Help Please! Advice sought for troubled pre-teen


I don’t know where to begin, but I really need some perspective and am hoping that some of you can relate to what my family is experiencing.I have a 12 year old daughter. She has always been emotionally immature and been somewhat of a trouble-maker at home. She is extremely intelligent and extremely lazy. She is sassy, lies to get out of trouble, picks on her little sister and is very disobedient. She manipulates very well. I caught on to this several years ago and I tried to be a firm disciplinarian. My husband did not back me up, and in fact, often undermined my discipline by letting her off the hook when she was in trouble with me. This, I believe, caused her to have no respect for my authority. (Let me also explain that my husband is very controlling, our marriage is not good and there is no real partnership. When he loses his patience, he explodes with anger)

Fast forward a bit. She just entered middle school this year. She has always been an A and B student (capable of straight A’s with all her brains, but doesn’t make much of an effort in school). Well, one day a couple of weeks ago I got a call from a teacher saying my daughter had not been turning her work in. Keep in mind also that I had been asking every day about school and my daughter had told me everything is peachy, and she hadn’t missed any homework. Anyway, turns out she was getting a D in one class, C’s in other classes. I really laid into her about lying, that is what bothers me the most. Anyway, she lost her privileges and I think for the first time my husband started to see that she has some real problems. So, he started disciplining her–no computer, no TV, etc. I was checking her homework every day and really on her case, so to speak. I asked her everyday if she was turning her work in and once again, we caught her in some lies. So the tension in the house has really been rising.

Now to what happened today. She was fighting with her little sister. Let me add that she has always instigated with her 6 year old sister and does some extremely passive aggresive things with her. Today little sister was playing an interactive dvd game and my 12 year old joined her. Pretty soon they were going at it because my 12 year old was being ultra competative and my 6 year old didn’t want her to play anymore. They started fighting over the remote. Since 6 year old had been playing first, I instructed (nicely the first time) my 12 year old to give it to her. She refused. I asked again, temper raising, several times. So what does she do? She “gives” her sister the remote by throwing in her face. Of course, she said it was an accident but it was her usual passive aggressive garbage. I demanded that she go to her room. She refused. Several times we went back and forth. She refused. Finally I called my husband. He came and told her to go to her room. She refused to obey him as well. Well, it got uglier and uglier. He literally “spanked” her and lifted her by her armpits to drag her upstairs. All the while she is screaming and crying “leave me alone” and he was yelling some pretty demeaning stuff back.

After all had settled down, she came down later from her room. He came down afterward. He had been on the internet looking for boarding schools for troubled kids. He took a couple surveys which asked questions about her behavior-- she scored a 30%. A 50% or lower means that according to the survey, your child is in serious trouble and needs intervention. He told her it was either one of these schools or start making the changes needed to stay in our house. I added that I will insist that she go to counseling as well. She STILL refused to accept any responsibiblity–it was all our fault, or her sisters fault, etc, etc. She said she didn’t want to go away to a boarding school but refused to make the commitment to make any real changes… only “I don’t want to go”.

I am at the end of my rope. I fully admit that I was too soft, my husband was too soft and we are to blame for not taking action sooner. However, she is out of control and it seems she is unwilling to change.

So, after this excessively long post, does anyone have any advice? Has anyone out there actually been through this? The thought of sending her to another state scares me to death, but the thought of her progressing into adulthood without changing is scarier. I think that my husband and I need counseling as well so we don’t make all the same mistakes with our youngest ( we have an older girl, age 17, who is very, very well behaved). Any advice? PLEASE…:frowning:


may I humbly suggest that you get her therapy…you and your dh will probably have to attend a few sessions with her also but this behaviour can be changed!


I second the sugestion of therapy…but I think it’s MORE important for you and your husband to change than for your daughter. It sounds as though you all have issues you need to deal with before there is any peace in your home.

And, unless there is a real threat of physical danger from your daughter, I would NOT send her away. In the long run, I think that would make your relationship with her much worse.

I pray that you and your husband can get your family situation under control fast.



I have to disagree here…I do think that they all need therapy not just the parents…the dc needs to learn how to control anger and other underlyng issues (lieing, poor grades etc.) and the parents need to learn how to deal with this dc effectivly.


Sorry, I wasn’t clear…I do believe the daughter needs therapy too. The point I made in my head, lol, is that sending just her to therapy won’t have as much impact as having everyone deal with the problems that created this situation. I also believe that the younger daughter needs therapy to realize that there is nothing wrong with her that makes her older sis treat her so badly.



