Help! My Teenage Daughter Won’t Listen to Me


My daughter won’t listen to me! She is 15 and thinks she has everything figured out. She yells at me all the time and says nasty things. I caught her using drugs once, and she’s definitely having sex. She also sneaks out at night sometimes and skips school. This is more than just a rebellious phase. I don’t know where she gets it from, but it’s not me!

I don’t know what to do about it, either. I want to be a good, supportive mom, but I can’t stand by and watch this. I’m really worried about my daughter’s future. She doesn’t seem to care at all. I would appreciate any insights or practical suggestions you have beyond recommending counseling, as there is no way she would go. —Mystified Mom

Dear Mystified Mom,

Thank you for sharing what sounds like a deeply painful, and even frightening, situation. I imagine it is heartbreaking to hear your daughter yell at you and say nasty things. Seeing her engage in risky behaviors that could have serious consequences likely evokes a sense of anxiety and helplessness.

Sometimes in situations like this, where you can’t control the behavior of someone else, it is best to shift the focus to the only person you can control: you. It is clear from your writing that this is very difficult for you and you do not know what to do. So, while you can’t force your daughter into counseling, you can certainly go. It sounds like you could benefit from the kind of safe and supportive environment that counseling affords. Beyond support for yourself, once a counselor gains a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play, they might be able to offer to some suggestions for ways to connect with your daughter and help her.

Sometimes in situations like this, where you can’t control the behavior of someone else, it is best to shift the focus to the only person you can control: you.

I find myself wondering if you have tried approaching her with concern outside of an incident. When you’ve just caught her doing something she is not allowed to do or when you two are in the middle of an argument, neither one of you is in the best place to have a constructive conversation. However, when there’s relative peace in the home, a conversation can go a lot better. I wonder what would happen if, during such a time, you knocked on her door and asked if she had a minute to talk and simply expressed concern. Perhaps you could try something along the lines of, “It doesn’t seem like you’ve been very happy lately and I’m concerned about you. I know we haven’t been getting along very well, either, but I want you to know you can talk to me. I’m here for you.” Even if she doesn’t jump at the opportunity in the moment, perhaps you are planting a seed that might produce fruit down the road.

I’m also curious how long this behavior has been going on. How significant is the change? For example, did she go from being a fairly obedient child who got along well with you to what you have described or was her behavior always difficult to manage? In thinking back to when all of this started, is there any triggering event you can identify—perhaps a change in the family, a significant loss, a move to a different school? Developing some thoughts about what might have prompted this change in her could also be helpful in trying to understand and connect with her.

Parenting a teenager who is acting out can be incredibly difficult. I hope you will get the support you need for yourself. You just might find it opens you up to some different approaches to connecting with your daughter. Best wishes on this difficult part of your journey.

Kind regards,

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.
  • Leave a Comment
  • amanda

    October 16th, 2017 at 11:05 AM

    Do you ever take the time to listen to her and her story or do you basically fill all the time that you have with simply being mad at her? I think that there comes a point for all parents where we have to learn that the time for talking is not now, and that listening to what they have to say could probably get us a whole lot further.

  • Darlin

    October 18th, 2017 at 2:03 PM

    There will come a time when you have to step back out of that over protective parent role and become someone who can become a friend. I know that it is still important to establish the boundaries and the rules, but good grief, our kids have heard us tell them things that are right and that are wrong for years now… at this stage of their lives they simply need to know that you will be there to hear them out and support them when they need you to be.

  • griffin

    October 19th, 2017 at 3:12 PM

    see HER
    listen to HER

  • Beverley

    October 23rd, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    I always tell my adult daughter that she has to be willing to give her children some space and time. Even though the natural tendency is to hover and want an answer for every single thing that you ask, sometimes the kids just need a little more space than what we as parents feel comfortable giving them.

