Need Advice on How to Deal with Teen Daughter Argument and Estrangement

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Pony1798, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. Pony1798

    Pony1798 Guest

    Hi All - I have sort of had my whole life blow up lately and I am really struggling.

    My 16 y/o girl and I "had words" about a week ago. And let's just say it wasn't pretty. I feel awful about some things I said to her, and I would give anything to take them back but realize I can't. The damage is done. Now she is completely ignorning my various outreaches to her to say I'm sorry and can we meet, talk, and work on our relationship. There is a theory that ignoring someone is actually worse than yelling at them (and now I agree that is true - total silence hurts incredibly much) although I do understand she probably now needs her space, whereas I am more proactive at trying to solve problems.

    My "ex" and I have joint custody and the schedule is supposed to involve her spending 50/50 time at both households.

    What sparked my angry words at her was months' worth of pent-up emotions (mine) regarding her behaviors over the past 1+ years. She was repeatedly violating curfew and not communicating anything to me re: her whereabouts or situations even though she carries a cell phone at all times. This, for the times I was assigned to have her under my watch. She would spend entire nights elsewhere and not tell me. I would then wake up the next morning to find she had never come home. This is one example of the behavior that has both driven me crazy and made me very fearful for her well-being and safety. I also have woken up at, say, 2:00AM, to find she had snuck out of the house and not left me a note, text, or anything.

    My impression is that her father has fed this problem because he has been so laid back with her, not having rules or boundaries for her when she's with him. Basically I think he has enabled the "Wild Child" that our daughter has become. Then, when I tried to get tough, she would flee me, to run to him, because I was suddenly the "Bad Parent". My daughter told me once that he told her he is afraid to discipline because he doesn't want his kid to dislike or hate him.

    Compounding my pain - my "ex" (I know him well) is probably going to sue for sole custody. And with her not wanting to live with me (for now) he has more of a leg to stand on with this.

    He, too, is completely ignoring me by not returning my messages, to meet, talk, etc.

    Mother/Daughter counseling is badly needed, I know. But: #1) She will refuse to go; #2) How can you ask her to go when she won't even talk or relate with me at all? I am currently undergoing individual counseling and it's helping.

    Apologies for the rather long post.

    More than open to suggestions for how to deal.

  2. compassion

    compassion Member

    Detatch. She sounds very simialar to my daughter. I have learned not to reason with her. She is the ill one. When she is unstable like that, I have to stay calm, back off. We are in a phase right now like that. I calmly make contact once a day and do the basics. I have learned to vent in my journal and to safe others. There is a great support group over at the CABF site. I also see a family therapist once a month and am involved in Family Anon and Al-anon and have people I share one one one with often in both programs. I stay very calm with my daughter most of the time now. It took me quite awhile to accept that I could not reason with her. I have very clear boudnaries and limts with her. It is a neurobiological illness, I am convinced. I am glad you are in counceling. Welcome to the boards!
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    This is a tough situation. You very much do need to work on detaching because at her age there is little you can do, realistically, about her behavior. You CAN cut off financial support to her. You are required to provide a mattress, blanket and pillow, privacy to change clothes, clothing to cover her body (NOT what she wants or "has" to have or she will "just die") - 7 shirts, 3-4 prs of pants, 7 pr underwear, 3-4 bras, 7 pr socks, and 1 pr shoes. 1 coat, 1 hat, 1 pr gloves/mittens (hat and gloves are optional if the coat has a hood and pockets). This is per social services. Her clothing does NOT have to be new. Foster kids in OK get $50 and a trip to the Salvation Army or Goodwill - twice a year. This was 7 yrs ago, now they get $30 each trip. I learned this hwen my difficult child was 12 and spent 4 mos in a locked psychiatric hospital ward because he was having major problems. They encouraged me to NOT bring him shirts every few weeks, or other pairs of pants, etc... In fact he tore up week old gym shoes the first week he was there. I was not allowed by the social worker to replace them. He had peeled the sole away from the upper on almost the entire front half of the shoe. They gave him some duct tape and made HIM fix them. A month later I stopped and bought the cheapest gym shoes in his size at kmart. They didn't hold up well but he didn't purposely tear them up either - which was a first for us. She is NOT required to have a vehicle, phone, computer use, makeup, acne treatment (unless medically neccessary), or even shampoo/soap she likes. You CAN give her a bar of soap to wash her body and hair if you want.

