Hostility & rudeness in 11 year old

I know this is supposed to be normal developmental stuff, but our 11 year old girl has turned into a hostile, rude, screaming monster with awful attitude.

Everything we say -- she will fight and argue. I get that she is seeking independence but she clearly does not have the skills to be independent. I'm trying to teach her and show her tools to be independent and she blows me off. I feel like a huge failure as a parent. She does not know how to wash her face properly. She doesn't even wash her face or brush teeth unless reminded. I'm trying to show her because she's starting to get pimples. She screams at me.

I'm trying to show her how to wash and brush her hair, because her hair is like a rat's nest and she growls at me but also asks me to do it for her. She says she's hungry and I'm trying to show her how to make simple things like toasts, sandwiches, eggs, and she says sweetly, "it tastes better when you do it." or screams that she is afraid of using fire or knife or whatever excuse is handy.  At the same time, she screams I hate you, and that I'm mean and tells her friends that she hates her life, hates her parents, and then she says sweetly, could you please give me a glass of water? i love you... She clearly has low self-esteem (again, I feel that I failed her for not helping her be independent a bit earlier in life) and thinks she is not good at anything. On the contrary, she's very smart and is a quick learner. She simply doesn't have the grit and patience to give anything enough time to get really good at it. 

I feel like I live with a psycho demon possessed tween child who screams I hate you and hugs I love you all within a span of an hour.

We recently started therapy for her and I hope it'll be helpful. I'm also wondering if we need a family therapy. Our family communication has become a minefield. We are grieving the loss of our sweet child and are dumbfounded at how fast puberty has come... she JUST turned 11. 

I try to remain calm and tell her that her words are hurtful but I still love her and will always love her. I come back when she's more calm to discuss the issue that caused her to scream. I don't know what to do but I want her to know that words have consequences. We can't take back what we say in the heat of the moment. 

Are all children supposed to go through a phase where they hate their parents intensely and become horribly unpleasant? There's so much I feel I need to teach her before she enters teen years and she seems to reject everything I say at the moment. I'm sad and would appreciate words of wisdom / tips. 

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My 12 yo girl is like this, whiplash between her hostility and lovey dovey ness. In fact this morning she joked that Dr Jekyll had left the building and now I had to deal with Miss Hyde. My main point is to say you are not alone, although this does sound pretty extreme. Maybe try less overt teaching and just live your life, letting her observe you and ask when she wants help with face wash, for example (also a current issue for us! why did I buy such a smelly face wash! [it is FRAGRANCE FREE]). I'm thinking get her a copy of the American Girl Guide to the Care & Keeping of You for some support on the hygience stuff. We also try to connect in the calm times and note to her that we see her spiraling and ask her to think back to the last moment when she felt in control (to try to rein it in next time).

Asking a child of 11 to attend both individual therapy and family therapy seems like a lot and could lead to her feeling too bad about herself - maybe give individual therapy some time.

Lisa Damour's books and podcast are helpful too. I really encourage you as the parent to detach a bit and let her come to you more. (including, for example, not fixing lunch anymore - that can be her responsibility, and if she wants something other than a cold sandwich, she can ask to be taught how)

Good luck! It's not an awesome time but it sounds like your daughter has a lot of assets and a great parent!

You aren’t alone. My daughter was like this from the ages of 11 to about 13. For me, hygiene was the most important. I was on top of her for that but pretty much laid off everything else. A book I read said if you think it’s hard to parent a 6th grader, remember that it’s also hard to be a 6th grader. I tried to parent with grace and tried very hard to remain calm, removed myself from the situation when I needed to, asked her dad to step in at times, and now I have a really sweet, thoughtful almost 19 yr old. She went to therapy in 8th and 9th grades because she asked, but I think family therapy might be overkill. You could go yourself. The loss of that sweet child is very very tough - but ours came back around and it only took a few years. 

Best of luck. 

