Parents often reassure themselves that their pre-adolescent or adolescent is doing fine as long as the child is not involved in dangerous behavior (alcohol use, drug use, sexual acting out) and is making good grades. In fact, the warning signs of impending trouble are actually closer to home than the more extreme behaviors just mentioned.
It is important for parents to focus on the relationship they have with their daughter rather than whether or not she is currently making poor choices. The parent/child relationship is the foundation for being able to navigate through the difficult adolescent years and the challenges they bring. A 12-13 year-old who already defies parental authority and treats parents with disrespect is setting the stage for becoming an uncontrollable 15-16 year-old and doing whatever she pleases.
It is normal for a pre-adolescent or adolescent child to push away from parents and want to assert her own authority. That is part of establishing her own identity and is developmentally appropriate. But where do parents draw the line between developmentally appropriate behavior and inappropriate acting out?
Here are Five Warning Signs that indicate the need for intervention on the parent/child relationship:
- Has your daughter become increasingly disrespectful toward you to the point of screaming at you and calling you names?
- Does your daughter consistently disregard your rules and do as she pleases in the home or outside the home?
- Does your daughter believe she is the center of your family and demonstrate blatant disregard for the feelings of family members, their time or their possessions?
- Does your daughter escalate when she does not get her way to the point that you must give in just to be able to manage the situation safely?
- Do you suspect, after listening to friends and relatives talk about their children, that your daughter's emotional acting out in the home exceeds what other parents experience? Do your daughter's friends or your friends comment to her or you about how poorly she treats you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to talk to a counselor about how to improve the relationship with your daughter. If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you may need a more intensive intervention than counseling. Your daughter currently may not be making poor choices that are obvious to you, but when she does, you will have difficulty intervening because your authority has already been undermined through her continual disrespect of you and disregard for your rules.
There is nothing more frightening than watching your daughter spin out of control, and feeling hopeless to stop that process.
At New Leaf Academy, our priority is restoring the parent/child relationship into one of mutual respect, yet with clear lines of parental authority. Once she is at New Leaf Academy, your daughter can gain a new perspective on her behavior toward you through the stories of other girls and the expectations of the staff. She will be able to learn how destructive her behavior was, not just in damaging the parent/child relationship but also in pushing herself head-long into choices and decisions she was ill-equipped to make. And she will have a clear understanding of how the adults in her life, including her parents, are there to support her, help her and make decisions for her while she learns and grows.
If you are already experiencing many of the problems alluded to in the above questions, don't wait for your daughter to start making poor choices before you act. You can change the course of your family's future by acting now — before your daughter is spiraling out of control.