I Need Help Parenting Well During the Teen Years!

Updated on June 24, 2018
N.R. asks from Chicago, IL
13 answers

My daughter is nearly 14 and overall, a great kid. But the attitude and self-involved behavior that I KNOW is normal for the teen years is killing me. I know she can't possibly understand/appreciate all we do for her at this young age, but the lack of gratitude, eye rolling, self-centeredness is infuriating. Sounds so stupid when I type it out - she'd doing everything we all know teens do. But how do you handle it well? I find myself getting into it with her and regretting that it escalates. I want to be more even keeled, less reactive and wonder what your tips/tricks are if you're better at it than I am!

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So What Happened?

Thank you. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to comment. I'm mostly just venting and feeling guilty about losing my cool this last round. I'm not so unhappy with how she's behaving as my own reaction at times. Appreciate the support and wisdom from you all.

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answers from Washington DC on

I didn’t tolerate bad behavior from my kids - ever. If they pulled any of the eye rolling or sassiness, I called them on it. We did a lot of community service, so they understood how good they had it. They were told no a lot, as extra money wasn’t something we had a lot of. (They didn’t get texting or iPhones until they were in college and could help pay for them.)

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answers from Boston on

Start slowly. Yes, some of this is normal, not just because kids are irritating, but because they are truly growing in independence in order to leave the nest. So it's part of the survival skills and the evolutionary process. On the other hand, the eye-rolling and disrespect is aggravating. So you have to take the long view here - not "What do I want to happen today?" but "What's my goal for when she's 17 and wants to drive, or 18 and ready to leave?"

So, start with the attitude that she's right - she needs more responsibility. And be absolutely prepared to wait for the gratitude. You can hold out a little longer on that if you get more respect in the short run. Believe me, the second they leave for college or the working world, they miss your efficiency, meals, work ethic and checkbook.

Break this down into steps. Prioritize some responsibilities (don't call them "chores"). Resolve that she will, henceforth, be entirely responsible for her schoolwork and school equipment. That means she makes her own lunch (or a week's worth on Sunday night), finds a place for her homework assignments/books, and has any discussions with her teachers that need to be held. Stay out of it. Unless she's special needs and except for conferences, she handles things - she asks her teachers if she doesn't understand an assignment, she takes the consequences if she forgets an assignment (you drive NOTHING to school because she left it on the kitchen table), you don't call Mr. Jones to tell him he's unreasonable about not giving her an extension, she goes for extra help even if it means giving up some activity that day. Remember that she thinks it's super easy for you to do these things, so therefore it's not hard for her to do them either. Your attitude is, "You're right - I hear you. You ARE more capable and grown-up, and you're ready for more responsibility."

I'd also put her in charge of whatever else makes her roll her eyes. Did you not get into her room to pick up the laundry off the floor so you could wash her special yellow blouse for school on Wednesday? "You're right, honey - I'm not able to give it that level of attention, as I have too many responsibilities, and you can manage it alone. You know what you need and when, and you're more than capable of providing it." (Hint: do NOT roll your own eyes as you say this! Straight face, calm demeanor.) That means you stay out of her room - you don't clean it, you don't nag her about cleaning it. If it bothers you, grit your teeth and shut the door. (Oh yeah, you still check for cigarettes, condoms and drugs but you don't tell her.)

The cabinets are empty of her favorite snack or she's out of shampoo? Well, did she put it on the list herself? If not, why not? She starts a list NOW or at least puts it on the family list.

You're prepping her for foresight and advance planning. These are vital skills for everything from driving to living in a dorm or apartment. You can tell her you're looking ahead to the times she wants to do things unsupervised and so on, and this is her proving ground.

What we did was pick 2 responsibilities and have out son pick 2. That way it's not "put water down for the dog" and never "clean the bathroom."

I do remember once when we were getting home around 6 PM and I told my son he would walk the dog as soon as we arrived so I could start dinner. He complained, and I said I couldn't do both. He said, "Okay, I'll cook dinner." I groaned inside but bit my tongue and said "okay." Instead of saying, "You can't" or "It's hard," I asked what he would make, and we settled on pasta, sauce and vegetables. I took the dog out and left him in the kitchen to figure out which step came first. When I got back, he was kind of stymied. So we had to prioritize about what takes the longest (boiling the water/pasta) and what takes the least (heating the sauce) and what's in the middle (cutting and steaming broccoli florets). Eventually, he got it done and was carrying the pasta to the table - when it sloshed over the side of the bowl and onto the floor. He was crushed: "All that work and now it's ruined!" So we worked together to salvage what we could, and I said, "Yes, it's frustrating to work so hard, isn't it? That's how I feel when I make a meal and you complain about it." But that's all I said. It's all I needed to say. So, my message to you is, let her struggle, let it take longer than it should, let her fail a little, and let it sink in.

