Parenting --Teens/help our daughter


Hi Penny,

I have a 21 year old daughter. She is very bright and is in university.She gets very good grades.She is extremely sensitive and gets angry at small things.So much so that she sometimes blows things out of proportions and blames us for things we are not even thinking of.She always thinks that we dont praise her enough,and if we do, she doesnt see the excitement on our face.
we are always happy and feel proud on her achievements but fail to satisfy her. Lately she has been very disrespectful to us and we feel she is becoming very selfish too. She has to study a lot so we try not to get into arguments with her and stress her in any way or ourselves.I cook for her as she likes home cooked food. Even then she is not appreciative at all and at times tells me i dont know how to cook. we pay for her tutition too as she doesnt have a job. She doesnt help in doing house chores too or making food for herself atleast on weekends.
She blames her dad too on small things. If she makes a joke of something he says, we shud understand it,but if he says something jokingly, he is picking on her. If he is unable to give her a ride at short notice, he doesnt care for her. But if her sister need her to  give a ride, she will say no, she cant as she is busy.Recently she got mad at her dad when she showed him something she had bought for herself and asked if it was nice. He told her that it was and she shud give it to her mom.
She got very angry and had a big argument on that, and said that he was mean. She stopped talking to him and said he was not worthy of any respect. Her dad said that he didnt mean to upset her and only wanted to show her that her choice was so good that he wanted her to gift it to her mom.He also got upset as he pays for all her shopping and other  expenses, and felt that she did not have a heart to give to her mom. He felt she is very selfish and only thinks about herself.
I tried to communicate to her to resolve things. Sometimes she says things maturely to make us understand her point of view.We understand and try to be like that. But another time, she wud act so immmaturely and gets into big arguments. Then she would start crying and blame us that we are not good parents and that she wants to run away from us. we are not able to understand her as at times she says very mean things to us and later she will cry and say sorry too. But she repeats it again and her sorry seems insincere.
I am very concerned about her as I dont want her to go into depression over these things. But when she cries over every little thing, i feel very bad. she doesnt have many friends, and only one close friend. We love her very much and fail to understand where we have gone wrong. Please help and tell us how to make her independent, loving, respectful and a happy girl again.


As a mom of 31 (total) daughters, I can feel you pain. Amazing how biological children can be so different when coming from the same set of genes. I often thought my biological children presented as much more challenging adults than the foster children I raised. Maybe, because my foster daughters, came with instructions (so to speak) through their treatment plans.

I also think our generation took a secrete vow sometime that said, "I will not raise my child like my mom or dad. I will listen, be empathetic and their biggest cheerleader". Then we wake up one day and wonder why are children have entitlement issues. They feel that we owe them a life, an education and shopping trips. Our parents, as gruff as they could be at times, really taught us if you want something, you work for it. If you are given something, you best appreciate it or you will not receive anything else for a long time. Back talking, blaming, criticizing, would not have been tolerated. We felt sad, we felt rejected at times, but we grew up being independent and self sufficient. We just forgot to pass along the toughness our parents gave us to our children.

You still have time though, my rule of thumb is if they are dependent on you for anything (food, shelter, education) then you have the control and the RIGHT to set the rules. Regardless of their age. So, saddle up Sarina, time to get tough.

First, I would sit down with your husband. Pick out 3 major things you would like to change about your daughter's behavior. Come up with the rules to change it and the consequences that she will have if she fails to adhere to it. Be willing to compromise with each other, a weaker plan supported by two is stronger than the strongest plan supported by only one.  

It may look something like this: New Rule: Our daughter will not argue with us.  Consequences: If she argues with us, we agree to turn off her cell phone for 1-2 days.  One thing to remember is keep the consequences short and don't keep piling them on. If she begins to argue, state to her, "Remember our rule, you will not argue with us. Should you continue, I will stop talking and your consequences will be that I will turn off your phone for 1-2 days".  Then follow through.

On a side note, you are no longer allowed to argue with her either. It takes two to argue, state what you want and refuse to engage in an argument. Just keep restating what you want and be quiet.

Once you have picked out the three behaviors, come up with the consequences, then it is time to present them to her, together. Do this at a time when she is not demonstrating bad behaviors, when she appears to be calm and nothing is going on.  Remember she is 21, she is able to move out if she does not like the rules (without your financial support). Speak to her like an adult, like your boss would if they were correcting a bad work habit. Be clear, set expectations and let her know the consequences. End the conversation with praise and love.

Understand that while you may do everything right, she is not going to respond like an employee to a boss. She is going to whine, pout, throw a fit, try to argue with you, threaten you with all the things she has thrown at you before. Just be calm, validate her frustration and  threats. Might sound something like this, "I know you are upset right now, I can understand you don't like this rule, but it is our home and we are providing your support. If you choose to move out, we cannot stop you, but please understand our money stays here and doesn't follow you. It's your choice, let us know what you decide".  Then refuse to argue and give her space.

Regarding the depression, if you are concerned, take her to a professional and have her evaluated. If she is depressed, get her treatment. If she is not, quit using it as an excuse.

It sounds hard. It sounds harsh. But you both only have a short time to make her a productive adult to match the education she is currently receiving. Employers do not put up with people with entitlement issues, they will not baby someone with bad manners, it doesn't matter what type of degree they have.

I hope this was helpful and I wish you both the very best. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Parenting --Teens

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Penny K


I enjoy assisting parents in parenting atypical teenagers that do not respond well to normal parenting techniques. I am able to provide parents with a straight forward behavioral approach that has proved to be successful.


My husband and I have raised 31 daughters, 29 of our children were foster teens who ranged in age from 11-18. I was a site director for a local group home for adolescent girls, an Executive Director for the Children's Policy Council and the Executive Vice President for a residential treatment facility that specialized in alcohol and drug treatment for adjudicated adolescent males and provided comprehensive assessment to adolescents in the custody of the state. I have been a staff trainer for the Boys Town Model of Care and for the past 10 years I am the lead facilitator for the Parent Project parenting class in my county. In the past 20 years of my career I have assisted over 2000 adolescent youth and their families.

Boys Town Behavioral Management Trainer Parent Project Facilitator

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