Manners Matter: The Case of the Suddenly Surly Teen

Dear Mary Pat, 

Our daughter turned 13 during the summer. She has always been a happy-go-lucky kid with a big smile and a ready laugh. Practically overnight, she’s turned into someone who rolls her eyes, tunes out half of what I say and sighs loudly at the other half. The common refrains are “You don’t understand,” “You are ridiculous” and “You’re so embarrassing.” 

She’s our oldest of three and has quickly become my biggest parenting challenge to date. My husband is not on the receiving end of this new personality as much as I am, but he does witness it. He keeps telling me it’s normal teenage stuff and to not let it get under my skin. Easier for him to say because he still enjoys hero status while I’ve been downgraded to zero status. 

Rationally, I know he’s right. Emotionally, it’s hard not to take this personally. How do I navigate this next phase without losing my sanity?


Teen Troubles

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Dear Teen Troubles,

I’ve heard it said that teenagers are basically tall toddlers. It’s their job to push boundaries and learn to be independent. It’s your job not to overreact. You’re human, so of course your feelings are hurt when your daughter lashes out at you or tells you you’re ridiculous. If you think back to your teenage years, you probably were just like your daughter and gave your parents a few sleepless nights.

That being said, you’re still her mother, and you do need to deal with this phase consistently. Ask her questions, but not in a rapid-fire machine-gun manner. Listen when she answers. Put your phone down once in a while, and ask her to put her phone down. She might say some outrageous things to try to get a reaction from you, but don’t give her one. And most importantly, keep telling her that you love her – even if she rolls her eyes.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

Miss Pat was educated at the Finnish Finishing School for Fine Ladies. Eloquent in edifying etiquette, she is fluent in seven languages, including the language of love. Mary Pat has generously extended her counsel to you and will answer any and all inquiries. Email Mary Pat at [email protected].