Teenage Drama Queen?

Updated on April 08, 2008
M.W. asks from Indianapolis, IN
18 answers

My step-daughter is 13 now and she has the biggest attitude problem I have seen in a long time. She talks down to our 7 year old daughter and her cousin who is 10 that we adopted when his mother passed away a year ago. My husband(her father) thinks she can do no wrong and that I talk that way to grown ups so she can talk that way to them(no I don't talk in a mean or hateful way to my kids)....I say no do as I say not as I do. I am very strict (thanks to my Dad) and I do not like the attitude from none of my children. She used to be very very loving and caring now she is just hateful, in a snobby way. Please help...anyone I will listen.

She does have chores (they all do)but she will get on the other kids about what they are doing wrong and then not even do her stuff.(load the dishwasher) Usually Dad backs me up though, but yes she has always wanted to be in the spotlight and the 3 younger kids take that away from her I guess. We give her most of everything though- she is in soccer and choir and gets out of being grounded after a day or two, just because she does good and I feel bad...HELP!

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So What Happened?

Ok I just want to say thanks to everyone except Diana W she was very mean to me saying I don't like my daughter...That hurt! I love this child with all of my heart and I usually never even refer to her as a "step" I just wanted to be straight forward with the situation at hand. My only thing was she calls the cousin idiot and "retarded" and says mean stuff. No I do not speak that way that is a grounding in my eyes. She gets away with stuff like her school work....no she does not seem to care about it except friends and boys. Until we lay down the law and tell her she better bring up the grades etc.

The last comment is true she just "changed overnight" sort of. I do know that it is teenage years and I expected some of it...but not so fast and hard core I guess...it scares me. I would never have spoken to my parents the way that she does her real Mom and tries on us every so often.

I do respect her, I give in to her every nee want etc. I love her and to me she is my child so everyone can stop looking in to my posting as if I am the evil step mother...I give her more attention than my daughter I cry because the 7 year old gets hardly any attention from either of us because it is on the baby and the two older children that have been diagnosed with ADD (13 year old) and ADHD and tourettes (10 year old) he was born with fetal alcohol syndrom and went through a terrible life up until last year. I am trying so hard to be good to all of them I am looking at my 7 year old and seeing her grades suffer etc. because Dad is too busy with the baby after work to help her with Homework and then I get home 2-3 hours later and I try to keep up with everything and hear Haley being so mean to everyone (I hear the same words come out of her mouth as her real MOM's) I may be sacrastic to other adults but I am not mean. I sit with all of them and have "special days" with each child. I guess my posting was just not a good idea.

We are breaking through!!!! She is settleing down. I have recorded her with the recorder, and shown her the err of her ways she talks to me now like she did before and we all just laugh and sing and be merry...no really! It's awesome :) Thank you ladies for all your help!

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answers from Lima on

Teenage girls can have more attitude than I don't know what. Part of hers may come from being "jealous" of her cousin. I had 5 sons {the youngest was 11} when we took in my 8 year old niece to raise. My "baby" went through a terrible time with jealousy. It can manifest itself in many ways so think carefully about any problems & how they may need to be handled. I also wouldn't tolerate her treating people badly. No matter what the problem, she doesn't have the right to mistreat them. Good luck!

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answers from Dayton on

Hi friend,

Yes I agree that you love this child. You said she was loving and kind and then overnight she changed. Yep that is how it happens. I remember (hate to admit it) but all us women did the change when we were that age. What did our parents do?

I am a firm believer that communication is the key. Remind her that she has her siblings along with you and your husband who love her very much. Tell her how her words and behavior make you feel. It is not acceptable to treat people that way. I told my fifteen year old that I and her sister deserve the same respect that she gives her friends. Maybe taking her to get a soda or a burger and talking with her and spending "girl time" together would help. Tell her you do not like the person she is showing to her siblings and to you becuase you know that is not who she really is. Tell her all the good things you see in her and how much you love those things about her. But also tell her that you love her too much to let her be so nasty. And not to mention that the siblings look up to her in ways that her friends never will and just as much as you would protect her from anyone who would be out to hurt her you have to do the same for them. Unfortunately the person who is hurting the siblings is her and that is ntt only unacceptable but very hurtful.
Again, I am a firm believer that this girls (from birth) believe they are women. So talk to her like the woman she think she is. Be firm but loving. Let her know that first and always that you love her and because you love her and the siblings that her behavior is unacceptable.
Good luck friend.......

