How to handle an out of control teenage daughter

Updated February 21, 2017

If you're the mother of a teenage girl who is on the verge or already is out of control-or if your relationship with your daughter is on the rocks-here are six steps you can take to bridge the widening gulf between you.

Distinguish between Healthy and Unhealthy Rebellion. Rebellion takes many forms, from harmless talking back to defiant acts of drug and alcohol abuse or sexual activity. As a mother, you have to determine which acts fall under the healthy category and which cross the line into unsafe territory. Talking back is a clue that your daughter is in the throes of her first teenage rebellion. It signals that, while she's not yet articulate enough to express herself effectively, she's struggling to find ways to assert her autonomy.

Uncover the Roots of the Problem. Out-of control behavior is a symptom of deeper problems. Consider how the two of you got to this point. Take a guess at the reasons your daughter is acting out. By identifying the reasons for your daughter's undesirable behavior, you'll be more apt to find the keys to correcting it. If you treat just the symptoms, the underlying trouble will still be there and will erupt again.

Ask Yourself: What have I done to contribute to the rift between us?
Think about when the trouble began. How old was she and what was going on in your family life? I have counseled hundreds of mothers and daughters whose relationships were badly damaged and getting worse. For healing to begin, it was important for the mother to understand what part she had in fueling the fires of defiance. If you're willing to take an honest look at yourself, you will find some answers.

Avoid Blame. While some people claim that when a daughter is rebellious her mother is to blame, this usually is not true. Blaming the daughter for the difficulties does nothing to fix the problem either. There are many circumstances that contribute to the predicament.

Try Everything. Mothers often feel that they have tried everything. They are convinced that nothing will work. These negative stances won't get you out of the rut. Even though you've tried everything you can think of, that doesn't mean there isn't a solution. Often we are so close to our own problems that we can't find the obvious answers. But if you're willing to stay open and seek help, the answers will come. Get outside opinions, but be sure they apply to your situation. Listen to your daughter and your own intuition and you may be surprised with the solutions you'll discover.

Be Willing to Negotiate. The "fix my daughter" approach won't work. Both mother and daughter have to be willing to negotiate and find solutions they can both live with. There are times when there's nothing you can do to get your daughter to cooperate except wait until she's ready. If your daughter obstinately refuses to work with you, realize that you can't control her behavior, but you can control your own.


Check out "Between Mother & Daughter" by Judy Ford and Amanda Ford (see Resources below). According to research, parents think that their teens' top priorities are fun, friends and appearance. Teens report their top priorities are their future, schoolwork and family.

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