The last thing I would suggest is some sort of financial management - perhaps a monthly allowance (or every 2 weeks) but make it for more than just her fun purchases. Have her cover her purchased lunches, her friend's birthday, her movie date, and then work up to her summer wardrobe or whatever. If she blows her money on gel nails and now can't go to her friend's party without a gift, your attitude is, "How unfortunate for you." Not "I told you so" but more "I hate when that happens to me too - no money at the end of the month." Over time, leave a list of your monthly expenses (including what they don't see) - e.g. the car requires gas, maintenance, registration/plates, excise taxes, insurance, etc. That's prep for when she comes to you with a used car "for only $500" and you have to factor in teen insurance and more. Utilities (including wasted electricity and hot water) and especially cable/wireless/cell phones are essential for kids to understand. If your electric company sends out a notice about how you fare against your neighbors or even just includes usage over 12 months, it's good for kids to see the spikes and dips and figure out why.

The exchange for me would be no eye-rolling and disrespect, that these are signs of immaturity and not the hallmarks of someone deserving of more responsibility. Start to teach her respectful ways to exchange ideas and voice displeasure/wishes vs. the "you're so stupid, Mom" attitude. It's more effective at this age to just not comply with wishes than to engage in disrespectful debate though. But if she objects or wants to discuss in a more adult way, you have to let that happen even if you're impatient.

The most wonderful visit you will ever have is when she comes back from college at Thanksgiving - she will miss you, your warm home, your cooking and all that you have done for her! And it grows from there. So, again, you're in it for the long haul!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm not sure i can answer these questions effectively, as i so very much enjoyed the teenage years. so i'm not sure if my boys were so much fun because we were awesome parents when they were younger (i like to think so but probably not) or just basically pleasant people to be around.

i think you've got a good handle on the gratitude thing- gratitude comes from understanding comparative alternate modes of being, and a child growing up in the same family just doesn't have those bases of comparison. volunteering is the simplest and easiest way to get that across. i was taking my kids to my volunteer gig at the therapeutic riding school from the time they were small, and having them help. so that's something.

but don't confuse gratitude with common courtesy. while a 14 year old may not fully grasp the nuances of living in a comfortable home with wifi, nice clothes, education and the opportunities to experiment with hair colors, that doesn't mean they get to be snotty about it. if i had ever seen one of my boys rolling their eyes at me (outside of a humor situation) i'd have unleashed a tidal wave of displeasure.

the flip side to that is that if you've got a really rude one you have to pick your battles, so that may not be the one to fight yet. but don't tolerate disrespect or discourtesy.

the self-involvement is actually a good thing, while exasperating to live with. they're on the brink of separating from you completely, and the process of learning how to do this effectively is a years-long one. so do be tolerant of a degree of self-reflection so long as it's not actually rude, cavalier or dismissive of you. it's healthy for a teenager to put her own needs first to a degree (think of the gazillion peer pressure situations she's starting to face.) if you see it tipping over into selfishness, try to initiate a non-confrontational conversation about it. 'honey, when you just got up and went to your room after dinner, leaving me with that huge mess in the kitchen to cope with, and didn't even say a word to me, it made me kind of angry. i'd had a super exhausting day and was hoping for some help, or at the very least a 'thanks mom' for dinner. but then it occurred to me that it was on me to let you know that. also, you might be preoccupied with a problem or an issue yourself. is there anything going on i can help with?' or if that's too involved, a more simple, 'you need to take that load of stinky laundry and do it. i don't have time today.'

car rides are GREAT opportunities for long talks with teens. when they get their licenses you'll be at first delighted with your newfound free time, and then lonesome for deep, weird and surprising places you went with 'em when you could.

teens can be tough, but they're also magical. i learned so much, not just from my own but from their homeschool co-op friends who were in and out of here like migrating reindeer (and just as hungry.) they're a fascinating bunch of young adults now, and i still adore them. but i miss them being more 'mine.'

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

How did your mom handle it?
Being a teen doesn't mean they are suddenly from another planet - they are still your kid.
We never had issues with eye rolling with our son.
As he grew we started giving him more responsibilities - he started doing his own laundry at 12.
I didn't want him going off to college and still be a laundry virgin - they need to know how to do this.
They need to learn life skills and you need to back off on doing things for them - they gradually become more independent.