I would not presume to offer direct advice had you not asked, but if it were my daughter asking the question, I would say you need family therapy immediately. You don’t say and should probably not be telling us in this forum what your husband says and does, but from what you do say, his anger, and your reaction to his underlying unresolved condition of anger, is quite likely at the root of problems with the children. What we learned through similar situations in our family–not the same, but not important, simply that yes family therapy was a necessity for a while–when there is a “bad kid” in the family, that kid has by whatever dynamic become the focal point of all the anger and dysfunction in the family, and has become a lightening rod by which all family conflicts are dispersed, with the same destructive results as lightening on the family.

This has gone way beyond how you discipline the children, which was something that should have been established years ago. Call Catholic Charities or the Family Life office of your diocese for a referral to a solid counsellor. You personally should pay attention to your own prayer life and spiritual health because you will probably have to be the person with strength and will enough to make this happen. God bless you all, you will be in our prayers.


Thanks so much for the responses. I completely agree that the whole family needs therapy. The last time my husband discussed any kind of therapy, it was in regards to us and our marriage. This was at least 8 years ago. He flatly refused. Now, I still think he will refuse, but I will discuss it with him. Perhaps for the sake of our daughter he will change his position on counseling. He apologized to her this afternoon for the demeaning thing he said–that is practically a first. He rarely apologizes, so I’m glad he recognized he went to far with what he said. That being said, I know he has not resolved the issues of his childhood and I think until he does, he will not be able to effectively deal with the issues going on now.

I do not suspect any physical danger from my daughter at the present time. However, with her passive aggressive behavior I could see it moving into just “aggressive” behavior at some point in the future.

I think what I want to say to my husband is lets try the counseling first (for all of us). We should reserve the boarding school for a very last resort.

I have been praying about my family for years now. Just so you have a fuller picture, I am the only practicing Catholic in my immediate family. My husband does not respect my faith very much and at one point in time I wasn’t even allowed to pray in my own house. (You all are getting a picture of my married life I am sure.) Anyway, I truly believe that I have had some of my prayers answered because my husband has relaxed quite a bit about my faith. Still, there are a lot of “issues” between us and I have no doubt that they have affected all of my children deeply. I feel so guilty for being so weak…:crying: talk about issues… guess I need to start with my own.:o


Can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge is broke, so that’s a great start:) Just be careful not to let guilt control you. Of course you did some things that contributed to this situation. But none of us is perfect. Take responsibilty for your own actions, but don’t forget that you did many many good things for your children too. You can only move forward.



not allowed to pray in the house… gueesh. Now that’s a tough one to enforce!!

I think you need to keep up the prayers obviously. Maybe one idea… instead of keeping your daughter in her room for acting bad, make her volunteer. It seems with all her aggresive behavior, passive or otherwise, that she doesn’t care about other people as much as she should. If she learns the lessons of charity maybe she will see people in a different light?

I am soo sorry about your struggles. I will add you and your family in my prayers. God Bless


Yes, you are certainly right about the enforcement part:rolleyes: , but it was the whole idea of control that was so disturbing.

Anyway, I like your idea about volunteering. It’s a good suggestion. Thanks for your input and your prayers!


All good suggestions here. I just want to add something about the boarding school. IMO, it doesn’t seem helpful to continue to “threaten” DD with boarding school. If she thinks that’s what will happen, she may just give up and/or not even try to be “good”. After all, “why even try…I’m just going to be sent away”. Let her know that you are not going to “give up” on her. Sometimes, when there is a troubled kid in the family, every single thing they do appears to be earth-shatteringly monstrous. Sometimes, they may just be doing every day pre-teen/teen stuff, but it’s magnified in the parents’ eyes due to past behavior.
In addition to family therapy, read some good books about discipline. May I suggest Ray Guarendi or “Dr. Ray”. For your daughter, cut her off of her friends, activities, etc. Pick her up and bring her to school. Chaperone any and all fieldtrips. No computer, TV, iPod, phone calls, etc. If she is “good” for awhile, maybe you could let her invite a “nice” friend that you approve of, over for a little. Maybe allow her one TV show. ALL privileges are completely dependent on “good” and expected behavior. This will take time and effort.
Lastly, keep praying. Ask her guardian angel to protect her each day. Consecrate her to Mary’s Immaculate Heart when she goes off to school. Pray, pray, Pray. Another way to pray is to fast/sacrifice. Give up little things each day for your marriage, for your daughter’s soul. It works.
I will pray for you, too.


Sorry to hear that your husband has jumped in “late in the game”. When it comes to parenting, there has to be a tag team effort. If not, teens will divide and conquer. Perhaps your husband finally did somthing, just to show that he could, only to regret later that it was a knee jerk reaction to what has been going on for some time.

