I have a 12 year old daughter who behaves for everyone except for my wife and I. Everyone else that encounters her thinks she is just an angel, but at home she is argumentative, talks back, has a smart mouth, wont listen. Getting her to do anything is a battle, and if we discipline her she throws a temper tantrum and cries like she is a 2 year old.

We have blamed it on the fact that she is ADHD, but so was I as a child and behaved nothing like she does. She has even gotten to the point where if she fails a test at school she blames me as to why she failed the test and says it's because I don't let her have any fun as I take her electronics away when she misbehaves.

My wife and I are at our wits end as we don't know what else to do. We have even tried to let her go ahead and call CPS and 911 but she won't call them and if we try to she throws a fit which we can't afford her doing. I work for a motel as their maintenance person and maintain an apartment on site as required by my employer, but I'm afraid my daughters actions will cost me my job because of her behavior.

What can we do to bring her behavior under control?

  • Hi Scott, welcome to the site. Can you explain perhaps a particular encounter you and your daughter had recently, with specifics as to what the topic was, what you said, and what she said? It might be helpful to get an idea of what you're doing now that's not working.
    – Joe
    May 22, 2018 at 16:51
  • example: This morning I woke her up for school and had to get on to her several times to get up and each time I got on to her she yelled back " I am up " even though she continued to lay there. This kind of thing happens every day she will lay there for an hour then when she only has 30 minutes before she has to leave to catch the bus she gets up and takes her sweet time getting dressed. Her bus runs at 8 every morning and we wake her at 6:30 every morning.
    – Scott
    May 23, 2018 at 12:54
  • @Scott See edit to my answer below. May 24, 2018 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


This prompted me to dig out my copy of "Games People Play". It was written over 50 years ago, and embodies the attitudes of the time on topics such as sexuality, but I've still found it useful for understanding relationships that have got into a negative rut. What follows is a view of your situation from this perspective; you will have to decide how applicable it is. (Disclaimer: this is all from the book: I am not qualified as any kind of therapist)

Your daughter is playing "See what you made me do" (SWYMD). The anti-thesis (i.e the way to break the cycle) is to throw the decision back on the player. If I understand your post correctly, you have done this when she threatened to call the emergency services, and she then backed down. You should look for ways of doing this more. Once she is deprived of the excuse of your behaviour for her failure she will hopefully start to accept responsibility for her own. I realise (as a parent myself) that this is a scary prospect; in effect you are going to have to let her fail at something important. However from the sound of things the current situation has the same outcome but with added conflict.

In the meantime you need to avoid falling into playing your own games in response to your daughter. In particular SWYMD tends to be played in opposition to two games:

  • "I'm only trying to help" (ITHY), in which the parental figure (in this case you, as the actual parent) attempts to keep the child figure under their control by placing themselves as the only acceptable source of guidance. You need to find ways in which your daughter can assert her independence.

  • "You got me into this" (UGMIT), in which the parental figure gains validation from blaming problems on the child (think of Oliver Hardy's "Another fine mess you've got me into").

(Edit: Now I think about it, a lot of Laurel & Hardy comedy was based on Hardy playing the incompetent and controlling Parent to Laurel's needy Child)

SWYMD can also become "Why does this always happen to me" (self-sabotaging behaviour).

The conceptual framework behind "Games People Play" is "crossed transactions". In this schema everyone can work as an "adult", "parent" or "child". A crossed transaction occurs when an overtly adult-adult conversation (e.g. "Let me give you some advice") conceals a covert parent-child conversation ("Do as I say or suffer the consequences"). This is particularly an issue for adolescents and their parents because an actual parent-child relationship has to be renegotiated into an adult-adult relationship. Try to find ways to recast your conversations about her behaviour into an adult-adult mode. For instance, instead of reacting to bad behaviour with parental "Do as I say" conversations, try sitting down and agreeing a list of rules. This lets you set your expectations in neutral terms (e.g. "We will not call each other names") while also letting her state her point of view in an adult way. The crucial thing about this is that these rules have to apply to everyone. So if you lose your temper and shout at her, you also have to do without electronics for the evening (or whatever).

Edit, in response to Scott's post in the comments: "example: This morning I woke her up for school and had to get on to her several times to get up ..."

Stop going back to make her get up. Wake her at 7am, and then leave her to her own devices. Let her miss the bus and be late for school. Let her take the punishment the school hands out in response. If she then blames you for not reminding her, just calmly reply that you are tired of being shouted at, so getting to school on time is now her business, not yours.

Actually I think she'll probably get to the bus on time just as often as she does now.

  • The only problem though is the state I live in if a child misses 10 days or more in the school year the parents can be brought up on criminal charges and so far she has missed 9 days and to be honest I'm already on probation and a conflict of that sort would cause me big problems which is why I can't afford her to miss school.
    – Scott
    May 24, 2018 at 12:47
  • @Scott, Ouch. I'm not familiar with US systems; if she misses the bus is there no other way to get her there, even if she is late as a result? Trouble is, your daughter is using this to force you to play her game; your fear and anger gives her the psychological payoff of "making" her throw tantrums, fail tests etc. I don't think its a coincidence that you are now right against the line on missed days, as that gives her maximum power. Given the scope she has for wreaking havoc, its going to need strength on your part to avoid playing UGMIT. Good luck! May 24, 2018 at 13:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .