Advice please - Is this normal teenage behaviour?(6 Posts)
I’d really like some advice and perspective. We’re having ongoing problems with our 13 year-old daughter – she can be sweet and lovely 70 per cent of the time but is also horribly volatile and the smallest thing can set her off, she screams, slams doors and is verbally abusive, hits her sister, is spiteful, throws things, is irrational and lies.
It sounds like normal teenage behaviour when written down, but somehow when you see it in real life, it's much worse.
She also has a skewed memory of the events afterwards and can never see that she is at fault for anything. For instance, the other day, I dropped her off at school. She wanted me to take her right to school but I was late so dropped her on the main road. We pulled up at traffic lights with a queue of traffic in front and behind us, the lights were green but traffic was stationary. She refused to get out of the car (on the left straight onto the pavement), I insisted, she screamed at me, I told her to get out (by this time the lights had gone red and children were crossing in front of us). She screamed at me that she hated me, I was the worst mother in the world and then slammed the door so hard I thought the window would smash. Later I talked to her about it, she was adamant that it was all my fault because I’d told her to get out in the middle of the road, we were nowhere near the crossing etc etc. She was rude, sullen, uncommunicative, then threw something at me when I was talking to her.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s been many more rows far more horrific. It’s never her fault, always mine and my husbands, or her sisters’.
Is this normal? I was never like this, nor was my husband, we are at a loss – the rows are poisoning family life and we dread time spent together.
It sounds a bit excessive, but hormones get some teens like this.
You have to just remain as calm as you can and be really consistent about saying you are happy to discuss whatever she wants when she is ready to tlk to you in a rational manner. Try not to be drawn in.
Divas And Doorslammers by Charlie Taylor talks of the changes that happen in the teenage brain - structural changes, during which they temporarily lose some abilities - temper/impulse control, empathy etc - he talks of it like a sort of temporary brain damage - but it does resolve when the changes settle.
I can sort of see how it would be upsetting to get put of the car in traffic when she was expecting to be dropped at school. Is she having difficulties with adapting to change and the unexpected. Is this really new or is it something that seems new because she has got older and is expected to be more independent?
I can totally sympathise and just to let you know you are not alone. My DD has always been a sensitive child, quite stubborn and the queen of tantrums as a toddler, she has always found it difficult to verbalise her feelings, so I don't know if that precipitates a difficult teen transition.
She is 13yo now and we went through 12 to 18 months of hell with her, DH and I really thought she had serious mental health issues and were trying to find a psychiatrist for her.
It was as you described, screaming, throwing, spiteful and physical with her little sister and to me, utterly rude, she carried on a bit less with her dad, but he still got some of it, although I bore the brunt of most of it. She really traumatised her little sister, who she called 'The Worm'. We have doors in our house that are damaged because of her. She would also carry on in front of visitors, it was so embarrassing. The hardest part was how incessant it was, how something completely trivial could set it off, it was never ending, there was hardly any let up to it. There were rarely apologies and, like your daughter, her perspective was very skewed and it was always everyone elses fault and never hers.
If I am really honest, there are times during that period that I lost it with her, when I said and did things which I am still very ashamed of. Her behaviour not only affected our family life, but also my relationship with my DH. My DH also spent a lot of time trying to talk things through rationally with her, at one point, I even considered medication to help me cope with her behaviour, the first time in my life I ever thought I needed something to help me cope.
Looking back now, I think our one saving grace was that at bedtime with the lights off, I would lay beside her in the dark, and she would open up, that she didn't understand why she did this, she would try harder, I would give her strategies to help her when she felt like this, try and empathise with her, sometimes she would sob in my arms about how 'bad' she was. So for that 20 or 30 minutes every night, she was our girl again, and somehow that kept a very thin thread of connection between us. However for a long time, I believed my words were not getting through to her, because the minute she got up the next morning we were back to square one.
My sister could not believe that I was still 'laying with a 13 yo at bedtime' but I really think that did help us. I also made a point of taking her out just the two of us, or just her with DH and I for an evening meal and leaving the younger one at home with a babysitter. DH and I did try to regularly spend one on one time with her. I was very torn about it, because I really did not want her to see these treats as us being weak and accepting of her behaviour. We spent a long time on a roller coaster of punishments and rewards, punishments and rewards, it was a horrendous time.
While I don't want to jinx things, she has been amazing for the last 4 or 5 months, a few moods here and there that are definitely hormonal, but now she takes herself off to her room if we are 'annoying' her, she is being really nice to her little sister (who still does not trust her motives, sadly). Very kind and loving to me, I feel we are really close again and she is sharing lots of personal things with me.
I really don't know how it happened, but I think it is a combination of maturity, her periods settling down and (ab)normal teenage stuff. I don't know if any of the punishments or rewards worked (confiscating her phone, grounding her, etc), but I am relieved we have come out the other side of it. I am guessing we may hit it again during the teenage years, and I think it will be harder if it happens as a 16 year old, but hopefully we will retain our connection.
I also read Divas and Doorslammers, and lots of other books but I have never been able to use one single book strategy for any of my parenting.
Good luck, I am hoping she will calm down soon and you will have your little girl back.
I had to post and run yesterday - the cab turned up to take me to my choir's concert.
We went through this with ds3 - he had a terrible temper, and would fly off the handle for almost no reason at all - and I got called all sorts! There were times when I was not convinced both of us would survive his teens.
But as he got to about 16, we started to see him change. He still had a hot temper, but got better at controlling it, and he started to become the ds3 I remembered from before the terrible teens.
Mind you, I nearly dropped dead of shock the afternoon he came into the kitchen, gave me an unsolicited hug, and told me he'd tidied his room and was off to do his homework! I was so surprised and pleased I rang dh on the spot - and he said "He's robbed an bank or got a girl pregnant !!"
He is now 18.5 years old, did well in his Advanced Highers (Year 13, end of school qualification - we are in Scotland) and is in his first year at university. He's a genuinely lovely boy and we are extremely proud of how he has turned out - so there is hope for your turbulent teens.
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