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
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.

  • Ale'

    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

    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

    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

    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.

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