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I am divorced for a short while, after being separated for several years. My 16-year-old daughter is awful to me and she yells "I hate you" and even curses at me even in public. I am sure she blames me for leaving her mom, but my other two children (boys, one older and one younger) seem to be dealing with the divorce fine. My problem is that I have no control over discipline. I would never speak to anyone the way she speaks to me, let alone a parent. But since she doesn't live with me, her mother is the disciplinarian and always with my daughter. And I don't believe that my daughter speaks to her mother or anyone else the way she talks to me. I love my daughter, but I can't let anyone, especially not my own child, speak to me in such a terrible way. When I can pick the kids up, she never wants to come, but the boys and I have a good time together. I don't know what to do.


Sondra Drahos Replied: This is hard but you're right. You wouldn't let anyone else speak to you that way so why should you accept her disrespectful behavior? Have you addressed this very thing with her? Remind her that you don't speak to her in that way, in that tone, or to anyone else. Let her know that while she has every right to feel the way she does, she certainly doesn't have the right to speak to you (or anyone) the way she does. Sometimes writing a letter can be a good way to communicate when one person doesn't seem willing or ready to listen. I'm sure you don't have any reason to apologize to her, but asking her to forgive you is a different matter altogether. She obviously blames you for something and letting her know that your goal is to move forward and create a healthy relationship with her is your priority, it's only a matter of time before she comes around. By the way, teenage girls are challenging without the added circumstance of having parents who are suddenly divorced. Again, reminding her that she has every right to feel the way she does is important, but that you and her mother know that with time, she will come to understand that this new situation is best for all of you.
Posted On 2010-10-05 17:06:57
Nadia Thonnard Replied: Children don't necessarily have the emotional maturity to express there feelings. Your daughter is certainly angry and might also be influenced by her mom. There are two things to be done. First explore the option of discussing the issue with her mother and see how you could put a united front to assist your daughter in the challenging time. She needs to be reassured that you both love her and will always be there for her. If communication and working together with her mother is not possible, then you can assist her....with lots of patience. Let her know that you understand that she is angry and it is OK to be angry, but it is not ok to be rude and disrespectful. Remain consistent in displaying the attitude you want her to have towards you. (i.e do not shout back etc.) Let her know and reassure her of your love and that you will always be there for her. Let her know that she can talk to you about anything. Allow her to express her anger, and don't try to fix. Just understand...and be patient. Explain that your divorce has nothing to do with the children. It is between her mom and yourself. Maybe you could offer some time exclusively with her as opposed to always be with her brother. When children are hurt, we need to be creative to find how we can assist them in their healing. As the father you know what is best for your daughter. Listen to your heart and trust in your love for her.
Posted On 2010-06-16 05:21:33
Rosalind Sedacca Replied: There's no simple answer to your question. Naturally, it is complex and multi-dimensional, as are most family issues. Let me share some thoughts with you to give you one perspective: * Unfortunately it is not uncommon for 16-year old daughters, for a variety of reason, to yell "I hate you!" at their parents. While it is hurtful to hear this, keep in mind that this level of over-dramatizing life is part of the teenage experience. Following a recent divorce, I wouldn't suggest focusing on the discipline aspect of the comment at this point. Let go of your self-righteousness and put your attention instead on trying to see the world from your daughter's viewpoint. * Sadly there is a good chance that she is being influenced by her mother to not respect, trust or love you. This can be a result of Mom's trying to win her over to Mom's side, using your daughter as a confidant and trying to develop more of a friend rather than a parenting relationship with your daughter. *All of these behaviors create distance and distrust for you which is far more serious than the comments. This is a form of parental alienation which is hard to counter. However, that is the reality of the challenge you are facing. * The more you understand what your daughter is experiencing, the more compassion you will have for her and the easier it will be for you to step up to being the father she needs -- even if she doesn't realize it right now. You are still a role model to her and she needs to feel your unconditional love. She is testing you and may genuinely feel you have hurt her mother. She may also be torn with guilt regarding supporting her mother since she is living with her. *How you handle this now will affect your long-term relationship with her. So don't stand on your soap-box. Show her your empathy, compassion and the ability to turn the other cheek. That's the Dad she needs to see -- and the one she will gravitate towards over time if you are sincere and can be patient. *It would be helpful for you to seek out a support system -- a therapist, divorce