Rebellious Teen

teen-girl-earring-cell2The teen and toddler stages ( the terrible T’s) tempt parents to run screaming into the night out of frustration. It’s true that wise parenting includes knowing when to pick your battles. Unfortunately, it’s during these two stages of growing independence that we must “out stubborn” our kids to stay connected with them. If your teen is rebelling or getting out of control, you can relate to this mom’s problem and question. You may even find the same suggestions in the answer work for you.

Question: My 15-year-old daughter’s grades have dropped recently. She has pushed the limits with my patience. She recently gauged her ears as well. I was mortified; she is such a nice, smart, beautiful young girl I am not sure why she would do this especially without asking for my advice or my permission.

I made her remove the gauges and replace them with standard diamond studs. I feel like I have lost control. The other day I read a text message she had sent a friend about me it was insightful as well as awful. She does not want to attend family functions with my husband and our two younger children as she feels like I force her to do things she does not want to.

She seems to be experiencing forms of depression. Is this normal at this age or should I seek clinical advice? She had a crush on a boy who ended up hurting her feelings, and I think this may have lowered her self- esteem. I’m truly at a loss for words; she repeatedly tells me nothing is wrong with her. I can tell something is bothering her as she is distant and unhappy.

Signed: Help me!

Answer: Dear “Help Me”:

When our children are babies it is relatively easy for us as parents to establish connections with them — it is an intuitive process and quite often a reciprocal one. We smile and talk softly to our infants and they respond in turn with a smile and a coo. When we meet our babies at the door in the arms of their day care providers, our whole attention is focused on our interaction with them and they in turn squeal with delight to see our radiant familiar faces. These instincts to preserve our bond with our children are continuously triggered into action during infancy.  And although our love for our children certainly does not dissipate over time, our instinctive way of engaging them does. In today’s chaotic society, fractured connections with our children can pose real problems in terms of children deferring to unhealthy attachments to peers, substances and self harming rituals.

Essentially you are in competition with your daughter’s deferred attachments – I am assuming mostly her peers. You must supplant yourself in the position of your daughter’s friends! Impose restrictions on her peer interactions like: extracurricular activities that take her away for long periods, taking golf lessons with you or, going on weekend trips with the family, take away her cell phone (say it’s too expensive), picking her up from school. Don’t give her a choice by asking her to do these things – tell her it’s the way it’s going to be. The trick is that while you are imposing restrictions you must also be cultivating opportunities for the two of you to re-connect/attach. However, don’t let her know this is what you are doing – it would only cause her to dig in her heels and fight harder to keep her relationships outside your family. If she is wondering why you are all of a sudden so “involved” with her, tell her you have been missing her and want to spend time with her because she is that important to you. Focus on re-establishing a relationship with her and try not to get caught up in her behavior – because you will see a lot of behavior while you are getting her to transition back into the family fold and that could cause you to abandon ship. Stay the course, no matter how rocky it gets. You need to win this competition!

In every encounter you have with her, establish eye contact and smile; this will set the tone for your interaction. Obviously it will be in more subtle terms than when your daughter was a baby. During infancy you probably stuck your face right in to hers until the sight of her two eyes merged into one. (Remember those days of Eskimo and butterfly kisses – sigh!) So instead of getting in her face, try putting yourself in her space. Take an interest in what is important to her – clothes, friends, and activities and communicate that interest by allowing her to express herself to you. It may be tempting to judge and ridicule, but for now you need to try and get an invitation into her world. Once she feels unconditional acceptance (that doesn’t mean you have to agree or like everything she says or does; you just have to be willing to listen) she will feel it is safe for you to know her. Once you have re-established yourself with her, you will be able to parent within the context of that relationship and your influence will become more prominent and affect how she will makes decisions. I don’t think this is entirely lost on you: you were able to get her to replace the gauges in her ears with standard diamond studs. This is good news – if things were too far gone she likely would have refused to do that, regardless of what you had to say about it.

Don’t let the sun come up or go down without having expressed your love to her through physical contact (a hug, a high five, a squeeze of the hand, a touch to the shoulder, a kiss on the cheek, a tussle of her hair). Saying “I love you” is important but “touch” grounds us to our connections.

Adolescence is a time for testing out independence and teenagers will do that by trying to push every limit and boundary a parent has set. Ironically, this age group thrives on structure and stability. So they need you to set limits and be in charge. They are not mature enough to go out into the world and not get lost to peer pressure and situations that are beyond their capabilities. This is a time where you begin to establish trust and teach a child how to live in the world with confidence and make decisions that are appropriate. You let your children go and be independent and depending on how they do, you let them go a little bit more each time. When they are not doing well with the independence they are given it is up to the parent to pull in the reigns and redirect and guide the child. When the child learns you are their road map to follow, they will want to stay close to you. Children don’t want to feel lost, and when they do they will attach to anything or anyone that promises a sense of direction.

When she escapes your interventions to take her away from her peers (and she will) you have to go and get her. I have a friend whose 15 year old son snuck out of the house and went to his girlfriends, where the parents were not home. When she discovered he was gone at 1am she drove there and knocked on the door. When he refused to come with her she sat in the driveway honking the horn until the neighbors began to complain and the son eventually got in her car. And it was a long time that she sat there making noise – but she never gave up and her efforts re-positioned herself as her sons’ main influence. It’s not always about consequences, sometimes we just have to demonstrate that we are “here” for them – no matter what they do! Consequences for misbehavior are important but right now your main goal is to reconnect with your daughter and lure her away from unhealthy choices. And believe me these kinds of things I am suggesting will feel like consequence enough to her! It won’t be necessary for you to impose any more.

