You may have watched your delightful, obedient little girl change into a rebellious, disdainful teen and wonder what happened. The attitude may be the norm for teens seeking to test the limits and find their independence, but letting it go without response sends the wrong signal, according to Dr. Vicki Panaccione, writing for the Better Parenting Institute. Your daughter needs to understand that giving you attitude does not get her what she wants.
Set expectations for your daughter early on. Talk to her directly and make clear those areas where there won't be any "wiggle room," such as maintaining good grades, speaking to family members in a respectful way and not using drugs or alcohol. She won't greet these rules with glee, but she needs to understand what your hard-and-fast rules are and what is expected of her as part of your family. Be realistic, however: It's reasonable and important that she do her assigned chores, for example, but it's probably too much to insist that she do them with a smile on her face.
Establish behavioral boundaries for your teen, while identifying and consistently implementing consequences for breaches of those boundaries. Depending on your teen's age, set night-time curfews, put questionable venues off-limits or set rules for her use of the family car. Make sure the consequences are commensurate with the infraction. Threats to "ground her for life" for coming home late are unrealistic, but making her miss an important party because she abused her curfew or taking away her electronics access because she posted questionable pictures of herself is realistic and will have a direct and relevant impact.
Model the behaviors you expect, starting when your daughter is young. Talk to family members with respect, and insist that they do the same. Don't use monthly hormonal swings as an excuse for bad behavior. Don't answer your teen's sarcasm or snarkiness in kind, because this sends the signal that this type of talk is OK. Remember that you are her mother, not her friend. Whether she likes it or not, she needs you to set boundaries for her. Enjoy mother-daughter time, but don't forget you're the grown-up. This teaches her to respect your authority while still knowing she can come to you when she's going through a tough time.
Pick your battles. This is essential to dealing with the attitude your teen exhibits, which is prompted at least in part by her efforts to test the boundaries you have set. Don't react to every eye roll or muttered "sheesh," but do respond immediately to behaviors that you deem unacceptable, such as saying mean things to a younger sibling, or to those that threaten her health or safety, such as drinking or dating much older guys. Don't give in on the important things, such as attending class or wearing a seat belt, but if she consistently does these things without much attitude, consider giving in on a temporary hair color change or some other less critical issue.
- Family Education: Typical Teenage Behaviors and Attitudes
- Good Housekeeping: Stopping the Back Talk
- Center for Effective Parenting: Parent/Child Communications
- Empowering Parents: How to Deal with Teens with Attitude
- Parent Map: Coping with Teen Attitude
- Better Parenting Institute: Parents Dealing with Teenage Behavior
- Family Education: Mother/Daughter 101: Smart Tips for Raising Girls
- Oprah.com: Teen Issues: How to Deal
- GirlsHealth.gov: Feelings
As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.