Hi, I'm sorry you are going through this. I would suggest having a good psychological workup, especially for ADHD. She is about the right age for that to be an impact--for my kid, there were many things I thought he 'wouldn't' do, but in reality he 'couldn't' do them because of his ADHD. Tasks like basic hygiene, preparing food, homework, chores, can be much harder to do than you know if there is a lag in executive functioning. Emotional dysregulation and poor impulse control can also be connected. Finding that out would be a great first step. Other suggestions--parent coaching is actually more effective than family therapy, because you knowing best how to support, connect with and set boundaries with your child is easier to implement than trying to change her. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy is also useful for emotional dysregulation and impulse control. If you can work on finding time to connect on the things that she likes, and finding time to praise when she is doing well (even if that feels like very small things and hard right now!), that can go a long way. Start doing these things now because you will need a strong relationship to weather the teen years. Good luck. 

You are not alone and you are a great parent. No need for a therapy, but a great need for resilience and patience.

I have a 12.5 year old boy. I have to remind AND check his teeth afterwards! Washing off the face (HIS)-I do it. If you stand outside the bathroom, you would think I am abusing him. We also oscillate between a shaking screaming monster and a helpful child. I remind and remind again to him that we are a family. He does not live in a jungle. He gets food, shelter and many many other comforts of life (including screen time and video game time) because of he is a part of our family.

Also, be strong. She wants a glass of water-great time to remind her that he is old and strong enough to get it herself. You are exhausted of her screaming, your heart is aching that a person who you love so much is so upset and you need rest. I remind my son, that I put all my life and love into him and I am deeply hurt that he screams at me. If he wants to scream-do so at your friends, not me.

If she thinks you are horrible-she can make her own dinner, and yours as well. Laundry, lunch, house cleaning (not just HER room)-are also options. It is your job as a parent to educate your child that the house needs to be regularly cleaned somehow...

Have you tried coming at her with empathy, and repeating back to her what she says? We have an about-to-be 11 yo and he argues relentlessly w us, too. We have been reading and implementing advice from “The Explosive Child” per recommendation by our kid’s therapist. 
instead of telling your kid what to do (how to wash her face, how/when to brush her hair) try instead, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been having difficulty with X (eg washing your face/brushing hair and teeth). What’s up?” And then wait for her to answer. You then repeat back her answer and begin a dialogue. The point is to not prescribe what she does and when (which is a common routine for many parents; myself included) but to bring them into the conversation and allow them to be part of the decision making process so they have some ownership. 
BTW, the time to try the “What’s up?” dialogue is in a time when you are both calm; NOT when you’re wound up about her not washing face correctly, for example. 
The book stresses that you think of *no more than* 3 challenges that she’s currently having and start to work on those. (Important to note that the author believes the challenges our kids face are simply b:c they haven’t developed those skills *yet*. That’s all it is.)  Again, only work on what you consider to be the top 3 challenges first, and let the others go for now. Sometimes the other challenges will naturally be addressed as you and she work through the top 3. Oh, and be as specific as possible when you think of and write down her challenges. 
Check out the book. It may be a game-changer. 
I also agree w another responder: family and individual therapy seems too much for a young person. Pick one. 
best of luck! 

I think your daughter might be telling you that she is not ready to be as independent as you seem to think she should be. No doubt she senses your disappointment that she isn't more independent. And that could be making her feel bad about herself. Something to think about is that in order to become independent, kids first have to know there is someone they can fully depend on. Perhaps something else is going on; I don't know your daughter. But try letting her be a little kid for while to see if that helps. She's only 11. 

Hi There, My heart goes out to you! We had a very difficult 11 year old as well.  I would get yourself to individual therapy for yourself as fast as you possibly can. You need someone to support you so that you can have the energy and knowledge to support your child. While you are looking for a therapist for you, I would start on major self-care: take walks, take breaks, make yourself healthy meals that nourish you. Try telegraphing to your daughter that you will take charge of yourself, you can be calm (not perfect, btw) and that you are readying yourself to be there for her.  Also, get your partner to do the same thing.  It is crazy-making, difficult for a parent's marriage, and very hard on siblings to live through all this yelling and tumult. The first step is acknowledging to other adults that you can't take this anymore, and you're doing that!  I would forget about the face-washing and skills because it's reached a point of coercion. You have to repair the base relationship before she's going to work with you. (I do agree with another poster, just live your best life and show her that you are taking care of yourself--eventually she will want to do the same.) Sounds like she's getting tons of negative attention, so I would ignore so much of the small stuff.  Maybe going away with her for a weekend could help re-set? 

