Not allowed to have rules?(28 Posts)
So DGD (14) has come to stay with us (long story). She's started school, sort of, (with repeated refusals), and the school are being wonderful, building an early intervention plan and supporting me well.
Back at home, I am getting pushback on every thing that I do or say. Apparently she can't possibly be constrained by rules, that's cruel and abusive. Rules about bedtime, rules about the internet going off late in the evening, rules about getting up, rules about not taking your dinner into the bedroom - all totally unacceptable. Mum never imposed rules, Mum always spoke positively, Mum never told her she couldn't do anything.
Is it me? Am I the unreasonable one? How am I supposed to bring any structure into life if all the rules that I have run my home by are suddenly deemed unacceptable? If this was a visitor who was here for a week who was behaving like this I would think them extraordinarily rude and probably have slung them out by now, and certainly never invited them back. But because this is my DGD I am supposed to love, cherish and worship her without ever saying that any form of behaviour is unreasonable. If I get cross I am negative, and if I walk away then I am childish.
My husband is on the point of leaving, because all he sees is me caving in repeatedly. This evening when I said that the Internet would be restricted later on and she needed to go to bed at 10.30, she sat on the sofa and scratched her legs until they were raw, all the while yelling that my cruel abuse was causing her to self-harm.
Is this unusual, or is every 14yo girl such a self-centred unreasonable bitch?
I feel for you both. I am assuming that something bad must have happened for her to end up staying with you. You need to be her rock. She is pushing against the rock because she wants to know how firm the foundations are.
Do not be afraid to shower love on her, but stand firm with your rules. Your rules sound perfectly reasonable. It is a shame your DH is threatening to walk out rather than backing you up.
The truth is that most parents in most ordinary families have rules, which have evolved over time and which the children may grumble about but do on the whole accept because their parents have won their love and respect over many years. They are used to how the family is run, they have been able to have an input over certain matters, and on the whole they feel secure where they are.
Unfortunately, the truth is that yours is not an ordinary set-up. This 14 has not grown up with you and gradually got used to how your family is structured. She has not been in a position to have any input into how the family works, she has presumably been through a distressing time if she can no longer live with her birth family, and she does sound very distressed.
So all that work of winning respect and trust that an ordinary family would have been working on for nearly a decade and a half is still to be done. That doesn't mean you have to give in to her on everything. But it does mean you have to be prepared to see things from her viewpoint, be prepared to accept that she may simply not understand some of your rules, pick your battles a bit, rather than showering her with a deluge of different commands and reproaches. And above all, you must not think of her as an unreasonable self-centred bitch if you want this to have any chance of succeeding.
If I can be a test case, I also recently had a young rellie to live with us. I didnt impose quite so many rules and he still thought we were blimmin awful!
You probably have to impose a few more because DGD is only 14, (24 in her own head) but none sound unreasonable. Stay strong!
We also had all the judging of us as people, and even judgements about our marriage. I stuck it out, but DH found it very difficult.
It's hard when they see all discipline as abuse, which, of course, it's not.
It's over now. I'm having a well earned rest!
I'm guessing there is a massive back story but no it's not normal and she's not being a bitch, she's lashing out. Sounds hard for all you and I hope you can resolve it.
What you're suggesting doesn't sound unreasonable at all but they may be quite a long way from what she is used to. I'd pick her up firmly on attempts to blackmail you along the lines that she'll self harm if you turn the WiFi off. That's not on. Though later WiFi might be one thing you could compromise on. You can buy timers that switch the power off the router at whatever time you set (maybe 11?) which might reduce the conflict over it though tbh it might not be the most important battle to fight. Most of all I find you need positive time together to chat about their lifes when they want to talk, to build the relationship that can withstand rules.
Yes, you're all right, she's not really a bitch - there's actually a nice girl in there, she is just pushing back hard. In my defence I was feeling pretty fraught and stressed when I posted yesterday evening, there was an element of venting. I'm not a horrible monster really.
It's a pretty grim situation - I don't think her Mum has been very sensitive about handling it but she has her own demons to fight right now. The poor girl is in a very bad place all round, and I am trying so hard to be patient and understanding - trouble is a lot of the time I just plain don't understand!
There is a history of self harm, and the beginnings of some eating disorders that I am trying to get her to accept help for - trouble is that she's been taught never to tell, never to admit, never to accept help - which makes things a challenge!
I am slowly working to establish regular sleep patterns - she's used to coming home from school, kipping until 10pm, waking up, eating a ready meal then watching youtube or netflix until 3am - consequently she's not at her best when it's time to get up for school (which is 5am as she needs 3 hours to do her make up). I did get her into bed before midnight yesterday, and she was up and out for school on time today, so that was progress - just not sure how I can keep things up over the weekend and the two school free days next week. I don't want to lose what little progress I made.
