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DrFee, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  I help people overcome anxiety and enjoy life again.
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I have problems with my 12 year old daughter. I feel she

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I have problems with my 12 year old daughter. I feel she does not respect me the way she should. For example, I went to her room this morning and started talking about the party that we went to yesterday. I made a comment about her friend's speech that it was too assertive and too long. All of a sudden my daughter looked at me in my eyes and said " Get out of my room mom, I don't want negativity in my room". I could not believe my ears.
What would you do in a situation like this? How can I make her respect me the way she should?
Hello! Please remember that my response is for information only, we are not establishing a therapeutic relationship.
I agree that what your daughter said was disrespectful, however, it also sounds like your comments triggered an immediate and strong emotional reaction in her. The stronger our emotions are, the harder it is to think clearly, and the more likely someone is to act inappropriately. Part of maturing is to learn how to not blurt such things out when we get triggered, although I certainly work with plenty of adults who don't know how to handle their intense emotions yet.
The most important thing for you to do is not get emotional back, but to stay calm, matter-of-fact when things like this happens, no matter what you are feeling inside! If you get emotional and angry too, it will not help her to learn appropriate boundaries.
So, I would have said (if I didn't get triggered, ha) something like, "Stop what you are doing and sit down. It is not OK for you to tell me to get out of your room. I will be in the kitchen. As soon as you calm down come out we can talk about this."
After she calmed down I would say something like, "I see that what I said made you angry, but you cannot react like you did (telling me to leave your room, "no negativity in your room). I would like to hear about what made you angry. If you can tell me now without telling me what I can and cannot do, I'm ready to listen."
That's how I would handle it, but different children bring unique challenges. If you'd like tell me what problems you might encounter doing something like this and maybe we can tweak it a bit.
But here are the main points:
1. Calmness, no emotion on your part
2. Stop the interaction immediately (sitting down for just a minute often works)
3. State the boundary clearly
4. Help her appropriately express herself
Dr. Fee
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for your advice. However, i just did the opposite. I got very upset and I left the room and I came back after 5 sec. I yelled at her that she has no right to talk to me like that. I told her " You have to have respect for your mom and I will not take this anymore and I won't talk to her for the next 24 hours" and I said all this in a crying voice.

I feel after all I have done for her, she has no respect for me. She has respect for every women out there (Her aunts, grandma, cousins), but not me. What can i do to change that?