He helps me cook meals and clean up afterward, what ever needs doing we all do it together.
If we came home from school my rule was - if I can't sit down then he can't either until we can ALL sit down.
Many hands make light work - everybody helps - doesn't matter what the work is - house, yard, cleaning, shopping/putting groceries away, etc.
As far as complaints about the dishes (getting them into the dishwasher) - I just point out that he seems to enjoy eating off them well enough so he can help get them clean and put away - and he cooks an occasional meal for the family too.
A reminder so often 'You need a little less attitude and a bit more gratitude' was enough to get the point across.

If you feel your temper rising - take a time out.
Go have a cup of tea or lay down for a break.
If kid is acting out - disengage and tell yourself that you are not playing this game.
Also - "No" is a complete sentence.
A kid/teen needs to hear "No" every so often.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I totally understand what you are saying.
-The best thing to do right then...…...is walk away.
-Walk out of the room.
-Take a deep breath while you do so.
It gives you a minute to gain your composure, set sight on what's really important and handling things as they come up in the best way possible without blowing our tops. (Now having said that, sometimes that is almost impossible but the point is to try taking that breath and walking away.

Another thing is to set guidelines so she knows what is expected and what is acceptable behavior.

Also, let the little things go. Remember she is a teen navigating her own way.
Give her a little space and freedom.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Is she doing chores? Almost 14 should be able to do pretty much anything and everything asked of her - I agree with B on that. Definitely important to take a breath before reacting! lol. Good for you for recognizing that.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

"How to talk so teens will listen and how to listen so teens will talk" by Faber and Mazlish.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When one of my teens was younger, I used to lose it. I didn't know when to walk away. He used to push my buttons.

I went to see a counselor then. That's when I learned to take a mom time out. I just went to a couple of sessions - best thing I ever did.

It stopped me from saying things I wished I hadn't.

Sending that same kid to his room when he needs to cool off, was the other option.

Now that he's older (teen), I trade off with my husband. If I can't cope with dealing with him (know that I will get stressed), then I leave it to my husband. We do that a lot. We recognize what we are strong in, and what we are not.

We pick our battles.

I agree with getting your teens involved in stuff - helping out. We always have done that, and never let ours get away with being disrespectful. I dislike bratty kids, and I didn't want to dislike mine. So it was worth the extra work in really taking the time to show them how to help out, and enforce it. Now they pitch in without too much complaining.

I don't get too much eye rolling. If we do, then they don't get drives to where they want to go, or they don't get to go out. It's as simple as that. Ours still respond well to positive reinforcement and acknowledgement.

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answers from New York on

From recent things you've posted, it looks like your daughter is a very lucky teen - you've asked questions about getting her a GoPro, a giant teddy bear, and home hair highlighting.

However, you also posted a few months ago about trying to teach her the real meaning of Christmas.

My one suggestion that might help her to possibly adjust her own attitude is - she should get involved in community service, volunteer work of some kind. It can really open a teen's eyes to the big world around them (which they are not the center of) and to people less fortunate than themselves. And - added bonus for her - it can add to a college application.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

My son is almost 12, and I know exactly what you mean!

I try to stay calm and be matter-of-fact. When I'm able to do that, he usually backs off. If I get upset (and I do! I don't want to, but I do!), we just feed off of each other, which really stinks!

Ug! It's amazing to see how much he is growing and learning and how independent and wise he is becoming. Knowing that usually helps. But it's still a challenge!

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answers from Wausau on

Remember that as an adult you have more control over your emotions. Where a teen might keep an argument going, an adult can be the first one to stop talking and bring it to an end. The person who has the most chill will have the upper hand in a discussion.

A huge reason my youngest brother and his dad never got along is because his dad didn't have the wisdom of knowing when to be silent. A 40+ year old shouldn't be at the same level as an emo-teen, but he was. He always had to make a point or have the last word. That is not a way to connect with anyone.

When things get heated, end the conversation. It can't escalate if you don't participate in the escalation. Important conversations can be resumed at a later time when everyone is calm.

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answers from Binghamton on

My husband and I found it helpful to imagine a big "closed for construction" sign on our daughters' foreheads. sometimes in blinking neon.It made it feel less personal. Also doing a bit of research into the adolescent brain was really helpful too - there is a lot of stuff going on in there that is pretty amazing and just knowing about it helped me keep my cool. For those times that you don't - sometimes our kids need a strong reaction. It helps them know they are important and have power and agency. So when you lose it, maybe that thought will help.


My husband and I found it helpful to imagine a big "closed for construction" sign on our daughters' foreheads. sometimes in blinking neon.It made it feel less personal. Also doing a bit of research into the adolescent brain was really helpful too - there is a lot of stuff going on in there that is pretty amazing and just knowing about it helped me keep my cool. For those times that you don't - sometimes our kids need a strong reaction. It helps them know they are important and have power and agency. So when you lose it, maybe that thought will help.

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