Dear Kid Whisperer, I need help. My 13-year-old daughter is horrible to me and her father. She is rude. She is sarcastic and cutting, and she is basically impossible to be around. I know that teenagers can be difficult, but I don’t think that we can take any more of this. I have read a lot of your columns and blog posts about how to be strict and use consequences, etcetera, but our daughter would never allow those consequences to happen. The fallout from consequences or really any of the ways that you suggest dealing with kids would be so awful in the form of yelling and screaming at us that I don’t want to try them. What am I missing? — Karen, Dayton
Dear Karen, I am so sorry that you are going through this. If you have the emotional capacity to do what I tell you to do, you will not have to deal with is for much longer.
Let’s start off by me stating the obvious fact that so-called “experts” never want to say: Your daughter is an obnoxious jerk. She really seems horrible. The reason for this is that she is allowed to be this way. This is her parents’ fault. That’s you. Don’t feel too badly about this. It is easy to accidentally train your child to be a jerk because the vast majority of “parenting advice” out there is worse than worthless.
To answer your question, what you are missing is that whether or not your child likes a consequence or likes anything that you do as a parent is irrelevant. She is not supposed to “allow” one thing or another. That is your job.
Right now, your girl is in charge of your family because you are afraid of her. She knows this
Much of what I suggest to do involves kids suffering the consequences of their actions. Over time, children will want to be compliant instead of suffer. But know this: They will get worse in the short term!
This is how I would deal with your daughter when she is obnoxious in public. I’d tell her at that moment that there would be a consequence — later. At some time much later, when I was calm, I would say the following:
Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. When we picked you up from Shannon’s party last night you were being really rude to your friends and then you were rude to me. I was embarrassed. I have decided to not subject the world to you until you can learn to be kind and not embarrass our family. We will not be allowing you to leave the house for any reason besides to go to school until we know that you won’t embarrass our family and be nice.
Kid: That’s ^%$#&*()!!!!!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. It’s stuff like that. Anyway, you will be allowed to leave the house when you show us that you can be kind.
Kid: When the %^&* will that be!?!?
Kid Whisperer: There it is again. You will have to find out, I suppose.
Kid: This will not stand! I don’t have to take this! You can’t do this! I have rights! I’m running away!
Kid Whisperer: I will love you whether you decide to come back on your own or the police find you first.
Karen, good luck and go save your kid.
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Scott Ervin is an independent facilitator of parenting with Love and Logic and The Nine Essential Skills for the Love and Logic Classroom. He is a parent, third-grade teacher, and behavioral consultant. For more, visit www.askthekidwhisperer.com.