Daughter’s rudeness gives mom low self-esteem
by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero
THE PROBLEM: Whenever I say anything to my 11-year-old daughter, she either ignores me or rolls her eyes. I would never have done this to my mother, especially when I was that young, and I’m astounded my daughter is doing it to me. She resists practically everything I say, even if it’s obviously true. I hardly dare share an opinion with her, for fear of getting one of her looks. It’s bad enough at home, but it gets pretty embarrassing in front of other moms, my friends, and people I don’t even know. I’m sad to say this, but my own feelings of self-worth are low, mostly because of how my daughter treats me. Any ideas would be appreciated.
MARY SAYS: We seem to be experiencing an alarming trend where parents want to be ‘friends’ with their children. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s only okay if being the parent is your number one priority. For whatever reason, your daughter is treating you like a peer, one she doesn’t like. And as difficult as this may be to hear, she’s treating you this way because you’re letting her. While a peer may retreat in the face of your daughter’s bullying behaviors, as her parent, you need to stand up to them.
Here are a few questions for you to consider:
- When your daughter gives you a nasty look or refuses to respond to you, do you ignore it?
- When she argues with you, are you constantly defending yourself?
- When she asks you for something, do you ever say ‘yes’ to avoid a battle?
- Do you find yourself going out of your way to make things easy for her to avoid conflict?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you have let your strong-willed daughter take charge of your relationship. Not good for her, and as you’re finding out, not good for you, either.
Your ability to change this dynamic will be contingent on your willingness to do hard things. You will need to draw from a well you didn’t know you had to set new standards—and boundaries—for this mother-daughter dynamic.
For starters, you need to tell your daughter how you feel, and that going forward, there will be zero tolerance for her rude behaviors. It might sound something like this:
“I’ve become aware that we’ve fallen into an extremely harmful pattern of communicating with each other, and I’ve decided to make a change. Going forward, we will treat each other with respect, even if we disagree. When you roll your eyes at me, ignore me, or act like whatever I say is nonsense, I feel dismissed and not given the respect I deserve. This won’t be easy, but with practice we can change. I am committed to change, and I hope you’re willing to work with me. Regardless, I will no longer allow you to treat me with disrespect.”
Keep the conversation short, direct, and clear. Then, stick to it.
For example, to revisit the questions above, consider the following:
- When your daughter gives you a nasty look—or ignores you completely, no matter where you are, she needs a timeout: sitting in the car, going to her room (no electronics), or simply stopping what she’s doing to give her behavior some thought.
- When she argues with you in a belligerent manner, tell her you’ll listen when she can speak to you in a mature way. Until then, the subject is off limits.
- When she asks you for something, tell her you’ll think about it. Take time to reflect on how you really want to answer, then let her know.
- Don’t go out of your way to make things easy for her. If she fails to get herself out of bed in time, she’s late for school. If she doesn’t make her lunch, she goes hungry. Let her suffer the consequences of her own choices.
In the beginning, you will get a lot of pushback. After all, who likes change? Intimidating you is much easier for your daughter than taking responsibility for her own actions, since she’s been practicing for years.
But it’s critical that you step up and do this, Mom, since your daughter is internalizing poor relationship habits that will haunt her long after she has left the nest. While this might sound harsh, you’re modeling a willingness to accept abusive behaviors. One possible outcome is that she will do the same, another is that she’ll take on the role of abuser in her other relationships, too.
If your patterns are too ingrained to change them on your own, consider seeking help before your daughter gets any older. But if you can set new rules—and stick to them—you will find your own self-worth no longer predicated on what your daughter, the neighbors, friends, or other moms think of you.
Rather, you will commend yourself for taking responsibility for your own life, which is in and of itself quite liberating.
ERIKA SAYS: Upon reading, I get a bit of an impression that your daughter is a strong-willed child. While that might be the case, I think the issue here is that her nature is borderline disrespectful. Addressing her behavior while not diminishing a tenacity that will serve her well in life is difficult to navigate.
Having a conversation with her about her behavior and letting her know how you feel is your first step. Remember to keep an open dialogue and extend a lot of grace. Showing grace even when the behavior is unacceptable tells her she’s accepted, even at her worst. When having conversations with your children, it’s important to create a safe atmosphere, a place where you both can be H.O.T.
Honest, open, and transparent.
H.O.T. allows you to be vulnerable with each other. To be honest, it’s possible she’s not aware that her constant eye rolls, scowls, and resistance are causing you such grief, which is why this needs to be addressed. If left unaddressed, strong-willed children can grow up to be strong-willed adults that tend to put people off. They run the risk of losing out on relationships, opportunities, and more.
She needs to be made aware of this.
Creating a space where your daughter can be tenacious but also setting boundaries is what’s called for here. Your daughter must understand that disrespecting you is an absolute ‘no.’ Calling her behavior out when she does so and remaining consistent is key.
Whenever my son disrespects me, I like to get down to his level, so our eyes meet. I do this so I am not towering over him when speaking to him. I then tell him his behavior is disrespectful, and I’m not okay with it. The conversations are a bit different each time—depending on the situation—but the bottom line is you want to point out your daughter’s behavior, make her aware that you’re not okay with it, you will not allow it, and let her know that if it continues there will be consequences.
When I have these types of conversations with my son, I always try to find something to affirm about him. Saying something like “One of my favorite things about you is that you’re one of the sweetest boys I know. Right now, you aren’t being so sweet. What is going on?” or “Right now your words aren’t so nice.” Something I like to keep in mind is to avoid using the word ‘but’ after an affirmation. An affirmation followed by a ‘but’ negates the affirmation, every time.
How lucky your daughter is to have a mother like you who loves her enough to help shape her into a world-changer! I understand the constant attitude and embarrassment can weigh heavy on your mama heart, but nobody—and I mean nobody—can help her grow in her gift like you can. You were made for her, and she was meant for you.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Mary Follin is author of the award-winning children’s book ETHYR and Teach Your Child to Read™, an online phonics program for children ages 3-6. She is mom to two grown kids. Follow Mary on Instagram at @advice_mom.
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.