I am a huge advocate of “the family that eats together stays together”. Insist on having family meals at the table, away from distractions and have thought provoking conversations. If talk doesn’t come easy use conversation starters: “Tell me about the best part of your day and the worst part of your day”; “If you could be anything on the planet, what would that be?” “Who is your hero, and why?” You learn a lot about each other during this kind of dialogue.

I wouldn’t rule out depression. If things persist past 6 months (perhaps they already have) you may want to have her assessed. The drastic drop in marks and withdrawal is concerning but that may be reactionary after being rejected by her crush – especially since she so obviously puts much stock in her peer relationships. There are other signs and symptoms of depression that you did not mention – not sleeping, or sleeping all the time, irritable mood, lack of appetite/weight loss, lack of interest in things she once enjoyed. It sounds more like teenage angst to me and a girl who is trying to find her identity within a group of peers; and yes, this is normal for this age.

Answer by Dyan Eybergen, author of Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child’s Perspective. Dyan is a paediatric psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator. Dyan and her family were guests on the cable television show “For Kids Sake”, along with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. Eybergen resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons.


  1. Stephanie says:

    I feel like a kindred soul here. My daughter is 17. She very recently changed from a sweet princess to a nasty, defiant stranger! The suggestions stated are valuable, but I don’t think she wants to have anything to do with me, so I’m afraid that it would make her reject me more than ever.

    I did make an appointment for us with a therapist for next week, so that is giving me a glimmer of hope.


    Stephanie in NV

    • Stephanie and “help me”
      I certainly understand how you feel. The same can be said for my 16 yr old daughter. What a transformation… Although she is not rebellious with tattoos and piercings nor has her grades dropped, all as stated in the above posting, I do feel as if I am loosing her and also wonder is this a red flag that she needs help? I don’t know, maybe I will try to do more with her and see if that helps. I also have recently put her on the Pill and wonder if that could be affecting her mood. I try to remember what my mom did while raising my sister and I as I am sure we weren’t the angels we’d like to believe we were.. and I keep thinking my daughter is just going thru a phase and will come back to me after she is done ‘finding’ her way since we had a very strong relationship before….Being a ‘good’ mom is tougher than I thought.

      • Hi Donna,
        My granddaughter was using the pill for bad acne, and yes it did contribute to her mood. She has recently changed her medication, and seems to be tolerating it a lot better. I know this doesn’t help “Help Me” above, but hopefully this will help your daughter (or others with this issue) to know the pill side effects.

      • Donna, I just read what you posted about putting your 16 year old daughter “On the pill”.
        I can tell you that when she decides to live like a grown, married woman, you will not be able to avoid problems with her following your authority. You may have other reasons (Maybe medical) for allowing this. I’m not judging you as a person. Please consider the severe health risks posed by introducing the unnatural, synthetic hormones found in birth-control pills. Not to mention that she is still just a child. If she is taking birth-control pills for their intended purposes, please be aware of the immense emotional damage that is done when a young girl (or boy) becomes involved in an illicit relationship. This will be damaging for years to come. It’s obvious you love your daughter and value your relationship with her. (I hope you are not offended by this post.) I must say that it truly breaks my heart to see young children becoming sexually active when they are truly still growing and maturing into all God wants them to be. (This may not include your daughter) My daughter and I are reading through a book together on sexual purity and modesty. I pray this will be one way we can build a strong-bond before she is all grown up! Maybe going through a book together with your daughter would be a great way to re-bond as well as building her confidence and setting life goals and personal boundaries. One resource that has been a HUGE help to me through the years has bee “Family Life Today” (Dennis Rainey) They have a ‘getaway’ idea that focuses on building the teen/parent relationship while going through some important life-skills. It’s called “Passport to Purity” Just a thought. Thanks for reading! : )

    • If you understand the way the volitional domain works, you will understand where her direction is originating. The soul has three domains, the intellectual, the emotional and the volitional. The intellectual, which has been overemphasized in our culture, is information storage. The volitional where belief systems and values are, is where all decisions and judgements are made. The University of Kansas has done some impressive research which shows that the volitional domain is not fully mature until average age 20 in our culture, so young people are being sent out to make decisions on their own, far too young. Since their decision maker is not yet fully mature, they often depend on those around them to help make decisions. Wise parents stay closer to these young people through this period and guide them gradually into making decisions on their own while carefully instilling good values. Many parents who feel that their kids are most important in their lives, are turning to home school and what an incredible difference it is making.

    • One book I highly recommend for parents is a book called “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy”. I wrote a book for teens so lots of parents of teens talk to me. Much of what teens do is normal *for that age*. It looks nuts to us parents, just as we look nuts to them!

      Try making an appointment with your teen for somthing fun and nurturing, like a day at a hot springs. It may be cheaper than a therapist and do more good even with massages thrown in! Therapy has its place, and that said, nothing will ever compete with wonderful creating special times together. What else you and all the other moms here should know is that even when your kid seems to not want to have anything to do with you, just knowing you are there for them is HUGE to them. They may look like they are not listening, but they are hearing you and it makes a difference.

      Something that surprises most parents are the survey results that say most teens put their parents in the number one spot for role model and hero!

