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Out of Control Teens:
“My daughter acts like a baby”

Dear Annie,

My daughter just over-reacts to everything. I just don't know what to do. She is too sensitive and I want to get her more tough. What is wrong with my daughter? Why is she like this? She cries about everything and always wants to tell me "the problem" but she always tells me at the wrong time, like after we have had a fight, she wants to tell me what's "wrong" and I just can't take it. Everything is a problem with her. What should I do? How do I get my 12 year old daughter to just suck it up? She acts like a baby.

She's driving me crazy

Dear She's driving me crazy,

I'm sorry things currently aren't going well between you and your daughter. If you were to think back, my guess is that you might have displayed some of this "hyper-sensitive" behavior yourself as a 12 year old. I know I sure did!

Your daughter is going through a developmental phase that is very much based on biology. Yes, I'm talking about hormones. As a woman, you can probably understand the symptoms of PMS. Multiply that times 100 and you start to get a sense of what might be going on in the body of a 12 year old girl. So the mood swings, the overly dramatic reactions to "problems", the high pitched fighting, etc. are, on some level, not completely within her control.

In addition to the hormonal chaos, middle school girls are often dealing with dizzying social ups and downs. Maybe you've noticed the constant shifting of your daughter's friendships. These friendships and the sense of acceptance and well-being that comes with them can turn on a dime at this age, and that can be devastating to girls. None of this is to say that your daughter can't learn to cope better with life's ups and downs. She can and she will, but it takes time to master it all. After all, she's only 12 and it would be unreasonable to expect a 12 year old to always be able to "suck it up" and act like... a mature adult. She can't do that yet.

To help her get to a place of more emotional stability (and I'm assuming you want to help her otherwise you wouldn't have written to me) I would strongly suggest that you take a look at what you're role modeling for her. By that I mean, simply: When you're upset (with her or with someone/something else), how do you manage your own frustration or anger or hurt? Do you fly off the handle easily or do you calm yourself down and then discuss your feelings in responsible and appropriate ways?

As her mom, you are your daughter's most influential role model. So the way you respond emotionally, to her and to everything in your life, is part of what she's learning.

Also, it might be helpful to talk with other moms of 12 year old daughters. You'll probably discover that many of them are dealing with the same emotional volatility in their girls. Talk to them about ways they've found to cope and to help their daughters cope. Moms of daughters need support and reassurance. See if you can find some amongst your friends.

One last point... There is nothing wrong with your daughter. She's a bundle of hormones at this point in her life and she's doing the best she can. It's no fun for her to feel so out of control. If she sometimes acts "like a baby" it would help her if you were more compassionate and understanding.

Here's a book I can recommend: Ophelia's Mom.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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