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Ask a Professional: Difficulty connecting with 15 year old daughter

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Ask a Professional: Difficulty connecting with 15 year old daughter

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Ask a Professional: Difficulty connecting with 15 year old daughter

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I feel a bit out of place coming for advice because my daughters are both actually very good & responsible young ladies who get straight A's, have jobs & both in marching band and do very well. My problem is with my youngest.

She is very blunt & critical of others especially me. When anyone tried to point this out to her she always has an excuse or days she's joking. She says I'm toxic and a gaslighter.

She is a very headstrong & independent person but seems to see herself as better than others, her ideas are always better, everyone else is stupid and she's always right even when she knows she is wrong she will still argue about something til u give up.

I try my best to be involved as much as they allow me to be. If I ask questions they get mad & shut me out say I'm being nosy and annoying but yet if I leave them be and allow them privacy then she says I don't care enough to get to know her. She pays for her own phone bill and so pays for her car & insurance so I really can't justify taking either of those away for punishment because she pays for them and also she shares the car with her older sister for time being because she only has a permit and my oldest car broke down but she has a license and drives them both to work & school.

The youngest REFUSES to help around the house either ANYTHING! My oldest has been good about cleaning etc. She's also been more than willing to help pay bills a few times when I couldn't work due to having surgery. The youngest brought me home food a couple nights the week I had surgery because I couldn't do much and she got me drinks a few times. You'd think she gave me the moon though on a crystal platter everyday of her life. She also has guilt tripped me now for the 1 time she helped pay the electric bill. her sister has helped many times without guilt tripping.

I get no child support. Their dad hasn't really been involved for the past several years and my youngest was never particularly close to him either. At one time I was working 3 jobs to make ends meet but have since cut back to one because I can't keep killing myself working to death. I don't have a boyfriend or many friends and I do nothing outside of going to work and coming home.

I go to all of their band performances and encourage them in whatever they do.

She doesn't do drugs or smoke but recently took a bottle of vodka and drank it all without even asking (I probably wouldn't let her because she's a minor but still the principal of the matter being she didn't ask to drink something that didn't belong to her). I told her she owes me the cost of replacing it and she refuses.

She acts like I never try to be involved or get to know her yet when I do she gets irritated and says I'm too nosy and annoying and it's none of my business. She constantly leaves without asking or even letting me know where she's going or with who. she only hangs out with 1 girl so it's not hard to figure out but she doesn't get that I'm responsible for her and I need to know her whereabouts. her response is that I don't always tell her where I'm going or who with. Well I'm the adult and if I was to knock on her door I'd get barked at and I don't really even go anywhere but work and store occasionally.

I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. I have bent over backwards and busted my tail for my girls and have no problem doing so cuz that's what a mother should do. I do my best to talk to them and let them express themselves, I try not to be a nag and always praise them for job well done. I constantly brag on them and thank them for helping me. I may not do it as often as I should and maybe don't talk to them or spend 1 on 1 time as much as I should but its hard when I'm working full time and she wants nothing to do with me when we're both home and able to spend time.

My oldest had a small phase at this age but wasn't as rude and disrespectful as my youngest is being. She says I don't raise her, she raises herself and I treat her like an adult but she acts like she wants that and she's more responsible than many adults I know! I raise them to be independent and I'm glad for that because I feel it's important but now I feel she resents me for it?

Nothing I do is ever good enough or right or goes unnoticed and unappreciated but she says I'm the one who acts that way. I want so badly to connect with her and figure out if this is an underlying issue we need to address or what exactly it is but she bucks me at every turn. I'm at a complete loss and I'm devastated and wondering where I went wrong and what to do from here.


Dear @mmpettit85,

I hope you don’t mind that I have posted an abbreviated version of your post here. I have read through your entire original post, but because it is quite a long post, I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this response would be able to read and understand the key points you made.

It really struck me when I read your post just how much responsibility and stress you have been carrying. Raising two children by yourself without support from friends or family, working to earn money for the family, and dealing with health issues as well.

You must be feeling exhausted when you add in the struggles you have been having with your younger daughter.

One of the things that a lot of parents find is that when they have been focused on their child’s wellbeing for a long time, sometimes they don’t make time to look after themselves, and I am wondering if this is the case for you?

I am guessing with everything that is going on, finding time for yourself may seem like a big ask, but if you’re feeling emotionally exhausted and frustrated, this can make it so much harder to respond to the challenges that you have been experiencing with your daughter.

Taking a moment to reflect on how you are doing, and finding small ways to look after yourself can actually help you have more energy and mean you are less impacted by things like your daughter being rude to you (which can help you feel calmer when this happens).

Self-care looks different for different people, and sometimes it can be small things, like taking a short walk, listening to a song you like, or taking steps to improve your sleep (this article has some tips on sleep - it talks about how you can improve your teen’s sleep, but the same tips are relevant for parents).

I’m also wondering if your daughter finds the situation frustrating and exhausting as well. This isn’t something I’d expect her to have told you, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it is the case.

With both of you feeling frustrated and upset, it’s more likely that tempers flare and conversations turn into arguments. Sometimes families can get stuck in a pattern of arguing where neither party is happy but it’s hard to stop.

It sounds like your daughter is dealing with a lot as well. In addition to school, it sounds like she is also involved in extracurricular activities (band) and is working to pay for her phone and car. She might be feeling a lot of pressure to keep on top of her studies, work, and participate in marching band. That’s a lot for a 16 year old.

I’m also wondering if you’ve been able to talk with each other about what it was like for her when you were unwell? Dealing with the illness of a parent can be a very difficult event for a teen - it may have made her think about a future without you there to support her, and made her feel like she needs to be able to be independent and look after herself. She may not have really had the chance to talk about this and possibly how vulnerable she felt at the time, and may still feel due to this. With teens, it’s not uncommon for stress and feeling vulnerable to result in lashing out - particularly towards a parent.

Of course, you have no control over the fact that you were unwell. Sometimes we do our absolute best, and factors outside of our control mean that something stressful happens in the family.

You mention that you feel like nothing you do is good enough and you feel unappreciated, but also that your daughter has expressed that she feels that you act the same way towards her. If most of the time when you and your daughter interact you end up arguing, I can imagine that this leaves both of you feeling hurt and unappreciated. Often it can be helpful in situations like this to look for opportunities to notice and acknowledge when your daughter does something positive - it sounds like this is something you already do when you can, but it can be helpful to focus on this when a teen is struggling with getting along with their parent.

Because it sounds like this has been happening for quite some time, and you are feeling very stuck, I do encourage you to consider seeing a professional. If your daughter is open to it, family therapy can be a great way of learning more effective ways to communicate with each other, and address your concerns in an environment where you can both feel heard and supported. Alternatively, if your daughter isn’t open to that, working with a therapist yourself would also be a really good option, as they can help you identify approaches specific to your situation.

We’re in Australia, and I believe you are in the US, so I can’t provide specific advice on locating a therapist (as the services are very different there), but often talking to your family doctor is a good starting point.

Sometimes accessing services can take a while. In the meantime, you might find this article about effective communication helpful as well.

Best wishes,

Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.