Your Dilemmas: I am struggling to control my  teenage daughters

In her weekly column, JOAN LONG, a Bishopstown psychologist and psychotherapist, answers readers’ queries
Your Dilemmas: I am struggling to control my  teenage daughters
"The youngest girl has become very quiet, tearful and withdrawn." Picture: Stock, posed by model

Dear Joan

Please help, I don’t know what to do with my kids. I have three girls aged 14 to 17 and I don’t know how to take control of the two eldest. They are coming and going almost when they like.

I’ve always believed in giving them freedom and letting them take responsibility for getting home when they’re meant to, etc. But since they went back to school in September they both have changed terribly and seem to think they can treat us their family and their home in any way they like, and have no respect for either!

The youngest girl has now become very quiet, tearful and withdrawn. I think this is from all the fighting in the house.

I have tried everything. I have grounded them and withdrawn pocket money and things they like. I switch off the internet in the house at 10pm.

I don’t know what to do at this stage and with Christmas coming I am dreading it!

I’ve spoken to the school principal and their year heads but they say they are fine in school. It doesn’t make sense to me that they’re good at school but when it comes to us at home they are awful to us!

Their father has given up in them and hardly acknowledges them at all now. We row regularly and this upsets our youngest a lot also. It is most unfair on her, I feel.

I am at my wits’ end here, help!

Dear Reader,

There is an old saying, ‘the tail is wagging the dog!’ They are in control in your home and this is not OK. They have all of the power in the household and my guess is they know this. You need to take back control in your home. How you do this is going to be hard work!

You need to regroup with your husband first off. You both need to be united on this front.

I suggest you and your husband have a meeting with the two girls and set ground rules. Spend time on this ‘document’ and have it written out for them as a ‘contract’.

You can get help to do this, from the school counselor and from good organisations in Cork.

Being a teenager today is extremely challenging. It is perhaps even more difficult at times trying to effectively parent them. They have struggles and challenges from all sides.

However, it sounds like they are in control so dialogues and communication are vital before the eldest girl is too old to pull back from this behaviour.

You need to set boundaries and if the girls do not live within these, there need to be consequences.

Children of all ages feel safer when they have firm boundaries. This may surprise you and other readers but it actually creates security for the young person.

Of course, they will not tell you this, nor will they act like they like the new system to begin with, but it will bring stability to them and you and your home and also your youngest, which is very important.

You also may need help and support from professional therapy to deal with this, as you sound exhausted and at the end of you tether.

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