April 28, 2009,
S.S. asks from Brooktondale, NY on April 17, 2009
12-Year-old Drama Queen Driving Us Mad
Ladies, I am at the end of my rope and you are my last hope. We have been trying to teach our 12-year-old daughter to take responsibility for her own things for years now with very limited success. She must: keep her room relatively neat, make sure the night before that she had what she needs to wear (I am willing to throw a load in in the evening if I have her dirty clothes and she tells me what she needs for the next day), keep track of her schoolwork and pack her bag, track appointments she makes for herself. She does a few other things in the house on request, but these are basically her responsibilites. We have a family calender where everyone tracks appts and she had a corkboard and whiteboard in her room to keep track as well. She also has an in-tray for every school subject to organise her books.
I have stopped reminding her, since all she does is gripe and groan at me when I do, informing me that "she has everything under control" and I am again the bad guy. But this is how this morning went (and it is the rule rather than the exception).
I woke her as usual at 6:30, and she freaked out since she had made plans to meet up with a friend earlier than usual to rollerblade to school. I informed her that I can't act on what I don't know. Meanwhile she is working herself into a fine dramatic fit, especially on discovering that she has "no jeans to wear that don't stink!" Again, not my job anymore. Then she finds out that she ran out of pads, also something she is responsible for putting on the list, and the drama increased to the point of unbearablness. Her teachers tell me she often doesn't have the book she needs, and I am out of ideas.
We keep thinking that a missed appointment or a day spent in "stinky" jeans (they were fine imho, but she is on an excessively clean jag right now) will inspire her to take things more seriously. But it seems to have no effect whatsoever, and morning after morning begins with dramatic fits of one kind or another.
I do not know how much more this family can take. My husband is so annoyed they can hardly speak without a hissy fit, our 9-year-old feels that "all we do is fight" and I am going to be bald soon if I tear out anymore hair. Please, please help. I am at my wit's end.
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K.G. answers from New York on April 20, 2009
No real advice, sorry to say, but I am experiencing the very same thing with my 11 year old son. He is very bright and very capable and EVERYTHING is overly dramatic right now, from a bump into the coffee table, to assignments, to getting ready to go. He clearly knows he is doing it and often apologizes afterwards, but getting from point A to point B in any scenario is unbearable. I am trying to ride it out as I am told by other similar parents that it is a phase. He is about to go to middle school and I really think that in addition to the "tween" years being particularly hard, there is a separation that is about to take place as they become more independant. So prior to the separation, they are having a difficult time dealing with the emotions they are feeling, which are raw nerve sensitive right now. Try and not escalate the situations, make her feel that you hear her and care, but that she is no longer a baby and if she wants the privileges of a teen, then she has to tow the line. Do it with love and (TRY) to do it with patience. I am ready to tear my hair out too, but it will pass and something new will take its place! Good luck and hang in there!
B.D. answers from New York on April 17, 2009
I feel for you !!! Its wasn't that long ago that I was going through the same thing with my now 16 year old.
It doesnt sound to me that you are "off the wall" demanding parent- I just think that the communication between you & your daughter is a bit crossed.
One idea to help the situation is have a mom/daughter day
(mani, pedi's, movies,gardening)this way you can re-open the lines of communication with her. Find out " whose dating who" or which one of her friends is annoying her now. Once the communication opens, you can let her know how the " constant fighting" is really affecting the family and that she needs to be reminded that she has a younger sibling that is watching her every move.
One idea that worked for me and my oldest is devoting one day a week to laundry & cleaning room ( including dusting & vacuming -this would take maybe an hour or so)It usually happened on Sunday.
She got used to "her duties" in the house that now she works weekends and everything is done before she goes to work on Sat.morn! Just a thought :)
I understand what your going through- trust me theres a light at the end of the tunnel!
Good Luck !! :)
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M.O. answers from New York on April 20, 2009
Ouch, that sounds stressful! I don't have an answer to the big question of how to get your daughter to take responsibility for these issues, but I do have a small thought on the drama thing.
Do you think that your (completely understandable) stressed reaction may be feeding into your daughter's dramatic behavior? You might try *acting* super-calm in these situations and sort of saying "Well, looks like we're going to have to make the best of a bad situation." Your daughter may not like that any better in the short run, but in the medium run, it may help to restructure the family dynamic so there's no room for a drama queen around whom everything revolves, if that makes sense.
One more quick thought is to try to somehow make the process of her telling you what she needs for the next day funny. It could be that she's avoiding thinking about these things because she associates them with the stress that happens when they don't work out. Not logical, I know, but pre-teens don't always operate according to logic.
