Women, life, happiness
  • “My teenage daughter won’t listen to me.”

    April 22nd, 2010Keryl PesceFamily and Relationships, Life in general


    " Lately, I look in the eyes of my daughter, and it feels as if I'm living with a stranger. I don't know who she is anymore. All I'm trying to do is keep her on a good path – get her to do her homework, do a few chores around the house and stay away from kids who are a bad influence. I'm her mother. That's what I'm supposed to do. But she doesn't see it that way. She fights me tooth and nail on everything. I punish her, and her behavior gets even worse. It's as if it has become her life's mission to make my life miserable. And she's doing a damn good job of it. I didn't raise her to be this lazy and disrespectful. I'm at my wits' end."

    This woman, Kathy, is a normal mother and just wants what's best for her daughter. What mother doesn't? This challenge certainly isn't unique to Kathy. Millions of parents believe in their heart of hearts that they know what's best for their children and will stop at nothing  to keep them on the right path. After all, it's for their own good.

    Or is it?

    I've got to wonder just how effective attempts at control through coercion, force, punishment, guilt or even nagging are on motivating a teenager to make better choices – especially when those actions and behaviors result in damaging your relationship with her.

    That's what has happened here with Kathy. She used to have a fair amount of influence over her daughter. Why? Because they had a close relationship and like every last one of us human beings, we are internally motivated to act. Her daughter knew what behavior was expected of her and for the most part, lived up to those expectations in the past. Because she loved and respected her mother and wanted to make her happy and maintain her approval. Somewhere along the way, Kathy has lost her influence. Despite having genuinely good intentions, her methods of trying to control her daughter damaged their relationship.

    I want you to seriously think about this. Our greatest ability to influence others comes when we do everything in our power to get along with them, not try to control them.

    It is impossible to truly control another human being. It's just not how we're wired. How well do you respond to attempts at others to control you? Do you love, admire and respect them more? Do you feel closer to them? Do you feel motivated to please them? No, no and no. Hell no. So why do we try to do it to others? It's ineffective and destroys relationships.

    Unless you intend to follow your daughter everywhere she goes –  to the mall, to her friend's house, to school, put GPS tracking on her cell phone, tap her phone line, monitor her Internet service (all of which I know people who do) and become a proverbial fly on the wall that can be around her 24/7, it is impossible to control her behavior every minute of the day. Impossible.

    I'm not here to tell you parenting of a teen is easy or simple. Or that you don't have good intentions. I'm sure you do. But here is what I am here to tell you. Your best chance at influencing your children to make healthy choices about her life is to do everything in your power to have a close relationship with her.

    Then you literally do become the fly on the wall. How so? Your child trusts and respects you. She hears your voice inside her head when she is away from you and faced with a decision. When your relationship is strong, you are communicating with her even when you aren't together. And what's happening when she is with you? She's talking to you. She's telling you what's going on in her life, what she's thinking about, worrying about, excited about. That's what you want. That's how you influence.

    Should you not say a word if you disagree with her behavior? No. You should continue to communicate. But not in a manner which even resembles an attempt to control her. I know this is starkly different than the philosophy you are used to.

    Your best bet for your child's future is to stay close to her. And that doesn't happen when you punish or try to control her. It comes when you put your relationship above all else. You ask yourself "Is what I'm about to say or do going to bring us closer or push us apart?" Always choose closer.

    There is only one person in the world whose behavior you can truly control and that is you.

    I know it feels counterintuitive, but I suggest you give up trying to control her. Think of how you would communicate with your best customer or best friend. Listen to her more. Tell her what you think and how you feel and why. But for God' sake, for your sake and your child's sake, don't hound her, don't nag or ever say "I told you so." Just love her. You will keep her close to you and that is your best chance ever of influencing her now and in the future.

    Where do you start? With honesty. The right words will always come when your intention is sincere. I would suggest something along these lines. "It seems this situation with your homework (or whatever the issue happens to be) has made both of us unhappy. And while I always want what is best for you, I want you to know that nothing is more important than our relationship. You know what you need to do. I'm not going to hound you anymore. I'm done with that. If you need my help or support to help you get done what you need to, just ask and I'll do all I can."

    Those few words will do more to influence your daughter's behavior than any punishment you could think of. She may test you to see if you mean what you say, so hold strong. Don't go back to nagging. Give it a little time and she will come around. She wants to. Believe me. I know it may not seem that way right now, but she is desperate to be close to you again.

    (For an in-depth explanation of this philosophy, I suggest you read a book called Choice Theory by William Glasser, M.D.)

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3 responses to ““My teenage daughter won’t listen to me.”” RSS icon

  • Especially if she is teen, I would mock arrest, handcuff and put in a cell for 30 minutes or 1 day max. I know this sounds harsh, but it helped my teenager daughter to understand and listen to me. What I feared most is, not listening to parents becomes not listening to colleagues when gets a job then not listening to store owners and finally stealing. After the cell time is over, get the officer to st down and talk about not listening converting to stealing. It is important for the officer to talk with her because if the officer does not, she might be afraid of the cops. Call the local police to take her to mock arrest temporarily. I did 20 hours, but you can decide a shorter time but make sure it teaches her a lesson.

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  • You sound just like your mother. I think this mother should try to do mother/daughter things with her child. Ask her if she would like to do something special “just the 2 of us” Not all of the time but once in a while to open lines of communication. Trust her to do the right thing. Rewards work better than punishments or threats. Set a curfew time to be entering the house or making a phone call, then stick to it. If she doesn`t comply then next time she wants to go out say not unless you can stick to the rules. Finishing homework on time and getting good grades should be an incentive to have more freedom. Knowing where you child is going is important and if plans change, just ask for a simple phone call. Good luck and make sure she knows how much you love her.

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