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Argumentative 12 Year Old

by Bernie
(England)

Hi
I have a 12 year old daughter who is an only child. She has been displaying challenging behaviour for over a year now (since High School). I don't want to paint a bad picture of her, because overall she is a good kid. However, she is so argumentative that it is actually causing me to be ill. I feel so incredibly stressed and weepy all the time because she is grinding me down.

Every single thing we talk about turns into an argument. She said the other day to me that "we don't get on, because we are nothing like each other". I replied that this was nonsense because different personalities get on fine together all the time.

I don't want our relationship to be like this, she is my only child and I love her to death but feel resentful of how she is making me ill at the moment. I want us to be close, to be able to enjoy one another's company such as going shopping together etc and to have an honest and open relationship.

I fear that the next four to five years are going to get worse if I don't seek help now. I don't know what to do, what to say.

Her father is very laid back and works long hours. She is a Daddy's girl but I think this is because she rarely sees him and he is not the one 'nagging' her all the time. He doesn't need to because he rarely sees what I see. I sometimes think "I wish he could take her to school and pick her up" just so I can be the 'nice hero' in her life and let him have to be the one to nag!

She has everything and doesn't want for anything. She is competitive and sporty and does well in school, so no problems there (although I suspect that the 'not wanting for anything' may be the problem!).

She can be very sulky if she doesn't get her own way and I feel losing her TV, phone etc just isn't enough anymore.

Please can you help me.

Thank you

Comments for Argumentative 12 Year Old

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Building Good Relationships With Teens - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Bernie
The kind of issues you are struggling with are very common, so don't think you are the only Mom with a stroppy nearly teenager! But you also have some additional dynamics happening since you daughter is an only child.

As a parent, when all our energy goes into just the one child, there is a huge investment in that relationship. Of course you love her to bits, but in a way the intensity of that love and the expectations on the Mum-Daughter relationship is huge because there are no additional children to parent. All your Mum juice has gone into this one child and she may well be feeling a bit swamped. In addition you are the primary parent, so the brunt of the organizational side of parenting falls to you. So naturally you cop the fallout, and Dad gets more of the fun stuff.

As an only child, your daughter has not had siblings to fight and squabble with, and we test out our power, we learn to manage conflict, we learn to negotiate and cooperate with our siblings. So although your daughter has gained lots of other advantages from being the only child, there are things she will still need to learn. And because you are the primary person in her life, a lot of those power struggles will be tested out on you.

So don't worry, it is a good thing she is arguing even though it feels very stressful for you! She needs to push back and test out her power, and she also needs to learn to give as well as take. But it is exhausting as a Mum to constantly be in conflict with your beloved child.

The fact that you are in tears and feeling ill, show to me you are way out of sync with you. Your need for a close loving relationship with your daughter, and your distress when she does not give you that show that you are putting too much of your needs and expectations onto this one relationship.

I am not for a moment suggesting you can't have a close loving relationship with your daughter, but what I am saying is when you feel devastated if she is being nasty and unpleasant, means you have handed her the power to push you around and control your well-being.

So first of all, you have to take back your power, and find ways to feel good about yourself that are not dependent on her being the perfect daughter. No one else MAKES us feel bad. You are letting her behaviour be the measure of your happiness.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Building Good Relationships With Teens - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

The better you feel about you and the more you get back in sync with you, the easier it will be to connect with her. You are right, you don't need to have similar personalities to have a good relationship, but it does take acceptance of differences to build good communication.

There are always lots of potential areas for conflict with teenagers, and we nearly all have a tendency to over-mother. In your case because you just have the one child, all your nags get loaded onto her! And nagging does not teach a child a thing, except to switch off. It doesn't teach them to monitor their time, it doesn't teach them to remember items, it doesn't teach them to take
responsibility for chores. Now she is in High School, and moving more into the teenage years, she needs to be more responsible for herself, AND to deal with the consequences when she messes up. She will be much more likely to remember to hand an assignment in on time when the school has
consequences.

The more we act as police with our kids, the more they will push back. So as you say, everything turns into an argument. It's not your job to police her school work. You can help her to manage her time and make some work plans or good study habits. But don't get hooked into the role of having to be the homework police.

Really stop and think about your interactions with your daughter. Are most of them about you trying to organize her?

When we try to take care of all the details to ensure our children succeed in life, first of all, we are not allowing them to build their own internal self management. Secondly, it totally sets you up to be the primary person they have to rebel against. Kids only have to rebel because we are holding on too tightly.

Sure you need limits and guidelines but as much as possible now she is getting older, encourage her to participate in what those limits and requirements are, and what the consequences will be. That way she will take more ownership in doing her chores, being home on time, and complying with reasonable boundaries.

