Q&A: Feeling hopeless with out of control daughter

Q: Our teenage daughter is out of control. She’s disrespectful to us and is causing problems in school. She’s never been like this before. It’s so out of character for her. We try to talk to her and she just says there’s nothing wrong. We’re at our breaking point and feel so helpless. Is it time for counselling?

A: We often hear from weary parents who have reached the end of their rope with a strong-willed adolescent. You’re not alone!

When it comes to her behaviour, it’s critical that you lay out your expectations in advance and make sure that your daughter understands them. The consequences for rebellious or disobedient behaviour should also be spelled out beforehand, and the implementation of those consequences should be prompt and consistent. Your daughter will likely challenge these standards at every opportunity, but it’s crucial to keep your cool in the face of defiance. Don’t give her an opportunity to seize control of the situation.

Also, keep in mind that teens of all temperaments are in the process of trying to form an identity. This can often play itself out in behaviour calculated to define “self” in opposition to the values, beliefs, wishes and instructions of the parents. This is another reason why consistent guidelines are so important. They should be divided into at least three different categories: non-negotiable rules, negotiable rules, and rules that can be discarded as your daughter matures and demonstrates a growing ability to regulate her own behaviour.

Is it time for counselling? That’s a tough determination to make from afar, but you might start by calling our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to support@family.org.my

Finally, don’t lose hope! We hear from many parents who are ready to give up on their volatile teens, only to see them reach a more mature equilibrium after secondary school. In the meantime, just hang on!

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