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Ask The Expert: I’m Constantly Fighting With My Teenage Daughter

Dear Your Teen:

My 14-year-old is asking to disengage from the family. She feels that I attack and that she is never heard. She raises her voice in a way that appears disrespectful, but she does not see it that way. My daughter doesn’t listen, and we are constantly standing off. Her older sister of 17 sees it the same way I do. I always look to be fair. What am I doing wrong?

EXPERT | Jill Emanuele, Ph.D.

Parenting a teen is in general a challenging job. When tension arises, it can be quite difficult to manage and hard to understand why arguments are occurring.  I’m not certain what you mean when you say your child wants to “disengage from the family,” but I will absolutely speak to an effective way in which you may be able to decrease the tension and increase communication between the two of you.

Dealing With A Difficult Teenage Daughter?

The way to start changing this pattern of communication and behavior between you and your daughter is to recognize that there are two sides to the story, even if your older daughter agrees with your side. When disagreements arise, one highly effective way to have your daughter listen to your point of view is by validating her point of view. Often parents will ask me, “What do you mean by validation?” When we validate another person, we demonstrate that we understand where the other person is coming from, even if we do not actually agree with them. Even if you feel that your daughter is starting the argument or causing the tension, by using validation, you as the parent can take steps to stop the arguing and open up a more effective dialogue.

It is likely that the reason why your daughter is not listening to you is that she does not perceive that you understand her point of view (even if you think you do understand). You have to actively show her that you understand through validation. I would suggest that to open up communication with your daughter, you say things to her to show her you are listening, such as, “I hear that you feel you’re not being taken seriously and that you think I am attacking you” or “I really want to understand your point of view.” By taking this stance, you encourage her to get out of a defensive mode of responding to you, and into a receptive, listening mode.  In addition, by validating your daughter, you model to her how to then listen to your point of view.

Jill Emanuele

Dr. Jill Emanuele is a senior clinical psychologist in the Anxiety & Mood Disorders Center and director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program at the Child Mind Institute.