The advice about picking the battles is good, and it is what I've been trying to do - one little step at a time. DH is doing his best, but it's all been dropped on him at very short notice, and he's seeing the retirement plan he's been setting up for 15 years, which was supposed to start next spring, go up in smoke, so it's pretty grim for him too.
One day at a time, I guess... thanks for reminding me that this isn't about me, it's about a vulnerable child. I needed to hear that.
The router is set up to turn access off automatically at a given time - I set it for 1am last week in desperation, and so far she's believed that we just have an unreliable connection. I felt I ought to be honest, so said that I wanted to switch it all off at 10.30 when we should all be going to sleep... which was when all hell broke loose. Her stance is that I should trust her to be sensible - mine is that for the last fortnight she's said she would go to sleep and then sat up all night anyway. The concept that she needs to earn trust isn't something she gets... In the end I switched that rule off last night, and she did go to bed before midnight, although not as early as I asked her to, and she did get up this morning and go to school, so I guess she's taken the first steps in the right direction.
In my defence (again) I am a bit frazzled - I am up at 4.45 to try and get her up at 5am, then I work all day, and once I have got her to go to bed (or at least to her room) I am generally still up at 12 myself - I've averaged 4 hours sleep for the last two weeks and it's not sustainable. I'm not used to being sleep-deprived because of kids, it's been a few years
Bad can I say from a teachers perspective you sound wonderful. You are right to start off with the bigger battles like sleep and Internet, eventually you will "win" the small ones too when she sees the positive impact.
Your poor GD has had a lifetime with no boundaries and is kicking back at them being imposed.
Could you plan an activity for each of the weekend days, such as shopping (even if for food). This will force her to be up and out.
my eldest is just aboutn to turn 14, and my second has just started secondary school.
Both schools have regular parents information evenings. At both schools the message is really really clear:
No screens in bedrooms
no phones in bedrooms over night
restrict internet access so they have screen free time.
Don't give in.
That last one they always finish with at ds school, and he repeats it a few times, yes I know it is tough, but be consistent and don't give in. You will apparently be the ONLY parent who does... be confident you aren't - and don't give in!
If you can, at some point tell her that because you love her, and want the best for her, you are going to set some boundaries. True love cares enough to say no sometimes. But also because you love her and care for her you will try and make those boundaries as few as possible and to listen to her needs.
Right now, she needs internet off and bed every night.
Well done you for trying to get to that point.
I would be working towards internet off at 9 (and phone left downstairs), and bed by 10, but it may take a while.
Internet off and hand in phone is a little later at weekends, but it still applies.
And a noisy household tends to mean people wake up in the morning
I would also build in some rewards. If you manage bed time at a reasonbale time, shall be go and do xxxx.
Ignore all the verbal stuff for now, she is kicking off against the boundaries, just focus on repeating nice things in a calm voice, be the broken record ' Yes you do have to go to bed, no you can't have your ohone, yes I do love you, and yes you do have to go to bed. Bed time is now, it is time to go to bed' etc etc
Concentrate on the two goals, internet and bedtime. As soon as she gets even close, give her loads of positive feedback.
Oh and take time with your dh to work out how to be a united fromt. When ds is kicking off it is so much easier when we take turns repeated the same mantra, it means the other one can go away and calm down for 5 minutes.
All i can do is express.my admiration. Poor kid has clearly had a horrifically distorted childhood to be in this mess, and she is very lucky to have you.
You know you are not unreasonable - that daily routine is insane.
I think you're doing really well to stick with the important rules, like sleep. I'm sure other things aren't how you would ideally like them either and you will have to let some things go. I would make notes of what she does, so you can see progress however small, to get you through what sounds like a really difficult time.
I heard it said that you should take heart from a teenager nearly doing what you say. So if for example her curfew is 10.30 and she comes in at eleven, the curfew is drawing her in, she isn't completely ignoring it. When she comes in, or the following morning, you calmly restate the rule but don't make a big deal of the breach by shouting or imposing consequences. In the long run I've been told this is most likely to result in improved behaviour.
By contrast, if she stayed out all night or came in at four, you calmly impose a consequence. Very best of luck with her xx.
Why does she have to get up at five? Any teenager is going to struggle with that, surely.
Yeah don't get her up at five! If she wants three hours to do her make up then she had to set her alarm. That then makes it her choice, something she has some control over.
Oh, I see, it's for make up? Bugger that. If she wants to get up at silly o'clock that's her choice and shouldn't involve you.
buy her an alarm clock.
You will wake her at 7 and get her to school. If she wants more time, she sets her own alarm and gets up.
actually , how about booking her a free make up trial at a department store, and she could learn how to do it faster. If she was up for it, it would be a great fun thing to do together and show her you are sympathetic to her needs
Sounds like you are doing a great job Badgrandma.
