13-Year-Old is a Mean Sister

Question

All three of our children bicker and argue, but our 13-year-old daughter takes it to a different level. She has been very mean to her sisters for a while now, constantly talking down to them, belittling them, and making one of them cry. We have talked to her over and over about the mean and condescending things she says. She always says she will be nicer, but within a day or less she starts being mean again.

I can't tell if she is trying to be cute or funny, but it's really stressing me out. Recently, she has started to roll her eyes and be disrespectful to her dad and I, especially me. She used to be so sweet, I don't know what happened.

Answer

Thanks for reaching out to ParentGuru. Statements made in your inquiry are key as to why you have been unable to resolve the issues of concern with your 13-year-old. First of all, you state that she has been "very mean to her sisters for a while now." Though I'm not exactly sure how long the situation has been going on, when unacceptable behavior is not effectively nipped in the bud in a timely manner, the message to the child is that it must not be such a big deal. Secondly, talking to your daughter "over and over" has obviously not made one iota of difference (in spite of the fact that she says that she "will be nicer").

It matters not whether your daughter is trying to be "cute or funny." She is being disrespectful because she knows she can. Attempts at being "very nice and fair" are not working because your 13-year-old does not view her parents as the authoritative leaders of the family. To compound the issue, your daughter is phasing out of Season 2, the Season of Leadership and Authority (ages 3-13) and is now in Season 3, the Season of Mentoring (age 13-adult). Nonetheless, decisive action is needed as her behavior is unacceptable.

The goal of any consequence is to effectively eradicate unacceptable behavior, once and for all. For this to occur, the consequence must be highly meaningful to the perpetrator. In other words, your daughter must be the one feeling the most pain - not her parents!

I suggest reading/rereading John's book, The Well-Behaved Child, as he outlines numerous strategies for addressing misbehavior. Since your daughter has now moved into the 'teen' years, I also suggest that you read John's book, Teen Proofing. Both books are excellent and have helped countless parents successfully navigate the child-rearing journey.

Your other daughters do not deserve the treatment they are getting from your 13-year-old. She needs to understand in no uncertain terms that her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The tactics you have employed thus far are not working. Time to up the ante. Do not give in and do not give up.

Wishing you a more harmonious family life!

Sincerely,
Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parent Coach
sklamberth17@gmail.com
www.parentwithconfidence.org

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