“What's going on with my daughter all of a sudden?”
Dear Annie,My 13-year-old daughter seems to suddenly be totally defiant and has been extremely moody especially when her stepdad is home. He has been part of our lives for 11 years and we have been married 6 years. The issues between him and my daughter with her rudeness and mouthiness are new.
Neither my husband or I have come from broken homes so we are not able to understand where this seems to come from all of a sudden. Our daughter is saying that her step dad is trying to be her dad who she has always had a good relationship with though she doesn't see him that much because he lives several hundred miles away. We asked her to let us know what things she doesn't want her stepdad involved in but there are things that I believe should not be her decision when it comes to his involvement. We have always let our kids know that they can come to us with anything but my gut tells me she is hiding things. I don't want to invade her privacy by going through her stuff but I am almost to the point where I feel I need to.
It sounds like you and your husband are entering uncharted waters with your daughter. It's quite possible that her defiance and moodiness toward her stepdad is a somewhat delayed reaction to your remarriage. While rudeness should never be tolerated, I'm thinking that her acting out is not the problem. Clearly she's angry and resentful toward your husband. She has told you as much when she says "Stop trying to be my dad." My gut tells me that she's reached a point in her life when she's wanting more from her biological dad than time and distance would allow. And because she doesn't feel comfortable telling her bio dad that's what she wants from him, instead, she turns her disappointment, confusion, and self-doubt ("Doesn't my real dad love me any more?") on to your husband.
Is that fair? Of course not! But she's a child and she's not thinking clearly about how her actions are affecting others.
Here's my suggestion: see her rude behavior for what it really is... A cry for help. She doesn't like being rude and mouthy. In fact, she wishes she weren't angry all the time and that she had more self-control. But, like I said, she's 13. So instead of reacting with your own embarrassment and shock I'd suggest that you take a leadership role and make it your top priority to find out why you're daughter is so unhappy.
Take her out for a mom-daughter time... A walk, a meal out, a movie with time afterwards to really talk. Don't make it an interrogation or a lecture. Simply say, "I've noticed that you've been acting rather rudely to your stepdad. That doesn't seem like you and it's confusing me. I'm wondering what's going on."
Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what she has to say.
If she needs some prodding, you might say, "You've never had a problem with him before. Can you please tell me what's changed?"
Your tone should be encouraging and absolutely NEUTRAL. That's the only way she's going to open up to you. And when she does, do NOT use anything she says to you in confidence against her. In fact, without her permission, you shouldn't tell your husband anything she says. This is about you and your daughter and whatever unhappiness and insecurity she may be feeling. Your role is as a mentor. If you can help her communicate to her father... That would be great! if you can help facilitate a Family Meeting with her stepfather... Terrific!
If you feel that you can't be neutral and are in the middle here, then take yourself out of the middle and suggest a session with a family counselor... For ALL of you.
Your daughter isn't "the problem" here... She's just the squeaky wheel.
Show your leadership here and find out a) what's going on, b) how each of you in the family is contributing to the disharmony, and c) where you can get help for the family.
It all starts with a calm, conversation with your daughter in a private setting away from home.
I hope this helps.