Can I give my kids back?
December 30, 2008 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I hate my kids. Do other people hate their kids?? What do you do?

I have two teenage daughters, 13 and 17. On the surface, we are the family that everyone admires: Mom and Dad are well-educated and well-off, girls are polite, smart, well-behaved (to other people), get fantastic grades. Older daughter just got into top college. Whee! We're perfect.

Except that my daughters have been treating me like a piece of s**t lately and I can't take it anymore. Seriously. I set limits with my older daughter, and she insults me. The younger one tells me that I'm "always on vacation" - I work part-time and run around for my family full-time because dad works at a start-up and is basically always working. When the girls show such lack of respect and mouth off to me, I tell them flatly that I am the parent and they need to respect that. I don't scream, I don't treat them badly, and I don't try to be their friend in the times that I have to be a parent. I ask them to do basic things like clean up after themselves and take responsibility for their things, and they are abusive and nasty. WHY ARE THEY TREATING ME LIKE THIS?? Their father always treats me with respect - it's not learned from him.

What's ironic here is that when I did a search in ask.meta on this topic, all I came up with were questions about the opposite problem - Mom is a psycho-bitch, how do I get rid of her?

So, Mefite Moms (and dads) - how the heck do I cope with these goddamn kids that won't show me any respect or at least shut their mouths? Wait for their brains to re-form after teenaged-hood? Go have a stiff drink and watch a movie? Move out???
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (82 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
They are teenagers. And they sound like perfectly normal, typical teenagers.

I suggest that you are the one with the problem. You hate your kids? Really? To even joke about that is kind of sick. Please talk to a professional about your feelings. And please don't let your kids know you feel this way. My dad once told me that he hated me, and I've never forgotten it, and never will.
posted by amro at 5:37 PM on December 30, 2008 [9 favorites]


Because they are teenagers. Maybe on the brattier end of normal, but overall behaving fairly normally for their age.

Wait for their brains to re-form after teenaged-hood? Go have a stiff drink and watch a movie? Move out???

Yes, yes, and yes. Really, is there any way for you to take a break? A real break, not a ten minute breather. I mean, can you go off to a beach resort or a desert spa or visit an old friend in another city and leave your cellphone at home, not check email, and really just have the respite to recuperate?

Alternatively, you can send the kids away -- to stay with a relative, to a volunteer project somewhere, military reform school, etc. Sometimes a week is enough; sometimes people just honestly need a year or two apart to figure things out and get their shit together.
posted by Forktine at 5:42 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm a 25 year old girl, and I was not kind to my mother when I was a teen. It sounds like your girls might be meaner than I was, but those are such horrible years for a female. Your hormones make you crazy, you feel like a freak, you don't like yourself. I think all girls would love to take that out on the entire world, but they can't. They wouldn't have any friends. The only person you can treat like crap and know they won't leave, is your mom. Not that you should treat your mom like crap! But I think girls take all of their feelings out on their moms, knowing that their mom will always love them. I love my mom dearly, and was close to her even through the teen years, but I regret the way I treated her. She told she did the same thing to her mom. I don't know why girls don't usually do that to their dads, but I was closer to my mom at the time.

Hang in there, they hate themselves right now, not you. And mom is usually the one telling them to pick up their laundry, clean their room, etc. (at least in my house). Yearning to be independent and still having to do everything you are told SUCKS!!! Seriously, I would never want to go back to being a kid!

I'd sit them down and have your husband express how awful they are being to you.
Good luck.
posted by wannaknow at 5:43 PM on December 30, 2008 [46 favorites]

I ask them to do basic things like clean up after themselves and take responsibility for their things, and they are abusive and nasty. WHY ARE THEY TREATING ME LIKE THIS??

Same reason any other teenagers do. Because their bodies are betraying them and turning weird and they have all these weird, strong feelings they didn't used to and they're scared because they don't know what's going to happen and they're full of themselves because even they can tell how much they've grown and learned and matured and their judgment centers haven't fully booted up yet so there aren't many filters between their immediate impulses and their speech centers and any constraint at all feels chafing and and and...

If your mother is living, you should be having this conversation with her and not us, so that she can inform you of just how much of a shit you were at that age and how she coped. And then, if your grandmother is living, ask her about your mother.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:46 PM on December 30, 2008 [7 favorites]

I think the process of separating and becoming an individual is most traumatic and loudest between girls and mothers. (Boys can separate from same sex parent at one time and primary caregiver at another plus boys tend to retreat and girls tend to argue.) I'm sure lots of people will say "Yep, normal - it should be better after they finish their first year or two of college." Still, you should be able to make life more tolerable for yourself.

Did this start with puberty? If they were more or less obedient when they were younger, I would suggest Get Out of My Life But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall.

In the meanwhile, set limits, expect a minimal level of politeness (combine consequences with simple deafness when they insult you) and stay calm and in control - don't let them pull you into an argument or let them see that they got you upset (teenage girls feed on drama). Equally important, spend some time, at least once a week, with other women, preferably parents of teens so you can all share stories and commiserate.

If you have already had trouble with them or if when you set consequences, they just escalate (self-harm, destroying things, threatening to hurt you) then I would get professional advice to make sure both you and them survive the next few years.
posted by metahawk at 5:48 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was a moody, obnoxious, and nasty little brat when I was a teenager. When I look back on it I am deeply embarrassed for myself and I have no idea how my mom handled it - except maybe that her mom was not far away and she could lend some perspective. I think wannaknow has a great insight as to what's actually going on there. There's also a real longing to try things out and be on your own in the world, combined with a deep and unspoken fear that you will be truly unable to handle it when it comes. Adolescence is a miserable time. It will pass and they will turn into normal people whom you will love again.

As to how to not hate them - I'm not sure what will work, and anything can backfire, but I can remember a few times when my mom just surprised me. Took a random detour to do something fun and out of the ordinary, without planning or predicting. Responded to something in a non-typical way, like making a joke when I thought she was about to get angry. Siding with me in a dispute. Leaving me a surprise note.

Keep in mind, these nice gestures did not prevent me from acting like a snot again at the next possible opportunity, nor was there necessarily any outward indication, such as a smile or eye contact, that I was enjoying these experiences. But I can remember some of them, and they were an occasional lifeline during what is a rocky time for almost everyone, assuring me that we would both get through it and, at the base of things, did love one another as a family.
posted by Miko at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2008 [6 favorites]

Totally normal from what I have seen from my friends and their teenage daughters. You do need a break and their father needs to reorganise his priorities to be there for his children. You sound like you have a good handle on parenting, a key part of which is making them feel the natural consequences of their actions. Rude children don't get privileges.
posted by saucysault at 5:56 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

I tell them flatly that I am the parent and they need to respect that

Their father always treats me with respect

Do you tell him flatly that you're the woman of the house, and he needs to respect that? Is that why he does so? I'll bet not.

Your 17-year-old is figuring out how adult relationships work. You're treating her like a child, and naturally, she's reacting like one (though with the vocabulary and force of emotions of an adult). This is normal teenaged behavior. Her little sister is emulating her... this is normal too.

But, when you treat your 17 year old as a child (even when you treat her the same as her 13 year old sister), you are showing her DISrespect. Why shouldn't she respond with disrespect? She is nearly an adult, and you need to respect that.

And yeah... if you "hate" your kids, seek help. I overheard that once 20+ years ago, and I haven't forgotten it either.
posted by toxic at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2008 [9 favorites]

I went thru this with one of mine. The good news is we get along great now, as she is a married mother herself.

My recommendation is to have a family meeting, with your husband there. The two of you address the two of them letting them know that the basic disrespect stops. Period. Tell them this calmly.

Please do stay calm when you deal with them, but do not take crap. If they are disrespectful, make sure there are consequences. But again, be calm.

And this really is when your husband needs to let his daughters know that they are not to treat HIS WIFE with disrespect. He would not allow a stranger to speak to you that way, after all, right? And of course I am not implying you cannot stand up for yourself, only that it is helpful for partners to support each other particularly when teens are being pitas.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

As one not too far removed from their age, I'm thankful you're posting this rather than other more destructive things you could be doing. It's normal to experience frustration, especially when you have memories of different, more nurturing times. Over the course of my adolescence, I had a lot of issues with my parents, and it took many, many conversations to work most of them out. I hope you find some way to facilitate that with your first question would be what role your husband has been playing: is he really aware of your feelings right now?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:01 PM on December 30, 2008

It sounds like you definitely need a break, and a good one, as Forktine suggests. Of course the typical friction of teenagerhood can be most pronounced between girls and their mothers, but how is their relationship with Dad when he is home? Does he always check out or let them get away with things, leaving you to be evil cop to his good cop?