      Another book I recommend is “50 great tips, tricks & techniques to connect with your teen”

      Hang in there!.

  2. I would not start a conversation by asking her “What’s wrong?” I would rephrase that into “I have noticed that you look sad, irritated, like something is bothering you etc.”
    Whichever fits the case. Sometimes a teenager will open up when it’s not a direct question and an easy time for this conversation is in the car or while doing something like fixing dinner or cleaning. Just being busy so the teenager doesn’t have to look you in the eye. Just a casual conversation. Often times they really want to talk about what’s bothering them but they don’t want to admit that something is wrong.

  3. My son is 11 and no where near this stage but I know it’s coming – it’s good to get tips like this so I can brace for the storm.

  4. Yes her behavior is normal and yes you should seek clinical help. All three of my daughters have gone through similar phases and having a person to talk with them that is not in the “family” is such a relief for them. My daughter usually complains about going to her appointment and I am the bad guy, but on the drive home she seems to have had the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders. I have been told each time that this is a normal part of growing up for teenage girls. I find it very important to keep an eye on the friends they are spending time with in and out of school.

  5. Jennifer Smith says:

    I was a rebellious teen…when I read Dyan’s response I got tears in my eyes. I wish my parents had done those things for me. I think it will work. Just let her tell you anything and listen. My mother got so upset when she found out I was sexually active, drinking, etc…that I just felt I could not talk to her anymore about anything.

  6. Alejandra says:

    Stephanie in NV, I have a 15 year old and what has helped me is everything that has been adviced to Rebellious Teen and I try to remember when I was her age. Sometimes it helps to remember so we can understand our kids as they are going through this tough teen age years…

  7. I disagree with a lot of what is written above. Parents need to give their children love, and make them feel good and supported. But teens need to learn to deal with their stress and their peers and not become best friends with their mothers. That mother that sat and honked her car was inconsiderate of all the neighbors and just plain nasty. I don’t blame the son for wanting to run away to a friend’s house-who we assume have parents there in the house,too. As a mother of three teens aged 18, 15, and 13 and two tweens this is not what would be acceptable. What was she teaching her son? If you do something I don’t like I will embarass you at the expense of everyone around us? When he grows up and his boss does something he does not agree with or an employee he has, he can embarass them and that is okay? That example is not one of a good mother or even a good person.
    In our home, our kids know that their friends are welcomed here. We befriend our kids friends parents so that they are comfortable with their children being in our home. Sometimes I am disappointed in the choices of actions of friends that come here, and sometimes I will talk to my kids about my disappointment. I do not put down the friend, only point out that the action they took displeased me. This helps teach my children that they are loved despite my not being thrilled about an action they may take.
    ALL the kids who come here feel welcomed and have returned over and over again. Very often they learn new ideas in our home, too. Our kids are popular and well adjusted socially. I have never had a kid feel that they had to escape from our home. And in case you are picturing a home with every conceivable entertainment -we do not even own a TV, a WII, or a basketball hoop. Kids come here and just talk, bake, play games, draw, study, or play with our dog. One kid told us that he likes our home because we “keep it real”.
    A successful teen is one that is happy in school and at home. If at school there is an issue then you have staff to speak to. I am also a teacher and I have lots of insight into what happens during the eight hours I spend with my students. Rarely does a parent ever call to ask me if I know why their child is acting out or behaving differently. Usually they call an outsider, a therapist, psychologist, etc.. who then calls me. Save your money and call the teacher first. So many problems can be nipped in the bud. I have also called my childrens’ teachers regularly. I consider them partners in my job of helping my children progress in life-and my kids spend their best waking hours with them.
    There will be no storm if you can learn to be your kids advocate, make your home a place that is welcoming and warm, and remember that one of the reasons our kids “get to us” is because they mirror our own negative behavior traits. Work on yourself, and that will teach them also that you are a “work in progress” too.

    • I am in agreement with Tzippy. I too do not believe that the horn honking was beneficial or mature to do. It sets a poor example of targeted embaressment as well as negatively reinforces that “might makes right”. I would have called the absent parents first and then the Police second if my minor child was refusing to leave with me and come home.

      Our home is also the magnet for everyone. I have 7 children ranging in age form 5 to 27. I will be friendly with my children and their friends, but I am their Mother or Mother figure and will not worry about being their friend or about “competition with your daughter’s deferred attachments”. My children have set expectations for family and community involvements and also free time to make their own plans and activities (with parental approval), as well as by age 15, to be making some decisions on their own which elevates each year until they are ready to leave for College. When my children head off to College, I know that they have made good and bad choices and learned from them enough to make better ones beyond my guidance when they leave and will call me when they need additional supportive guidance.

      My children also have friends that would not be my choice for them, but rather than forbid the relationship, we supervise it by bringing that child into our home and reinforcing our values and structure. It is amazing how much of an effect that can have on another young person. We have ended up with many more “sons and daughters” that way and helped to give other young people the tools to turn their lives around.