    Basically anything else is a PRIVILEGE, regardless of what she says/wants/her friends have. I am sure your ex will give your daughter the things she wants as he doesn't want her to "dislike" him. Sadly, his strategy of no rules is very much likely to backfire on him in the long run. I had some friends/classmates with virtually no rules when I was a kid. Most of them have either a bad relationship or no relationship with their parents. their view now is that their parents didn't love them enough to care what they did. they did all kinds of crazy, stupid, dangerous things and if their parents had any reaction it was to aide and abet them - giving them cash day after day after day when the parent was well aware that it was buying drugs/alcohol/fireworks, giving them rides to bars, paying for their fake licenses or letting them have a parent's license if the kid looked like the parent, etc... These people are fairly strict parents because they don't want their kids to think that they don't love them. Two of them (one a guy, one a woman) have each actually SAID that to me. I am sure your ex is taking the least-resistance path to parenting, but the actual result is a child who thinks he doesn't care and who is scared because there are no limits. That is deep down and NOTHING she will admit for years and years to come. But it is something you can hold in your heart to help you make it through to the time that you have a better relationship.

    If I hadn't been TOLD this by adults who I knew were raised by "whatever-you-want-is-that-enough-money-how-about-$20-more-just-in-case" parents, I wouldn't believe it. But I have heard it and I believe it.

    For now, keep working iwth your therapist on detaching. Make time and space in your life for things that refresh and renew your spirit and try to eliminate or reduce things that are toxic to your spirit and self. I have found that guided meditation can be a great help.

    What do you do when she is supposed to be with you and she disappears? Have you considered calling the police? Is there any sign that she is using drugs or alcohol in any amount? Is your ex allowing this? Do you have access to her email and/or facebook? Consider possibly creating a facebook page of your own with a fake name and email - make it someone that she would accept as a friend (most kids have people from other states that they have never met in their list of "friends", so it should be doable, at least for a while". Then if/when you see her doing things that she should not be doing, print them off. That way you have proof of what she is doing if you need it for court. many many kids post pics of themselves partying with drugs and alcohol, even having sex with people (ick). If they delete the picture later it won't show up again UNLESS someone has saved it to their own page or has printed it off. I would most likely NOT confront her with these things unless you learn of them from other sources - you don't want her to know you have that fb account. yes, it is devious, but it is a way to protect her also.

    When she leaves your home with-o permission she is running away and it IS something that you can call the police about. They have to at least take a report. I would start calling them EVERY time she leaves with-o permission. I would also report her if she does not go to school. At her age custody is usually given to the parent that the child wants to live with unless it can be shown that the parent is not fit. You should discuss how the judge would look at the reports of running away with your lawyer. If she is allowed to be gone all night any time she wants to, or to do whatever she wants whenever seh wants, some judges will see that as unfit parenting and will not give custody to parents who allow that. They may even push parenting classes, etc... onto parents who allow that. A LOT depends on the judge. Ditto for running away. While the police likely will not do much besides take a report the first couple of times, eventually she will wind up before a judge and will have to face those consequences. She has the power to avoid that - it is called staying home when youa re supposed to.

    If you have ANY suspicions of drug/alcohol use (and given the coming and going at all hours it is pretty likely, in my opinion), drug test her. You can get a kit at the drugstore and mail it off. Even Walmart sells them. She won't be happy, but that isn't the real issue. You can also get tests that you send off hair and that is tested for drug use. Hair tests go back a long time, rather than the days or week that a urine test shows. You can actually see back several months, depending on how long the hair is.

    You need to decide how much to force things. If she won't talk to you, what does she count on you to pay for? I would keep her phone on to encourage communication, and then stop giving her money for anything else. If you pay for school lunches, put the money on an account at the school. If you pay for her hair cuts, nails, allowance, car, insurance, gas, anything- stop paying it until she is willing to do what you feel is crucial.