I was lucky in that my parents (although they separated and divorced when I was at the end of my teens) seemed to dole out the stuff I hated in equal I was a horrible bitch demon child to both of them. ;-) If it helps any, I apologized to both when I was about 21 and had come to my senses - I couldn't believe, looking back, how nasty I had been at times.
posted by chihiro at 6:02 PM on December 30, 2008

My kids are little still, but when I look back and remember how my mother mishandled my own teenage years, it seems like this wisdom might transcend the age difference:

Be consistent. Set boundaries. Set reasonable rules. Make clear what the (natural and logical) consequences of failing to follow the house rules are. Enforce that. Every time.

Don't engage when the kid is acting out. Don't allow them to pull you into their drama. Stay the adult, model the rational response to the situation.

My mom, unfortunately, did none of the above. She let herself get sucked right into my teenage crazies, so that minor events turned into hours-long screaming matches. She gave in too easily one day, then cracked down with an iron fist the next. It made everyone in the house crazier than they needed to be, and while we're close now, I can't really say she's any kind of a model for parenthood for me, and trying to raise my own kids with only a "what not to do" has not been that easy.
posted by padraigin at 6:02 PM on December 30, 2008 [12 favorites]

I think amro and a couple of others are reacting pretty harshly. While I recommend you try not to tell them you hate them, I have a contrasting data point to amro's; in a moment of frustration at my teenage awfulness my father once said he hated me, and I'd forgotten it until now and am not scared for life (although I was shocked and upset at the time). I don't think basically sound relationships are so easily broken. We all feel a range of strong emotions for the people we're close to, sometimes they're ugly.

My recommendation is to have a family meeting, with your husband there. The two of you address the two of them letting them know that the basic disrespect stops. Period. Tell them this calmly.

I agree with this.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:05 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

I suggest that you are the one with the problem. You hate your kids? Really? To even joke about that is kind of sick. Please talk to a professional about your feelings. And please don't let your kids know you feel this way. My dad once told me that he hated me, and I've never forgotten it, and never will.
posted by amro at 8:37 PM on December 30 [+] [!]

I understand the core of this reaction, and even somewhat agree with it. The OP probably would benefit from talking to a professional about her feelings. As other posters have indicated, her daughters' behaviors are probably normal and indicative of a kind of distancing from the parent and a struggle to find their own identities. Just because this is true, it doesn't mean that as a parent it is any less difficult and hurtful to sort through those reactions.

But since that part is already decently covered, I want to say that this blaming reaction is probably not super helpful to the poster. I feel like there is often an immediate reaction against parents (especially mothers) who talk about experiences of parenthood that are outside our usual conception of the role. It's OK to be really frustrated and even not like your kids sometimes. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or even a bad parent. My reading of the question is that it was posted in frustration. I don't think the OP genuinely hates her children or indicates to them that she feels this way.

I agree that the OP should refrain from speaking to her children in anger about the situation, and especially avoid using the word "hate," as you indicate. I don't think it would be out of line for her to talk to her kids about the way she feels they are treating her, though. And again, I do think it would probably be beneficial to talk to either a professional or another close family member who has raised children older than this age.

But with all due respect to amro, I think it is already difficult enough to talk about having these negative feelings about one's children (hence the anonymous posting) without being called "sick" in the process. To re-iterate to the OP: Yes, other people feel this way. Your daughters' behavior is very likely going to change in time. You're not a bad person for feeling this way and venting about it.
posted by theantikitty at 6:11 PM on December 30, 2008 [37 favorites]

I do not have anything to add here, except that I don't think your feelings should be dismissed as "kind of sick". Teenagers can be insufferable. It's ludicrous to pretend otherwise. Your feelings are not wrong or sick -- you have to deal with two girls who are mutating and freaking out as a natural consequence of being a teenage girl of this time in history.

You have a responsibility to work with them (and many great suggestions have already been made, as far as that goes), and it's going to be really difficult, but beating yourself up about your emotional reaction to bad behavior will not help you out at all.

It's acceptable to think "I really hate these kids right now". It's not acceptable to allow them to know that you are thinking this. I suspect your strong feelings really are short-term, and are not set in stone for all eternity. Try to add the words "right now", or something like it, after every sweeping angry thought you have about your kids, so you can keep reminding yourself that this is not forever, and you do not hate them forever. And never vocalize any of these thoughts if there's even a remote chance your kids will find out or overhear. They won't forget, and they don't have the perspective to realize that your feelings are more complicated than just flat-out hate. They also still think the world revolves around them, and will not be able to emotionally separate their egos from your current opinions.

And land's sake, take a vacation.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:11 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

I sincerely hope that you are just profoundly annoyed by your teenage daughters and that you don't really hate them. I can't tell what to do, but I can tell you that other people do not hate their kids. If it is really hate you feel, please seek help.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2008

nthing everyone else that the brattiness is normal . i was a very "good kid" to the world as a teenager, but i was still a mean lil' sucker to my mom when i wanted to be .
she patiently weathered the storm and now i'm a lot nicer (although i still nag her about smoking) .
on the other hand, remembering myself as a teenager makes me desperate not to have kids .
invest in the future by maintaining your respect for yourself and your children, even though they may not be mature enough to do the same for you ... yet
posted by hellogoodbye at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2008

You think your kids are terrible at this age, you should have seen me and my brother at 13 and 17 respectively. We're young adults now, and we've seen better and know better. Sit through it. Be firm but calm. Don't lose your head, or try not to. And yes, you need a break. As in "Hawaii/Caribbean/tropical paradise" vacation.
posted by curagea at 6:27 PM on December 30, 2008

On the subject of irony, can you engage in any? Possibly your earnest desire to have everyone all getting along looks a bit sad to your teenagers, who at this point in their lives are focussed more on separating and becoming their own people which may involve being very different from the people they've been brought up to be/felt pressured to be, etc etc. If you had any hope of pulling off humour, I'd suggest remaining cool and centred and maybe a bit smart-assy yourself when the threat of getting sucked into something dramatic looms. Take a step back and don't be so affected by a couple of people who you know are under the influence of hormones, trying to fit in with their friends, trying to find their place in society generally, etc etc, and who thus can't be expected to have a lot of emotional space for someone who - as others have said above - they don't *need* to worry about pleasing cuz they know you'll always be around however they treat you. Stuff you go through as a teenager makes you feel pretty vulnerable, and they sure as anything aren't going to want to talk about it - that would mean actually admitting to feeling vulnerable - so you mightn't have any idea about lots of what's going on for them internally.

How do you respond when your daughter tells you you're always on vacation? I don't think either yelling or telling them that they have to respect you "because I'm the parent" is likely to have much effect because in either case you seem phased and evasive, with resorts to demanding respect on the basis of something that's got nothing to do with the challenge. It's like you secretly agree or fear they may be right. Just shrug - you know the truth of the situation, and they'll realise it too when they're older - and don't offer excuses.

Or, yeah, GO on "vacation"! When you're called to pick them up, be on the couch with your movie and your stiff drink and tell them sorry, you're on vacation -- that you'll be back whenever they decree that you're NOT actually on vacation all the time and want you "back to work", this time on the recogition that you're actually doing a fair bit of work to keep things running smoothly for the family! ;) It's very easy to take mums for granted cuz dinners just appear magically on the table, cars rush up to meet you when you're done at school or sports, and so on. As kids, you've never had it any differently, so this just seems normal to be cooked for and chauffeured around and so on. Maybe seeing the alternative could be humbling?
posted by springbound at 6:27 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You hate your kids? Really? To even joke about that is kind of sick.

Oh please, she's just frustrated and venting. Frankly, if you haven't considered burying your teenage kids in the backyard, something is probably wrong with you. The myth that a person can't feel loathing or hate about their kid is one of the enduringly damaging myths of raising demons, er, children. The sheer amount of emotional, mental and physical work you have to put into one child is unbelievable.

So knock off treating her like a pariah for her feelings. It's natural, temporary and passes.

run around for my family full-time

Suggestion: If they're treating you like shit, then stop doing that. This depends on your family dynamics and your kids personalities, so again, it's just a suggestion, but one you should think about it. Just because they're you're kids that doesn't you have to bend over backwards for them. If they feel they're old enough to pull that crap, then stop being their chauffeur, bed maker etc and explain exactly why you've stopped and if they'd like to see those things from you, then they need to start treating you with respect.

No one respects a doormat or robot and that's exactly what you're acting like, based on what you've written. Would you take this sort of behavior off another adult? If not, then why take it from your kids?