    • Dyan Eybergen says:

      It’s hard to write answers in a context that will give way to explanation that everyone can understand and agree with, or at the very least appreciate. Sometimes we can’t put any background information in because our answers would just be too long. My friend who honked her horn to get her son felt she had no other choice. He was spirraling down a path of sexual promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. She put herslef in front of all those vices and for the sake of her child did what she needed to do in spite of being percieved as rude or embarrassing. I agree it’s an extreme example but I used it to make a poignant point. Too many of our youth are being lost to peer pressure, substance abuse, violence and criminal behaviour. I’m not advocating that what she did was right…or wrong. But I do think would be more embarrassing is if she hadn’t done anything to save her son from making descions he was not mature enough to handle at 15. The reprecussions of his actions at that time would have been detrimental to his character and have irrovocabal consequences for his future. It may not be the course of action for you, or for the majority of us. But sometimes, drastic measures are necessary. I know another mother who went down into the streets of Vancouver’s East side and pulled her 31 year old son from a crack house – right in front of all his addict friends (with a police escort). Neither of these mothers should be condemmed for doing what they thought was best for their children. The nieghbours had one night of poor sleep, that pales in comparison to what might have happened if she didn’t intervene. She wasn’t teaching her son a lesson, she was preventing (and advocating on behalf of his soul) him from making a terrible mistake – there is a difference. It’s a one off situation. If her son was embarrassed at the time I can assure he has only respect for what she did for him now. He needed her, and she was there for him. She saved her child from a lifetime of making bad choices and managed to resotre her relationship with him. The history for how they got to this in the first place is complicated and if I were to explain I would run the risk of breaking confidentiality. What I can say, is that he’s 18 now and he is more embarrassed about his actions at that time, than anything his mother ever did.

      It sounds like you have a very welcoming, honest environment in your home and that your kids respond favourably. The type of atmosphere you talk about it is one I wish every family could cultivate. You are absolutely right when you say kids mirror our own negative behaviour. It sounds like you do a very good job of holding on to your children in a pattern that will reinforce their solid connection with you.

      • I was so happy to see your reply. I have a 23 year old son on his way to prison and I wish I had made more hard choices as he was growing up. I was a very unpopular teen and wanted him to be happier then I was. When he reached 16 and had alot of friends to hang out with, partys to attend, and places to be…I was just glad he was having fun. I knew all his friends, attended his wrestling meets, and thought all his friends were so “sweet”. I was soooo naive because I had never experienced any of it. He got into drugs and went into a downward spiral. He has been in and out of drug treatment and is now on his way to prison. Hold on TIGHT, KNOW their friends WELL and make your home a place they want to hang out so you KNOW what is happening with your children!

    • AMEN! You hit the nail right on the head.
      I would bet that your students love you too.
      I have seen a case where a boy had become friends with another that had a bad reputation. In this case, however, the 1st boy’s parents were very welcoming to all of his friends and became a great support system to the others. They became surrogate parents to those whose own were lacking and it turned out for the best for all involved.

  8. Darris in CA says:

    Excellent advice! I have a 13 year-old son and have used many of these suggestions with GREAT success. My son’s dad functions as his best buddy and has a very loose household with undetermined rules and boundaries. Here, in our home, my son knows where the boundaries are and thrives when he’s tested them and found that we (me and his step-dad) stand by our principles. My son has a say in the rules but he must discuss them with me/us in a respectful manner. We are doing our kids a disservice by allowing them to treat us poorly. It sets them up to have ungratifying relationships in adulthood.

  9. Wade Meszaros says:

    As a youth mental health therapist, I appreciated Dyan’s response whcih included the youths need for “struicture, stability and connection”. There are a lot of chemical changes taking place in these youth’s that make it very challenging for them emotionally and physically. Peer groups have been a tremendous influence for milleniums and to some degree that can be healthy. Where it becomes unhealthy is when inappropriate behaviours, attitudes and language begin to appear. The parent has to be able to step back and try to understand the meaning behind the behaviour, but what often happens is we make assumptions on “what we assume” and our response may come out of our own “history” which then tends to push away rather then connect. Seeking to understand the youths need for connection or independence does not mean we condone all behaviour, limits still need to be set. How we set those limits in terms of our choice of words, tone and physical posture can have a big impact. A good clinician can help guide parents and youth in developing better communication skills and also assess whether or not there may be a chemical imbalance at work. If you think you are at a point where you feel hopeless, frustrated and totaly unsure what to do..then I strongly encourage you to get help and access the “many resources” that are available to day.

  10. Parenting and homeschooling a 15-year-old has been my greatest challenge in life. In the past few months, we have struggled with many of the same issues mentioned above, though not necessarily to the degree of rebellion mentioned in the original post. We are Christians and pray daily for our son. We had him reassessed for ADHD just before Christmas, and following that he took an exhaustive personality test, administered by a Christian psychologist in January. The results showed evidence of both ADHD and depression/anxiety. Kids this age need help and sometimes medication. If you sense that there is depression, by all means have your daughter evaluated by a qualified and compassionate professional. Some things are simply beyond the expertise of even the best parents. Get counseling for your child and, if necessary, for yourself. Do everything you can to stay in touch and communicate with your child. She won’t like everything you do and will reject some attempts. Try not to take it personally. Do parent her. Set restrictions and limitations as needed; teens do need structure. Don’t insist that she be like you (my son accused me of that last week and it gave me something to ponder); she is trying to discover her own unique personality. Don’t do anything out of fear of what others may think about you. That’s hard, I know. Despite the criticism we are sure to receive from well-meaning friends and family, we made the decision to allow our son to “drop out” of school for the final quarter of his freshman year because of his lack of motivation to do school work and the impact it was having on his younger sister, whom we also homeschool. We are not, however, allowing him to sleep his days away and waste precious time. He is learning responsibility (additional chores and “life skills”) and accountability. If he doesn’t mow (the grass), he doesn’t go. In the midst of all your stress, be kind to and patient not only with your daughter, but also with yourself. None of us ask for this kind of parenting challenge, but few of us escape it. Know that you are not alone. I’m no expert, just a fellow traveler on your journey. For more on my experience and my approach to parenting a teen, you may read my blog at I’ve written several short reflections on the daily stresses of homeschool, parenting, financial lack, and daily life, in general.