    For more help/support/ideas, I highly recommend the book "Parenting Your Teens with Love and Logic". The people who wrote it also have other excellent books - you can learn more about the books and their ideas at . The book is available at a lot of bookstores and amazon and from their website. I hope some of this helps.
  4. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I am now estranged from my 15 yo daughter, too. She is supposed to be on a special diet and when she is, she is fine. However, she hasn't been on it and has been extremely difficult recently. We have implemented a lot of Susie's strategies, in hopes she will see the error of her ways. Somehow, she blames me more than her father for this and we haven't spoken in days. During the Christmas holidays, she looked at me with hate in her eyes whenever I tried to talk to her.

    I have stayed in touch with the therapist we used when A was younger and consistently difficult. She thinks we should come in for family therapy (me, husband, and A). A has said she refuses to go, but husband or I will just go get her out of school and take her. I don't think she will make a scene there, but we will see.

    My daughter knows this therapist and I am really using it for more of a consequence than actually hoping it will help. The therapist, knowing the situation like she does, does not think there will be a quick resolution.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2011
  5. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Wow...your dtr really has you guys wrapped around her finger doesnt she? This 50/50 thing just set up triangulation for her on a silver platter.

    If I were you, I would set up her limits at your house and if she broke them and snuck out of the house at night, I would call the cops on her. That is just dangerous.

    Its sad that her dad wants to be more liked than her father.
  6. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Susie is absolutely right on this. I had laissez-faire parents, and I have no relationship at all with them as an adult. They didn't care enough about me to set any limits, provide discipline or guidance, or even suggest that something I was doing was a bad idea. I was left to figure it all out for myself.

    I too second Susie's suggestions on strategies to follow with your daughter. She's running away from you, not speaking to you, ignoring you etc. because she knows it works. She sees your distress, sees you begging for crumbs of attention from her and it feeds into the power she's getting from the interaction. You need to follow the adage of "never let 'em see you sweat". You may be falling apart inside, but it's essential that you don't let it show. You need to be a rock, be consistent and maintain all the firm boundaries that your ex-h isn't providing. From the sounds of things, you are the only source of stability in your daughter's life, and she needs that more than ever, especially since she's behaving as though she doesn't.

    Everything she's doing is a test of sorts. How can she push your buttons, and how far can she get you to go. If you call the police every time she runs away, remove all privileges and force her to earn them back from her behaviour, etc. she will learn that there are limits and boundaries, and that you will not allow yourself to be treated that way. By showing her that you respect yourself enough to insist on that, she will in time learn to respect you also.

    I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with this.
    Sending a gentle hug your way. Glad you found us.

  7. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry you are having such a difficult time. Teen years are difficult for all parents but even more so when a difficult child is involved. I think joint family therapy sessions are a good idea but a few hours with a therapist is not going to solve the problems. At best it will allow you all to hear what she really thinks...or says she really thinks.

    Having raised eight teenagers I csn assure you that most of them go thru cycles of rebellions etc. Some of them pull out of it and wonder later why they were so contrary. Others define themselves by their unruly choices. What can you do?

    My suggestion is to sit quietly and calmly by yourself and write down all the issues. Then figure out which are of the most importance in setting guidelines that you will stick to and which are more flexible. For example, if she keeps her room like a pig that worth fighting about? To some parents it is. To most of us we decide to let it ride and just make a rule
    that the door must stay shut. Curfews are another thing to analyze. Are your curfews adaptable to what is going on in her life? Obviously she can't stay out all night...but...if she is attending an acceptable function is her curfew reasonable for that evening. I've known parents who set, for example, a 10 PM curfew no matter what. In my family the teens had to share where they wanted to go, who they were going with and what time they thought was reasonable. Never did I allow
    them just to "go" with no discussion in advance. Yes, they were often late but the repercussions weren't mindboggling. They just lost permission to go out the next time. And yes if they called to tell me they were running late I usually thanked
    them for calling and adapted to the circumstances.

    I believe the biggest goal is to avoid small issues and concentrate on bigger ones with consistent enforcement. Ideally all the adults in their life agree on ground rules. Most often it is not that easy. Showing no emotion in front of the teens is the best method. They want to know that their "(insert ugly word) Mother" always insists on X, Y and Z. You can not be their friend. You are the "insert ugly word" Mom.