Otherwise, they're being the typical obnoxious, melodramatic, self absorbed, bitchy teenager. For the next 10 years or so, you are, by default, the idiotic roadblock in your life, they know everything and you know nothing.. Don't take it personally, they're just really dumb at this age, REALLY dumb. That's ok, it happens to all of us. Don't take any shit, ignore the small stuff and remind them that you're still there for them and still love them (but you're not their punching bag).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 PM on December 30, 2008 [41 favorites]

I can't even count the number of times my mom went "on strike" when we were teenagers, it actually became kind of a family joke in later years. It was mostly just a guilt treatment where she wouldn't cook or do stuff for us. I'm a stay-at-home dad and I actually tried this last year when I was feeling kind of shit-upon but it sort of backfired because nobody noticed that I wasn't cleaning for a few days and then my wife started angrily cleaning up and making comments in my direction about how messy it was, implying that I was lazy or something. It sort of defeated the point when I had to explain to her that I wasn't doing any extra stuff anymore because everyone was rude and unappreciative.
My point is that opting out in a kind of self-pity anger doesn't really work. And picture yourself as a teenager hearing, "I'm your parent and you need to respect that." I've said that sort of thing before and it always comes out sounding kind of naggy.
I have 3 kids, the oldest is 11 and I get nervous when I think of the approaching years. In my mind I can already see my middle child's angry, hot, pinched face screaming, "I HATE YOU!" and then stomp stomp stomp SLAM. So I'm not quite there yet and I feel your pain.
But I remember the times as a teenager that I (or my brother or sister) would make my mom cry and how it made me feel like absolute shit, down to the knots in my stomach. One of us would see her and tell the other two, "mom's crying," and you just felt a horrible, sinking feeling. It was never a manipulative guilt trip, because she would always stand tough and hold her ground until the pure teenaged meanness and silent treatments got to her. And, inevitably we would apologize and we'd talk about it while she gave us a big teary hug.
I haven't cried, but the one thing I have done is to let my kids know, in know uncertain terms, when they've crossed a line with me and offended me or hurt my feelings or whatever. And they've all done that. I've been so mad that I just didn't want to speak to them for a while. They're still young but when I've explained why something they did wasn't fair or something they said was really mean or offensive to me, and they can see how it made me feel, they've never failed to understand it and feel remorseful about it. And apologize.
We don't have a lot of rules in our house. But not treating each other like crap is huge.

Maybe connecting with them at other times, about other things, as a parent (not just pulling the parent thing out when it's a nagging, big drag that they just roll their eyes at) would help build up some respect.
It's also hard to assess the situation with the details you've given. Are they feeling pressured about getting good grades? Do they get everything they want? Too much freedom? No freedom? Hard to tell what's going on just from your exasperation. And I'm trying not to read too much into, "On the surface, we are the family that everyone admires."
But everyone gets frustrated with their kids, for sure. And, as mentioned above, they're teenagers and teenagers can be total assholes.
Good for you for trying to find a solution. Good luck.
posted by chococat at 6:33 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was just like your daughters (good to all appearances outside the fam but horrible to my parents).

Looking back, I wouldn't blame my mother if she hated me sometimes. I could be vicious. Not being a mom or maternal in any way, I have no suggestions for you about how to avoid disliking them for now. They're at an unlikeable age.

I have to agree with toxic on one issue from the kids' perspective. My dad was the one who thought I should be a good little girl just because he said, "I am the parent, respect me," and our relationship never recovered (probably also due to physical separation after a divorce, which meant we never got a chance to grow out of that dynamic, but still . . .).

My mom, on the other hand, set boundaries and punished me consistently, but the big difference was that she LISTENED to me and respected me enough to tell me WHY she set the boundaries she did. I still acted like a little shit a lot of the time, but I respected the really important boundaries (about school, drinking, sex, etc.). I did not, however, clean my room or clear the table or take out the trash or treat her with respect. Looking back, I think I was able to rebel in ways that didn't harm me, yet satisfied the need to rebel. It sure did suck for my mom though.

My point is to try to focus on when your daughters do listen to you and respect you, because it sounds like you're doing a lot right if they're polite, well-behaved, getting into good schools, etc. and to try to remember that they are crazy right now. Maybe even remind yourself that they are probably miserable and their behavior is a symptom of an inner life that would probably make you feel pity if you knew the extent of it. Try to respect them even if they don't deserve it, explain things you think shouldn't have to be explained, and remember that this too shall pass.
posted by Mavri at 6:34 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I just want to reinforce padraigin's response, because my teenage experience was so similar: Don't get sucked into the drama, and stick with firm boundaries. You need some kind of distancing perspective on this, and I hope that all of these comments that say "wow, yeah, teenagers are crazy and awful" will help you get that, and help you get to a point where you can shake your head when they're rude to you and think "gosh, teenagers are loony, poor things."

You cite two instances here where they were terrible to you, and yeah--it sucks to be told you're "always on vacation" when you work hard, and it's awful that your oldest daughter insults you. But you need to be able to distance yourself from this, because you're still the Mom, and it's so important that you stay the Mom right now, when everything else in their world feels so crazy and transitional. I find it a little bit sad that you've fixated on what a hormonal 13 year old uses as an insult, even while I understand why you might.

My suggestion to you is to make your goal right now, regarding your daughters, to be someone they will be able to respect when they look back in five years and think about how mean they're being to you and how you handled it. I look back at my teenage years and what I remember is that yeah, I was strongly emotional and pushed every boundary I could and argued with my parents about everything, but I also remember that my mother would get into HUGE hours long fights with me about little things, and that my relationship with my mother when I was a teenager was really bad and painful and hugely inconsistent. Arguing with a teenage daughter only exacerbates her feeling that something is very wrong with her.

I remember that my father just kind of sighed at my crazies, stuck by his rules, and stayed up late to make sure I got home by curfew.

I wish you all luck getting through this time.
posted by hought20 at 6:38 PM on December 30, 2008

Also, if dad isn't getting this treatment some, then I would have to guess that he's not doing much/any of the disciplining, and start-up or not, you need to get him to help you.
posted by Mavri at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2008 [5 favorites]

A couple of things... firstly to me they sound pretty much spot on what normal teenage girls are like. I got the same question from my parents when my sister was a teenager. "What's wrong with her? Where did she learn this? Who does she think she is? How can she be so moody all the time?" That was only a few years ago, and I think she's still working her way out of it. I can assure you that people change as they grow up. I'm sure you did.

Secondly, did you consider that you may be taking this a little bit too personally? From what you describe they talk back to you, mock you for "being on vacation," and they don't pick up after themselves. Yet they get fantastic grades, one gets into a top college, and you didn't describe them as getting in trouble with drugs, alcohol, or the law. I feel that a lot of parents may love to have smart and accomplished kids like yours. I'd talk to them and tell them that you are concerned about their attitude but you love them very much and you are open to anything they need to talk about or discuss with you. It looks to me you have a lot to be thankful for about your children, consider that as well.
posted by ruwan at 6:41 PM on December 30, 2008

Oh, forget this part:

I hate my kids. Do other people hate their kids?? What do you do?

Sure, I've hated them for brief moments when they're acting up. It's important to remember it's just a temp feeling based on the situation at hand and passes. It's kinda like surfing a wave, you just hang in there 'till the wave is over and then later ya'll might laugh about it.

It's also important to realize that the feelings of hate are probably coming from feeling very hurt by their actions. A few years ago things were probably great, ya'll were close and now you're the enemy and you're not even sure who your kid is anymore. It's passes, go with the flow and recognize this time for what it is: them growing up and figuring themselves out as they take the very natural step of becoming independent of you. At some point down the line, ya'll will look back and laugh at how angry they made or how annoying you were to them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2008

I'm afraid that your feelings (which you thankfully--hopefully--haven't expressed to your daughters) will cause you to be bitter toward them, which can lead to interactions that you don't intend. And for goodness sake, please do not engage in sarcasm or irony as springbound suggested. You must, must, must be the adult: calm, and not obviously bothered by their behaviour. If they know that you are upset, you have given them quite the tool to try and manipulate you.

They must know that the decisions you make are to keep them safe...and that the decisions are non-negotiable. They must know that you love them more than anything. Which I think you probably do. This is the hardest part, but the most important.

Stick to your guns. Go on vacation. This too will end.
posted by ms.v. at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2008

You know how little kids have milk teeth, and at some point those fall out, and the adult teeth grow in, and for a while there the kids are fairly toothless?

Brains work the same way.

Kids have milk brains. When they hit puberty, their milk brains leak out their ears, it takes a while for their adult brains to grow in, and for a few teenage years the kids are fairly brainless. I've often opined that kids ought to be buried in the back yard at 15 and not dug up again until they're 25.

Seriously: there is nothing unexpected going on here. Teenagers have been treating their parents (especially the parents that share their gender) like shit for as long as there have been teenagers. And it's absolutely natural for you to hate being treated like shit, and it's absolutely natural for you to spend at least some of your time regarding your own precious little darlings with absolute loathing. This is no cause for guilt, and anybody who tells you that it is either has amazingly exceptional teenagers or hasn't yet parented a teenager or is lying to themselves about how they actually occasionally feel. Just try not to express your loathing in so many words, because that stuff (as others have noted) sticks.