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L.L. answers from New York on April 22, 2009
Hi S., Hearing your story took me back to being a 12-year-old drama queen and makes me want to call my mother to apologize! My kids are very young (and boys) so I can't tell you what I'm doing with them but I have jotted down a few things that I think would have helped me take my own parents more seriously and take more accountability for my actions during those intensely dramatic, hormonally-charged years. Hopefully some of this will help you and your family:
1. Rather than have the "here are the rules and here are your consequences" discussion/argument at home/in her room/the hallway/etc., consider taking the conversation out of the house to a neutral place, like a restaurant where you have a "woman-to-woman" lunch date
2. Set groundrules for the conversation at the beginning and let her set some as well. For instance, you can say, "I want us to enjoy our mornings and each other. Rather than start the day with a fight, let's talk about some things that you'll be responsible for and things that I'll be responsible for so we're on the same page. I'd like our conversation to be productive, so let's agree to hear each other out, figure out how to come to an agreement on things we don't see eye to eye on, and then stick to that agreement. To do this, I think we should make an effort not to raise our voices or get emotional. Does this sound good to you? Anything else we should both do while we talk?"
3. Consider both of you writing down on a separate piece of paper the things that each of you will be responsible for, and then put those papers side by side to see where the gaps are. Then, together, decide who's responsible and add it to that person's list. Have her keep a copy of both lists in her room, and you keep one too; because there is a sibling in the house, ask her if she wants the list hung in the family calendar area or put some place more private, like your desk drawer. This will make her feel like she has a say and that you respect her feelings.
4. Expect that in general she is super-sensitive and prone to over-reacting, so consider asking her (in the calmest, most removed tone possible) how she'd like you to approach her when you see that she's not sticking to her list and/or you think the list needs to be revisited. Should you actually have the list with you? (or will this make her more defensive -- incidentally, a word you likely don't want to use since it may cause her emotions to flare up ...) Would she rather that you and she have a code phrase, like "We agreed to respect the list and each other" when either of you is falling short?
5. Consider making the lunch date a regular outing, just the two of you, so that she feels like she has your ear in case there are things you need to talk about (which there undoubtedly will be). Part of the morning drama may just be that she wants to feel more grown up but she wants you to be her mommy still, and that's a pretty conflicting thing to sort through. By knowing she has a standing date with mom, that may give her some confidence to take ownership of herself while still having you to fall back on if she gets tripped up or feels overwhelmed.
Adolescence is a terribly trying time for everyone in the family. I hope that as you all work through the drama and figure out a better way to communicate that things calm down and you can enjoy each other more. It's definitely tough what you're going through, and I wish you and your family the best as you figure things out ... which I am sure you will. :)
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K.I. answers from New York on April 20, 2009
My daugther is 12 and we have the some of the same issues.
But, for me I began with her as a toddler.
Putting toys away.
I would sing the clean up song and we would dance and together put all of her toys aways.
Until she got it and than it was it is 3:15 lets put the toys away.
My daugther makes her bed every morning. She's been doing that since she was five. I helped her at first. Than I stood over her when she got it. Than I continued to check on her to make sure it was done and she did have to go back a few times until she got it right.
So she makes up her bed and put's her toys away automatically now.
She has problems with remembering her books. I use to pick her up from school and I would say give me the assignment pad.(She goes to small organized private school) I would tell her to check her bag and if a book was missing she had to go back upstairs and get it. She started checking her bag herself, but at around fifth grade the teachers said the kids should be more organized and if she leaves a book they can not go back upstairs and get it.
I told her no book, incomplete assignment, unhappy parents.
My daughter just began waking herself up in the morning.
She uses an alarm clock. She gets up, makes her bed, goes brushes her teeth, take a bath, makes her lunck, iron her uniform and makes breakfast for herself.
All of these things were taught one at a time (never all at once), over a period of years (from three to present), and it was age appropriate (toddlers can pick up their toys, kindergardeners can make up beds, middle schoolers can iron) back sliding always happens. Some things she loved to do right away make her own lunch and make herself breakfast, and some things she wanted to do at first and than hated like ironing her uniform and brushing her own teeth.
I noticed that as she gets older she gets better organized.
She still misses assignments, forget books, and goes to school with wrinkle clothes some times, but she takes responsibility for it too, she does not see it as my job. I think when the kids sees it as your job, that means you have not taught them much.
I think what I've been seeing is parents doing everything for their child and than their child hit the tweens and they want to stop aburptly. When my daughter was five and she took off her little jacket and threw it on the floor I said, "Little bunny, come back here. Pick the jacket up and put it on the special hook mommy has just for your jacket."
And, yes my little bunny came back and picked up the jacket and hung it up.
I see my friends fourteen year olds taking off their jackets and throwing it on the floor their bookbag blocking the doorway and I see my friends going and picking it up for the teen.
At some point it does get to late to teach kids good habits.