group or coach -- because what I am suggesting to you is not easy and will take your stepping up and taking the "high road" on an issue that is not fair to you. But it is your reality and the choices you make today will affect your relationship with your daughter for decades to come. *So think before you act. Stay connected to your deep love for your daughter. And remember, she didn't create this tremendous life-altering experience. You and your former spouse did. The kids are always innocent. A 16-year old is not emotionally prepared for handling this so give her some flack and be the mature adult. *It would also be wise to talk to your ex on the side and discuss your feelings as well as the consequences for your daughter to be alienated from you. You can suggest that Mom can also take the high road and do what's best for her daughter. But you can't count on it! Don't wait for her to do the right thing. Your future relationship with your daughter is up to you. Don't create further alienation. Be there for her, be patient and loving. She may thank you down the line! * My free weekly newsletter is filled with articles related to this topic. Sign up and find additional articles on my Child-Centered Divorce Network website:
Posted On 2010-06-15 11:38:11
Dr. Vicki Panaccione Replied: Thank you for writing in---dads don't usually ask for directions! Your inquiry brings up several issues, so I want to address them one at a time: • 16 year olds can, by nature, be very disrespectful. So, it isn't clear how long her behavior has been going on, if it's been since the separation, the actual divorce and/or since her coming-of-teenage. It also isn't clear the circumstances that bring out such angry comments. I suspect there is lots of hurt and fear underneath that angry front. • You say, "I'm sure she blames me…" How do you know? As adults, we tend to make many assumptions about our kids without checking them out. You could be right-on or just speaking from your own possible guilt? • Please be sure not to compare your kids' reactions with one another. Being the middle child, the only girl, the one smack-dab in her adolescent identity-crisis at the time of the separation, the nature of her past relationship with you, etc. can all impact an individual child's responses/reactions. • You are still her parent, and as such, have every right to discipline her when she is with you. Certainly, you are not in a position to levy a consequence that needs to be followed-through at the other home. However, her behavior should not be tolerated, nor should you abdicate your authority. The more you allow it, the more she will probably do it---since you continue to prove her very fear…that you really have given up being her parent. • That being said, I do not think that what your daughter needs are consequences, as much as she needs your love, understanding and willingness to really listen to her and validate her feelings. That's not the same as allowing her behavior---behavior and feelings are two different things. She has every right to ‘hate' you, be angry, fearful, feel betrayed. And, she should be allowed to have her say---with you, in private and with your undivided attention. • Most teens spend less and less time with their parents; in your situation, it's common for the kids to want to be with their peers more than their parents. • Schedule time with your daughter—just the two of you. Take her out for a meal, or to a private location where you can talk and really work through some of these issues. Send her an occasional text messages, IM's, etc. to let her know you are thinking of her---but don't invade her Facebook or MySpace. She would see that as too intrusive. Usually, even if kids don't respond, they still get the message you are trying to convey. • If you have difficulty making in-roads on your own, I would strongly suggest that you and she see a professional to help rebuild your relationship.
Posted On 2010-06-15 00:00:05
Debra Brooks Replied: Divorce puts a strain on everyone in a family. Adolescent years can seem overwhelming to any teen, particularly to those dealing with their parents' divorce. If your daughter did not display this type of behavior before the divorce then you can be assured that she is having a hard time dealing with the change in her family. You are correct in thinking that your daughter is probably blaming you for the divorce. Both of you should be careful not to put her, or any of the children, in the middle of any disagreements. It is important that you and her mother sit down together with her and talk to her about how she feels. While it is right to expect respect from your daughter, remember to give her a voice in the discussion. Stay connected with your daughter, assuring her of your love. In time, you will get through this--and so will she.
Posted On 2010-06-12 13:32:11
Mike Mastracci Replied: I feel for you. Tough situation -- tough age. Is your daughter in counseling? If not, it would be helpful for you and mom to get together on this and have mom be the driving force to make it happen. I would also suggest some "one on one" time with her without her brothers around. One sad part is that if it were not for the divorce, you would likely never put up with such disrespect. Children of separation and divorce get away with a lot because we don't want to be the bad guy, especially when we don't get enough time as it is. Counseling is a necessity at this time. There are too many unknown variables to give much direct advice here, but an ongoing counseling relationship and/or family counseling would be helpful. Best of luck. Mike
Posted On 2010-06-12 10:59:25
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