Help! My Teenage Daughter Hates Me

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

My 16-year-old daughter thinks I’m evil. Anytime I try to use discipline, whether it’s asking her to help around the house or do her homework, I get attitude and viciousness. In recent months she has even taken to saying she hates me. Last night she told me, “I hate your (expletive) guts!” Then she called me another expletive and told me to stay out of her life. I am still sobbing as I write this.

I don’t know what I did to make my daughter treat me like this. I may not be a banner parent, but I do my best to make sure she has what she needs and some of what she wants. She’s really ungrateful and has no respect for me anymore. She has threatened to go live with her dad a few times now (he lives two states away), and I’m just about ready to tell her to go.

It breaks my heart to see my child acting this way toward me and I want to fix our relationship if I can. But I can’t get through to her at all, so I don’t even know where to begin. I feel like a complete failure as a parent. Please help. —She Hates Me

Dear She Hates Me,

The agony of your heartbreak is so clear—it is devastating to have your child speak to you in such a hateful manner. That agony has a way of making things seem worse than they actually are. You end your letter by saying you “feel like a complete failure as a parent,” but you also said you “make sure she has what she needs and some of what she wants.” If you are covering her needs and some of her wants, you are succeeding in at least one area, and I imagine there are other areas of parenting where you are also quite successful.

It sounds like you are unable to trace her behavior back to any particular incident, which is likely making her behavior all the more baffling. Thus, you feel unsure how to approach the issue. This also makes it seem possible that the issue isn’t really you. Sometimes children lash out at their parents even when their angst has little to do with their parents. Parents can be safe targets—friends might decide not to be friends and boyfriends/girlfriends might break up, but parents don’t stop being parents and don’t stop loving their children.

If you are covering her needs and some of her wants, you are succeeding in at least one area, and I imagine there are other areas of parenting where you are also quite successful.

You also mention that her father lives two states away and your daughter has expressed an interest in going to live with him. I’m curious how long he has lived two states away. Is this a more recent development that she might be having a hard time adjusting to? Does she blame you, fairly or unfairly, for the geographical distance? I imagine her request to live with him is quite difficult to hear, but affording her the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about why she is feeling this way might be beneficial to your relationship with one another.

I also find myself feeling curious about what is going on in her life beyond the fact her father lives two states away. Have her relationships with anyone else—friends or significant others—changed? Has there been any kind of change at school? Has her performance in school changed significantly? Examining some of these issues might offer some ideas about other things, outside of your relationship with your daughter, that might be impacting her and how she treats you. If you’re unsure of these potential issues, maybe there is a guidance counselor or teacher at her school that you could check in with.

I wonder if there are any times of relative peace between the two of you in the home. If so, one of these moments might provide a good opportunity to let her know you are concerned about her and are open to listening to anything she might wish to share. Sometimes, approaching someone in the absence of conflict can change the complexion of a typical interaction.

Finally, I would encourage you to consider seeking out your own therapy. Parenting is one of the most intense experiences there is, and going through something like this is incredibly painful. You deserve not only the support a therapeutic relationship can provide, but also the opportunity to brainstorm new strategies for and approaches to connecting with your daughter and healing the relationship.

Best,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Damion

    February 15th, 2018 at 10:51 AM

    Sounds like my kid too…

  • Kayleen W.

    June 28th, 2018 at 4:35 AM

    My daughter is 14 and half. She hates her mum for having a drink every so often.

  • Ale'

    April 19th, 2019 at 11:28 PM

    I too have experienced the same with my 13-year-old daughter. I sought help from my own mother, husband, and mother in law. It wasn’t until my mother in law started a jewelry accessory business that began to help bridge the gap between my daughter and I. My husband suggested that I include her in this venture and it really began to bring us closer together. It took some time, but it feels great to be able to talk and laugh with her again. Our bond and relationship have gotten so much stronger after this, and I’m thankful that we are able to move forward by building her self-esteem while teaching her the value of hard work, and the rewards it gives. We both have developed a much more healthy relationship by starting over, building trust and love. There were times where I didn’t know how things would turn out. I was afraid that it wouldn’t work but draw us further apart. I decided that I had nothing to lose, but the potential to regain the bond of mother and daughter. I’m so very happy to say that it really worked out for the two of us, and I am truly blessed to have my daughter back.

  • Denise

    July 27th, 2019 at 7:51 PM

    My daughter is 16, and is always yelling at me, when she does not get her way. Tonight we caught her vaping, and she got grounded. She had a party for a couple friends moving out of state tonight. We were nice enough to let her go say goodbye to them for about 20 minutes. Since then she has been hateful and hurtful toward me. Its always me. I’m so tired of it. If she does not get her way, she turns on me. I don’t know where this anger came from….

