Ask Rene
My Daughter Has A Mean Gene!

Hi Rene, I am at a loss (again). My daughter has had a couple of boyfriends (mainly just hanging out at the house) and she can be quite a pill. She gets good grades and has lots of friends but just seems to be ‘mean’ sometimes, well, mainly to me. Her friends have noticed it and even said things to her about it. I can’t even ask a simple question without getting smarted off to or yelled at. This morning, it escalated into almost fighting and name-calling. I have another 16-year-old daughter who is very poised, though nearly as outgoing. We’ve raised them the same which is why I’m confused. I can see how her meaness and teasing sometimes gets old with her friends and boyfriends. I am afraid in this one, it’s going to come back to haunt her and I guess I just try to help too much. On the outside, our family comes across as the perfect family, honestly…almost Beaver Cleaver-ish. But, behind closed doors, we are as dysfunctional as anyone.

Please Rene, what should I do with this kid?

Signed, Miserable Mom


Dear Miserable Mom:

Ahhhh yes, the teen years; loads of fun, right? I’m not saying all the years are this way (neither are all teens) but even just a couple of days of snotty behavior is more than enough. I feel fortunate in saying that when my kids set sail on the USS Adolecense, they have been relatively short trips and they return to dry land (and their senses) pretty quickly. I have a couple of ideas on this and they are things that I have tried when either Casey or Cole act out so here’s what I would do if I were you..



Talk, talk, and talk some more. And by talk I mean also listen. You need to try to find out what’s going on in your daughter’s head. Talking (and listening) doesn’t mean you’re going to let your daughter run roughshod over you; it merely means that you’re fact-finding, which will give you a better chance at figuring out what’s going on. Now, what to say? I think you need to be honest. You need to tell your daughter how her actions make her look to her friends and how they make you feel. Is she aware of that? Does she care? No guessing whats going on in her head; you need to ask.


teen arguing

Once you have a better handle on what’s going on in her head, you need to figure out what to do about it. Quoting Dr. Phil, “you teach people how to treat you” and that goes for you and your daughter. It may not feel like it but each time you allow her to talk to you in that snotty tone without doing something about it, she learns how far she can push and it takes a little more of your authority. Remember the page before this one about the talking? Well, in that talking you’re also going to lay out a course of action. Tell her you’re not going to tolerate her speaking to you in that way and be prepared to do something about it when she does. I’m serious about this. Don’t wring your hands and wonder what you can do; start taking stuff away. Does she have a cell phone? Next time she pops off and is disrespectful, take it. Does she have a bedroom door? Yep, that can go too. She needs to be clear on the fact that you are not going to stand for her talking and treating you like a servant (or worse).


Sad Girl

Sometimes this feel counterintuitive to our role as parents but we really need to understand it is not. Failure is a powerful teaching tool. You daughter will see her actions ultimately chasing off her friends (a friendship fail) and she’ll figure it out. Or she’ll be alone. But either way, she will learn more from the fallout from her actions than you telling her what they will be. Pretty soon, she’ll figure it out. It may be enough for her to make changes in her behavior; it may not be. But you need to stand back and let her learn those tough lessons.

The other thing I would caution against is comparing your girls to one another. While that’s only natural (mainly because you’re trying to find a root cause for your kid’s actions), I think that does nothing but lead to heartache, unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

Good luck mom!

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