  11. I can totally relate! My 13 yr old daughter drives me nuts sometimes…. and she’s only 13! She gets moody and mean and it comes out of nowhere. I would practically be walking on eggshells somedays just to avoid her bad mood and not aggrevate the situation.
    But not anymore. I’ve learned that getting mad (like really mad) and putting down serious consequences or punishments (and sticking to it!) works for me. Like the woman in the car honking her horn (great story!), I am persistant.
    But she’s only 13. I’ll cross my fingers and hope this continues to work for me.
    Good luck to all of you, this is not an easy task.

  12. Jo-Anne Layton says:

    Dyan has good advice. Tzippy ? really sounds like a ‘teacher’ – and I’m glad her style of parenting works for her. What Tzippy is ‘Missing’ is that not all parents have the same life experience & ‘tools’ to work with that she appears to have. For example, I was a foster child and lived in several homes.

    Parents, whether your child is ‘going thro a stage’ or ‘an incident’ – they are STILL very VULNERABLE. When trying to regain the ‘lost emotional link’ I have found it helpful to share some of my own teenage angst with my daughter. How I felt when I broke up with my first boyfriend; some of the mistakes I made around ‘losing my blues’ through booze … and the fact that it didn’t work! In other words, sincere EMPATHY can help breaking down those walls.

    Counselors also are invaluable. And getting your child involved in 1-2 hobbies or ‘joyful’ studies – my daughter attended opera singing training – although I could hardly afford it. That helped her self-esteem a great deal, AND she had to be able to DRESS the part … no automatically NO PIERCINGS etc.

    I reflected with my daughter that when I was a teen, my classmates & I were at times LITTLE SAVAGES … and she laughs. But the possibility of our children being victimized at school thro various kinds of bullying (‘Peer Pressure’) should not be overlooked – Parents then become the Damage Control Experts who must assess and give First Aid treatment & know when to call in the Experts – ie, counselors. (And don’t ‘assume’ any particular counselor is the best fit for your child, you may need to check out more than 1 counselor or 1 form of counseling).

  13. There is so much wrong with this answer. NOWHERE did the author challenge the mother about reading her daughter’s text messages! Teens deserve a measure of privacy, and this woman violated it, with no urgent motive but nosiness. And who cares whether the girl wears diamond studs in her ears, or something more apropos to her own generation than her mothers. This woman needs to pick her battles and focus on the important threats to her daughter (and their relationship) — sexual behavior, drinking, drug use — rather than obsessing over trivialities like fashion choices.
    The author encourages the mother’s pathological rivalry with her daughter’s friends, telling her she “MUST” win the competition to supplant her daughter’s peer group. Does she really think “restricting her peer interactions” so she can spend more time taking golf lessons with mom is going to win her respect??? Adolescence is a time when teens develop their own interests and create some healthy psychological distance from their parents. If the mother follows these recommendations, the daughter is going to resent her mother’s attempts to monopolize her time and limit her interactions with her peers (whom she probably sees as the most important people in her social world right now) and drift even further away.
    Family time is important; open, honest communication about what’s permissible behavior is important; expressions of love are important. But using these things as manipulative techniques to keep her daughter close to her (and under her control) is repellent. The author even tells the mother to deceive the daughter about her motives. I’m 45 years old and have a daughter myself, but this answer made me identify more with the 15-year-old who just wants to get away from her meddling, clueless mother. The more the mother tries to control her and be her “best friend”, the more the girl will pull away. Be firm and loving, establish rules and limits that keep her safe, but give her her space — she’ll love you for it.

    • Dyan Eybergen says:

      A.L. I have obviously struck a chord with you and offended you greatly. I can see how you took offense. I may have used the wrong language or semantics in saying “competition with her peers”. It was to be a metaphor – obviously a bad one!

      Parents should be the main influence in a child’s life – even for a 15 year old. Children who are peer orientated run the risk of getting into a lot of trouble. Much bigger than gauging their ears or wearing inappropriate clothing – you are right these examples seem trivial. However, there is a vast amount of research that supports that these seemingly trivial things are symtpoms of more devasting things yet to come – drugs, sexual promiscuity, drinking, like you mentioned.

      I wouldn’t advocate parents lying to their children about their intentions and I can see how you precieved that I did – it does read that way doesn’t it? The mom does want to spend time with her daughter and misses her being a part of the family very much – that is true, so telling her child that is not lying. The part about not telling her daugher that she wants to keep her daughter away from her friends is because if she does admit to her child that she doesn’t want her child to be engaging in reckless behaviour or hanging out with a certain crowd the child will only become more defiant and move away from her family even more – it is a natural defensive reaction. Kids who are peer orientated will listen to their friends before ever listening to a parent because their loyaties have shifted to their peers and unfortuantely, sometimes peers are not healthy – like gangs for example. I was suggesting this mother prevent her child’s loyalties from shifting to her peers by re-establishing her connections with her daughter so she becomes the main influence in her daughter’s life again and to not put her daughter on the defensive because then her efforts would be for not. Kids who are parent orientated can have “questionable” friends, but they make good choices in spite of having friends who may not be morally responsible. They might still hang around with these firends but they will choose to do the right thing when in a situation that their friends may not because they have the guidance and morals of their parents. If they don’t spend any time with their parents they can’t be influenced by them – and if they spend all their time with their peers – who do you think they will take after? I should have been more clear with that, I can appreciate how it sounded to you.

