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

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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
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

    Damion

    February 15th, 2018 at 10:51 AM

    Sounds like my kid too…

  • Kayleen W.

    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.

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