    Consistency is the key. Never let them see you sweat. Absolutely never let them see you cry. Stick to the rules and if a particular rule is causing regular problems see if there is a workable compromise...if sad, too bad. You make the rule based on love because you're the Mom. on the other hand, try to make sure she knows that you are always available to listen.
    You may hear some bad stuff...if so react as a supportive loving Mom. It can take years to build this relationship. It will not happen if you let eighteen months pass and then explode. Take it one day at a time. Good luck. DDD

    PS: Custody and control are complex issues. You can not control bioDad. If she does end up living with him (yes, I do know that thought scares you) she just needs to know that you are there and love her.Eventually she will figure out that your way was the loving way.
  8. Pony1798

    Pony1798 Guest

    Thanks to all who have responded with tips and such wonderful words of wisdom. Joining this forum was one of the best things I've ever done.

    I'm learning to "disconnect" yet will continue to let my daughter know I am here; I am there for her, when she's ready to come back.

    I also know that when/if she comes back to me, I need to continue to have rules and boundaries for her. This ultimately may boomerang her right back to her Dad. But I guess I will have the satisfaction of knowing I was the better parent for having boundaries for her, and that in time, she will realize that it was my love for her, not "meanness" that was the reality, that helped spark the argument/estrangement. And that her hands-off Dad was the more "questionnable", unfit parent.

    I've got another 1.5 years (til she graduates HS) that I will have to deal. I know I need to stay strong, smart, calm.

    The demon for me right now is trying to tolerate missing her so much. We had a GREAT and very close relationship up until a short while ago. I miss her living with me, her great personality and other positive qualities that stood in such stark contrast to her defiant qualities. I want to "mother" too, in terms of having her come to me at, say, the end of the day when we both are home, and she asks me for help with homework, or advice on a trying social problem. This is a "hole" in my life right now. But I realize I have to let go, accept, move on, get a life outside of mothering. I will also have to swallow down the bile at paying her dad child support if/when it comes to that (situation brewing, I know.... as long as she decides to live with him fulltime). I know him well. The court actions are probably being drafted as I write this.

    I am greatly supported and helped by this group. Again, thank you to all, and I continue to certainly welcome tips for coping/acting and if any of you has gone through, or are going through, similar (expletive withheld).
  9. Pony1798

    Pony1798 Guest

    difficult child finally responded to one of my texts. Said she just needs time before she feels she can talk to me again. The fact that she now gave me the time of day eases my pain of estrangement somewhat. Of course I want the whole enchilada ... she agreeing to meet with me somewhere so we can calmly and constructively talk everything over. But for now I am like the dog under the table patiently waiting for crumbs to fall. And I am grateful for the crumbs. The new prayer becomes that when she finally does talk with me, it won't be something like she's decided never to be with me again, but rather, that yes, we can get together and talk and eventually heal our mom/daughter relationship.
  10. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    HHhmmmm....your ex's description of his fear.....seems to be becoming your fear as well.....

    can you see a pattern here?

    Perhaps your daughter has done this with dad, too and rather than step up as parent his fears told him he better not parent her or he will not even be able to see her anymore. She would go live with you full time....
    Do NOT let this happen to you. She is a master manipulator, in my opinion.

    You must, must, must find a way to communicate with your ex - or hire a PI to see if your daughter is sneaking out of his house at night, too.

    By the way, where does she go? What is she doing out there all night??????!!!!!
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think it's normal to be afraid that our kids will hate us. We adopted one child at six and I haven't seen him in five years (he is in his 30's). I'm not even sure why. So I understand your fear and her fathers fear. But it sounds like she just needs time and space.
    I do need to ask a question. Your daughter's behavior sort of says "DRUGS" to me because I had a daughter who did drugs and did the whole nine yards: Snuck out at night, refused to listen to boundaries, etc. It came on suddenly. Has your daughter changed friends within the time she has changed? I think this may be an issue with your daughter. If so, Dad's rules would make it a lot easier for her to use.
    I was terrified when my daughter would leave too, but I always called the cops. There was no way I'd risk having her run around at night. It scared me too much.
  12. Pony1798

    Pony1798 Guest

    Well, I get the whole theory/concern that both my ex and I are afraid of her not talking or relating to us. Its called the fear of rejection. I admit to that fear. But I also hate the fear that invades me everytime she has either snuck out of the house at night or failed to come home at all, entire nights. Like all of us, I hate fear. But would rather ensure her safety and wellbeing, so yes, the stricter parenting of my difficult child will continue once she returns to my household, if she returns. And yes I will strive to find a way where my ex and I can return to better co-parenting of her despite his chosen angst against me. I should add that he is the type of person that holds grudges forever. He has one heck of a mountain of a grudge against me. It's hard if not even possible to relate with someone with his personality. The last time I tried talking to him on the phone, after she pulled one of her all-nighters, he wouldn't even say anything. Dead, non-committal silence was all I got.