      It’s not about the golf lessons or any other activity I mentioned – it is about spending time reconnecting with her child and restablishing herself as the parent – NOT A FRIEND – parent. Activities are just one way to put yourself in proximity with the child so you can “re-orient” her. How you DO that while “playing golf” or taking a drive or anything else is what matters.

      I didn’t mention the text message because I felt my answer was already long enough and I concentrated on what I felt was important to the mother – re-establishing a relationship with her daughter and getting her daughter to come back and join the family.

  14. Charlene says:

    I was really disappointed to read the author’s quote, “the family that eats together stays together.” It pales in comparison to the original, “the family that PRAYS together, STAYS together!” It always saddens me when I see the secular culture embrace a religious teaching and twist it into something it wasn’t intended to be.

    • Research supports family dinners. They’re becoming more rare, unfortunately, and the promotion of this valuable tradition is valid to this discussion. There’s no need to undermine that with religious self rightousness! Take it for what it is…family dinners are a good thing.

  15. This was a very timely article/topic for me! We have a 12yr old son that turns 13 in a week. These last 6 months have been eye opening – seems like we are already in the “teen” years. I never really talked about or set rules for girlfriends – thought we’d deal with that when he matured and was interested……..well – I missed it and wham – he has a girlfriend! I feel like he is trying to grow up so fast. He is our oldest and is really tall and mature looking and now ACTING so mature! The girlfirend thing is blowing my mind- I have read his text to her and my mouth is just dropping open –

    I’d like some advice as to how to NOW, hopefully its not too late, reign him back in and get it across to him that he shouldnt be so serious or talking so grown up to this gal. Doesnt help that she has NO parental support and is always available! He plays sports, plays an instrument, has a good network of friends that all the parents know each other and are involved. Not sure, what has happened to cause this new sense of sexuality and need of serious comittment! Obviously hormones and adolescent are involved but it is scaring me. We talk to him openly, tell him to talk with us and we are here for him – but unfortunately I am learning about him and his goings on via the text that I’m reading!

    Any other parents going thru or that have dealt with these issues – I would greatly appreciate your feedback!

  16. My oldest daughter is now 18, almost 19, and I tell you honestly her behavior put us through hell for two years. HOWEVER, she is now back on track, doing well in school, has nice friends, and is making plans for college next year. When she turned 16 it was like a light bulb going off, a stranger in our house, friends became the dominant concern. I realized that she was at a normal period in her development and needed to establish her own identity and rebel against us for awhile. And that’s what she did, she rebelled. Yes it was rough, there were lots of “talks” about expectations and rules, but I always knew she was basically a good kid, had a good head on her shoulders, and would most of the time make the right decisions and choices. It has been borne out, she is now more mature (don’t forget that the human brain isn’t fully developed until the 20’s) and understands our concerns. She’s now a more mature version of her younger self, able to listen and discuss her concerns with us. I wouldn’t want to go through the last two years again but I do believe it was necessary for her development. Good luck to all parents of teenagers!!

    • Thank you for sharing…I can only pray to get to the same point with my 15 year old. You’ve given me hope that we’ll get through it!

  17. I can relate to this subject as the first of our 4 is 14 and a freshman in high school. For us, the shift started in middle school. In retrospect, and for my other 3, we would/will establish more stability earlier than late middle school. All of a sudden, it seemed, we noticed she wanted to spend so much time online or on the phone, we would allow her to spend entire weekends at friends’ houses. We’ve changed that and we all feel better for it. Think about what/where your child is. We now allow one night/weekend only. And one social outing a weekend, not 2-3 social outings (malls, movies, etc.).
    As busy, full-time working parents, and especially if you have younger children, it is so EASY to let them go with friends, etc. But that’s how we LOSE them, too!
    We have the proverbial ‘family time’ outings, commitments too that are non-negotiable. She comes with us, without friends, period. It’s important to have time with just her, not friends ‘for comfort or boredom’. Yes, she moans and complains but she knows what we say goes.
    And we keep close contact with friend’s parents. I know cell numbers and house numbers, not just kids’ cell numbers. I’ve met every parent whose family she spends time with (and they’re just a few). I’ve talked with them. There has been a few ‘mistakes’ and ‘lies’ like about where they were….I talk frankly with parents and my child and all understand where we stand, what’s unacceptable, etc.
    Spend one on one time with them. What is their favorite thing to do? Eat out? Book shop? Sporting event? Movie? Go with them, just by yourselves. My daughter and I went to eat lunch alone and the positive effects are still lasting several weeks later.
    Don’t get me wrong, we have our faults and ‘old’ parenting style ingrained…and she was our first when we were young! We yell and argue, etc but we also talk about important subjects sincerely, let her voice herself, and give praise to her. Overall, she has told us later that she feels better when we have ‘pulled in the reigns’ and pulled her back closer to us and our family.
    Don’t be afraid to parent. I know I was for a long time and I’m still learning and appreciating how much guidance parents can give. And I thank God for my husband. We have encouraged each other to be better parents.
    And we do eat dinner together several times a week. I was surprised to hear my oldest tell me a couple years ago that this is actually the minority. Most, if not all, of her friends ate spread out throughout the house, at all different hours. It really comes down to old-fashioned family values but instead of with an iron fist, doing it with a calm, steady, loving heart.
    We won’t re-establish a connection over night but we will over time, with repetition, and with persistence. Don’t give up and be sincere. You’ll make a breakthrough and feel hopeful and know that if you made one, you can make another. Isn’t that what relationships are? Act and retreat, give and take, ….

