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My 12-year-old daughter till recently had a good, friendly relationship with us (her parents) and was always happy to discuss anything that happens at school/activity classes and what's going on with her friends. She has always been a bit rebellious when I try to refuse something or enforce a rule that she doesn't like. However, she would understand the reasons when we explain them to her in a logical manner and would then accept our suggestions. There were times when she or my husband managed to convince me that I'm wrong/being difficult and I would then change my stand and allow her to go ahead with her plan. So we had disagreements but nothing that a discussion and a good cuddle didn't solve.

She turned 12 last year and things are totally different now. She constantly finds new things to fight about and I tried ignoring her or sending her to her room to cool down but nothing helps. She screams at me for every minor disagreement and seems to hate me all the time. I know she's at an age where hormones are probably playing havoc with her but I'm clueless about what I can do to help her.

For example, we recently had a disagreement regarding her friend's birthday party. This particular girl wants to have a party till 11 in the night and I don't understand why 12-year-olds need to stay up so late. I'm from India and kids here typically follow the sleep schedule of their parents so maybe her parents don't think it's late. I told her the latest I can pick her up is 9pm or she is skipping this party. She started screaming saying she can stay late as it's a holiday the next day and how the parents of her friends are allowing this. She feels I'm being a monster and my husband sided with me on this so that made her even more upset. She started leaving post-it notes in her room and other places saying 'I hate my mom/ wished I had a different mother'- stuff like this. She has a diary where she can write all this and she knows I never snoop through it so I know she's leaving these messages hoping I'd read it and be upset. I just threw away the notes and don't plan to discuss it with her unless she brings it up but I don't know if this is the correct approach to take.

I am looking for some help on how to get her to listen to me without her totally hating me for it and what is the best approach to take when these fights happen (while maintaining my sanity).

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    Are sleepovers an option? Could save you the trouble of having to go get your daughter late at night if you'd prefer not to. – Ian MacDonald Jan 8 at 14:30
  • Can you just clarify if you are living in India or somewhere else? – Paul Johnson Jan 8 at 14:37
  • My 8 yr old son routinely stays up (reading in his room, even after the whole house has gone to sleep till 11 or 12 if its not a school day next day. Trying to get him to sleep earlier is battle I lost. I am an Indian living in the US, and so do not see why staying up till 11 pm is so bad. ... Now picking her up at 11pm is something I would not want to do ....That said, kids will routinely say that they hate you, try to ignore it. – user61034 Jan 9 at 3:19
  • @Paul Johnson I'm in India. – svj Jan 9 at 4:34
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    @svj You are right that regular sleep is important for school, but I don't believe occasional late nights can cause long-term insomnia. Teenagers tend to become "night owls" anyway (mdpsychfoundation.org/article-explains-why-teens-are-night-owls) and then settle in to an adult sleep pattern later. – Paul Johnson Jan 9 at 10:25
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Welcome to the world of teenagers (yes, in theory 12 years old, but in reality she is now a teenager).

It sounds to me like you are doing things pretty much right. +1 for honouring the privacy of her diary. Teenagers will push boundaries, shout, argue, call you names and outright disobey. They do these things safe in the comfortable knowledge that you will be there to push back when it matters and catch them when they fall. It's a hair-raising time to be a parent, but think of it this way: she wouldn't leave notes saying "I hate my mom" if she actually thought for an instant that you might hate her back and throw her out of the house. Paradoxically, she can only do this because she feels so absolutely secure in your love for her.

OK, warm fuzzy philosophy out of the way, a few concrete tips that I hope will be useful:

  • Lighten up a bit. Let her make some mistakes and take the consequences. Maybe staying at a party till 11pm as a special treat wouldn't be a bad thing, especially as there is no school in the morning. Also if you get her out of bed at the normal time she can learn for herself about being tired the morning after.

  • Be prepared to discuss, debate, and compromise where it is reasonable. Simply laying down arbitrary rules works with young children but is counter-productive with teenagers. You say you are already doing this, but perhaps you need to increase your flexibility. In the case of this party it sounds like you are valuing your daily routine over her special night out. If she can show that she has thought things through and has made a reasonable case for what she wants then changing your mind is a sign of strength and confidence rather than weakness. And of course you should expect the same from her.