You won't find any effective way to make them behave any different. Best you can do is look after your own mental health until their adult brains grow in, while doing your best to create circumstances around them that don't lock them into an endless War On Adults.

Things that will help you:
  • readjusting your expectations by commiserating with other parents of teenagers
  • picking your battles - you never want to be in a fight with a teenager unless you're totally in control of all the resources required to win it
  • taking a mental health break - arrange with Mr. anonymous for you to have a week off.
If you like, you can get a bit more mileage out of your week off by arranging for a bit of educative psychodrama beforehand. Don't let the kinds know that your break is coming; keep them completely in the dark. When your week is due to start and you have the week's living arrangements squared away, wait for a nice juicy episode of bullshit teenage drama aimed at you; then just stare levelly at the offending teenager for about five seconds, and without saying anything in response, walk out of the house. Don't slam the door on the way out, and don't come back until your week is up. Nothing says "I am not going to put up with any more of your bullshit" like leaving.

When you come back, stop buying stuff for them. Instead, work out how much you've been spending on stuff for them on average, round that up to the nearest $10 and give them that as a weekly allowance. They should not be required to do anything more to obtain this allowance than they're already doing, which is (if I know anything about teenagers) as little as possible. The allowance serves several purposes:
  • cuts your workload
  • increases their competence at making independent financial choices
  • gets them addicted to the supply of "free money" from you, which gives you the ability to impose meaningful sanctions for things like getting suspended from school
You're the adult here. You have the skills and above all the experience you need to separate the standard bullshit teenage drama from actual living; they don't, yet. If you learn to take merciless advantage of that advantage, you will get through your kids' teenage years with your sanity and their self-respect intact.
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 PM on December 30, 2008 [21 favorites]

Don't feel bad for hating your kids, or at least admitting you think you do. Acting on that is not okay, but at least you recognize there is a problem. One thing you didn't mention... Do you follow up with consequences when you set limits? Saying "I'm the boss and I'll confiscate your iPhone" is ineffective if you don't actually do it. Teenagers need limits. Attachment processes are still going on here, so be consistent, reflect their feelings and take care of yourself like everyone else mentioned.
posted by ShadePlant at 6:48 PM on December 30, 2008

but I can tell you that other people do not hate their kids.

Strongly disagree! Read Anne Lamott. It's quite possible to have deep and abiding love for your children and still hate them at intervals.

To the OP, I agree with others who have encouraged you to hang in there, and to take a vacation if possible. Also, I see nothing wrong with flatly telling even a 17-yo that she must respect you as her parent. Respect doesn't preclude disagreement or an appropriate level of autonomy for her.

I can tell you that I get attitude even from my pre-adolescents, and it makes me crazy and can indeed be exhausting and demoralizing. Two things I try to focus on are 1) modeling how to disagree respectfully, and hoping it'll sink in someday; and 2) showing I realize I'm not perfect by apologizing (often!) and asking for forgiveness after I snap at them or make a bad parenting call or whatever.

Also, fwiw, I talked to my therapist not long ago about my daughter's attitude problems, and he suggested that more one-on-one time with her on a regular basis might help. This is likely to be hard with your schedule (I have the same), but it might be useful if you could work out extra individual time with each of the girls?

Good luck!
posted by torticat at 6:53 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a mother of a daughter and a son, I sympathise with you. For some years, my daughter and I didn't get on, and her ongoing attacks on me, I found to be quite cruel sometimes. Yes, it's a symptom of hormones and the adolescent brain developing.

The best advice I can give you is to keep your temper, maintain discipline and don't let yourself be walked over. If your daughters are rude, explain what they have done that is rude calmly, and explain that the natural consequence of them doing that is that you are not going to do something else. Talk with your husband first, so that he will back you up 100%.

Consequences can be: increased chores, reduced freedom, reduced pocket money, reduced transport. As long as there is no consequence to their behaviour, they will continue to behave that way.

Perhaps some thing you could say is "Childname, I love you very much (don't say this bit: even I don't like you much right now, but it keeps it true for you), and I know you know that screaming obscenities at me is unacceptable. This is why you can not go out on Saturday night. While you live with your parents, and are supported by us financially, we have a reasonable expectation that you will treat us with courtesy. I know you understand why we are doing this."

Detach from your anger, as much as you can. Think of it as managing staff, rather than your family. Assume no personal malice, because much of the time, I believe teenagers can not control their emotions as well as adults can, and they do things they later regret and can not bring themselves to apologise for.

I can not guarantee that your children will grow into people you like and respect, sometimes there are just personality clashes. However, if it helps, my demon daughter 13 who used to bring me to tears is now a darling daughter 16 who I not only love, but respect and admire.

Oh and remember to reward good behaviour. "Hey honey, I noticed you got yourself off to school this morning without any reminders. I know how hard it is for you to get out of bed in the morning, and I'm so proud of you for making today."

And for those of you who don't have teenage children yet, just wait. Yep. It's a shock. These are people you had pass through your body, who you nurtured and washed and fed and know most intimately, these little angels who you have adored and doted on, turn on you. Personally? Of course! What could be more personal?
posted by b33j at 6:58 PM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

You are not sick, crazy, or irrational. As Brandon Blatcher wisely notes, members of *nuclear* families sometimes feel atomic-bomb-strength rage, hate, and other ugly emotions for each other. But it passes.

If your daughters' rebellious behavior and contempt are escalating, consider family counseling (either for all of you or just for them). Oftentimes, a trained objective outsider can help a distressed family address and resolve very difficult issues. And if your daughters undertake therapy alone, they may be able to vent their frustrations, receive acknowledgment, and then learn better ways to interact with you.

One mother at wit's end asked her teenage daughter to call home once a day and rage, vent, and complain into voicemail about everything that bothered her. When the girl arrived home each afternoon, the two of them sat together and discussed all that she had recorded. The girl was relieved to be able to speak her mind without interruption or reaction. She also calmed down after unburdening herself. The mother listened and learned a great deal about her daughter's fears and struggles. They are getting along better -- not perfectly -- but better.

And a second mother, also at wit's end, decided the only way to deal with her daughters was to ship them off to grandmother's for an extended vacation. Grandmother kept boasting that the mother lacked the maternal expertise to get her two girls in shape. However, after only a week, grandmother returned the girls to the mother, claiming NO ONE could tolerate the two teens without permanently losing sanity. Nonetheless, the mother truly profited from the one week vacation from parenting, and has tried with renewed vigor to get along with the girls, who were glad to leave grandma's (no internet, no HDTV).

Good luck. May these difficult times soon pass.
posted by terranova at 7:00 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

One more voice on this side, though others have said it: those of you who are castigating the poster for her terminology and sentiments are not helping. Go examine your relationship(s) with your parents and/or children and if they're still oh-so-perfect, please do a blog posting telling the world how wonderful you are. I'd hazard the guess that most of you who are critical are not parents. My daughter is three and there are already times I want to lie down on the sidewalk and bang my head on the pavement, and she's an awesome kid. Get a grip, people.
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 7:03 PM on December 30, 2008 [5 favorites]

For people who haven't had to go through this, it may seem obvious to say someone is taking it too personally but what is more personal than the people you love most in the world acting abusively toward you? Once those kids were little babies and darling toddlers who wanted the simplest of things and you always knew how to meet those needs and they loved you so much for that. Then those kids were gone and not only do you miss them as people but the replacement people never really say what they want and you try so hard to give them what you think they want but what they really want is to do battle. All the time. About everything.
There was a time when I would have run away from home if my kids had a halfway normal father to watch them. Other people told me it would pass and it sure did. The people that replaced those kids are the bomb.
posted by InkaLomax at 7:10 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was really hard on my mom when I was a teenager. I was much closer to her than I was to my dad. She forgave me, I think, and we are good now and have been since I went off to college. Have some patience and get through this; as others have said, there are better times not to far ahead. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:15 PM on December 30, 2008

My kids are awesome, and I love them dearly , but they make me insane sometimes and can be truly, utterly obnoxious. It sounds sacrilegious to say it, but it does feel like hate sometimes. How can any human be so foul? Still love them though, although it's a struggle.
posted by idb at 7:16 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

ms.v, I don't regard irony and calm (I didn't mention sarcasm, which is very different) as being mutually exclusive and nor do I think the first should be deployed here independently of the second. If I miscommunicated same, apologies, and let me clarify that sarcasm isn't what I meant. There's a lot of meanness and insecurity in sarcasm that I hope the rest of my comment conveys (recommending not responding to being baited, noting that teenagedom's a hard spot to live through) was not part of what I was recommending, which is primarily that the OP be grounded and secure in her reality and with her borders, whilst being compassionate towards her kids during this difficult time in their lives and recognising that authoritarianism isn't being terrifically productive. My example about "going on vacation" was the kind of thing I meant, and if handled with a specific kind of humour (which I perhaps incorrectly labelled 'irony'? Am I having an Alanis moment?) could, as another poster mentions, make for entertaining memories down the track when all this is long past, whilst in the short term cluing the kids in on the work that goes into making their lives run smoothly without being overbearing and unapproachable. I don't know the people involved, but in my family it was much easier to communicate penitently (when guilt finally hit in) with the parent refusing to do your work for you, yet making a bit of a wry joke of it, than it was to make up after arguments with the one who was all authoritarian and to whom apologising or understanding implied subjugation.
posted by springbound at 7:22 PM on December 30, 2008

As I lay tethered to a fetal heart rate monitor this morning, two labor and delivery nurses came by to talk with me at different times. Within minutes each was talking about how she hated her kids a few years ago as teenagers, but how much better things are now that they're off to school and in their twenties. Yes, the word they used was hated, and each paused as she said it to reiterate, "I mean, I really hated them..."
posted by cocoagirl at 7:33 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I hate my kids. Do other people hate their kids??

