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Daughter Adopts 'Goth' Style and Bad Attitude

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter is 14-years-old. She has changed her style of dress to "Goth" and has acquired friends outside of our city. I know this is the age they begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol. I have tried to keep informed and active in her life, but I'm afraid it's not working. I have always been strict but fair. I let her know the rules up front so there are no surprises when she faces the consequences of her behavior. I am almost out of behavior-altering ideas; just when I think she understands the give and take rule, she pulls a fast one on me. I have never used violence for discipline, always opting for unique tactics. For example, she was failing math, so I would change her password on AOL to be a math problem and the answer was her new password. If she slams the bedroom door, I remove it from the hinges for a day (the lack of privacy did work). I believe I have control and I do have the upper hand, but how can I stress the importance of responsibility and socially acceptable behavior? I don't want her to suddenly come to her senses at age 30. I know it's a tough age, but I can't let her throw away her future-- her high school transcript begins this year in ninth grade.

A: Don't expect the worst from her. Your worry and attempts to "have the upper hand" are not going to work anymore. If you frame your relationship with her during her teens as one in which you are battling her for control, I guarantee you that you will lose this war. She will test you as she struggles to find her identity apart from you. That's her job at this age and stage.

Check out how much of your communication with her involves your criticizing her, complaining about her, arguing with her, or giving her consequences. You have to change that ratio so that the majority of your interactions with her revolve around your showing a genuine interest in her life, giving her encouraging words for her "doing things right," and allowing her to make responsible choices on a day-to-day basis.

Listen more than you talk. Ask more than tell. State facts instead of accusations. Be very clear about your strong views, opinions, and values. Respect her need for privacy. Involve her in negotiating rules and exploring solutions to problems. Give Taffel and Blau's, Parenting by Heart a read; it will help you ask yourself the right questions regarding your relationship with your daughter.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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