Believe me, I've reacted out of emotion too. It's normal for us to get triggered and react this way, and in my experience it's what seems to be what comes naturally. But, I haven't found it to be all that effective or helpful for teaching my children respect.
The fact that she respects everyone else to me is a sign that you've been doing a good job overall. I think if our children feel very safe with us, their guard is not up, and they feel freer to blurt out whatever comes to mind --even though it is disrespectful.
It has nothing to do with how much you've done for her. It doesn't have to do with you personally. As her mother, I'm guessing that you are a safe person for her and she is mistaking that for the freedom to "let it rip." Even if she's mad at someone else say (this happens in divorce situations quite frequently) you might get the brunt of her anger because you are a safe place to direct it to.
I think it has to do with the following:
1. Maturity
2. Learning appropriate boundaries (these are more obvious to many children in other setting such as school than they are at home)
3. Learning how to verbalize emotions appropriately.
4. Learning where to direct emotions
There's a great approach called "The Nurtured Heart" approach that emphasizes these points. The book focuses on how we can reinforce their positive behaviors, set boundaries with the negative behaviors, and not take any of it personally.
I'm happy to go into more detail about any of these points.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Can you please go into detail with number 2 learning appropriate boundaries??
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
IN addition, I think she got triggered since I spoke bad about her friend. What am I supposed to do just say good things about her friends? I am not allowed to make negative comments about her friends?? I thought her friend was obnoxious when she was delivering her speech.
Sure, I'd be happy to.
In order to understand appropriate boundaries between people in general and parent/child in particular, let's focus on a minute on more tangible, physical boundaries first. We have them everywhere.
Some examples of very physical, tangible physical boundaries:
1. The four walls of the room you're in right now.
2. The property lines around your house --perhaps you even have a block wall or fence
3. The skin on our bodies (keep our organs inside)
Let's take your house/property first. No one outside of your family just walks through your front door without you letting them inside, that would be an intrusion of a boundary (and breaking the law). However, you are not so rigid that you never let anyone come into your house ever --sometimes you invite people over, sometimes you might let a stranger in (for work on your washing machine, say).
So boundaries are firm lines (like the door on your house) that are open when appropriate (visitors) and shut when appropriate (at night when you sleep). Just about everyone understands this principle. A thief might violate this boundary (breaking into your house), but even most thieves know what the boundary is (and break it anyway).
People who step all over our boundaries either have no regard for them or are just ignorant as to what they are.
So --when it comes to people, however, the lines are not physical and therefore not as obvious. And --they don't seem to come naturally to us, rather we have to be taught what appropriate boundaries are.
In school, Kindergartners learn right away:
1. I have to be quiet when the teacher is talking or (consequence)
2. I have ask to go to the bathroom
And they hopefully learn that boundaries protect them as well:
1. Timmy can't pull my hair
2. Suzie can't take what she wants from my lunch
Again, those boundaries are pretty clear and school is a structured place where they are made more obvious. In our personal relationships, though, it seems like it gets less obvious.
Here are some good boundaries that spouses ought to have:
1. We don't curse/yell at each other
2. We don't tell our children problems we are having with each other
3. We don't have affairs on each other
They might still seem obvious, but as we go on --it might be less obvious.
1. We're out to dinner and your texting your girlfriend. I'm feeling abandoned and lonely and frustrated. I'm not sure what to do with my feelings --so I snap at you!
A good boundary might be, "Hey, if we're together on a date, can we not take calls/texts from other people. I'd like to just enjoy your company."
Now that boundary does not have to be so rigid that you NEVER send a text or take a call --maybe your waiting on something really important from work that must be responded to --does that make sense?
OK --onto parents and children
Children are not clear on the more subtle/tricky boundaries unless we state them:
I remember when my kids were younger and they liked to stick things close to my face, "Look at this" which I hated.
"We don't stick things in Mommy's face" became the boundary. If they broke it, I stopped them from talking/showing and reminded them of the boundary.
When a boundary is broken, "the fun stops," not as punishment necessarily, but to catch their attention, stop what they are doing, and often, apologize.
At the same time, I want them to learn that they have boundaries too --I don't just walk into the bathroom on my 12 year old, for example.
Let me know if any of this is not clear!
About the friend ---I'm wondering why it was important to tell your daughter the negative comments. If there's a good reason, then it would help to make the reason needs to be clear and why it's important. "I didn't like the way your friend made fun of your other friend. It concerns me that she might treat you that way in the future." As an example. How was the girl obnoxious?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
She was reading her speech in a very assertive way (make fun or put down feeling) to her friend and it was way too long; people were getting tired of listening to her.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I just feel that I am not good in making boundaries with people (my husband, my kids, my in-laws) . I just let it go until they do something that really bothers me and then I blow up. What should I do? Is there a good book that I can read about boundaries?