Oh, god, yes. I love my children dearly, but some days... We all have minutes when we really do hate our kids. I'm sure my parents hated me sometimes. Your kids will hate your grandkids. Not all day every day, but everyone sometimes gets the urge to open the window and shout "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" Please don't feel like a bad person. You are not a bad person for thinking this. (If you're thinking it all day every day, therapy could be just what you need.)

torticat mentioned Annie Lamott. I remember a bit in Operating Instructions where she's tempted to leave her colicky newborn outside for the wolves to eat. Brilliant.

Some coping strategies you could try: therapy for yourself. Family therapy. A vacation by yourself, or just you and your husband, if anyone will take the hellions. A support group, on-line or in person. An evening out with friends. An evening out without friends. A time machine. Reading books about motherhood, especially funny ones (e.g. Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, Betty Macdonald, maybe even something written this century).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:40 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thank you for this question, I have been thinking along these lines myself. I have three pain in the butt teenagers here, and I can't wait until the oldest goes back to school. It is very difficult to keep your equilibrium in a household where everything you do is greeted with disdain. And I know in reality that sometimes they are not disdainful, but it's kind of pavlovian.
You didn't mention chores. One thing that makes my kids and I stay on an even keel with each other is their ability to take on responsibility. I've been working and going to school and am a single parent, so they have had to pick up the slack, and rather surprisingly, they have. I don't load on the jobs but each has things they are expected to do, AND WILL NOT GET DONE IF THEY DON'T DO IT. When they are basking in the glory of a job well done we are like a TV family. If I ask someone to make dinner, we eat together passing stuff around like the fucking Waltons.
But then in a couple of hours I am taken to task for going to the store and not getting Cheetos. Personally, I am counting the days until they are out on their own, and I bet they can't wait to get away too. As Earth,Wind and Fire say "That's the way, of the world..."
posted by readery at 8:00 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was sometimes pretty hard on my parents when I was a teenager. They both acted like normal human beings about it, not like saintly repositories for teen vitriol. In general they both had more self-control than I did, but if I was being a jerk, they eventually lost their tempers and yelled at me. They confiscated privileges, not just in a nice reasonable way but in an angry way to get back at me. There was even the odd slap or shove (*).

Anyway, my point is that there was a clear tit-for-tat. If I was unreasonable and mean, they were sometimes unreasonable and mean back. If I said "I hate you!" they might say "I hate you too!" My parents also held grudges. A couple days after a blowup, when things had calmed down, and I asked for a favour, like money, or a drive... if I hadn't properly and decently apologized for whatever I'd said/done, the answer to my request for a favour would be a flat NO.

I was NOT emotionally scarred by my parents' sometimes-furious reactions to my sometimes-horrible behaviour. Not one little bit. I knew at the time I was being horrible, and I knew I usually deserved it when they yelled back. Even if they overreacted, I was not scarred by it. I did not hate them. They did not hate me. Today, I still do not hate them. They still do not hate me. We were all just mad and being reactive & hot-tempered. Like humans.

(* I should probably stress that in my house, all hitting was done quickly, Old-country style: with open hand, no fists or implements, never hard enough to bruise, and only when directly provoked. Like how a cat swats you. It was a bad-tempered and quick reaction, not a measured exercise in cruelty or power, and it never for one second felt abusive, either then or in retrospect. As a general rule, and in all romantic relationships, I strongly believe that hitting is a NO. But in some cultures, parental swats are A-Ok, and my family was such a culture. Yours may be different. But anyway, my parents hitting me when I was being a jerk was absolutely not damaging.)

Anyway, I say all this to let you know that if you hate your kids once in a while it's TOTALLY NORMAL. And if you lose it on your kids once in a while- if you scream at them, or are rude to them, or freak out at them, or say things you don't mean, or punitively take away their stuff, or whatever... you will not damage them. It just means you're human.

And in fact it will probably teach them a lesson they really need to learn for their own safety in the world: other people have limits- and when you push those limits, people will eventually snap. They need to know not to test their future boss, who will fire them. Their future neighbour, who might slug them. Etc etc.

You're the safest person in the world to go apeshit on those kids, because at the end of the day, they know you love them. I'm not saying you SHOULD run home and go banshee on them (although frankly it really sounds like they deserve it). I'm just saying, don't be too hard on yourself for having very very understandable angry feelings, and quit trying so hard to conceal your hurt and anger, because part of your job as a parent is to safely scare them into understanding where the limits of behaviour are.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:21 PM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

Some people really do dislike / hate their kids, in the normal sense of the word. There was an Ann Landers poll years ago in which someone wrote in with a question similar to yours. I think Ann Landers suggested psychological help, but then many people wrote in to say that felt the same way as the person who posed the question. Ann Landers created a poll, and asked parents if they would "do it all over again." She received more than 10,000 replies and about 70% of the people who responded said that if they could go back in time, they would either have no kids at all, or have fewer kids. I'm not sure when this was, nor I am very familiar with Ann Landers - I read about this on a book about childlessness.

Quite a lot of people, even when they're done raising their kids, would go back in time and not have any if it were a possibility. So it's reasonable to say that you may never change the way you feel - though the frustration will undoubtedly become less acute. Or you may change the way you feel. But either way, you're not alone.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:21 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

oh my god, look at the last related question down there at the bottom.
nicely done, algorhythm.

posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:32 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have bratty teen aged girls. I was a bratty teen aged girl once, and my mother would say, "I love you, but I hate the way you're acting." I doubt you hate your kids, because if you did, no matter what they did you'd hate them. But if they acted better, you'd most likely have no problems.

I was an asshole to my parents, I'd leave for a week, then come home and do all the stuff I needed to. But it would piss my mother off to no end. Sometimes she'd act like an adult, more often she'd get sucked in and we'd have screaming matches. The main thing that helped was me moving out. I'm too much like my father for her taste.

I'm nthing to see a therapist. And also to take a real vacation. It's important, my mom would take a long weekend and things would be good for a little bit because we got a break from each other, and were happy for it.

Stop taking responsibility for their things too. When my mother stopped doing that, I learned fast to do it. If it breaks or gets lost, that's on them. Don't care about it, at all. If it's an ipod or some other expensive toy, they don't get another unless they buy it. It took a little while for me, but the first really expensive (and loved) thing that I had made unusable by my own actions helped motivate me.
posted by Attackpanda at 8:37 PM on December 30, 2008

Interesting point about the chores, especially if they're truly, vital, meaningful chores. For some reason I really felt good about doing the serious housework even as a bratty teen. When my mom started working fulltime during the day, I was about 12, and within a couple of years we had established a routine: I got home from school, gave her a phone call at work about 4, said "What were you thinking about for dinner?," heard about the options, made a decision with her, and started supper. For some reason, the adult responsibility of cooking, including the management of sharp things and things that were on fire but also the element of creativity and the ability to make a personal statement [such as, everyone knows Alice Waters says lightly steamed veggies are way better than boiled to death, MOM], all combined to make me feel I was being respected as an adult.

I felt the same way about laundry, though it was certainly a lot less glamorous. People don't respond quite the same enthusiastic way to a clean pile of folded clothing as they do to a hot dinner on the table right after they get home from work. However, when I would bitch about my favorite jeans or whatever not being clean, it would clearly be suggested that by doing the laundry myself I would have whatever I needed when I needed it.

