Sunday, August 1, 2010

Teen's rude behavior, Help!

Questioner: Anonymous

Subject: Teen behavior

Question: My 14 year old daughter B. is the youngest of 4. I have two sons 23 and 20 and and daughter who's 19. My oldest son lives in another state. The younger son lives at home and works during the day, my daughter is home for the summer after her 1st year away at college.

B. asked for and recieved permission to go to a friends house instead of going to her aunts house for dinner and a movie with her sister and me; something she also likes to do. I dropped her at her friend's and chatted for a minute with the mother. While she was at her friends house she called me on my cell phone just to tell me how "crazy" her friend's mother's behavior was and told me what had happened between them.


According to B. a smoke detector went off when the friend poured kitty litter into the cat box and the dust rose. A fire truck came and the mother was angry because she couldn't turn off the alarm. B. was really wired over the phone, as if she had just had a lot of caffeine or was over excited. I found the call strange. She was there from 730pm-930pm. I picked her up on my way home.

 I asked her to tell me what she thought was so strange about the mother's behavior. She did and then changed the subject and then got rude. The rudeness was rather startling and seemed to come from out in left field. I scolded her for it. Her sister called her an "ass****", (They normally get along well) B. called her something right back. I told her older sister that I didn't appreciate the language or that kind of "help".

When we got home. B. continued being rude and was called on it and threatened with grounding. She went to get a small t.v. from the basement that is normally in the kitchen to watch while she ate pizza. Her brother was "watching" t.v. asleep on the sofa. He told her to leave it. She refused and walked up the stairs with it. He followed her. They argued but he didn't call her any names or threaten her. (B. does not get along well with her brother.)I would have allowed her to keep the t.v. but when I came downstairs I think she may have felt brave with me there and called him something along the lines of the language she used with her sister earlier.

I asked her for the t.v. She got really mad and stomped up the stairs. She picked up her belt and narrowly missed hitting me with it when she swung it behind her. She was yelling about how horrible we were and using bad language. She went into her room and slammed the door shut. I heard banging and then she went into the shower.

I heard her crying in the shower. I went into her room, which I had just painted for her. She had punched a hole in her wall. She went to bed after her shower. I tried calling the friends mother to see what might have happened there but no one answered the phone. I told B. that I wanted to talk to her after she got dressed but she ignored me and went to bed and I didn't push it. B. has really bad mood swings when she gets her period.

Thankfully the mood lasts only for a day or two. It could be that, but there's something that doesn't quite add up. Under the best of circumstances she has difficulty backing down from a fight. She used to get real active, when I was pregnant with her, if I raised my voice at her sibs. Yelling still upsets her; although she's quite good at it. Her brothers were handfulls, the older one chose to live with his dad after our divorce.

Unfortunately, we don't have much contact with him,(or their dad). We haven't since he was 15. The brother that lives at home got into trouble at school and with drugs. I spent a lot of time and effort helping him through it. She wasn't happy that he came back home to live after his treatmet, (about 1 year). He's made a lot of good changes but he's still a pain to live with.

The requirement for living at home is that he keeps a full time job. He doesn't want to go to school. I've told him that he needs to save his money and have another living arrangement by Sept. I don't want to enable his Peter Pan life style. B's sister was easier than her brothers were, (although she too had her moments). I suspect she was better at flying under the radar than they were. She is usually easy going, by nature. I know the teen years are hard. I know they're going to be rude. And B. is intense.

That's not new. It's just been getting really disturbing this past year. I'm worried that there might be something else going on or that she might need counseling. Punching holes in walls seems so very angry. Is this abnormal behavior? What am I not seeing?

 How can I help the situation?

Answer: Dear Anonymous

 I am finding it very hard to answer your questions. As far as whether or not it is abnormal behavior, this question is not helpful to your or your children. It is the behavior which is happening at this moment. This means it doesn't have to happen again or forever.

Punching holes in walls does not seem angry to me it is very violent. What am I not seeing? There is violence in your home. How can I help the situation? By acknowledging there is violence in your home and setting boundaries about not allowing violence in your home. Now I have some very tough questions for you. Where did your daughter learn to express herself this way? Where did she learn it was okay to take her frustrations out on your or to be so rude?

There is a hard and fast rule about children and their behaivor, they learn what they see not what they are told to do. I noticed there wasn't any mention about a father other than your ex? Was he violent? Were the children exposed to this violence at a young age? Was there any counseling? What goes on between your daughter and your son that there is so much bad blood between them? What are your expectations of your children's behavior? Are they realistic? Is bad behavior excused because of PMS? What does getting in under the Radar mean?

Let me say teenagers are the most difficult stages of all developmental stages to get through for most parents. Much of the reason is because we see things in our teens we have a hard time accepting in ourselves. Because we don't like that they are really now (not later when they are 18) making their own choices and we somehow view their choices as a slight towards us or how we raised them. Whatever went on with your daughter that night at her friends house doesn't seem to have sat well with her.

Maybe a time, one on one with her doing something you both like to do or maybe something she likes to do and letting her know you are concerned about her. How this behavior was not her best self and how out of character it was for tells you how upset she is about something which happened that night. Then listen, listen and listen some more no matter what she tells you. Also looking at how your family expresses their emotions is a good idea.

Do you each know how to say when you are angry with each other? Is expression of all emotions allowed and encourage in the family? The answer to many of these questions will help you see what you need to see and all you will have to do is be ready and willing to see what needs to be seen. It takes more energy to not see what needs to be seen. Give yourself credit for having raised your family to this point and obviously doing a good job of it. For being the mother who has seen her son through treatment and is now supporting him in finding his adult self.

Best wishes!

M Kay Keller