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D.S. answers from New York on April 17, 2009
I am the mom of a 20 year old daughter who lives away at college. When she was twelve believe me the last thing she though about was keeping her room clean, keeping on top of her laundry, and being responsible. In your daughters defense being a twelve year old girl is difficult enough, and in her world everything is all about her right now. Being cranky, overwhelmed, sensitive, and a drama queen comes with being a teenager. Are you sure she is not having any friend problems or is just overwhelmed in her academic and social life? Trust me my daughter did nothing as far as choirs and is now a clean freak living away at college. She cooks, cleans, and does her own laundry. I didn't do anything either at twelve my mom didn't force me either. However I am very diligent on disciplining on what I consider important, respect, manners, school work etc. making good choices. I didn't think it was such a big deal to ask if she needed anything washed when I was doing laundry or to help her clean up her room (I used it as a time for us to talk about things) I don't think she is doing this to be defiant it's just not a priority to her. I am not in any way excusing her I am just trying to help you to get inside her head. I wouldn't want to see your relationship with you daughter suffer because a mother daughter relationship is so important and special. Another words pick your battles. Being a teenager and being self absorbed comes with the territory. Your home will turn into a battleground if you do not learn to communicate they are a different breed LOL!!! Try to sit calmly and talk about what is going on with her (maybe a trip to the mall together) and let her know how you are feeling and see if she opens up to you about how her friendships are going and how she is feeling. I know you are trying to teach her about responsibility and I commend that. I am clearly saying that right now being responsible for getting good grades. choosing good friends, making good decisions was my only priority. There are so many worse things she could be doing right now so staying close to her is important. Another word pick your battles. My daughter has completely surprised me by how independent she is so I guess she was watching and listening and when the time came she stepped up to the plate. Children will do what they need to when they they need to. Her first year of college was a lot of phone calls on how to cook certain foods or laundry questions so when she needed to do it she did it. I also am a very good housewife, and really didn't do much when I was home until I was in my later teens. And that was to help my mom not because I had to. I am not trying to criticize your values or your parenting style I am just trying to give you some insight on teenagers since I have raised two. Good luck and try to keep the lines of communication open. You can't be their friend because you have to be their parent but you can try to understand them and look back on how you felt as a teen it may help.
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R.Y. answers from New York on April 18, 2009
My kids are still young but 12 year old grirls are notorious drama queens. All the puberty hormones and middle school adjustments are hard on some kids. But she still has to get herself organized. You could offer to help her figure out what items she needs to be more organized and get them. I would start with an alarm clock, watch, date book and maybe a checklist for the morning. We all need reminders sometimes. I sometimes put post it notes on the inside of the front door so I don't forget something important in the morning. I also leave certian things (keys, cell phone, etc) in the same spot every time. My friend sets her watch alarm 30 minutes before the end of her workday to finish up any loose ends.
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K.G. answers from Jamestown on April 19, 2009
I have to agree with some of the responses that said being 12 is hard! Being a teen is hard in general.
I don't think reminding her of things is taking responsibility away from her, and really what does it do to you if you need to remind her of things?
You are the parent, she is the child. She could be overwhelmed with all the stuff she has going on at school and such, and it looks like you expect a lot of her at home too.
I'm not saying she shouldn't have responsibilities but where are yours toward her? I understand that she needs to keep track of things she sets up, and her book bag and making sure she has clothing clean. But, what does it hurt for you to remind her of these things?
Some people aren't naturally organized, even when they work at it, it doesn't come to them. They still need help.
I just think you might need to take into consideration how much you put on her along with what she has as far as school and such. She might just need a little extra help.
I liked what the one lady here had to say, that you should do a girls day with her, or help her clean her room, etc. She needs time with you as does your other daughter... one on one time.
BTW, I can't believe the number of people who expect their 9 year olds to get up and ready for school with no help from a parent.
My daughter is 10 and while yes, she can do all of that, it's hard on her and she's just a kid. I am a parent and have a responsibility toward my children to help them, it's my job.
My kids all have alarm clocks, but I still get up every morning with them (as long as I feel well) and make sure they are up and if they need anything. Usually it's just for moral support and sometimes to remind them of the time for when the bus will arrive (they are busy getting ready and don't always realize what the time is.)
It always truck me as odd that people will have kids and expect them to act like little adults buy the time they are 9 or 10 yrs old. I think parents forget that kids are still kids, even when they hit teen years. They have a lot going on outside of your home (as well as inside of it), and it can be overwhelming for them. Parents should be there to support and help them, not expect them to do it all on their own.
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D.D. answers from New York on April 18, 2009
Awhile back someone also was seeking help and someone gave the best advice and i searched it and LOVED it. They recommended Love and Logic. In a nut shell it is a very quick reading book on how to handle situations like yours. They are big on accountability and consequences of the child. They explain how NOT to use fighting words and avoid POWER STRUGGLES. They even provide sentences to use in all sorts of situations. They offer many differnt books for many situations. I have purchased 3 different books but i would suggest Parenting wiTH love and logic by Forster Cline and Jim Fay. I opened the book and couldnt put it down. It is tough love and it also explains that you can't be there to SAVE THEM you are doing an injustice to their growing, self esteem and their future . I told a friend who sounded just like you and she borrowed my book, loved it so much that i told her i was going to a love and logic seminar, she came with me. It makes so much sense and works. email me privately through mamasource if you want more information.