I also enjoyed running errands in the car by myself, for similar training-wheels-adult reasons.
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

A turning point for me in my teenage, "Oh god, my parents are the worst ever!" years was the two months or so that I lived with another family (I wanted to finish up the school year at a particular school after my family moved to another state). A truly dysfunctional family. Like the sort in which the dad was a belligerent tyrant, the mom was a doormat, and the kids acted out in truly ridiculous ways. I hid in my room much of the time when I wasn't at school. I turned 16 during these weeks.

At the end of the school year, when my folks came and picked me up, I was so utterly happy to be back in the company of sane people that my attitude truly changed. Sure, I was still obnoxious and picked pointless fights with my parents, but my mom later said, "Yep, she realized how good she had it." She was right.

So you should go on vacation. Or send them on some volunteering, Peace Corps sort of trip. Like where they help build houses for poor people. They should come back with their eyes opened a little.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:48 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mother would have been justified to drown me in the lake when I turned 13. By the time I was 22 or so, I was so damned grateful for her.

But man--my teenaged years were fiercely emotional and there was a lot of rage between us. It got better. Lots and lots better.

Hang in there.
posted by Savannah at 9:02 PM on December 30, 2008

The getting away suggestion is a good one. Also, if the older one just got into college, you've got like 9 months before she leaves right? So it's not that long or that bad. Also, I don't usually like strict rules like this, but don't ever use the word hate in relation to a family member. You'll regret it later. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but some day you'll regret it. They may be brats right now, but "hate" is an over reaction.
posted by bananafish at 9:03 PM on December 30, 2008

I hope all the "this too, shall pass" responses (including mine) don't make you feel like we're not taking you seriously. On the internet, it's hard to tell just what kind of a distress flag is being waved.

Typing "crisis hotline [name of city near you]" into a search engine should turn up some phone numbers if things are bad. Don't hesitate to call them if there's a need. There's no shame in being a stressed-out parent.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not much to add except that I've got two little boys (5 and 3) who I love dearly 99.99% of the time. But they have their moments when they are so gleefully being obnoxious little bastards I hate them. It passes and I'm back to loving them dearly again.

You aren't crazy.

But it does sound like you really need a break to get a little perspective on the whole situation.
posted by fenriq at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't think this is unusual at all. I know I really hated my parents sometimes when I was a teen, and I wouldn't be especially surprised to find out they sometimes felt the same way. You might find some helpful stuff in I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You!, which is a book about moms and teen daughters.
posted by MsMolly at 9:39 PM on December 30, 2008

i do think you can love someone but not like them very much at times.

and i also wonder if you and your husband can go out one night a week by yourselves or something, so you can keep the bond strong through this. (because eventually you'll be by yourselves again.)
posted by sdn at 9:43 PM on December 30, 2008

For fun, if they're driving you really crazy you can put the older one in charge of some aspect of the younger ones life, like driving her to meet her friends. My parents used to do this to us when they were sick of us. The time we spent fighting with each other over being driven places was a nice break for them I think.
posted by fshgrl at 9:43 PM on December 30, 2008

See also You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation by Deborah Tannen.
posted by judith at 9:46 PM on December 30, 2008

Definitely pick your battles. You're letting small issues get to you, imo.

Don't participate in their tantrums. The mouthiness is a essentially a teenage tantrum, how would you respond when they're toddlers? Just be the adult you are.

If you're sitting down to watch a movie with them and they say something disrespectful, just say Goodnight to them and send them off. That's what I mean by "don't participate". One word to express your disapproval and then you move on. Don't let them ruin your evening.

Don't worry about your hate comment. You're not a bad mom, so remember you're just human. If you do snap and say something bad, I would remind them of your human-ness too. We all have tempers.

Definitely don't give them everything their little hearts desire. They do sound spoiled. That's a great way to reap disrespect. Don't be afraid of a little tough love. They're old enough to do all their own laundry, prepare their dinners, clean the dishes, make their lunches, etc.

When my son was a toddler, we used Magic-1-2-3. It works great on toddlers, so if they're going to behave like that it might help. For teenagers, I might modify it to change their attitude and apologize, or there will be immediate consequences.

Think about a creative solution, like marbles in a jar. Just be sure it's all not all negative visuals, you want to validate their goodness too.

If they're not doing stuff you asked and asked and asked, quit nagging. Make a list on the fridge and point (without comment) when they want to play a video game or use the phone.
posted by ick at 10:37 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

If it makes you feel any better, I was a wonderful child, a wonderful pre-teen, a HOLY FUCKING SHIT HELLBOY ON WHEELS teenager, and a wonderful adult (so sayeth my mom.) When your body is turning inside-out and your social life is turning upside-down, someone has to take the brunt of the hostility churning inside you -- and it's going to be the people who they trust the most -- namely you.

This is why, incidentally, I'm already girding for my 3-year-olds to hate my guts and make my life miserable when they're teenagers. It's just a fact of family life. Remember, all families go through it -- it's just that, as with yours that appears perfect on the outside, you're only seeing the outside of every other family out there.

Meanwhile, keep your boundaries clear and consistent, don't get into shouting matches, and make sure you're taking good care of yourself and giving yourself time/treats, treating yourself the way you deserve.

Good luck.
posted by davejay at 11:42 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

dad works at a start-up and is basically always working

Many people would think that this is the hardest phase of parenting.

Quite possibly your financial situation will not allow him to spend the kind of time he should at home. But whether you can change this or not, I think part of your totally understandable feelings might be because you are pulling all the load of parenting. And your kids are venting all their teenage unhappiness on you because you are the sole enforcer and the only present parent figure. Let me guess: when Dad is home, it's holiday time, because he hardly ever sees the girls? Mmmm.

Do take a break.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:46 AM on December 31, 2008

Take a holiday.

You're a human being, first and foremost. Human beings don't always cope well when dealing with stressful things. So have a holiday, even if it's just a week with your parents or something, and get yourself out of the situation.

Anyone capable of raising teenagers deserves a medal. Not being castigated because they aren't perfect.
posted by Solomon at 2:07 AM on December 31, 2008

I, too, was pretty horrible to my mother, but very kind to the outside world. I wouldn't blame her if she hated me back then. She would always tell me that she loved me but that she didn't like me very much when I was acting out. I think what changed with us was that she started really listening to me. I would pour out all of my way too overdramatic teenage angst, and she would just listen. Even if the stuff I was getting upset about was super inconsequential, she would still hear me out. I think I started seeing her more as a human being and less as an obstacle.

I am not saying this will work for you, but I think the important part is that she tried the listening thing based on the advice of a friend who is a psychiatrist. So I would say that you should try and talk to some one -- other women, parenting groups, or a family counselor. Sometimes they can offer you techniques to use with your daughters or counseling for your whole family. I know that is sort of what you were trying to do here on the Internet, but I think that this might be something that face-to-face is better for. Someone who is more familiar with your family dynamic may be better able to help you.

You are not sick, and your feelings are not bad or out of the ordinary. Please don't listen to those people who are saying that. Mothers are not supposed to be saints.
posted by bluefly at 3:09 AM on December 31, 2008

I was fairly horrible to my mother, and she was horrible right back. One thing I strongly remember is that I HATED her hypocrisy. She made rules for me, but didn't obey rules for herself. Frankly that still pisses me off, and it's a couple of decades after my teenage-hood.

I agree with others above that you should take some time off. Consider your role within the family. If your husband is very busy with work, and you're very busy driving the kids around and cleaning, maybe you should consider a different way. They can take the bus, or get rides with others. In the meantime you can do some meaningful volunteer work, or something else that will feed your needs rather than theirs. That might make their constant criticism and bitching less personal.
posted by miss tea at 4:21 AM on December 31, 2008

So much good discussion above, especially wannaknow.

I just wanted to add this:

I was acquiescent, sweet, and accommodating to my mother as a teenager. I was also completely and utterly terrified of her and didn't trust her at all. I felt that by being some kind of "super grown-up" I could win her affections and kindness somehow. I remember being horrified when I would witness my girlfriends behavior to their mothers who were always these calm women who took good care of their families.

Today, I have no relationship, other than caregiving-type management, to my obviously mentally ill mother and those girls that I watched in horror as they dispensed undeserved cruelty to their mothers are on the phone with them daily.

I thought I had to be good and nice to keep my mother around or to make her love me. Your girls know, at a deep and unshakable level, that you do love them and so they are not afraid--all their dramas and emotional/behavioral experimentation can be played out safely.

They trust you and they love you and respect you, and this is the upside-down teenage way to express that; just like how I expressed fear and sadness in my teenaged girlhood with abnormal politeness and careful sweetness.

Good-job mama. Do take a break and spend it fantasizing about getting dozens of texts from your girls one day about how they've had it UP TO HERE with their girls. That will be the time to have your ladies' heart-to-heart about how you're feeling now, and have some loving laughs all around.

