The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 059 · Duration: 00:13:41
My Teen Daughter Says She Hates Me
Does your teen daughter take her anger out on you, and say things like, “I hate you”?
Our question this week comes from Marianne of Pittsburgh, PA
We’re really struggling with our 13 year old daughter. Everything seems to upset her, nothing like her older brother who was pretty easy going. Not perfect of course, but when things didn’t work out his way, he could deal with it and move on. Not so with our daughter. She’s always been emotional but we thought she’d even out over time. Everything from a “B” instead of an “A” on her test, to us saying “no” to something she wants gets an angry emotional response, and it’s always our fault. We moved last year to be near my parents and as far as our daughter is concerned, we ruined her life. We try to help her think more reasonably about things and calm down, but it doesn’t help. Now when she doesn’t get her way, she just screams “I hate you.” I try not to get upset. I ask her if she really means it and tell her I love her, but nothing seems to help. I don’t think this is normal, but we’re not sure what we should do about it?
Thanks for your question Marianne sounds like you and her dad are really trying to help but no matter how reassuring you are, your daughter stays pretty darn angry and emotional. Now, she’s even saying “I hate you” when she gets upset.
You’re absolutely right this is not normal and you should do something about it, but before we decide what to do let’s take a look at this situation so that our actions makes some sense and end up really helping your daughter do the growing that she needs to do.
Managing Different Temperaments
As you are aware, kids are born into this world with their own temperaments so some kids are pretty emotionally intense while others are a lot more easy-going. Both are fine, just different. Easy-going kids may need to be encouraged to express their feelings while emotionally intense kids may need to learn to manage their feelings and express them more calmly. Learning to manage and express feelings all takes time; these are skills that we expect kids to learn over time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though your daughter’s emotional management skills are improving and screaming “I hate you” is not an acceptable way to express discontent.Easy-going kids may need to be encouraged to express their feelings while emotionally -intense kids may need to learn to manage their feelings and express them more calmly. Click To Tweet
Marianne, it sounds to me like you and your husband are both pretty easy-going. In the face of your daughters anger, you keep your cool and encourage reasonableness and offer reassurance. Yet, it doesn’t seem to help. Why is that?
First of all, I want to congratulate you and her Dad for not blowing up and adding to the emotionality of the situation. That’s a good thing. Yet there is a missing element here, and that element is accountability. Your daughter needs to improve her emotional management skills and needs to be held to a higher standard for doing so.
She needs to do that for lots of reasons:
- What she’s doing is abusive to her parents.
- It’s hard on her brother
- Most of all, it’s hard on her.
Since she gets so upset about everything, she’s spending a lot of time being very upset. She isn’t learning to have a healthy perspective and to see that life isn’t about perfection, or even getting what you want. It’s about having goals and having the opportunity to pursue them, while we learn and grow along the way. Values are the guide-posts to pursuing our goals. Our children and teenagers need to learn those. Your daughter’s abusive behavior towards her parents makes it clear she has some learning and growing to do here. She needs to learn to manage her emotions and express them in a healthier way, a way that isn’t abusive to her parents and gives others a chance to listen, support, and empathize with her.Life isn’t about perfection, or even getting what you want.Click To Tweet
Now in all fairness,
- Your daughter is 13, and for many 13 year old girls, the social and hormonal changes going on can put rationality out of reach from time to time.
- And, moving and needing to change schools for a middle-schooler can be socially very trying, and extremely trying if the social environment of the new school or community isn’t accepting or a good social fit.
This is all tough, and yet your daughter does need to be held to a higher standard for managing and expressing her feelings.
Holding Your Teen Accountable
So like I said, the missing ingredient here is accountability, she isn’t being held accountable to a reasonable standard for her emotional communication. In fact, it seems like she thinks you should be accountable to her. You don’t have the right to move without her permission, and you need to grant her requests or she’ll punish you. We need to reverse this because she won’t learn and grow the way things stand now.
Let me respond to your question about her “I hate you” words. Very young children might use these words if they:
- are very emotional, and
- they’re just learning the power of words and are testing out something new.
We’d want to teach a child that those words are destructive and there are better words to use to express anger.
It is not altogether unheard of for a young teenager to use these words if:
- they are temperamentally emotionally intense, and
- they’ve been raised in an environment that encourages kids to express their feelings
But, it’s not okay. They need to be retaught to use more appropriate language and not use abusive language.
Tips To Create Change
So, here’s what I recommend Marianne:
- Given that your daughter is emotionally intense and you wisely don’t want to fight with her, you can match her emotional intensity by empathizing with her feelings and her perspective. Hopefully that will have a calming effect on her.