  18. Hi everyone,
    Well about 20 years ago I could never have had any idea what you all have been through. But once you have been through this journey you are never the same. It is a trying time and hurtful. So when you get the good moments cherish them. In todays world there is so much out of a parents control. Mainly because of communication. I also know that who ever your kids are hanging out with will either help you or hinder you. They are searching for self and sometimes you can ask and they don’t know why they do stuff. My son who was the cutest boy then puberty hit . Egaaaads! I didn’t know what that could be. Lots of self esteem issues and I am not talking about oh you didn’t do a good job. But you will find that kids can be the cruelest of all. Not knowing the damage that they are doing. My son is very handsome very smart and would not use the smarts at all in school. I won’t go through everything , but I can tell you this . There is no set way of dealing with it . Kids are smart and they know if you care and they know if they can pull the wool over your eyes. I took my sons cellphone away. Another kid went out and bought him one. It was one challenge after another. He now has become a human bean but it has taken a long time and a lot of tears. I will tell you don’t give up, tell them you love them even when you want to put them in the garbage truck. It is a scarey time for them and we do not always know what they are doing.Being excepted by their peers is far more important than being excepted by their parents..Try to remember your feelings at that time. But don’t give up because ultimately in life we are what they have and deep down they can depend on us. But that doesn’t mean giving them everything they want. God Bless and hang in there because it will be a while before maturity sets in. Be a listener as well as an advisor.

  19. What does your daughter enjoy doing? I would guess like most teenage girls she enjoys shopping. As long as you do not think that taking her for some new spring items will cause additional conflict (no you can’t buy that because half your body is hanging out!) I would suggest begining with a fun time together. Devote a few hours to having fun, connecting and not bringing up any heavy topics. Perhaps when you sit down for a bite to eat the conversation might actually flow. Sometimes when we are quiet our teens do all the talking. If the meal is particularly quiet you could bring up some happy topics like what her ideas might be for a summer vacation? Teens need to have some control over their lives and feel as though their opinion counts for something. Provide plenty of positive feedback, and LOOK for things that can be praised. Sometimes we must really stretch ourselves to find something, but teens get a lot of negative feedback in general, so make sure she knows that you love her and that she was created in the image of God, and therefore even though things can be tough at times she is a magnificent and wonderful creation. Finally, I find that praying for my teenagers (I have 3) helps me to be hopeful when the going gets tough, knowing that God is with me and asking that he watch over and guide my teenagers down the right path and divert them from danger is a comfort…

  20. Charlene says:

    Dear Kim–No religious self-righteousness intended…though I can see where it read that way. Family dinners ARE so important. You are right and so was the author. I think I was just having a moment of frustration yesterday when I read the article and thought of how important all aspects of family life are under attack by our culture, be that family dinners, family prayer, family time period. My apologies to all for coming off offensively. Blessings to all who are struggling. With 5 kids at various ages and definitely having been through some teen rebellion, my heart is with all who struggle!

  21. Dear Afraid,
    Boy do I remember puberty with my son. I also teach 5th and 6th graders. I enjoy that age but the puberty starts and even in the classroom you go oh my goodness what happened to that little fella that was here at the beginning of the year. It isn’t a manner of reigning them in and you have to be careful about telling them how they should act with the girl. Try to listen and ask questions that might be thought provoking that they will open up without even knowing it. The next couple of years are rough because they are changing and growing and you will have to keep on your toes. Remember menopause for women ,lots of hormone changes well it is the same for the puberty time of our lives . They are yelling sometimes and then overly sensitve sometimes. But really listening carefully to what they say when they do open up. but also set the boundries and the consequences. If it is a male that is hitting puberty having male influence is important. My brother once told me that when it is testostorone to another testostorone . Male to male sometimes they understand each other more. Getting them into sports or something that interest them and it is positive. But trying to keep them busy and keeping the lines of communication open are really important. I hope some of my words help. I made it through the rough time and now my son is blossoming but it took a long time. Hang in there and it is worth it but boy it can be hard.

  22. I couldn’t disagree with Dyan more. Teens have a right and a healthy & legitimate need to pull away from parents during puberty. Forcing teenagers to leave their friends and be “best friends” with their parents is a form of censorship. How else can teens learn to trust or not trust their instincts? Parents need to remain close by, establish boundaries, hold high expectations for their children…but to think that activities shared with them can and should replace activities shared with their teen’s peers is creepy. I’m the mother of a 21-year-old and 2 17-year-olds. I love their friends, who are always welcome in our home. I also love it when my guys spend time with their friends and their friends families. It’s a big diverse world out there — and that’s the GOOD news. If my mother every pulled the honking in the driveway move w/me, I would have run away for sure. Good grief!