    To all you divorced parents out there, sharing households and custody with the kids, take my advice. Even if you have to swallow down the bile ... do all you can do to communicate and act amicably with your ex. Because I am now of the opinion that alot of kids nowadays will play the one parent off the other one, to their advantage. Just read my story so far. It is testiment to that fact/reality. And its sad. The kid AND the parents end up paying dearly.

    What does she do while she's gone? I am clueless. I don't have $$ to hire a PI. I haven't rigged GPS on her car. But yes, due to a recent very noticeable weight loss, plus the time spent away, plus the rather 'undesirable' types she has chosen for friends, plus sliding grades at school (I've checked).... I wouldn't doubt she may be into drugs.

    I saw my therapist yesterday. She reinforced the need to still tough-love-parent this kid, even if it means her running away from me yet again.

    Parenting is not for cowards. My first two, I thought, were handfulls. But they were nothing compared to this current dilemma I have with my youngest.

  13. Cnlbw

    Cnlbw New Member

    I just joined this forum and was extremely moved by your post as this is very similar to my situation. My 16-yo daughter and I got into a big argument almost 3 weeks ago which went from bad to worse quickly and beyond what I could ever imagine. She has had issues with big outbursts...screaming, cursing, bossing or as her siblings say "bullying" the rest of the family, but this night she went too far. We are divorced and have joint 50/50 custody and live only a mile from each other. I was consoling my daughter (who has grandiose aspirations for her future but doesn't apply herself in order to achieve them) because of poor SAT scores she got; she screamed in my face "you don't even understand my f'ing SAT scores!" I, in turn, put my hands on her shoulders and smacked the top of her hand and looked into her eyes and old her repeatedly and firmly that she will not ever talk to me like that. She looked at me and said "you hit me" and packed some bags and said she was going to her stay at her dad's for a few days. They in turn called CPS and the police and reported me for abuse! We went through all of those discussions, case closed with no substantiation and recommendations for counseling for her! But she is left with intense anger toward me (undoubtedly because I, unlike her father, put her in her place) and we haven't spoken in almost 3 weeks now. She canceled her attendance to our counselor appointment last week and I went alone because her dad didn't come either. I feel that he is perpetuating this and I am losing her. I miss her terribly but am so angry too for all of the reporting she did and now for the complete lack of response to all of my communication attempts. Her brother and sister continue to adhere to the back-and-forth schedule but without her. The silence I'm getting from her is killing me and I just don't know what to do. Any advice is appreciated.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there.

    This is an old post. You'll get a bigger response if you start your own thread. I don't know if she is into drugs at all, but if so you may do better on the Substance Abuse forum.

    When difficult kids, who don't walk to the beat of a socially appropriate drum, have two parents to choose from, and one of the parents is more lenient, it is very common for the child to want to live with the lenient parent. As she gets older, this could very well change. She may appreciate you much more when she is more mature.

    We would have to know more about her and her situation for more solid advice, but right now all I can say is I'm really sorry for your hurting mommy heart and to let go of what you can not control...such as how your ex parents your daughter. There isn't anything you can do about it. It may be appropriate to start looking into detachment. You can find stuff about detachment on the Parent Emeritus site. The truth is, your daughter is too old for you to control HER either, especially since Daddy will be there to rescue her. It is very hard to let go of that wish for control...but many of us had to do it and are now living happy lives in spite of the bad choices some of our grown kids make. Your daughter is not quite grown, but she is getting close to that number eighteen in which no parent can legally control her child is a scary place to be. I feel for you. In spite of your hurting heart, please be sure to take care of yourself. You matter too!!!