weight is normal, and her mood is good.) She's in college and is very happy with the school she chose. From my experience (and I realize this isn't everyones) all I can say is the cranky/difficult stage passes. My daughter grew into a different phase of her life and seems to be doing well.

My 15 year old still gets moody, and we struggle with that at times.

Maybe this is a cliche, but I think a lot of it is just part of growing up. My therapist always says, "Adolescence is a period of temporary insanity."
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#14 of 14 Old 07-24-2006, 01:08 PM
 
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starflower's noting of potential depression is good insight. I know that was my problem growing up. my parents got me help - at last - at the age of 18, unfortunately so late... I had lost a good 5 to 6 years of "living". I hope you can help her through this and that she can help herself work through whatever is making her so sullen.


it's funny that you mention about her having cramps, too. I remember before my first period I felt like a demonic force had possessed me - I was so rotten, mad, mean, and intolerant - yet bizarrely aware of it, unable to control it, and scared because I didn't understand <i>why</i>.

good luck. hugs and prayers your way.

Sarah and Steven 8/24/02, Little Miss L 7/15/05, and Mister E Man 2/10/07.
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