Help! My Daughter is Twelve! – Reader Question

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Question: Help!  My daughter is a sweet pre-teen who loves the Lord.  She does well on her school work and is generally very well liked by others.  But lately she has been unbearable at home.  She shows no respect to me, she yells, rolls her eyes, stomps, screams, and is very unkind to her siblings.  Her room has become disgusting in spite of my constant nagging. What has happened?  What can I do to regain control in my house?

Answer:  Here is where I would start.  With daddy, all the kids need to sit down with you guys, or you will end up here in a couple of years with them. You first must be very candid and apologize.  This will be gut wrenching.  You need to let them know you see there are areas where you have failed in your training.  You ask their forgiveness.  Then you explain to them that there are certain areas where you are going to be making some changes.

First:  For one month, no one is permitted to question you or ask you why about anything.  They need to accept your authority in every matter without giving any input.  You have a child who is “wise in her own eyes” and that is why you are getting the looks and responses you are.  You need to make sure she realizes you are the adult, as is daddy.   After one month of success with this, you will be ready to allow your children to respectfully ask you questions once again, once each has proven her ability to ask and accept your answers as final.  But for now, no questions, comments or complaints.

We use the reminder:  “No questions, comments or complaints.”  This includes body language.  This includes door slamming, stomping, talking under breath, eye rolling.  You are the judge of this behavior, their denials mean nothing.  If you see it, they go sit and think about your family rules and figure out what to do to make it right.  Prepare yourselves for a battle.  Be willing to cancel every plan on the calendar.  Sitting and thinking is just that….no radio, TV, book, paper, pen, nothing.  Just them and the Holy Spirit and a chair in an isolated place.  They may sit there one minute or hours, it is up to them, but they only get up when they are ready to repent and make it right.  Your daughter will test you in this.  You will be heading out the door for school or church.  Be late.  Miss it altogether, whatever…..just make her stop and think and make it right.

Second, this same night pull out the Bible and read together line by line the “Love” chapter.  1 Corinthians 13 4-8.  This should be a fun exercise.  Go through each phrase and make a modern day connection with it.  “Love is patient.  What does that mean?  Can you give examples of when you have been patient this week?”  You may have to do some confessing when doing this exercise.  That is okay.

Next, you will print this chapter out on the computer in some beautiful decorative print.  I will get Christina to add this printout to our files to download.  Every time anyone in your house is being unloving (including mommy) that person is to go to where you have this posted and read the entire chapter, then come to you and confess where they are going wrong and what they need to do to fix it.  Sometimes one mean word has violated several of those, so stick with it until it is worked all the way through.  Have brownies cooking or some other fun treat at the end of the initial session to make sure it is a fun instructional time, not a fight.

The first several days you will have them going to that list a lot.  They will have it memorized before long.

Next, sit down with your oldest in private.  You and daddy tell her your concerns.  Give her visual examples….roll your eyes at her, show her how ugly it looks.  Tell her you want her to learn to overcome this character trait, but you do not want to embarrass her in front of her younger siblings.  Make up a secret signal together that you will use with her if she is breaking your rules.  Her only option upon receiving the signal is a still body and silence.  She must immediately self-correct or politely excuse herself to go and ponder.  Any other action from her will result in you treating her like a two year old having a tantrum,  You will call it what it is:  ” I can see you have no self control right now.  You are being rude and obnoxious.  Go sit and think for awhile.”  Then, whatever fun event she has next is cancelled.  (This may include youth group at church, or any other good activity).

When she returns, recommit to her that you both agreed to use the secret signal, she broke that trust, but you are willing to try it again.

Remember, the whole focus of your training from now – 18 is building a relationship with her so that she conforms out of love to you and your husband.  Now is the time to start building that up between you.  Consider having daddy take her on date nights once per month…..Starbucks, or out for a good movie, or to the bookstore, or whatever.  Check my free date nights list for ideas.  He can be fun and hide some cards in his pocket…they can play a game.  He can bring along boggle, whatever games your family likes that you could tote into a Starbucks.  Duncan and Christina started this at age 13.  The younger girls are already getting occasional date nights out.  Sunday night is good for this.

As for cleaning her room, she may just be overwhelmed.  Teach her to spend ten minutes every morning picking up whatever is left out the night before.  Offer to help her get it nice once, going through every drawer, every piece of clothes, all papers, then make sure each day she follows up with ten minutes of pick up time.  Have you see flylady?  Show your daughter that website and liken the “clean kitchen sink” to a bed made.  Make sure you are diligent in your room as well, or it will seem hypocritical.  If you or the other kids struggle with the bedroom, make it a family project to make sure everyone does the same.

Finally, she is probably in full swing on mood swings….mad one minute, crying and repentant the next.  I would sit down with her in private with a calendar and explain to her about PMS.  Also explain that with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit she can overcome her physical urges and be a loving person in spite of her emotional roller coaster.  Be candid and share your own struggles with PMS (past or present).  Tell her the things she can do to help herself stay balanced.  PMS starts on a cyclical basis 1-2 years BEFORE they every start a period.  Also, print off the list of things she can do to help herself that time of the month (water, vitamins, exercise) from my links and resources page.

I have found Reb Bradley’s information to be extremely helpful. I like their series:  What I Really Wish I Knew When My Kids Were Young and What I Wish I Knew When My Kids Were Young.  You might also want to listen to their CD:  Loving and Teaching the Difficult Child.  Excellent resources.

I hope this helps some.  I felt very alone during that period and searched for good resources, but could not find any that covered all I needed to know.  God’s word helped a lot.  Keep praying for her, and for you and your husband to be united.

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