When “missy” came home from school, she would have a mattress on the floor and a cardboard box to put her clothes in. She doesn’t appreciate anything and is at the “testing” “your will” stage. Remember “who” is in charge. You need to remind her of that and your husband need be on board “together” in agreement. Don’t call on him as “your last hope”…that is when “missy” will see…hmmmm…mom can’t do anything with me, so she calls dad…and dad won’t do anything…I can work around him. Been there, dear, done that, got the t-shirt.

Sit with DH and tell him, that we are going to counseling, we are going to set up appointments with her teachers and guidance counselors and we will meet with them every quarter. You don’t need to “inform” missy what you are doing. You are the parent…do it.

If she asks where her stuff is, remind her where the “stuff” came from. She may “earn” stuff back, when she agrees to counseling, improves her grades and becomes an active member of the household. And you and your husband decide “together” what comes back to her room and when. Put a password protect on the computer, so she can’t log in. Computer use is for “homework” and research only. Uninstall all the ****…yahoo chat, Myspace nonsense…etc. If you can’t do it, take it to a computer specialist do have it deleted. Make sure a “filter” is installed, there are many on the market, ask your computer specialist for recommendations.

She may only watch what the family is currently watching…nothing else. I like the idea of the dropping off and picking up after school. Keep in touch with the school. Call the school and make sure she is in class.

If she threatens to run away…make sure you have the number of your local PD handy, as they will come and get her. Let her know the consequences of that threat. Find out who her friends are. This is a big deal, as you may find she has been hanging with the wrong crowd. School to home, that is it. Church and youth group when scheduled. Tell your younger child, if “missy” starts yelling at her, just walk away to her own room. A clown will perform if it has an audience.

If you work outside the home, and have a trusted neighbor or relative, stop in and ask, “Missy, do you need anything?” keep it light and bland. She’ll know that someone is asking about her. If you have a land-line phone, take the handset or cords and lock them up in your trunk before you go to work each day…this will keep her from using the phone. Make sure your purse is in your bedroom at night.

Sounds like your daughter needs a wake up call. Remind your husband that she is his child too, and like or not, there is a problem that needs to be addressed as “parents”. Age 12 is the make it or break it stage…keep yourself spiritually centered…you are not alone.


I think that this is rather extreme…just my 2cents.
The OP and her DH need to learn how to parnet as a team…from what I am reading that has been the issue all along and that has partly lead to what she is seeing now.
I do think that the parents need therapy along with the DC, the DC can benefit from therapy to control her anger, and learn how to communicate effectivly.
I do agree that the parents should both take a more direct role in their DC’s schooling…getting in touch with teachers etc.


taking away the TV and going to your room is a no brainer and a task that is punishment to parents as they have to keep track of the “grounding” days and times…which soon can be forgotten. Nine times out of ten, “your room” is not a punishment, as it has all the “creature comforts” …

going to a room that is bare, gives you time to think about what your parents provide for you and the sacrifices they made to afford a decent place to live.


lovely this solves one issue…but is that going to resolve the issue that got them their in the first place…parents not parenting as a team??


you seem to be following me around…and here lately…for some reason you have moved to a highly conservative bend…than your usual postings…so I’ll explain.

While daughter is getting her act together…this gives mom and dad time to “reflect” on their parenting as a team. To jump on this woman at the outset and tell her how horrible a parent she and her husband are accomplish nothing. I am sure the OP and her husband are well aware of mistakes made with this child. They seem to be at the next stage…where do we go from here, and asked for suggestions. I gave one. It may not be your cup of tea…and too hard nose of an approach…just as I believe your “Starbucks” answer is way over the top IMHO.


I have to say I am no expert, but think this approach will backfire and create far more problems and stress for your family. Your daughter is the victim of some very disorganized parenting and family dynamics. I think you all need some professional help and a serious commitment to get your family back on track if your hope to disentangle yourselves from this disfunction.

Also heartbreakingly lost in all of this mayhem is your 6 year old. Please focus on finding an approach is supportive of your family as opposed to creating more division and animosity. The absence of religious and spiritual practice in your family may also be contributing to your adolescent’s selfishness and negativity. Consider approaching your husband again about gaining his support for instructing your girls in the faith. It will provide them with a perspective and basis for virtues like obedience, humility, service, patience and kindness that they are currently lacking.

Best wishes and prayers for you as you start this journey.


not really…I posted on these threads before you did:p as to conservative…always well most of the time…unlike you I am not a radical extreme type of person…I see it as doing more harm than good…especially in this case.

lets see…I NEVER stated she and her DH where horrible parents…your suggestions of taking everything away from the DC is drastic…once again just my 2cents…the reason they are where they are needs to be resolved otherwise taking this kids things away will never solve anything if the underlind issues are never resolved.


I very much agree. I think that family counseling is in order. It sounds like there has been a lot of chaos in your family life. I think your daughter needs guidance not more extremes in her life. I will pray for your family.



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