#134 Daughter is rude and treats me with contempt
DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother struggling with my 12-year-old daughter. For the last three months she has been withdrawn, uncommunicative, rude, mean and treats me with contempt. We have been in counseling and are going back again, but I can't ask people to stay with her while I go and recharge my spirit because she's so rude to them as well.
I need to know, Abby, what do other parents do to make it through this incredibly painful period in the lives of their teenager and themselves? —SINGLE MOM IN CANADA
SINGLE MOM: Any abrupt change in behavior should be regarded as a red flag. Your daughter should be evaluated by her pediatrician to be sure there isn't an underlying cause.
Could she have been molested, be using drugs, pills, alcohol, etc.? Do her friends act this way? Does she HAVE friends? Changes like this don't usually happen overnight. Was this behavior tolerated when she was smaller?
If a child of mine behaved that way, she would be grounded and her cellphone and Internet privileges canceled until she was 30.
As to whom you can leave her with while you "recharge," does this girl have a father, an aunt, a grandparent who can give you respite? That's how some single parents get a break. But if those resources are not available, you will have to deal with this (with the help of a more effective therapist than the one you were using) until your "problem child" becomes an adult. —Abby
Hi Single Mom: Let's begin with your question: ". . . what do other parents do . . .?" Most parents don't train their children to behave this way. In any case, it doesn't matter; you simply couldn't do what others do because you'd try to implement what works for others but you’d use your present leadership-communication skills and only produce more of the same. You've been more intent on blaming her than acknowledging your cause in the matter.
Mo betta we address the source of the problem, which of course is you. She has no choice whatsoever but to behave this way; she is mirroring you and, it's destroying her.
Who in your life would say that you've treated them as she is treating you? For most adults this kind of problem reveals that there is an unresolved breakdown in communication with their own parents. In other words, clean up your relationship with those still recovering from your abuse. And, share with your daughter what you did to mess up the relationship and how you cleaned it up. Put another way, you can't teach her how to be respectful because you are still in the process of learning that behavior yourself.
Let's begin with the very first time, the incident (day, date, location), in which she communicated abusively to you? That's where we are. You're both stuck back at that incomplete; it was the fork in the road. It must have been a biggie because she now holds you in contempt. This begs the question, what must a parent do to trigger dramatized contempt? —not just a brief thought of contempt but one that is dragged into each conversation day-after-day. Yelling, unfair punishments, strictness, trigger upset and anger, seldom contempt. It will be challenging for you to recall/remember the very first abuse between you and her—the one that was not completed through to mutual satisfaction (hugging).
It’s not by accident that you unconsciously chose a therapist who wasn’t clear about responsibility; therefore, he/she couldn’t effect a transformation within one visit. I recommend that you find a coach/counselor for yourself (alone) rather than try to talk another in to believing that your daughter is the source (or even part) of the friction. Keep asking yourself, “What have I done and am still doing to cause my daughter to treat me disrespectfully.”
BTW: There is nothing wrong with her; she simply requires thousands of mutually satisfying conversations with you and her father. A week of secluded camping and hiking with her (w/fireside chats) would effect a transformation. Children are integrity meters for parents. Her purpose in life is to support you and her father in treating each other lovingly and supportively. Children misbehave, get sick, fail in school/life, do drugs, anything they can to draw attention ((counselors/police) to the fact they are not experiencing being in-communication with anyone. It's possible that she recalls a time when she experienced the love between you and her father; it pains her to see you treat each other as you do. In other words, she's trying to teach you something and you ain't gett'n it. When she gets clear about responsibility (through you) she will see that he is equally responsible for the abuse between all concerned. Many children of divorced parents have been conned by one parent to believe that the other is more abusive, the one who started the arguments, the cheating, initiated the divorce, etc.. Abuse between two is always always co-created equally; there are no exceptions to this phenomenon. Just because you don't know how you produced a result doesn't mean that you didn't cause it.
She's smart to misbehave around your choice in sitters; none of them know how to get into communication with her. Most likely you've badmouthed her to them, blaming her for the problem.
Thank you for reaching out. Many parents simply cause more of the same for life.
Do The Clearing Process and then invite her to do The Clearing Process for a Parent and Child (both processes are free).
With aloha, Gabby
To ask a question please go to Dear Gabby's Message Board (free - registration required).
Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 7/10/13)