It's definitely an issue that you want to address, and although it takes some practice something you can change.
The book I like the best is called "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend, but they are Christians, so if you're not, you might not appreciate the fact that they use scriptural references to support their points. If you can ignore that part, I'd say it's still a great book.
I really need to find a secular book that I can recommend to people. Here is the Amazon Page with books on boundaries listed:
And you'll see that Cloud and Townsend kind of have a corner on the market. Some of the other books might be good, but I haven't read them. Cloud and Townsend are very thorough in their discussion. I would go with the general book over the specialized ones (boundaries with kids, boundaries in relationship)
Also -- you could go to a therapist for some help. It doesn't have to be long term, you probably could get a lot out of 10-12 sessions. This is an issue that many, many people have deal with.
If you want to get a feel for what Cloud and Townsend are like and whether or not you're OK with the faith part, you can watch this video regarding boundaries with kids:
I hope that this helps you.
Dr. Fee
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks I might try the book. Can you also go into more detail with verbalizing emotions or directing emotions?
Hello and thank you for your patience --
Verbalizing emotions appropriately
As you know, babies start out being primarily expressing everything physically --they cry whenever something is not in balance: hungry, tired, wet, lonely, etc. They feel all of their emotions in a physical way.
As babies grow into toddlers and then small children, emotions are then expressed more behaviorally than verbally. Much of a small child's misbehavior is an expression of what's going on with them emotionally, but they have limited ways of expressing themselves verbally, so it comes out with the way that they act.
If for example, a young child is frustrated, it might come out by grabbing another child's toy, hitting them, throwing sand, etc..
As children grow, (and we tell them "use your words"), they become more verbal, but that doesn't mean that they know how to verbally express themselves. This problem can last through adulthood if they don't have the proper modeling for it.
The natural thing for us to do is defend ourselves. So, if I'm angry at you, it seems more natural to say: "You messed up!" or "Why did you do that?" than to own my own feelings and say, "I'm angry at you." In fact, anger is actually a secondary emotion, under most anger is a some kind of hurt or pain. So, the honest, most vulnerable thing to say would be, "I felt disregarded (rejected, abandoned) when you (did that thing you did)."
So your daughter say, "I won't have negativity in my room," seems like she's taking no ownership of her own feelings (not that I would expect her to be able to). It's directed at you, and your behavior. Naturally this will offend you! If she had said, "I am upset by your critical comments about my friend," she would be taking ownership of her own feelings. You would be far less likely to get defensive --unless you have an issue with other people having negative emotions.
Now --about "directing emotion." Sometimes what one person says triggers stuff in us about a completely different person. I'm not saying that this is absolutely the case with you, but I will use you as an example.
You got emotionally triggered by what your daughter said and felt disrespected. It's true that she was disrespectful, but let's ask for a minute why your reaction was so intense. It's possible that the incident actually reminds you of other incidents (unconsciously and emotionally of course) where you've been disrespected or disregarded. Usually these incidents that we get reminded of come from unresolved issues from our own childhood. I'll pretend that your parents didn't let you voice any opinions --so then your daughter does it, and it triggers a deep feeling of "this is unfair, why does this little twerp get to say what's on her mind."
But --since it's all unconscious, all your emotion gets dumped on your daughter instead of recognizing that some belongs towards your parents, say.
Like I said, I'm not saying that I know that's what happened with you in particular, but there are people who would not have been so triggered by what she said. They would have had more of the calm "OK, you cannot do that, calm down and we will talk," approach.
Anyway, that second topic about directing emotions is fairly complex, please feel free to ask me another question about it.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I understand what you are saying. And back to boundaries. Can you give me some examples of boundaries that a child should have in order to respect her parents more. I feel like I have been too easy on my kids. Maybe that's why they are not respecting me the way they should.

Hello again and thank you once again for your patience!

I'll give you some general examples, if you want to give me some specific problem areas we can narrow it down a bit.

1. No name calling

2. Ask instead of demand "Can I have a snack please," Instead of "I'm hungry! Give me a snack!"

3. No yelling or swearing

4. No interrupting

5. No taking/borrowing personal items without asking (it should be clear what are "family items")

6. Knock on the bedroom door, don't just come in

I have some personal boundaries that may or may not apply to you

7. TV must be on low volume before I get out of bed

So, like I said give me some things that you think ought to be boundaries and I'll help you out with them.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
For example, my kids interupt me when I am talking on the phone at home or when we are out and I am talking to another adult. My 4 year old pulls my hand away when I see someone to talk to at the Mall for example or at school. My 9 year old screams "let's go"... They walk into my bedroom when I am getting undressed or they use my bathroom when they have their own. Whenever my husband and I want to go out for the evening, they make me feel guilty that they are not coming with us or why we are leaving them home. My in-laws keep inviting us over without any consideration that we have plans of our own and when we don't go, they keep making my husband guilty about not going. When we go on trips, I don't want my in-laws to know about it because when they do, I feel they get jeolous and they are wondering why we didnot take them with us. It is hard for me to say No to my kids when they are asking me to buy them a toy or when they are asking me to take them somewhere. They whine and nag and they make me feel like I don't do anything for them. I have 3 kids and I feel like I am a driver.....
It certainly sounds like you need some help setting boundaries. No one can "make" us feel guilty, we allow it. Try picturing it as a big present with a pretty bow on it. You can choose to take the present or choose to leave it on the table.
Walking into the bedroom and using your bathroom should be the easiest boundary to set. Let's start there. Sit them down this weekend and explain to them that they can no longer do that. I suggest you lock your door, but I understand if it would take some effort to install a lock. Decide on a consequence that will happen if they break the boundary. If they have money, I suggest a fine jar where they have to put money in the jar --say 50 cents. But, something else might work better for you.
Talk to you husband and get him on board with this plan.
DrFee and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
it is me that allows me to feel guilty. Maybe I am just too nice. You are right. I allow them to make me feel this way. It is my own feeling. Or maybe I should not just care what my In-laws think. They are just high expectations people. I should just live my life the way I want too and not think about what they think about what I do.