- Let her know that even though you empathize with her feelings and perspective, she needs to manage her feelings and gain a more reasonable perspective. And, if she’s bullying, badgering, or otherwise being abusive, simply point out that it’s unacceptable behavior and let her know you’ll talk with her about the situation when she’s ready to be more mature and respectful in her communication.
Let me show you what that might sound like. I’ll call your daughter Marissa.
“Marissa I hear that your friends are all going to Sara’s house to spend the night on Saturday. And I get that you are really, really upset because you feel like we don’t trust you and after we made you move here, we’re keeping you back from making friends. We get that and we understand how frustrating and upsetting this is for you. You need to know that yelling at us and calling us names is not acceptable and nothing good will come from it. Second, I’m not comfortable with the situation at Sara’s house. I know she has older brothers and I don’t know her mother or how she assures safety for the girls. Unless it’s a situation that I’m very confident in, I am not in a position to say “yes”. There’s no wiggle room here. You are a fabulous girl and lots of kids are going to want to be your friend, you don’t have to be so worried about being left out.”
See what I’m doing here Marianne? Strong on the understanding, and strong on the limit.
If the behavior persists, simply remove her privileges such as a smartphone or other devices and permission to do social things at all, and let her know that she’s going to need to be committed to more respectful and mature behavior before you are going to be able to offer privileges.
Marianne, this has been going on for a while and you do have a bit of a Control Battle here, and Control Battles have momentum, so this will take a bit to turn around, but it will turn around I’m sure.
Finally if the behaviors persist, and your daughter continues to be chronically unhappy and over-the-top frustrated by everything that goes wrong, get into some counseling as a family. That way, she can get some support and guidance for managing her expectations and emotions and you as parents can learn how to support her and set limits and have accountability to those limits. She needs that, you need that, and her brother needs that.
Do not simply send her off for individual therapy, although individual therapy may become part of the plan. All three of you go together to learn what needs to be addressed and how to address it as a family. In fact, when you can get on top of this, everyone’s experience of the family will go up and that will be developmentally important for both kids and experientially rewarding to you Marianne.
So listeners, let’s all learn from Marianne. If you have an emotionally intense teenager, you are going to need to match their intensity to get through. But the intensity needs to be very positive and be backed up with accountability to clear standards. That way, rather than overwhelming themselves and their families, they learn and grow and, little by little, they emotionally mature.
Thanks for tuning in today everyone and special thanks to Marianne from Pittsburgh, PA for her question.
Have you read my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle? I have a free gift for you!
Simply click this link to go to the publisher website. Once you’re there, click Free Accessories where you’ll find a downloadable chapter titled, “For Teens Only.”
One parent told me that after his daughter read that chapter, things in their family completely turned around!
Please remember, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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Thanks for your very thoughtful comment Elizabeth. You are absolutely right, building a foundation with our kids where they feel confident in our validation of who they are and caring about their feelings will allow them to accept parental limits and structure more readily. And you are suggesting that giving our children and teens input into the structure helps them feel empowered and respected. Excellent input and I couldn’t agree more. And yet there are times, for whatever reason, including temperamental challenges for kids and parents, there was a lack of structure and now it needs to be re-established, or simply entering a new developmental phase where kids or teenagers need to be reminded that managing responsibilities and having a good attitude are critical elements. And they are accountable to their parents.
We will be accountable to individuals and various standards our whole lives and if we are unaccountable, we all pay a price. The same is true for our kids. There is a difference between punishment and earned privileges and I expand on that difference in my podcast: Time to Switch from Consequences to Privileges.
In short, consequence are a form of punishment and comes from the parent to the kid to get them to change a behavior.
Privileges are what kids earn by managing their responsibilities and having a good attitude. Giving kids the opportunity to earn privileges is empowering and “puts the ball in their court”. When they earn them, they get them and conversely when they don’t earn them, they don’t get them. All kids make mistakes, so we don’t want to simply jerk away privileges for any mistake. But when a behavior is chronic and a child or teen is being unaccountable and unwilling to make a necessary adjustment, then they have forfeited their privileges, at least until they are recommitted to accountability.
Hello – As I listen to your podcasts and thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom and experiences, I have a strong response to withdrawal of phone or other devices in reaction to behaviour. This is punishment and does not include the young learner in the loop of decision-making and discovery. Parents fail to negotiate and seek to understand when they punish. Let’s bring our young people into maturity sooner and enjoy really getting to know them so that when these phases and stages of growing occur, we have a foundation from which to work. Setting that foundation can happen all along the way and really, it is a life-long process.