Q: I have a 13-year-old daughter and she argues with me about EVERYTHING! Doing homework, helping with chores, going out with friends, even which restaurant our family goes to for dinner. How can I get her to be more cooperative and easier to get along with?
A: Many parents of teens find that their once-tranquil family life has now become a minefield of emotional upsets. These emotional roller-coaster events reflect the internal turbulence of a teen’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social metamorphosis, creating feelings of uncertainty and powerlessness. No wonder she suddenly seems to lack the wherewithal to be cooperative and pleasant.
What can you do? First, you have to realize that you can’t make her struggles (or temporary lack of social graces) go away. As your daughter is building her independence throughout adolescence, she may not be able to keep everything — perhaps especially her emotions — under control. New construction is messy business!
Second, you can decide to not make matters worse. In my family, we say, “Don’t poke a stick in the tiger’s cage.” So, as important as it is to enforce a family rule regarding chores, politeness, etc., I would encourage you to first gauge your daughter’s mood. If the timing is not right, let her know that she can have some extra time to do a chore or even give her a free pass. Remember when your daughter was young and she came home from school with a fever? You probably did not require her to do her chores or her homework that night. Maturing brings its growing pains, especially during the teen years.
Third, send her verbal and nonverbal love messages. Let her know that you love her unconditionally, no matter what. Remember: Just when a child is acting the most difficult and most unlovable is exactly when she needs your love the most.
Fourth, support your daughter’s efforts to develop her power within the family, because she may not be able to control her body or her life right now. Have family meetings as a mutually respectful way to discuss difficult issues. Use these meetings to create attainable family agreements.
Lastly, if you find that your daughter is suffering too much, then perhaps securing outside professional help will be useful.
Jennifer Watanabe is the parent coach at Youth Eastside Services (YES). She teaches Positive Discipline classes and provides individual parent coaching. As a Certified Parent Coach, she has vast experience teaching parenting classes, using research-based information on child development, temperament, discipline, and emotion management. She specializes in helping parents who are longing for a better relationship with their children and who need a more effective way to discipline. Perhaps most importantly, Jennifer understands first-hand the issues parents face in our community.
Got your own parenting questions that you’d love to have answered? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.