So make a very conscious effort to banish nagging! It is hard as a Mum not to take responsibility for our kids, but we are not doing them any favors when we are their memory or to do list. You would be much better to sit with her and help her plan how SHE can manage her time, or fit in her chores.

Even better, ask how you can help, and wait and see if she wants you to pass on your words of wisdom! It took me a LONG time to learn my daughter functions better with the motivation of a last minute time pressure. I HATE that, and like to very well prepared way in advance. She pulled lots of all nighters in high school, and got great results. And our relationship improved enormously when I stopped nagging and reminding her to plan ahead better. She is extremely well organized now, but still functions at her best when working on a deadline.

Part Three Follows . . .

Building Good Relationships With Teens - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

So what can you do to build a positive fun relationship with your daughter?

Have more fun yourself! Find things that you enjoy doing and go off and do them. Find activities that give you joy that are not dependent on anyone else behaving in a certain way to make you happy. Your happiness is inside you, and the more you access that that better any of your relationships will be. When you are happy, regardless of her behaviour, firstly she then doesn't have the power to push your buttons, and secondly, you are not dependent on her for feeling good about yourself.

The next biggest thing is Listen Listen Listen. The more we shut our mouths and listen to our kids, the more they will tell us. When we talk AT them, giving them instructions and suggestions, which we do from our wanting them to succeed, the more they switch off and we are not connecting with them. The more we listen to our kids and find out more about how they think and what is
important, the more we truly connect.

Life is busy, and as parents it is very easy to get in the habit of organizing the details of life, and then we wonder why our kids yell at us or are irritated.

They want meaningful contact with us, they want fun and connection, and that is way more important than a reminder to do homework or chores.

Your idea of going shopping with her is one good idea. Having fun Mom-Daughter girls days out is a great bonding thing to do. Just be aware you don't try to bribe her time and energy with shopping though. Find out from her what she would like to do together - and at the moment she may well be saying she doesn't want to do much with you! Her peer group will be increasingly more important, and it is not so cool to be seen at the mall with Mum.

But there are lots of opportunities to have some simple fun together. Have a movie night, play with make up and nails, make some home made skin care products together, do some baking or work on a craft project together.

Spend a night listening to her music - and decide in advance you will not pass judgement, you will simply listen and ask questions about her favorite pop singers. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about some of my daughter's music, judging it as negative, and after asking her to turn it down one day, she yelled at me, did I even know what the song was about? It made me stop and think, and I realized I was pre-judging, and she was right. So we spent some time listening, and talking about her favorite songs, and now she sends me music!

Part Four Follows . . .

Building Good Relationships With Teens - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Find simple points of contact with her and look for the good in her. The more you reinforce what she is doing well, the more she will take it on board. When she helps out without your nagging, say thank you, when you notice she does something great for a friend tell her you are proud of her. Make it a point to pick up on all the great things she does, or when she does take responsibility for herself. Our kids learn far more by how they see us being in the world, and by positive reinforcement of their behaviour. They learn very little from our lectures and punishments!

Trust that the great job you have done up until now, will all pay off. You are a great Mum and have put a lot of time and energy into parenting your daughter. Sure the teenage years can be a bit of a roller coaster sometimes as they move through hormonal changes and test things out. But put more energy into finding ways to get yourself happy, focus on her good points, and spend far less time worrying and trying to sort her out. Finding more ways to have fun with her and keeping the communication open is far more important in the long run.

Remember all difficulties in parenting are just a growth point - they are changing and growing and we need to adjust and change too. I doubt this stage will last the next 4 - 5 years! If you focus on building good stuff and start letting go having to organize her, you will see a huge shift in your relationship. And as she matures and finds her way in the world she will appreciate her Mum again and won't have to push so hard to assert herself.

all the best,
Annie D :)

kids that argue and have an attitude.
by: Katen Marie Bender

My 11 year old granddaughter argues over everything and then gets an attitude on top of it. She drains me. I tell her to lose the attitude or she's grounded. She always says sorry....that is getting old too b/c she doesn't mean it.
When I was a kid I walked a tight rope. Had I acted like her I would of had soap in my mouth or my butt busted.....or both. It was called discipline then and now it is called child abuse. WTH....really. Kids today have no respect for adults and the adults are the ones suffering. I turned out well and so did my kids.
Advice.....these kids cannot win and by allowing them to act any way they want teaches them nothing and we are the ones to blame. So it's called "tough love"....just do it and your kids will turn out decent and you will save yourself a lot of grief!!!

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