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answers from Cleveland on

Hi M.! I was invited to Mamasource, though I am not a mom. I'm an auntie and am very close with my nephews and nieces. From observing their moms and remembering how I was at your stepdaughter's age and what my owm mom has done with me, I feel like I can share my opinion with you.

First of all, it's not a bad idea that you posted. It will help you and give you different ideas. 13 is a hard year. It's the beginning of the teenage years. my goodness...I remember being 13 and being a monster, but that was a bit different!!! All 3 men in my life vanished and it was just me and mom. Yikes.

Enough about me! A problem I see is that you ground your daughter for a couple of days, then she's nice and gets off from being grounded. When I was younger and got in trouble with mom (she and I didn't have that great of a relationship when I was younger, but we have a better connection now), she would always threaten me twice, then actually do it and stick to it. Once you give in on the punishment time, no matter how good they are during the time, you shy away from the punishment. In a child's mind, they basically know how to wiesel their way out of punishment because they know what to do the next time they get in trouble, so no lesson is learned. I was avid in soccer, chorus and drama (to name a few). When I wouldn't do what I was suppose to do or do something dumb and got in grounded for it, all of my extra ciricular activities were taken away from me for a week or two, depending on the crime. She never backed down from where she stood, otherwise, my lesson would not have been learned. My senior year, I got into some trouble (we'll leave the "what happened out!!! lol). This was around my senior homecoming. Guess what happened?! 2 weeks beforehand, I got in trouble and was unable to attend it. She didn't back down, but I learned my lesson. Basically, stick to your guns. Make your children respect you otherwise it will just get worse as they grow older.

If it's anxiety and jealousy that she feels, I think you and her need to have your day together, without the other children or her father. Get your nails done, go shopping, whatever. Let her know that just because you have other children doesn't mean that she is loved less. At the same time, let her know that because she is the eldest, a lot more is expected of her. Explain to her that her younger siblings look up to her as a role model (which is the case) and that her younger siblings watch her every move and follow in her footsteps. That should help change her ways back to that sweet loving baby girl she once was. Also, when you have that one on one talk with your daughter, ask her if she would like to see a therapist. Let her know it's completely, 100% up to her. A therapist is a nuetral person who won't take sides, but just an ear to listen to what his/her patient has got to say. Maybe she just needs to vent? Just an idea...I'm not saying that she needs one, but who knows?! It could help her.

I commend you for being the time of mom who doesn't let her children walk all over her. Motherhood is a hard battle, so I've heard (and seen!!) but the outcome is precious and worth ever battlescar. You will do good. Realizing the problem is the first step to fixing the problem.

Good luck, M.! I'll pray for you!

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answers from Columbus on

#1- the "do as I say, not as I do" thing doesn't work. Who is she supposed to model after? There are no books to teach her how to act and how to deal with her ever changing hormones. She needs to see it, and since you can't be sure she is seeing it out in public and at school, you need to make sure she sees it from you.
#2- strict doesn't really mean anything. You need to pick your battles and give the girl some acceptable options to choose from, warn her of the consequences if she does something that's not agreed upon, then STICK WITH THEM!!! If you aren't consistent with punishment, why should she be consistent with good behavior?
#3- teach her respect for others by making sure you yourself are showing respect for others
Just some food for thought. You're free to do what you want, and hopefully you will find something that works. It's a game of trial and error and you have to have an open mind and be flexible but consistent.

