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Ask The Expert: Why Doesn’t My Daughter Love Me?

Dear Your Teen,

I’ve been in tears on the internet all night trying to find support, advice, the answer to how to get my daughter to show me love again. It was Mother’s Day today, the one day I thought she’d be nice and kind to me like old times…. It was worse than ever.

My daughter is mean to me all the time. I keep reading advice about what to do when there are younger kids (siblings) watching and learning this bad, disrespectful behaviour.

EXPERT | Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D.

My heart goes out to you. Teens are universally difficult to raise and keep in mind that it is also difficult to be a teenager. You see, the teenage brain is in the process of maturing and the not yet fully developed teenage brain contributes to the emotionally volatile behavior of the teenagers connected to these brains. This explanation does not, of course, provide an answer to your question.

You are dealing with a difficult teen and no mother wants her daughter to be unloving and to model disrespectful behavior.

Suggestions for Handling a Difficult Teen

1. Lower your expectations.

First, consider lowering your expectations. It is difficult for teens to make themselves vulnerable with their parents during this time period, adolescence, when they are trying to separate and feel a bit independent. Your daughter is unlikely to express her love out loud during the teen years. I tell all of the parents of teens that I speak to to be patient and that when their kids get past adolescence they will be much more comfortable expressing their more vulnerable and tender feelings to their parents.

2. Recognize the patterns.

In the meantime, focus instead on your patterns of interactions with your daughter. Which sorts of questions and situations bring out the worst in her? Once you identify patterns, you will be in a much better position to improve the quality of the relationship. You will feel more powerful because you will get a sense of what triggers your daughter and you may be able to approach and interact with her differently. I really want you to get a sense of control because it’s clear that you currently feel powerless and sad.

3. Listen, listen, listen.

My guess is that less will be more with your daughter. Always approach her with a curious and interested attitude but keep in mind that fewer questions are better than asking many questions. And, then be prepared to do a lot of listening. When your daughter starts talking, keep listening without interrupting or being judgmental. Try to find times to be available to listen to her when the other kids are not around. Your teen daughter will be much more likely to speak to you if there is no audience watching her. Make time to go for drives with your daughter. Teens seem to be much more likely to talk when they are in the car and not making eye contact. This is a wonderful trick that seems to work well over time. And, please, keep your daughter’s stories confidential if you want her to trust you.

When the quality of the dialogue between you and your daughter improves, I am sure that both of you will feel better. Trust me when I tell you that as your daughter gets older, she will become significantly more agreeable. Good luck and please let me know how things progress over time.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language. She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website drbarbaragreenberg.com.