  • Richard A

    October 31st, 2017 at 11:35 AM

    I say it is all about being a flexible parent. There will be times when she wants to talk and so you have to listen. There will be times when she needs advice, so give. But above all you have to remain in tune with what your daughter needs and wants at this moment in time. It is frustrating and it can be ever changing, but to maintain a relationship during the critical teen years this is what you have to do to keep the whole family afloat.

  • teresa

    October 16th, 2018 at 5:17 PM

    I am so done being a quiet, patient, understanding parent. All this advice is making me sick “be there for her”, “just listen”, “she needs her space”! I agree with the other poster, parents need some help, too! I have done all of the above and now I have reached my threshold. My 18 year old is still in high school and thinks she can come and go as she pleases. Meanwhile, chores aren’t done, doesn’t answer my texts, doesn’t tell me where she’s going…or lies. I’m about ready to turn off her phone and take her keys and sell back the car. I am a single mom and she is driving me to the edge. A year ago, there was high hopes for college. We even toured universities. Now if I mention the ACT or SAT she has an emotional fit. She doesn’t want to go to college now. Wants to live on her own. Even talking about the GED! She is so talented and could probably get a scholarship. I am at my wits end. If one more person tells me to be calm I’m going to scream!

  • Tired and Done Mom

    April 1st, 2019 at 1:15 PM

    I 100% agree with you. After years of listening, not giving up, etc, I’m at my wits end.

  • Randy

    December 5th, 2019 at 1:23 PM

    I am going through a similar thing with my 18 year old daughter. I want her to graduate on time, but she’s just not turning in her school work in the 12th Grade. It’s got me at my wits end as a single parent since 2006.

  • Jo

    January 13th, 2020 at 5:39 PM

    I complete agree with tired and done Mom. My daughter is a smart, beautiful 14 year old with a monstrous attitude whom I worry about constantly. She has an “I don’t care” attitude and has lied, cheated and stolen. As well as brought home alcohol and Juul products that she got from other kids at school. She tells me that if we would just let her do what she wants, she wouldn’t give us any problems. It’s a constant battle that has been going on for almost a year and its hard to maintain that trust in her. While she has always been head strong and mouthy, this has reached a level of complete and total disrespect and disregard for anything, but what she wants. She acts like she’s in charge and states that she is old enough to do whatever she wants. What do you do with a child that never listens and just does not care about consequences? She changed her whole group of friends and went from a child who played sports with a B+ average to a child who doesn’t want anything to do with going to college and asks us all the time if we would just let her drop out of school. We just continue to push back in the hopes that she’ll finally make good choices and start being responsible and respectful. I have a feeling that we have a long way to go before that happens and I’ll end up losing my sanity!!

  • Dan

    May 22nd, 2020 at 11:37 PM

    Don’t listen to these ppl in here no wonder our kids are off the chain. She is 15 and you have every right to know what’s going on all the time day or night, your state law will back you. If she is out of control like my 15 yo tries to rule my household, either she conforms to proper behavior or force her into a state program.

  • Roger

    June 7th, 2020 at 8:08 AM

    I like the comments on here. It’s often when we have a troubled teen that I reflect back on my own life as a teen. I think you can get a good sense of what might be going on. Lets face it, not everyone has that perfect moral compass. Some of us try insanely hard to guide our kids but end up not focusing on them but, ourselves. Find that common ground! Find it! Focus on THAT instead. Threatening and pleading or begging to your will is wasted energy. Teens relate to ‘freedom’ & Individual’ & sometimes their own selfish world. You can’t force or even convice them. Just be their friend. Hopefully, if that compass isn’t too rusty, time will heal things and that teen you had will now be a successful adult. If not, you did your best. There are so many wonderful people in the world doing great things who were teens once.

  • Coco

    April 3rd, 2024 at 1:30 AM

    Good grief, no we are parents NOT their friends! My kiddo is so difficult, and just doesn’t care about anything except being on her iPad. She lies to us about having her homework done. She just doesn’t care. Absolutely breaks my heart. Her two brothers were different as teens, but she is soooooo difficult.

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