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answers from Indianapolis on

i don't know if i have any good advice as i have not had to deal with my daughter's teenage years yet (she's only three), but what i do know is that i was a total brat when i was about 14. it's probably just her age (not condoning her behavior). she's probably wanting to rebel, look for attention, grow independence or something like that. just firmly tell her that you will not tolerate her behavior or rude/snobbish attitude and make her stay in her room, take away the phone, give her chores to do or something like that. if the situation is right, you might try taking just her to hang out with for a while - see a movie, have lunch, something to wear she feels like she is important. maybe try asking her about the things she's interested in, be it music, tv shows, books, sports, whatever.
good luck to you... and remind me when it's my time! :)

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answers from Columbus on

Hi M., you should be commended for opening your house and adopting your cousin, who is now your son. You say that she is into sports and choir so there is your leverage. It sounds like she loves to be active and I know that it would be really hard to uphold the grounding, but once a grounding is in place keep it in place. This may sound cruel but my own children have had to miss practice or even a game because they were grounded and trust me it was not easy to put up with because they are in sports all year long. If they would miss practice or a game due to grounding I gave their coach plenty of notice and let them know that they would be missing the practice or game due to whatever reason. I have even stripped their rooms down to just a mattress and dresser in their room, basic needs fulfilled. Now they, except 2, are grown up and out on their own and are very respectful to others especially older adults.
About me: I have a total of 6 children 4 from previous marriage, 25,21,19,17 and 2 from current 10 & 9.

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answers from Toledo on

Dear M.,
Ouch! You have a classic case of "I can because they let me!" The Dr. Phil phylosophy-don't give in. At 13 they may seem like they are well on their way to taking care of themselves and others, like babysitting. Unfortunately all children still need guidance, love, respect and if I didn't say it.....guidance! Just because she does good things the day after she gets grounded is ONLY because she's grounded. She's pushing your buttons and pushing you to see how far she can go and you've shown her she can get away with it all. Why do you feel bad for grounding her? Everyone must pay the price for their actions. She needs to know that and you and your husband are the ones to teach her. By letting her get off easy and not reprimanding her for her actions-any of them- is actually telling her you don't really care about her or what she does. Discipline is something all children need and she will actually thank you for it when she is older. That's when she will realize you care.

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answers from Dover on

If she is being bossy and condescending, maybe you could work that to your advantage. I mean when my kids start to boss each other around and get all pushy they are put into the position of having to care for the one they are bossing, i.e. cut your sister's meat, go help your brother find his pajamas, your brother could use help with his homework and you are good at math, blow bubbles and entertain the baby. Let her take on some responsibility for the ones she wants to order around.

She is at that age where she is going to fight you over who is the head chick in charge. The calmer and firmer you stay, the more ground you win in this battle. Any anger or frustration you show, any battle of words you get into is a victory for her. Don't rant or lecture. Tell her she is wrong and this is the consequence and when she starts to argue just look at her and say, "I love you and I'm the mom around here. I will not argue with you because I don't have to and we are done here." Then walk away and no matter what she says don't come back. Pull her dad in and let them duke it out. Do the same thing for him. Never double up on her, but tag team her like crazy. She will see the united front and eventually recognize it for the losing fight that it is.

Remember that as puberty has set in hormones are raging through her system like high-octain fuel. Think of it like perpetual pms. This is just the fun part of the teenage years. It will get better.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Welcome to the world of teenagers!!

I see a problem with you letting her off being grounded after a couple of days. She isn't taking you seriously because she knows you will give in. Wrong approach with any child.

I am sure she feels some jealousy since you have brought in another child.

I suggest you do the following. Tape record her. Just set it up in a place it can't be seen and turn it on when she gets home from school and make sure you have tapes that will record for at least 3 hours. When the family sits down for dinner advise them they will all be enjoying family time after dinner and then sit your husband, the girl, and the rest of the family down in the living room or family room and play back the tape so he can hear exactly how she is speaking to the other people.

You and your husband have to sit down with her and remind her you are the adults, she is a child, there are rules in the house and she does not have permission to tell the other children what they can and can't do or what they are doing wrong, it is not part of her job description. Remind her you both love her very much. If she continues there will be consequences. Make sure you outline the punishment program fully and in detail so there is no question in her mind of what will be coming if she doesn't learn to comply with the household rules. You may even want to write it up so it can be posted on the inside of a closet or cupboard door for review if you think she can't remember the outline of the consequences for the actions. She may have to give up some of extra-curicular activities if she can't remember the rules. When caught telling the others what they are doing wrong she must apologize to you and your husband for over stepping her bounds and write you both a letter telling you why she thinks she has the right to do your job with the other children, apologize verbally to them and write them a letter of apology. No letter she is grounded to her room until the letters are written. Refusal to apologize verbally and she is grounded for a week and gets the opportunity to do whatever chore of the other child's you agree upon for the same length of time or one of the chores you normally do if the offense is against you. At the beginning and ending of the grounding period remind her again how much you both love her and want her to be the person you both know she can be.

