Dear Dr. Archer,
My 17 year old daughter is rude, manipulative and demanding. She, however, says she's straightforward, not false like me. I have been divorced twice from demanding, controlling, abusive and aggressive men.
She's upset I divorced her father when she was 3. My daughter and I used to do everything together when she was young, and I tried to be the best wife and mom that I could be.
She has been very difficult for the past two years. It's been three years since I've been divorced from my second husband. She hates him and blames me for marrying him in the first place. A friend, a colleague and two of her father's friends have told me she is rude and difficult.
She's always been my little angel, and I was always so proud of her. Now she makes everyone unhappy. My 9 year old son is in tears and my lapdogs are now aggressive. When my son is at the computer she demands he get up and she takes over.
So many people say I'm too soft on her. She told me several times she does not want me to read or play games, garden, play with the dogs or visit my friends -- all things I enjoy.
She wants me to watch movies with her, spend time with her doing what she wants to do, like go to bars, play cards with her and her friends and teach her to drive. Actually, she can drive; she just has trouble parking.
She seems to be unsatisfied with everything and appreciates nothing. I did not want Internet or the laptop, but she insisted. I only bought it after several heated arguments. She got it but she's still not happy.
She wants me to cook her breakfast, lunch and dinner. I only do dinners. She tells everyone there's no food in the house, even though there's things to make sandwiches, cereal, eggs, meat, etc. She just doesn't want to make it!
I want peace in my house and to relax on weekends. I don't want to have to entertain her or keep her busy!
We live in a small town while her dad lives in the city. I'm always there for my children if they want to chat; I've talked to my daughter Saturday until 4:00 a.m. and it was nice. Her father always works and is seldom home, and when she goes to visit she demands that I go with her.
She's in a private boarding school in a nearby town, and complains she's alone when she's at her dad's and is lonely during the day at my house when I'm at work. I have asked her to help me with the cooking and cleaning, as I think this is spending time together, but she declines.
Her father is bipolar, and I've had her tested which came back negative. The psychiatrist says she's a very intelligent adult but is worried that our mother/daughter role seems to be reversed.
She acts like my mother! Should I take privileges away? Smack her bottom? How do I fix this?
Your little angel sounds like a typical 17 year old that got her way a little too often through the years and now sees it as her right. She sounds spoiled, Michelle, but it's not too late to address this problem.
Sit and write some rules down; write what initially comes to your mind. Take a few days off and then go back to your initial list and fine tune it, adding anything else that came to mind.
If you only do dinners, keep it that way. You may also want a list of when you will cook, and what days will be takeout or fix your own. Also, what times she can use the computer, what her chores will be, when you will have your time to yourself and when you will be with her.
Then sit down with her and review, be flexible and allow her to negotiate -- that is healthy but in the end -- you will have a list of rules to be followed.
Point is, Michelle, this is your home and your life should not be disrupted by someone so demanding, especially when she's old enough to help out.
Once you make your list and you have rules set, it is extremely important that you DO NOT give in when she tests you. And she will test you!
If she doesn't like the new you, she can go live with dad, which I'm sure she won't actually do because she'll not have it as good as she does with you.
Look at the bright side, too, Michelle. She must be a senior now, so she only has one more year to go. Discuss college with her, and find out what career path she'd like.
With rules in place, certain times for the two of you to enjoy time together, and time as a family where everyone can respect the other. It may not happen overnight, mind you, but be firm and loving, and I'm sure your sweet angel will return.
And, time is on your side; as she ages much of this behavior will start to fall by the wayside. Good luck.