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Teenage Attitude And Behaviour

by Michlle
(Glasgow UK)

My daughter is 13 and won't do anything we ask her to do. We are a family of 5 who live in the house and so we ask that everyone chips in and helps around the house but my daughter doesn't think this applies to her.

She steals from us and goes into our bedroom and takes stuff that isn't hers. We have asked her for months now to do her bedroom but she won't. It's embarrasing that it's in such a mess as she was never brought up that way.

She speaks to us with very little respect and is so cheeky to us as well. Please help I don't know what we can do.

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Challenging Thirteen Year Old - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Dear Michlle
A Thirteen year old can start to be a bit challenging, and that makes life hard for parents. However teenagers do have different needs from a younger child and of course we also expect more.

Change Emphasis From Battling To Engaging


One of the ways parents make it harder for themselves, is that everything becomes a battle with a wayward teen. The more we come down heavy and critical, the more they resist and challenge us back.

So how do we get more co-operation from our teenagers? Firstly we have to be building lots of strong positive interactions - even more so if it has become a battle ground every time you talk with her. We are all more likely to be co-operative when we are feeling good. When we are feeling resentful and angry, then we sure don't want to participate.

You are totally right in expecting her to chip in and help out. But you just might be going about it in the wrong way. I am not sure where she comes in your family of 5, but particularly if she is the oldest, then involve her more in the decision making of how the house runs. Instead of just allocating jobs to everyone, you actually want her to take ownership of participating in the house.

I have to say, over the years when I raised my teens, I tired all sorts of things. When something stopped working, we would come up with new solutions. But the key is WE would come up with new solutions. As children's needs and commitments change, chores and responsibilities needed to be more flexible.

Part Two Follows . . .

Challenging Thirteen Year Old - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

The Challenge To Be Flexible


Parents are often not good at being flexible. We want things done NOW. Some things do need to be done withing a short time frame - but lots of household tasks can be done at times to suit the person that is taking responsibility for it. My daughter used to vacuum at 10pm - she wanted to do it later, but to be fair to others wanting to go to bed, that was the latest that worked. What we need to do more as families is find ways to work together that keeps the house to a certain standard, but also engages the other members to find ways of doing boring tasks that work for them.

My son wanted to play very loud heavy metal music when he did housework. I hated it, but figured if it got the house clean, I could head down the back of the garden for an hour while he rocked away cleaning.

We changed how we ran the house quite frequently. Over the holiday's teenagers need to sleep in - and yes, they DO need to sleep in. Teenagers need a lot of sleep and seldom get enough. They don't function well, either academically or socially when they are chronically tired - so weekends and holidays they do need to try to get 12 hours sleep. And what do we do? We get angry because they are still asleep at 10am and we wanted the house cleaned.

Part Three Follows . . .

Challenging Thirteen Year Old - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Get Kids Involved In Household Planning


The more you can engage your kids to come up with solutions and choose responsibilities, the more it works. The more you boss them and tell them what chores they have to do, the more they will hate it, and the more they just want to get out of the house.

Sometimes we used to have weekly meetings to choose chores - sometimes we had 6 weekly meetings to work out rosters - and these often got swapped around as commitments changed.

My kids started cooking from a young age as I put pretty much everything on the list of household tasks, and they figured they would rather cook than wash dishes. They even did the shopping for a while - great way to learn how to run a household budget and plan ahead.

Your thirteen year old is going through a lot of changes - teenage years are a bit of a minefield of hormones, physical changes, relationship issues with friends and peers - and families often cop the fallout. Though they always want to be off with their friends, they still need loads of good quality time with Mum and Dad. And preferably plenty of one on one time - hard I know with a family of 5.

But the more she is acting up, the more she needs high quality time with you. Go shopping, do special girly things, play games, head off on a day trip with just her. If she is the oldest - then she has had 4 other siblings come along and push her further back in priority. She is showing you now that she needs more attention. Sadly she is getting negative attention because she is doing stuff that is not acceptable.

Part Four Follows . . .

Challenging Thirteen Year Old - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

I am not suggesting her behavior is OK, it sounds like it isn't. But pick the things that are most important to you and TOGETHER work out a solution. Parents have a hard time coping with messy bedrooms. But really that is HER space and if she wants to live in a mess shut the door. I stopped doing my daughter's washing when I could not find what was clean or dirty on the floor of her room. She stared doing her laundry in the weekends, so ended up having to semi tidy or she ran out of clothes.

What Is Top Priority?


For me - her having her room tidy was not as important as having her participate in family chores or having time to spend together. Sometimes it worked to have a clean up together - it was a time to chat, look at her magazines, talk about the things she was interested in, and discuss renovations for her room that would help her to be more organized. Sometimes the kids put their room clean up on the chore's list, and cleaned each others rooms.

My main point is - who has the problem - and what can we all do to solve it. The problem is not actually our kids being untidy. It is us that hates the mess. They may well be quite happy to be living in a cosy mess. Kind of like a nest! The more you can have fun with her, and involve her in working out problems and how things work in the house - the more likely you are to get her co-operation and the less likely she is to rebel and disrespect you.

Best of luck, it can be a challenging time I know,

Annie D :)

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