Grounding doesn't just mean sitting in her room. It means no telephone, no computer time and no video games. I took it to mean no television as well. It also means all of the chores she has must be done immediately upon coming home, homework is for after dinner when she is in her room. If she argues she needs a computer for her classes at school then contact the school and advise them of your discipline policy and let them know she will not have computer privilages during punishment time. If necessary get an old typewriter for her to use. Oh, and grounding means no soccer and no choir for that week as well. Explain to the coach and the choir director what you are having to do to teach respect, compassion, and concern for other people.

Remember too, that for a week of good behavior there must be a reward of some type even if it is only verbally telling her at the dinner table how very proud of her you are while eatting her favorite meal or letting her pick out a movie for the family to watch together or an extra hour of friends coming to house, whatever. The reward should not be monetary!!! It might be nothing more than the two you having girl time and giving each other a manicure or facial or going to the mall to window shop.

Tough love is the best thing you can offer her.

I would discuss with my husband the plans that are being made, the punishments that are being meted out and request he back you on this. The best way to keep the other children from following in this path is to eliminate the example immediately. I would also suggest that the first time after the rules are set in place grounding be only for a day and then work it up to the week, unless she refuses to write the letters. If she refuses to apologize verbally the grounding time can double.

I know it sounds harsh but if you and your husband don't nip this in the bud it will get much, much, worse and the other children will pick up the habit as well.

I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

P. R

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answers from Indianapolis on

I think all behavior stems from an accumulation of experiences in life.
You don't have to answer these to me, but take them into consideration:
Is her biological dad in the picture?
How is her relationship with you and your husband?
How is her relationship with her biological grandparents?
Her step-grandparents?
How has life been for her the last 13 years?
Is she emotionally balanced usually?

Yes, adolesence is a time of finding our center in relation to our parents, our family and our friends.
How does she deal with conflict?
How are her relationships in school with friends and teachers?
How are her grades?
Is she involved in a church?
Does she have a spiritual foundation?

These are all things I consider and think about my daughter or myself when I remember certain behavior I had.

Like once my step-dad said to me that when we came to live with him we were BRATS.
I was so offended and let him have it.
Our parents had JUST divorced, we had moved from another country with another language, to a HICK TOWN, coming from an affluent background, country clubs and private schools to riding the public bus systme, being discrimminated agains... by all the rednecks.
We moved from a nice home to a "prefabed" home in the country, from a pool and tennis court to bushes and trees and dirt.

No, we weren't brats, in fact we were very well adapted but yes we did act out and rebel and didn't take orders from this guy. We didn't appreciate our mom giving him all her time, drinking wine every night, locking herself in her bedroom, sharing our private matters with him (like our 1st period etc)

You get the point ... you have to look at the whole picture, the picture will usualy tell the whole story and help you deal with her accordingly, I am sure she's a wonderful girl who may just need some extra loving direction and reassurance.

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answers from Dayton on

Middle school-aged girls can be a real handful. When you ground your daughter it is best to do it for a short time and do not let her off early. She needs to know that you mean what you say. For instance, if she mouths off to you, send her to her room for an hour-no tv, computer, radio, ipod, telephone, etc. We call that "electric grounding" and it means if it needs a plug in or battery she can't use it. If you need to ground her for something more serious, ground her for 1 or 2 days. Keep it short so you are not tempted to let her go. If she is being good when you ground her then your punishment is working! Pat yourself on the back and "stick to your guns."