    • Dyan Eybergen says:

      the headlines on the news this morning here in Edmonton was that a 14 year old girl died of overdose of ectasy while out at an organized supervised teen party. She ironically was a participant in an anti drug campaign. It is the second time in one month that teenagers have died as a result of drug overdose in this city. A 16year old boy is now in custody for having sold drugs to them.
      An associate professor at Harvard University has been leading groundbreaking research on the teen brain now for over a decade. The pre-frontal cortex which lies just behind the forehead has control over planning, working memory, organization and regulating mood. This is the time in life where teenagers need to learn skils for decision making, planning and organizing. If they are not being taught this they can’t be expected to make good choices. As the frontal cortex area matures, which researchers say doesn’t fully happen until the age of 20 , then they can reason better and develop more control over impulses and make better judgements.
      It is a teens responsibility to test boundaries and limits, it is the parents responsibility to make sure that the boudaries they push doen not put a child into a place that is dangerous.
      The mother who wrote this question intuitively knows something is not right with her child. It may not be depression – it may just be a normal teen testing limits but it is the mother’s responsibility to make sure her child remains safe.
      Again, I am not suggesting parents be FRIENDS with their kids – parents need to be parents and teach their children to make healthy choices and keep them out of harmsway when their raging hormones and lack of judgement may get them into trouble.

    • Dear Lisa,

      I think its great that your children have somehow escaped teenage rebellion, however that is no reason to be so harsh with those who haven’t. I appreciate the fact that she loves her son enough that she was willing to try something instead of just allowing it to happen because she was afraid of interfering with her sons life. I noticed that you did not mention that this boy snuck out at one in the morning to see his girlfriend. Where is his responsibility in this? You are basically saying that he had a basic teen right to be with his friends day or night but the mother is wrong for trying to correct his behavior. Good luck to all out there. Trying something is better than doing nothing.

  23. Dear Help Me,

    I am appalled at Dyan’s response to your question! Paragraph two is way off base as far as I am concerned. The rest of it seems like pretty sound advice. I have raised one daughter, now age 24, have a 12 year old son and have taught school for the past 28 years. I have taught middle school/high school for five years. Your girl is definitely going to do things to test you and she will test her limits with you. Don’t freak out too much about the ear gauging thing. She is just doing things to express her individuality and to be accepted by her peers. She may dye her hair, dress weirdly, get more piercings, etc. My daughter got her tongue pierced and got a tattoo! I was very upset with her at the time, but she was trying to express her individuality and show her independence. I am happy to report that she is a wonderful, well-adjusted young lady who works two jobs and is putting herself through college.

    This craziness will pass, but it will be ugly for quite a while. My daughter’s rebellion was from age 16-19. I agree with Lisa. It’s good to have their friends be welcome in your home as much as possible. You will learn a lot without them knowing it, as well as chauffeuring them in the car. You will be privy to many conversations that they think you aren’t hearing. Be a listening ear and don’t respond with answers or advice unless asked. I was shocked at some of the things that my daughter told me, but I didn’t let my facial expression or body language bely that. She learned to trust me and share more of her life with me. Don’t judge her friends by their clothes, piercings, hair, etc. They are finding ways to express their individuality. It may not be what you want, but it’s okay.

    I agree with dinners together. That has helped my relationship with my son and has gotten us talking more. Teenagers tend to be moody, unpredictable and withdrawn. That is natural. Don’t force the family outings if she really doesn’t want to go. My daughter and I used to have “dates.” We would go out to dinner and to a movie and cell phones had to be shut off, hers and mine. This is a rule that still stands whenever the family goes out to dinner. Let her have her space, but continue to set limits with where she’s going, who she’s with and when she’ll be home. Taking the cell phone away works as a punishment, but if she already has one, it’s unfair to take it away for no reason. Pay attention to what movies she watches, what she reads and who she’s talking to on the internet. The internet use has to really be monitored, especially for teenage girls.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. There are many good books around about raising teenagers. My favorites are Raising Children for Success and Parenting with Love and Logic. There’s also a cute little book called 100 Ways to Love your Teenager. I always read that when I was angry and frustrated at my daughter. It will be a rough road for a few years, but keep the lines of communication open and let her know that you will always love her and you will always be there for her, NO MATTER WHAT! There isn’t anything that my children did or now do, that can’t be forgiven.This too shall pass! Good luck!

    • Gina, you say Dyan’s 2nd paragraph is way off base, yet in your 3rd paragraph, you essentially said the same things, only in a different way. This mother is frantic about her daughter’s behaviour, and wants to help her as she feels she is unhappy and perhaps depressed. The daughter has text messages about her mother that were awful. Should the daughter be allowed to have the cell phone when she is mailigning her mother with it? Yes, these are trying years, and we do have to let our children know they are loved, and we are there for them. We also, have to guide them and hold them close while they are going through this, even if it means restricting their time away from home and the family.

  24. Look at the web site fro Emotional freedom techniques-EFT. You will find answers there.

  25. Kemberlee says:

    I am a high school math teacher and I work closely with teenage girls on a daily basis. My experiences have led me to speculate that your daughter may have become sexually active. In addition to this activity, she could have had a bad experience. She may be hurt, confused, and mad as hades. She may not feel comfortable speaking with you about her activity, if this is the case. Like Esther said, you have to love her anyway. Being combative with her will only exacerbate the situation. Be open to her at all times. When she is ready and comfortable, she will talk to you. You have to let her understand that no matter how horrible her actions are, you’re going to love her anyway. She may also feel more comfortable speaking with a counselor instead of you. To this day, I do not speak about sex with my mother.