  • Jon

    September 28th, 2019 at 10:53 PM

    My daughter is much the same way toward her mother. I am the father who is even farther than two states away (different country actually). I have no idea if this will help you or not, because in our case there is definitely a trigger. Her mother, in our case, specifically stepped out of our lives before I left the area, and she prevented her from moving away with me like she wanted to originally. (I was agreeable to it as well), however her mother and the attorneys sited all sorts of reasons that both my daughter and I knew didn’t apply, and it has created a great amount of strain in my daughter’s relationship with her mother. I love being a dad, and there is no real reason to keep her from being here, however her mother is afraid of letting her go. If anything like this is the case in your situation I encourage you to seriously consider letting her go (assuming of course, he isn’t a deadbeat or whatnot). She is your daughter and she will WANT to see you if you just trust her. This may not apply to you at all, as the father may not be receptive. However, I would still encourage you to (gently) say something like “if you truly want to be there with him, I will see what we can do” and see if it is even possible. I have made it abundantly clear that unless there are external reasons that prevent it from happening, she can ALWAYS be with whichever par rent she wishes to be with (and whenever she is with me I encourage her to nurture her relationship with her mother). Teens are just, well, brutal, and often they find that (provided you both are setting boundaries) that what she is _really_ up against is not YOU but just her limits.
    Cheers and good luck. If you need help, get in a group and/or see a therapist, and read some books like the Boundaries books.

  • jon

    September 28th, 2019 at 10:58 PM

    oh, and one more thing, check your _tone_. Often you can say all the right things the wrong way and dig a emotional hole. It takes a significant amount of effort to get out of it too, even if you correct your tone. If this is the case, start changing your tone and wait an unusually long time when saying ANYTHING… make it obvious you are _thinking_ before you speak in order to give her brain the space it needs to recognize the reset.

  • Marcia

    February 28th, 2020 at 4:46 PM

    Morning Do you have books on my daughter hates me.
    My granddaughter is 16 lives with her dad & partner has no contact with her mum (who is my daughter) hates her mother .
    Cheers Marcia Zeltner

    Cheer

  • valerie

    June 3rd, 2020 at 2:02 PM

    Hi I am mother of 3 beautiful kids with my husband of 20 years. I always felt like the luckiest women alive. My kids were close in age 2 girls and a boy the youngest. Being lucky to be a stay at home mom I spent all my time with them happily. then one day in aug 2018 my oldest got sick was diagnosed with cancer and died exactly 30 after being diagnosed. she was 12. she faded so fast and her brother 9 and her sister 11 were by her side till the end. after the loss we all fell into ourselves and weren’t the close family we once were. almost as if being together hurt too much without her. the kids hit the video games hard. my son acted up in school to the point I have to homeschool him. my daughter made all new friends quit her basketball team and started dressing differently. therapist says its normal for her to want to reinvent herself but the part I cant take is the hate and attitude I get my son is distant but not as disrespectful as my daughter. she refuses chores hugs or even being in same room as me sometimes. I try to endure I know she’s hurting but she refuses counseling. My heart is broken im not the mom I used to be and I wonder if she just hates me for not being able to save her sister. I am trying to be their for her but she wont let me. any advise we are a very lost family. I just want my kids to be happy not miserable.

  • Katrinka

    February 16th, 2021 at 6:23 PM

    The relationship I had with my daughter was so toxic that I had to discontinue all contact with her for the sake of my mental health. My daughter is extremely vindictive, has few friends and can be heartlessly cruel one minute and warm and loving the next. You just never know where you stand with her! I believe that she is has an undiagnosed bipolar disorder but there is no way she would seek help and everyone around her (including her own husband and children) are walking on egg shells. The last phone call I had with her she screamed and shouted abuse at me for something I did not know – I was so hurt and so shocked, I just couldn’t respond and stood, in silence, clutching the phone listening her tirade for a good 10 minutes before hanging up. That was nearly three weeks ago and I have not spoken or seen her since and don’t intend to. The only time she is pleasant to her father and I is when she wants something – we handed her a five figure amount a couple of years ago to financially assist her and she still treats me with scorn and disrespect. I cried and cried but my daughter NEVER apologises for anything. I’ve had enough! I have two lovely sons and I get along very well with my daughter-in-law and now that I am nearly 70 I have decided that I just don’t need this level of contemptuous disrespect and hassle in my life any more. It is a tragedy that it will impact on my relationship with my two grandsons but what else can I do? It seems that whenever something goes wrong and if I am present, I will always get the blame.

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