Nothing to add but try to give your DH a bit of love and attention.
You need to get through this together.
Teenagers are the most skilled individuals at persuasion! It's amazing how they can take 5 minutes and act a scene by which they tell you that the sky is really red and at the end you would start to wonder if the world for it wrong all this time!
Of course rules are normal. Maybe you could go over all the rules you have to adhere to yourself and remind her that the only difference is that you are mature enough to set them for yourself rather than relying on someone else to do so.
We need rules to operate properly and that involves following many we don't agree with. I'm sure you can point a few you'd rather not follow!
Agree on a time when you'll sit down and go over them. Some make clear aren't for negotiation some show some flexibility and remind her that once agreed she needs to adhere to them or they'll be consequences. When she doesn't don't let her guilt trip you stick to what you agree. She'll pretend she's outraged and your unreasonable bit deep inside the boundaries will give her security and comfort she just won't tell you that!
OP, having dealt with a school refusing, extremely anxious, self harming (and eventually suicidal) dd myself, I do very much understand how hard it is. And yet I had it a lot easier than you, because this was my teen, she had grown up in our house, she had got used to regarding me as her rock, rules had evolved gradually and everybody had had time to adjust. What you are doing is on a completely different level.
What you have to keep hold of is how very, very important this is. You are keeping another human being alive and safe, and giving her the one chance she is likely to get: it is as exhausting as if she was slipping down a cliff face and you had to balance on there holding her up with one hand. But it is just as vital. Almost certainly the most important job you will ever be doing.
General advice that has worked for me:
*stay as outwardly calm and reasonable as you can - fake it if you can't feel it
*don't make comparisons with other people's teens because that is not what you are dealing with
(I still remember the Year 11 parents meeting: all the other parents in the waiting room were proudly gazing at their offspring and swapping news about GCSE predictions and A-level plans: I was alone because my dd had been hospitalised after a suicide attempt. When it came to my turn I cried so much that the form tutor scuttled out of the room to get the Pastoral Support Officer).
*keep tabs on the number of actual confrontations per day and try to keep them below a certain number; if necessary, sort your rules in some order of priority
*find something she enjoys and share it with her- even if it isn't something you would have thought of yourself
*accept that even with the support of the school this may be a long haul- one setback is not a failure, two setbacks are not a failure, three setbacks just show you have to keep working at it
(it took several years to get my dd back to school, yet she is now holding down a job and doing very well at it)
*make time for yourself, time when you are not thinking about her or worrying about her
(work was my lifesaver)
I think the make-up session is a great idea.
Do not wake up at 5am to get her up. You should wake up at a time you would need to get up to get you ready and out in time for school. If she needs more time than that to get ready she needs her own alarm.
Steppemum, I like the makeup session idea - although actually she thinks her makeup is perfect and she doesn't need help. Anyone offering any help which doesn't exactly fit with her model of the world is obviously wrong/lying/abusive etc etc etc.
I've been trying to spend time with her doing what she wants - Gods I am so sick of American Bloody Horror (she still has access to Mum's Netflix account). Last night I was up until midnight watching some movie, I was asleep most of it tbh.
She honestly believes that it's my responsibility to get her up. I have suggested an alarm clock, even said I would give her a dock so that she can put her old phone (which has music on it) on and use that so she wakes up with music she likes, and that just got me The Look... personal responsibility is an unfamiliar concept.
It is hard, I never thought it would be easy, but I did think that she might appreciate some of the benefits of a stable household. I am so tired all the time.
Of course she will appreciate it- but it's a big change for her and will take some adjustment. It also involves her accepting that the family she needed to be right and wise and do things the right way (= her mum) hasn't. And however much she may say she hates her mum (if she does), children are born to rely on their parents: it is a horrible thing for a young child to have to realise that this is not possible, and she may never be able to voice that (and you shouldn't expect her to).
Try to think of it in terms of "how can we get through today" rather than "she should be feeling x" or "she should be thinking y". Simply because the former approach is far more likely to work.
My Mum once said to me when I was struggling with ds that the really important things that we give them go unrecognised until they are adults. Things like a loving, stable home, consistent boundaries etc. They just can't see them at the time, only much much later.
You are doing an amazing job, and it should get easier as you establish some sort of routine. Please take a bit of time with you dh, and remind him that it is just for a couple of years, but that those years could effect her whole life.
It must be very hard for her to understand that her mum has been wrong about things. It means admitting that she has been let down.
The alarm clock thing, how about, give it a week or two until you have got some sort of bedtime in place. Then say that you are happy to take on the responsiblity of getting her up, but at a time that is mutally acceptable. Explain that you just can't get up that early, you are Granny not Mum! and ask her if she could help?
Give her a chance to think about it, it would help her to see she is needed in some way.
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