I think you're doing everything right, getting her to counseling and considering family counseling - a good idea. Maybe she's dealing with something you don't know about. That said, puberty is tough! MS is the most challenging kid era, IMO. My son got difficult in 7th and 8th grade, but lots of girls start earlier. Just remember that you have years and years of time to teach her things - she will be with you for another 7-8 years. They get easier over time. Mine is now 17 and pleasant about 80% of the time.

I could have written this post 6 years ago. You've hit on the answer in your last paragraph; it's a phase. Remember when, as parents of toddlers, we told ourselves "It's just a phase...until the next phase"? The phases don't end, just become different and more challenging. I discovered that it takes about 1.5 to 2 years for my daughter to adopt the advice I dispense. The hygiene and decorum books help, even if the books are received with derision at first; it will sink in. A little subterfuge works, too, by getting another adult or teen that they like to offer advice that would normally be rejected if it came from you (I pulled my daughter's stylist aside from time to time to offer tips on grooming). Finally,  ask questions and just listen -- about friendships, wardrobe, health, sex -- but don't offer advice in those conversations unless asked directly ( use non-commital responses like "that must have been hard for you," "Aunt Mary used to have that problem," or "I remember when that happened to me."). I'm not a child development specialist,  just another parent who needed a map and learned the hard way. It won't last forever; their brains really do fully develop eventually!

My thought would be just to concentrate on being there for her, until things calm down. It also might be worth exploring what is going on with school and her friends. When our child had a hard time it turned out they were being bullied in sixth grade, and their natural tendency to be quiet and reflective was at odds with middle school culture. For now though, just concentrate on nurturing as though she was a couple of years younger. You can teach the skills when the emotions are more centered.

Behavior is communication. And it’s not an indictment of your past failures. It’s what is going on for her now. Not all of us are our exact chronological age developmentally. External ideas about what she should know by now aren’t relevant-despite the inner parental critic and alarmist blog posts.  She isn’t giving you a hard time. She’s having one. Take a break from teaching skills she should know and doesn’t have. Stop talking about the pimples that are erupting but won’t if she only does xyz. Sensory issues can interfere with hygiene. Executive function issues can interfere with learning multi-step tasks. Take a look at the explosive child by Ross Greene for ways to approach children’s stormy emotions. And offer to do something with her she will enjoy—keep empathy and connection flowing through the difficult teen years.

My now (still very headstrong) 6-year-old was like this at that age. Every day, every interaction was horrible. I realized that for my own mental health, I could not continue living like I was being held hostage and in a constant battle with her. So, I did a lot of sitting and thinking about what I wanted and what steps I could take to get there. I wanted more than anything to have a good relationship with my daughter. My mother was very controlling and we fought 24-7. We have been estranged for many years because of how ugly and dark our relationship was. And that's where we were heading! 

The first step was working on being non-reactive in the moment, or at least paying attention to when my temper flared, and learning how to regulate my own emotions in the moment. This was super hard. For a long time, I just had to say I couldn't continue the conversation & leave the room so that I wouldn't blow up at her. 

Then I thought a lot about the small moments, like going into her room. Every time I went into her room it was to ask her to do something she didn't want to do, so the minute I knocked on the door, the anger & exasperation were already right there on her side. So, I decided that I would change it up and go in there to show her something or give her something I'd picked up that reminded me of her, etc. I had to keep asking her to do things but it shifted the dynamic over time. Another small thing that helped was that I made sure that when she came home or into the room, I looked happy to see her. I realized how much anger & resentment I was carrying around, & when she walked in, that's what she got.

Then I did a lot of reading of Dr. Ross Greene's book The Explosive Child & Raising Human Beings, which helped me further shift my lens with her. The premise is that kids (or anyone) do well when they can. So, when she was reacting with anger I had to remember that she wasn't giving me a hard time. She was having a hard time. Seeing her behavior with compassion changed my entire approach with her. It also made me see that I was dying on way too many hills and that a lot of my nagging and battling did nothing except made both of us angry & frustrated. It took a long time of convincing her by our actions and words, but finally, she saw that we (her dad & I) were not against her but that we were on her side. 

