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Teen Behavior

by Lina

I have a daughter who is almost 13, but she is not behaving at home or at school. She is saying that she is going to hurt herself and she smokes, or she told me that she just did it once, but it's hard to believe her.

When I ask her something she answers in a bad way, she is always mad. My first concern is the cigarettes, and the boyfriend. I do not what to do, I feel hopeless.

I took her to the Doctor and he said that she needs to take medicine for the (ansiedad??), Sorry I can't translate this word from Spanish.

I'm even more worried about the medicine, because she can become addicted to it. The name of the medicine is PAROXETINE.

Could you please help me.

Comments for Teen Behavior

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A Challenging Teenager - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Lina,
Wow it sounds like you are really finding your daughter a challenge right now.

I am sorry but I don't know what the doctor is treating your daughter for, your translation does not seem to have worked - but Paroxetine is a medication used to treat depression, and is not usually used with children.

I am not a doctor so I can't advise you medically, I would recommend you get a second opinion if you don't understand what your doctor is suggesting. Paroxetine is not addictive, but you can't just stop taking it, it has to be decreased slowly to give the body a chance to adjust.

Counseling NOT Just Medication

I am not a big fan of simply medicating children - or adults for that matter. Really medication should be the last resort, or as a stabilizer, but I am NOT a doctor, so there are times when medication is the best solution. However that should be used alongside counseling and family therapy.

When there is a child that is self harming, or in distress or acting up, the whole family is contributing to the dynamic. It may seem like the child's crazy behavior is causing all the issues in the family, but instead that child is bringing out things that are not functioning anyway.

So the best advice I would give to you, is to get professional support - counseling or family therapy to work out how to help your daughter and how to handle her behaviour.

Family Dynamics

Time and again with parents of teenagers, I see parents just continuing to try to discipline their child and force them to comply with family rules. Yes a teenager does need to respect the family boundaries and contribute. But the more parents get critical and just keep yelling and trying to control their child, the more the child pulls away and gets rebellious.

Teenage years are confusing, their hormones are up and down, so emotionally they have huge mood swings and can be quite volatile. Then there can be all sorts of other issues underneath, self esteem, not feeling good enough, school pressure, and even personality plays a big part. So there can be a lot going on, and to some extent mood swings are kind of normal.

Very hard to handle though!

Part Two Follows . . .

A Challenging Teenager - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

At present you have probably got locked in a cycle of criticizing her, questioning her and your frustration with her behavior at home and school will not be making you feel like praising or encouraging her.

Focus On Her Positive Traits

The more you can build on her strengths, and look for all the tiny things that she does do, or does comply with, or times she does contribute to the family, the better. She does not sound like a happy girl. And if you are on her back constantly, along with the school, she is out on a limb where the only support she is getting is from her friends or boyfriend.

A peer group is really important at this age, but they can also have a lot of power in influencing behavior, and we don't help that influence if we come head on confronting and criticizing.

Further Resources About Teenagers

You can read more about the adolescent years, plus lots of other questions from parents here:

Understanding Teenagers

At the bottom of that page are the links to lots of my answers to questions from other parents of teenagers, so you might find some tips there that are helpful.

Family Needs Support

Getting some help to be able to work together to decide the boundaries - how late she can stay out, what activities she can take part in, her responsibilities in the house etc would be a good thing.

She needs to have a say in her life and how she spends her time, rather than just imposing everything on her. If she feels powerless she will find other ways to take back some power, and most likely destructively.

If she has had a say in negotiating some of the family rules she will be more likely to agree to live by them and to comply with them. Or to accept the consequences if she has had a say in what they are.

Having a third person to mediate and help you discuss and make some agreements, takes the pressure off you to try to manage everything.

Part Three Follows . . .

A Challenging Teenager - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

If she would agree, It also might help her to see someone to have a place where she can let off steam and maybe learn some strategies for dealing with you!

Professional Help

She needs some input that is seen as independent, supportive of her, but also a balanced view. And having another adult would be a good idea. Also if she is self harming she definitely needs some professional help. Just medication will not give her any strategies or tools for handling her overwhelming feelings or how to get some positive control.

Kids that self harm or even talk about it, are really making a very strong statement about their lack of self esteem and taking some power in a very extreme way - this is my body and I will do what I want to it!

So yes your family needs some help and support to get through this. Get back in touch with your love for your daughter, and try to put your frustrations to one side as often as you can and focus on giving her some positive input. Constant criticisms and fighting don't change behavior. Positive reinforcement and love do.

I hope you have a good network of friends or family that you can get some support and time out. If your home is feeling like a battleground, you need somewhere you can go to regroup and recharge. Even just taking a walk, or getting out into the garden or a park can help to shift the frustration and feelings of helplessness.

All the best Lina,
Annie D :)

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Do you have a question or want to send a submission to Annie? Simply click here to return to Parenting Questions About Teenagers.

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