And you do deserve, for being a good mom, to take care of yourself with a good therapist venting once a week and time with your own friends and help from your partner and breaks. And, believe or not, your girls deserve the good mom that you are to them so that you all can have nice grown-up relationships someday not so far away and so that they are good moms to their kids.

I hope things are peaceful where you are today.
posted by rumposinc at 4:24 AM on December 31, 2008 [16 favorites]

I don't know about your kids, but when I was at that age I was particularly angry because I (a) felt able to take care of my own shit but was constantly having 'adults' attempt to manipluate/coerce/force me to do the things they wanted when they wanted them done and (b) was in the (really, incredibly) oppressive environment of american high school which only exacerbated (a).

You would do well to (a) treat your kids as adults, tell them what you expect of them and then leave them to do it (b) sit your kids down and tell them that this is what you're going to do.
posted by beerbajay at 4:33 AM on December 31, 2008

I don't think there's anything horrible or unusual about your kids now and then, and I don't think you need to seek help. I've loved lots of people I've occasionally hated when they acted awful, and it sounds like your kids are acting awful.

My take is that there's nothing you can do about this but minimize the damage to yourself; be as patient as you can be--especially w/the thirteen year old. The 17 year old will start missing you and liking you again when she's in college. The thirteen year old will probably hate your guys for a while. I hated my mom for a while.

Take the time that you do have for yourself to get into something -- photography, therapy dogs, cooking, the gym -- whatever, so you have a sphere that's your own, where you can feel powerful and effective and something other than a mom.

Again, I think your feelings are normal and I think that some emotional ambivalence is part of all deep relationships, and I also don't think you hate your children in the wanting them dead sense but in the hating their behavior sense, but even if you do really secretly kind of hate them on a personal level because they're being selfish and mean to you, I still think it's pretty normal. Just love them the best you can, when you can, make sure that your actions and words are ones that you'll feel decently about in years to come, and go easy on yourself and take care of yourself.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:31 AM on December 31, 2008

I don't have children, but I understand and sympathize with your situation. My parents were and are amazing, kind, and compassionate, and they were always there when I needed them. Yet despite all that there were a few teenage years when I was just the most hideous insufferable piece of shit you can image. (Some of you may think I've not changed much, to be sure.) I cringe when I think about my attitudes and behavior at the time.

If you don't let them get to you too much, if you can just ride it out for a few more years, they will come around and say "sorry I was an asshole." Promise.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:56 AM on December 31, 2008

Yeah, I was a pretty wonderful little girl, I like to think I'm a pretty wonderful adult... but there were a few times in my early teens when my Mom slapped me in the mouth, and I totally deserved it (and probably more). I'll agree with the people above who say that setting boundaries and then explaining why is going to work better than the "Because I said so" routine. And also, when they're being brats, tell them they're being brats, and why.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:23 AM on December 31, 2008

Yeah, I just want to chime in and say wow, what a horrible teenager I was to my poor mother. And I was a good kid - no drugs, good grades, etc. But the teenage years are hard on kids, girls especially. My suggestions:

--pick your battles.
--try explaining a little more about why you want them to do things instead of saying "because I said so." Some kids respond to authority, and some kids respond to reason. It just might take a little experience to figure out which works best for yours. And each one of them can be different, too, so what works for the older won't necessarily work for the younger.
--make sure you and your husband are on the same page and enforcing rules equally!
--don't be afraid to let them see when you're really hurt - like someone else said above, "making mom cry" is the worst feeling ever.

One time my mother had taken me and a friend out to a pizza place and we were being ridiculous and loud and obnoxious. I remember it 15 years later because she got so angry that when we went to leave, she drove away and left us standing in the parking lot (she just went around the block and came back, but that was enough to cool her down, I guess). It stands out because it was one of the rare times when she really lost her temper, and it scared the heck out of me. But it also made me respect her less, perversely. So I guess what I'm saying is - showing your anger isn't going to move them, but showing your hurt and your respect for their ability to reason will.
posted by marginaliana at 7:32 AM on December 31, 2008

you poor thing, it sounds like a horrible situation. nobody deserves to be treated that way! one option might be family therapy, to change the whole dynamics of your family. good luck, I hope it gets better.
posted by beccyjoe at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2008

Nthing everyone else, I was a complete shit to my mother and she and I are as close as could be now. My mother did say she hated me back occasionally, but more often than not it was more like, well, I love you anyway, even if you're being a turd.

You're not a bad Mom, you're just a Mom :)
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:08 AM on December 31, 2008

My mother "hated" me too - she even told me so. I was a shit in high school - horrible to family, friends, everyone really. I went to college, grew up a bit and now my mom and I are great friends. So, it WILL get better.
posted by miss meg at 8:14 AM on December 31, 2008

This question reminds me of a section from one of my favorite books, George Vaillant's Adaptation to Life. It is a longitudinal, lifetime-long study of some healthy normal men who were recruited in college.
..Only in middle age did Tarrytown acknowledge a painful truth that was already clear to the Study staff when he was nineteen: "My and my father's life together had been a tortured relationship. We cordially hated each other."

..Tarrytown's mother withdrew when he needed her. She was most depressed at his birth and then again at the time of his divorce - the greatest crisis of her son's adolescence. In contrast, Goodhart's mother was most depressed when her son left her for college and again for the army. In some ways, Goodhart must have felt enhanced by a mother who minded his independence; Tarrytown must have felt diminished by a mother who failed to cope with his dependence.

The reliable presence of people who love us facilitates our perception of painful reality and enriches our lives..
Vaillant goes on to describe Dr Tarrytown's substance abuse, failed surgical career, broken marriages, and poor social adaptation in heartbreaking detail.

Your relationship now with your adolescent daughters is going to be an important part of shaping their adult personalites. I agree with others above who have suggested that you should not adapt to the difficulty of raising adolescents by hating them. They are still dependent on you and they look to you for an example of how to behave in this relationship. Their behavior is certainly related to cues you are giving them; no one influences a child's development or behavior more than the mother, ever.

Psychotherapy is a tired recommendation here on AskMe; but perhaps for good reason. The discipline of interpersonal psychotherapy was created to help people like you cope and adapt to crises like this in positive ways, ways that allow personal growth for both you and your daughters. You should look into it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Have you thought about sitting down with each of them, individually, and being honest about how they make you feel when they say things like that? Instead of simply being "off the cuff" with your parental authority, instead be sincere and honest, and make it an "event" instead of just a comment. Make them see you as more than just an authority figure. While you're at it, ask how you can earn their respect as a parent.

I think children tend to lose the understanding that their parents are people. And parents tend to believe that their children have to see them as invulnerable and above everything. If you make your humanity clear to them, make their expectations reasonable, and help them sympathize with how hard it is for you to be a parent, perhaps they will be more sensitive.

Just be honest, and make sure they understand the gravity of the situation. Avoid authority discussion -- that just prompts the anti-authority gene in everyone. Your relationship should be familial, not prison-guard and prisoner.
posted by PandemicSoul at 9:32 AM on December 31, 2008

I'm a 32 year old woman who now has a fabulous relationship with her mother. As a kid, not so much. When I hit my teenage years I was a total horror to both of my parents, but to my mother in particular. I frequently tried to run away, told my parents that they did not love me, refused to follow their rules, and generally was a hellion.

In retrospect, there was probably nothing that they could have done to change my behaviour at the time. I was asserting my independence and as something of a miracle baby (born after 13 years of failed attempts) was ready for them to let go way before they were ready to let go. All I wanted was space and freedom. All I thought they wanted at the time was to smother me and keep me from being happy. That's what many teenaged girls think that their parents are doing when they set rules to be followed.

I am sure that both of my parents at times wished they could give me back. I was not what they had asked for at all. We had a terrible relationship until I was out of college and on my own. Now we get along quite well.

What I am saying is: if nothing seems to work right now, it may just get better with time and space once they grow up.

I wish you the best of luck and hope that this feeling is temporary.
posted by zadiecharbon at 11:22 AM on December 31, 2008

I'm surprised at the number of people saying you should explain your wants to mouthy kids. Teenagers know the house rules very well by now, they know the behavior is bad. I doubt they realize how much they're doing it though. I doubt they realize it's this hurtful. To explain why you want them to make their beds is feeding into the drama, imo. To explain a curfew at curfew time is feeding the drama. You must put your foot down and not be soft, otherwise you're setting yourself up for a different type of mouthiness - that lawyerific everything's up for discussion negotiation tactic employed by tweens and teens.