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answers from Kokomo on

Wow you have to be consistant, but you must make the punishment fit the crime. You say don't do as I do, but as you say. Children learn from the parent, so if you are being condensending to her or to another adult she will mimic you.
If you talk down to her she will to her sister or any other child. And she is a teen now, so cut some slack. She has peer pressure I am sure and she is trying to find her way. She will come around and come out of it, just give her time, and good luck

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answers from Dayton on

Hello M.,

I agree with most that was said here. WHatever it is that your doing, that you don't want her to do, you need to quit. She will act the way she sees you acting. As for punishments, STICK to it! When your angry with her, send her to her room until you calm down enough to give a rational punishment to fit the crime. Otherwise you'll end up giving her one that is way overboard. Once it is set, no matter what, stay with it.
I have three daughters and boy oh boy can they be a pain lol.

My oldest used to beg to be off grounding, I finally had to say to her "walk away and don't ask again, or I will start adding time". She walked away quickly! This is not really your fault as one person tried to say. Obviously they don't have girls lol. You can be the greatest parent in the world and have a wonderful sunshine of a daughter, then a "certain" age hits. And literally all hell can break loose lol. You will sit around wondering where your sweet little girl went.

Stand your ground! You are the woman of that house! Hubby MUST back you fully! She must give respect to you and others in the house, or start making her life miserable. I used to tell mine that if they did not respect me, their life as they know it will end. Another words, all the things they love to do, will come to a halt, and they would be spending quality time with me until they learned to behave differently. Take hold of her NOW, or it will only get worse.

Best of luck

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answers from Indianapolis on

Hi.. I think what you should do, is from now on if she has to be grounded make sure she is grounded for the full amount of time that you told her to begin with whether she has good behavior or not, this shows her you stood your ground. And even at 13 they still need to be sat down and explained things to, you should sit her down and explain to her that she is the oldest and is the role model for the other kids, and explain to her how important it is for you her and dad that she acts her age. And, spend one on one time with her, I know this is hard with other kids around... even if it is an hour after everyone else goes to bed.. But PLEASE PLEASE dont feel bad for punishing her, this is teaching her in the long run... you cannot push the parents around. I hope this can somewhat help, but dont feel alone! Just stand your ground and remember you are the parent!

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answers from Columbus on

M., you answered your own question. Giving in after a few days and not carrying the punishment out is showing a sign of weakness. Since she is being good, that shows you that she is thinking rationally enough to sit down and talk to her one on one. Explain to her that her behavior is unexceptible and you know that she is a good girl and you just want her to understand that there are consequeses for her actions. But still carry out the punishment. Eventually she will see that even though she starts acting appropriately soon after her bad behavior that its not going to erase it and she will still have to do her time, then maybe she will think before she acts. hope that helps:) B. West

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answers from Indianapolis on

Been there done that, You need to get a hold of this problem fast. I had a step son who was like that. It was years ago. When he got older he did some pretty mean things to my daughter, his step sister. I think it was for attention. Today he is on the run from the law after a long run in with the law. Drugs, sex, drinking.
I should have spent more time with him in a one on one relationship. He was so starved for attention. And when you ground him you have to stick with it. DON'T give in to grounding or your rules. She needs to learn her boundrys. I repeat if you set rules stick to them no matter what. If you need step back befor you say what her punishment is so that you can stick by what you say.
Keep communications going with your husband he will help you threw this.

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answers from Cincinnati on

My daughter is 12...she was giving me a difficult time (I remarried) and finally, I limited the types of shows she was watching, how much, and told her she has to read a 1.2 hour of scripture every day before being allowed to watch tv. Let me tell you, it is like I have my wonderful daughter back. I am so pleased. Give it a try.
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answers from Youngstown on

you HAVE to mean what you say - if you ground her for a week, you have to stick to that - Dr. Ray Guarendi (clinical psychologist) - who I have heard speak at least 9 times (cause I love hearing him and getting parenting ideas from him) - well, he says to only threaten doing what you WILL DO!

Otherwise, the kids KNOW you don't mean what you say - and can you imagine what they will do if they think what you say doesn't mean anything?

Dr. Ray wrote "You're a better parent than you think" and a couple other great books - check him out!

Oh BTW if you allow this behavior NOW - what do you think you'll have in a year or 4 years???? Get it straightened out before she moves out - or STAYs with MOM! :)

Have a great day - and Pray... it always helps!

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