"As children grow older, parents must give them greater freedom, including greater freedom to make mistakes. "

Mouthy Teens Ups the Vitriol

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Okay, I’ve had this subscription for years now and have yet to write in with a question, as many, and as urgent, as I’ve felt they have been in previous years. So I hope you’ll give me a little grace in that this will be on the long side. Just consider this my catch up for years and years worth of questions that really should've been asked. Maybe if I had, and had gotten some much-needed sage advice much sooner...well, I didn't, so we'll never know. Just hang in there with me now, please.

We have quite a situation with our just-turned-16 year old, very iron-willed daughter. Her attitude and level of disrespect—and how it is expressed with her mouth—is getting worse and worse. Combined with how she is now using the threat of suicide to manipulate--that will be a second question-- we are just about at the end of every rope there is. (And I'm not even getting into the issues of her rebellion where sexual boundaries are concerned. That WILL be yet another question for another day.)

This issue seems to be fueled by her temper, which she has little control over. A few days ago she got mad at us during a discussion about preparation for some school work the next day. (She’s very lazy academically, and even mildly holding her feet to the fire in that respect has always been a “trigger” to extreme rage.) She was in heated conversation with her dad in the kitchen and I was in an adjoining hallway when she made a comment that I wanted to respond to. When I did, her reaction was to turn around to me and say, and this is verbatim, “Was anyone talking to you? Butt out!” She just turned 16 yesterday so the thought that ran through my mind was the unbelievability of my 15-year-old daring to say such words to me. It’s the same thought I’ve had about her when she was 14…and 13…and 12… This disrespectfulness towards us has been going on since at least early elementary school, with increasing severity through the years. I think we hit a new level, though, this past week. A few minutes after she made her outrageous comment to me, she felt she was “done” with the conversation and was stomping up to her room. She was raging about how she needed to have a life (prompted by the requirement to leave her phone downstairs while she did necessary school work, thus depriving her of "life") and I made the offhand comment, in light of how she had just spoken to me, that unfortunately she had just lost a little bit more of it, meaning further cellphone use. To this she shouted as she dramatically stormed up the stairs that she WILL kill herself and she doesn’t give a s**t what we think! Her dad went up to her room shortly thereafter and she promptly dropped the F Bomb on him.

So this is new to us. We decided that for each use of profanity she would lose her phone for 1 week. (Her phone may as well be her beating heart.) The two weeks started this morning. I was already at work when she found out from her dad that she wouldn’t have her phone today nor indeed for the next 2 weeks. She called to tell me that she was certainly not going to school without it and demanded to know where it was. When I reiterated that this was the consequence of her profanity & disrespect and that no, she could not have her phone, her response was, “suck it up, I am taking my phone,” before hanging up on me.

On the whole, my heart is pretty crushed now, to know a child doesn’t get to this point apart from parents somehow allowing it to happen from early on, and it was of course never our desire to create this little monster of self-centeredness & disrespect. (Behavior going way beyond what might normally be blamed on simply being a teen.) Nobody has to tell me now that the window to nip this in the bud has passed, and it will certainly add another layer to my sorrow if John really puts us in our place with what we probably deserve to hear. (Although he couldn’t say anything worse than I’m saying to myself.) But having said that, if it’s specific wisdom that we need to hear, hurtful or otherwise, I’m willing to hear most anything, if it will give us some strategies (possible effective disciplinary measures?) to change the direction of this ship, if it even can be done now. We love our daughter and it grieves me, not only that she will express such anger & disrespect toward us, but for what it says about her heart, her interactions with significant relationships in the future, and her spiritual condition. (Which, as Christians, is of supreme importance to us.)

I realize this is long, but I am praying that someone will answer this soon. I'll be grateful for any suggestions to try, any wisdom to apply to our situation with this daughter that we love so very much. Thank you.

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