As a compromise, though, you could table items for family discussion later. That way you can nip the problems when they occur and still have the opportunity to discuss your reasoning, if so desired. Then you could ensure their father is involved as well. Just set aside a couple hours a week for further discussion. The children should come prepared, as should you.
posted by ick at 11:46 AM on December 31, 2008

This will probably get lost in the mountain of answers here, but I don't think it's been said too much yet. Yes your kids will probably outgrow this, but that doesn't help you know what to do now. For that, Toxic's answer is the closest to right, though it's a bit more judgmental than I'd be. Your teenagers are at a point in their lives when they're starting to realize that they can think for themselves, and they have their own personalities. At the same time, they're starting to realize that mom is not always right, and that no, you don't know everything. So they're pushing back. They don't know how much of what you say is right, so it's all suspect until proven right.

So what to do? I'd say, first, recognize that they are thinking people, and give them the reasons for your decisions. Be open to reconsideration if they have their own reasons for disagreeing (but don't give in if you're right. Just explain why you're right.) If that fails, the "I'm the mother, and you need to respect that," line is okay to use, but only after everything else has failed.

Second, if they hurt you, don't pretend you're a machine and can take it. Take them aside later, and explain how it hurts you. Remind them you have feelings too. If what they say makes you mad, it's okay to get mad, and show it.

Basically, treat them like adults to the extent you can, and let them know when they're not acting like adults. In time they'll learn.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:09 PM on December 31, 2008

You hate your kids? Really? To even joke about that is kind of sick.
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. To joke about it is human, because parenting can be the most frustrating unpaid job in the universe, and that's when it's going well.

To the OP: you've gotten a ton of useful advice in this thread. Please pick and choose, but absolutely, under no circumstances, internalize any of the judgement that's showing up in this thread. Unless you're planning to kill your kids, in which case, you should pick up the phone and get professional help. But if you were planning to kill your kids, you wouldn't be here posting about it.

So, anyway. The plural of anecdote is not data, but I will note for the record that my youngest sister (adopted as an infant) had, during her adolescence, a tremendously combative, stealing-cars-and-getting-arrested, police-called-to-the-house-multiple-times relationship with my parents and particularly my mother. Ten years later, if they're not best friends, they're sure faking it well: my sister routinely spends weekends up with my parents, helping them out around the house, and confides in Mom on a regular basis. This is not, to be blunt, something that she does with anyone else in the world with the possible exception of her husband. The only way the rest of us find out what's going on with her is through Mom. The same Mom with whom she had legendarily vicious and repeated conflict for the better part of five years. The same Mom who, when my sister screamed "I WISH I WAS NEVER ADOPTED, I WANT TO GO BACK TO KOREA", responded by screaming "FINE, I'LL BUY YOU THE GODDAMNED TICKET IF YOU WANT TO GO SO BAD".

For some reason, as many people have noted, this kind of go-for-the-throat vicious infighting seems to happen more often between daughters and mothers. It happens all the time, in all sorts of different cultures, and you are absolutely not crazy or defective or The World's Worst Mom for having these feelings.

On to the advice:
  • Reading what you wrote, Dad needs to step up. It sounds like you've wound up doing most of the parenting by default, and that just won't do. You need both parents involved in all of the parenting, from discipline to praise to activities to etcetera. So he has to make some work-life balance changes, and you need to be very clear and unflinching in demanding them.
  • You need to take much, much better care of yourself. One place to start would be with a therapist, because at a minimum, that's someone to listen to you, someone with no prior relationship for you to worry about. You get an hour to just unburden yourself to someone who won't judge you, criticize you, argue with your feelings, or otherwise inject themselves into your narrative, and that can be invaluable. It's totally self-centered, completely selfish, and, by God, you've earned it. Think of it as a manicure, pedicure and/or massage for your emotions: you can just go in there and uncork with total freedom, and that's amazingly valuable.
  • As tempting as it might be, try very hard not to tell your kids what you feel. It sucks, but it's one of the mandates of parenthood: you have to exercise self-control when your kids don't, because you're the adult, and they're not, and they get a really amazing amount of leeway for that. It's frustrating as hell, but there are excellent reasons for it.
Above all, good luck.
posted by scrump at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2008

You maybe asking yourself "When does the joy of parenthood kick in?" The answer is, "When their kids hit the teenage years."

As a mother of two sons 21 and 12, I marvel at the wonderful relationship I have with my older son NOW. He was sweet and caring until he hit about 13. It was like some alien invaded his body, he was possessed until about 19. I'm now bracing for the second go round with the younger one.

The most successful behavior management technique I can recommend is this: Tell your girls that you were reading a book about understanding teenagers. Expect eye rolling at this announcement. This book said when teenagers act up, it is because they are craving attention and feel unloved. Therefore you will give them the attention that they desire. When one starts acting like a little shit, tell her, " My darling, you must need some attention and love, come here so I can hug you." Walk towards your teenager with a huge smile on your face, arms wide open and making kissing noises. They will be horrified. This is even more effective in public places or when they have peers around.

Just remember, this too shall pass. Drop me an email if you ever need to vent, I have walked in your shoes! Good luck!
posted by JujuB at 3:20 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

late to the thread but I'd like to just tag on and say, oh yes, I was so, so very shitty to my mother as a teenager. I had the added bonus of some crazy wacked-out PMS (before they wised up and put me on OC) driving it, too.

at seventeen, I'll have you know, I chased my mother around the kitchen with a knife. While company was in the house! A KNIFE!!

personally, I feel she would have been roundly justified in selling me to slave traders on ebay at that point, had the option existed in 1985.

I don't think this is abnormal, but maybe see if there's anything specific (medical, like mine) that's adding to the angst. I had really, really stressful painful periods (with a ruptured cyst in the middle of HS gym class to add to the humiliation factor) that caused me no end of grief.

Not to say that they couldn't just be natural born hellcats. Teenaged girls are. Which is why I won't be having any, kthxbye.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:44 PM on December 31, 2008

I also am late to the thread, but wanted to chime in with more this-too-shall-pass anecdata.

Whilst I was undergoing puberty my mother was experiencing menopause. This resulted in an unholy terror of late night screaming matches that ended with daybreak when we both needed to stop so we could get ready for school/work. No one understood anyone. Everyone was better off dead. You knew it was a weekday because someone was crying. You knew it was a weekend because doors and drawers were slamming.

And it all panned out that way because she was always there the next day (or the same day, if we hadn't gone to bed that night) with everything she always promised me: food, love and unconditional support. No one else would stick around after the kind of abuse I threw at her.

Every now and again, my dad would try to talk me through it - this usually meant more tears but the inevitable statement, "You know, your mother and I are very proud of you." Those times made the other ones either more or less bearable, depending.

These days (I'm 28 now, but the last major winds of the tornado were near the end of college and the final whimper finally eased its way out after my divorce a few years ago) we actually call each other up have long conversations about the things that occupy our minds. I get excited when I can get home to see her and I'm throwing about ideas of moving closer to home because I miss her (and my dad, natch) terribly.

This too shall pass. You are not a bad mother, you are human. They are not evil, they just seem that way.
posted by oreonax at 6:43 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't adequately express how grateful I am for this post. Having children was a truly wonderful experience until the first one (now 21) hit puberty, which turned out to be a relatively mild experience compared to the second (now 17 and only recently becoming human again). What you describe doesn't sound abnormal to me nor does your reaction seem extreme or out of line. It is incredibly frustrating to be treated like you are an idiot (my husband gets the same treatment) on a daily basis. A sense of humor certainly helps (much rolling of eyes between the parents) but there is really no good way that I have found to make the pubescent aware of their behavior. I'm not talking about extremes here of very harmful behaviors, but what I think is very similar to what you are going through (with very similar family circumstances). Feel free to mefi mail me if you want to vent and I wish we could go out for a drink together and commiserate!
posted by bluesky43 at 6:48 PM on December 31, 2008

As others have said, you are not a bad person nor are you crazy.

Apparently in colonial times in America daughters were sent away at the age of 12 to live with a close female friend or relative. She didn't spend the years of 12-18 with her mother, probably due to this very reason. Not that this is a viable choice in today's society. It helps me to know that teenage girls have always been little shits. :)
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:25 AM on January 2, 2009

I teach this age group, and kids in this stage both desperately want their freedom (the GO AWAY message you're hearing) and for you to take a genuine interest in them as people. The best way to address this is two fold: calm, unwavering consequences and standards for the misbehavior, and a real effort to get to know them. Don't think of them as kids---think of them as people. Take their problems seriously, no matter how dumb they look to you now as an adult. Ask about what they like and give them a say in "family" decisions instead of just proclaiming them from on high. I have yet to see an adolescent who doesn't react positively to this type of attention.
posted by lacedback at 4:31 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You don't hate your kids. You hate the way they're behaving at the moment. Big difference, both in your own thoughts and in the message they would hear were you to voice that feeling.
posted by WCityMike at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2009

« Older Need a good combo 17" laptop case/camera bag.   |   Published author who moonlights as Websmith--good... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.