  • You don't see this, but your daughter's social circle will have its own unwritten norms of behaviour and can punish her severely if she doesn't follow them. Leaving a party 2 hours early may well be an example. Try talking to the parents of some of her friends about how they view their children's behaviour, and see if (between arguments) you can get her to talk about her life a bit. Of course part of adolescence is a burning desire to keep your life separate from your parents, but try anyway.

  • Try reading "How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk". It's written for people in your situation.

Finally, remember that in a few years she is going to come out of this as an adult. All of this adolescent behaviour is a necessary part of the process of growing away from you, her parents. It is difficult, but the only alternative is to have a 20 year old child-woman who lacks the emotional maturity to live her own life.

  • Thank you ! I understand that I can lighten up but I'm afraid I'm in this situation because of all the times I gave in to her arguments - icecreams in winter, playing online games for hours or watching movies the evening before exam. It doesn't impact her grades/social interaction/activities so I always think that's fine. Personally, I don't like too many rules so I have very few at my place and sleep is one of them (I'm an insomniac and feel sleep is very important for her well being) and she knows this. I will talk to other parents and check the book you mentioned. – svj Jan 9 at 5:14
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How can I discipline an angry 12-year-old without her hating me for it?

First, please question your assumption that your daughter actually hates you. It is highly unlikely that she does; it is highly likely that she actually loves you quite a bit. I would rephrase it this way:

How can I discipline an angry 12-year-old without her screaming at me, leaving hurtful notes, and being disrespectful?

N.B. I am not knowledgeable of Indian culture. But I am a parent of now-adult kids.

Parenting a teen is exhausting. They are trying on new roles, especially involving independence and differing from your values, and this can cause significant worry to parents. But while they disagree with you, they can still interact with you in a civil manner. This, I would insist on.

It's time to sit down as a family and to establish unbreakable family rules.

If you have never screamed at her in anger, point it out to her and ask her why she thinks it's ok for her to do so to you. Then listen to the answer.

If you have screamed at her (and I doubt it, as you sound like a lovely mother, but...), then she learned it from you. Tell her you never realized how awful it feels to be screamed at, apologize to her sincerely for doing it, ask for her forgiveness, and promise you will never do it again. Then have a discussion about it and listen to the answer.

Come to an agreement that no screaming is allowed in the house - by anyone - and establish a consequence for doing so (e.g. losing phone privileges.) Then let her know that you will not engage in any discussion with her when she is screaming. (When screaming, she is either out of control or engaging in intimidation-tactics, and reasonable outcomes don't occur in these situations.)

Have scheduled (ours were weekly) mutually respectful conversations about issues. Don't dismiss her feelings or her reasons out of hand; that's not respectful. Always being respectful will allow her to express her feelings and thoughts without fear. Consider her side of the situation from her viewpoint. (E.g. Is tradition a good enough reason to disallow something she wants? Be able to present a clear, reasonable argument for your opinion. If you can't, maybe she's right.) If you can't arrive at a mutually acceptable solution at that time, give yourself (and her) a time frame by which you'll give her a decision.

Explain to her calmly why leaving notes that say "I hate you" will not bully you into agreeing to her demands any more than leaving notes to her teachers saying she hates them will earn her good grades in school (if grades are important to her.) Ask her to stop, as they achieve no good purpose, and they reflect badly on her level of maturity to make her own decisions. If you refuse to be hurt/bullied by these notes, they will prove ineffective and should stop. If she won't stop, ask her why she is still doing it. Listen to the answer.

Start to consider allowing her independence which may take you out of your comfort zone if it is not actively unsafe for her. She needs to learn and grow.

This stage she's in calls for more give-and-take than previously. Compromise usually means both parties have gained and lost something. Negotiation skills need to start being honed.

To make a long answer short, having adult conversations about issues, understanding others' viewpoints, and allowing some new freedoms and responsibilities is an important part of parenting. And, being respectful of others and not using intimidation tactics is an important part of becoming an adult and becoming trustworthy.

I wish you the best. I had one child who drove me to the brink of despair on many occasions. Winston Churchill defined "success" as the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm. I think this defines parenting a teenager well. Stick to your reasonable guns, abandon the unreasonable, and all this, too, will pass.

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