None of this was easy & it took all 3 of us (her dad, her, and me) being in individual therapy to help support us during the rough periods, but we actually got to the other side! We almost never argue, we hang out, and do things together without the "inevitable" argument that would ruin the day. I will also say, that my kid is not neurotypical, and throughout this period she was dealing with depression, anxiety, and sensory stuff from ADHD, so this really wasn't an easy shift. We didn't get lucky. It just took a lot of work to regrow that trust that we had lost with her. It was the hardest thing I have done in my life but it 1000% was the best thing I ever did too. 

It's hard to see the transition from the sweet young child to the nasty pre-teen or teen. I went through this with my son at age 12 (now 21). I could have felt more compassion for what he was going through, not worried so much, had more optimism. I wish my main goal had been to connect with him on emotional level - find out what was important to him and not care that he was meeting my parental expectations. There are so many pressures on kids with school, friends, family dynamics. With hormonal changes, they have emotions which they don't understand, they react and take out on us because we are supposed to love them no matter what. They are testing us to see if we can love and accept them when they are imperfect and don't meet our expectations. I was that mean and nasty kid to my mom 50 yrs ago. My father was so preoccupied with work, and not very interactive in general, that I would have arguments with with my mom just to get his attention! My mom's actions seemed like a way to control me and not allow me agency to make my own decisions (like maybe I didn't care if my hair was brushed or my face was clean). What I wanted was a parent who could listen and connect with me, who could have a conversation to find out what I was going through emotionally, even if my thinking was irrational. Of course this is somewhat impossible because a "middle aged" parent has totally different priorities than an 11 or 12 yr old and parents understand that they need to teach life skills. But, I wanted someone who wasn't directing me on how do everything and wasn't judging me all the time. I like what BUKA said about "I remind my son, that I put all my life and love into him..." As my children got older (I also have a daughter who is now 25), I would always preface my expressions of parenting, which they were resisting, by telling them that it was out of my love for them as a parent because I wanted them to have a good life and future, and hope they can learn from my experiences. Everyone has their story, but I felt my mom's parenting came across as just criticism and control, and then mixed with my own temperament and personality, as an adult I ended up with anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism. Those traits can work well in the world as a student or a professional, but can result in a lot of stress and unhappiness in life. Good for you for getting her a therapist so she has someone to talk to who can maybe help her understand your needs. And I would recommend working on a skill called "reflective listening" so you can connect better with her, which will help her understand your priorities as you understand hers. Before trying family therapy, I would recommend a program called "Hand in Hand Parenting" They have a lot of resources, including podcasts. Years ago my husband and I took some in-person classes they offered and I realized how important it was to spend time with my kids in a way where we were enjoying each other, I was listening to them, showing interest in their lives, apart from teaching them skills and pushing my priorities as a parent. I wished my parents could have been more loving and gentle, listened to me more, had some humor and cut me some slack to allow me to learn things in my own way. Maybe I would have spent more of my adulthood less anxious, being more self-accepting, and having more compassion for my own struggles.

I am the OP. I wanted to write to thank everyone who responded. We began a play based therapy which is working out well. DD says she loves the therapist and it’s nice to talk to non-parents. She likes her therapist so much that she now says she wants to be a therapist when she grows up.

The therapist is also doing coaching sessions for us. Our communication has improved with the child. Hormones still run wild and child occasionally goes into destructive mode, but it is slightly less frequent. 

We are seriously considering a comprehensive eval to see if child has ADHD. She is very smart and learns extremely fast but has a very high need to fidget, pace around, etc. her tunnel vision and attitude for things that interest her is intense (it scares me!).

Thank you. 

I hope you will look into getting her assessed for ADHD. We didn’t get a proper assessment until my son was in high school and I have been kicking myself for not doing it earlier. It often takes months to get an appointment so if you booked one now you could always cancel if you choose other ways of dealing with it. Middle school seems really brutal for many girls. Lots of cliques and bullying. Could something like that be happening? Also kids don’t realize that they are getting smelly with the onset of puberty. Most parents have to suggest deodorant. It is a rough time of life with all the physical changes. Good luck!

You are micro-managing. Back off. Leave her alone. Nothing dire will happen if she quits washing her face.

Try finding something you enjoy doing together like a puzzle or going for a walk, or learning to knit. Put your energy there. 

She is being unpleasant because you are being unpleasant. Nothing will change until you change.