How to Deal with a Defiant Teen Daughter

by | May 1, 2024 | Teenagers | 0 comments

Has your teen daughter started rolling her eyes at your advice and exploding when you offer a thoughtful suggestion? Does she want to spend more time in her room and less time with the family? Is she insisting that you don’t know what you are talking about and she doesn’t need your rules?  A defiant teen daughter can create considerable tension in a household. Parents feel frustrated. Siblings often feel left out and hurt.  Home begins to feel like a landmine when her explosions go off without warning.


Many of my parent coaching clients ask me: What is the right approach? How can I parent my defiant teen daughter and guide her toward more respectful behavior?  Through their coaching sessions, they learn effective ways to respond to their defiant teen daughter and how to personalize the following practices to fit their parenting values and unique situation:


Don’t take it personally

While your daughter’s defiant attitude is directed toward you, it is not about you. She’s going through major developmental and physiological changes that cause her to rebel, test the boundaries, and react.  In fact, most teen defiance stems from an unresolved challenge or fear.  By not taking your teen’s outbursts or defiance personally, you can gain a more helpful perspective, begin to see what’s behind her defiance and approach her with a calm directness.  


Validate and set clear boundaries 

Acknowledge that your daughter’s feelings are real and natural, and communicate what behaviors you will not tolerate.  For example, you can tell her “It is OK to be angry and think a rule is unfair, but it is not acceptable to yell or name-call.”

At the same time, provide options for how she can channel her anger and outline a clear consequence if her emotion is misdirected. This sounds something like, “If you feel so angry that you’re going to start yelling or name-calling, you can walk away.  We can continue the conversation when we are both more calm.  But if you decide to yell and call me names, you will lose a privilege.”  

If you are taking away a privilege, be clear on why as well as how she can earn it back.  


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Try a negotiation 

Defiance can stem from feeling powerless so look for ways you can empower your daughter to take charge. One such way is allowing her to participate in important decisions, like her own rules and consequences. To get started, determine what rules are and are not negotiable. These are your bottom lines and need to be stated clearly. However, negotiable rules can be framed as a request for change which invites your daughter to provide a response that sparks a negotiation.  When you’ve reached an agreement, make it crystal clear and include the agreed upon consequences.  This will leave her with a sense of ownership and accountability.  


Focus on what’s right

When you see your daughter is being respectful, responsible, or open, offer her praise and gratitude.   Use words like, “admire,” “respect,” and “appreciate.”  Share your feedback simply and immediately.  Don’t overdo it or she might think you’re just saying that.  Your genuine praise goes a long way and encourages more of the ‘right’ behavior.  


Find opportunities to engage in constructive conversations

Instead of asking her questions that she doesn’t know how to answer, like “Why are you acting that way?” or “What’s your problem?” or “How many times do I need to remind you?” Ask questions that foster empathy and emotional intelligence.   Focus on helping your daughter gain a sense of responsibility and self-control, rather than blaming her or asking her to explain a behavior over which she likely had little control.  These questions always include a validation and sounds something like,  “I understand you are angry. Can you help me understand what is so important about this situation?”  or “I can tell by your reaction that ___ really matters to you. I want to talk more about it but I think we need to make amends first.  Can you think of a positive way for us to move forward? How can we make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again?”   


Anytime you are intentionally parenting toward a new behavior, consistency and modeling are key.  Be consistent with your boundaries and praise of positive behavior.  Model strategies for emotional control and show her that you practice what you preach.  For example, if you feel your anger rising, tell your teen you need time to calm down so you two can have a respectful and productive conversation.  If you tell your teen it is not ok to yell or name-call, make sure you are following the same protocol. 


If you find your teen’s attitude and defiance are particularly triggering and it’s hard to put the above practices into action, ask for help. Supporting yourself is the first step to supporting and guiding your teen.  Share your feelings with a trusted friend or work with a parent coach, who can help you gain a broad perspective and sense of relief. 



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