I have a 15 year old daughter who is lovely in many ways. She is talented and generally self-confident, but seems to be oblivious to social constraints about what is or isn’t appropriate to say. She speaks her mind with brutal honesty — think of a petite Dr. Gregory House. Most people who have known her for a long time are accustomed to her acerbic nature and take it with a grain of salt. Some people find it amusing/entertaining, but her inability to filter her comments is starting to cause problems in some of her peer groups. How can I steer her toward more socially appropriate behavior? (age 48, from US)Teen with Alienating Behavior
Teen with Alienating Behavior
Your daughter is at an age when her peer group will have more influence over her behavior than you do — so as difficult as it is to watch, you may need to sit back and let her experience some natural consequences. Of course you can speak to her about the virtues of being kind to others and that there is a time and a place for everything, including speaking up or holding your tongue, and so forth. Keeping in mind that positive reinforcement is the best way to influence someone else’s behavior. Meaning, complimenting her or finding a way to reward or encourage the behaviors you want to see more of is more powerful than punishment or drawing attention to her negative behaviors. However, you still may have little influence over how she speaks to others.
As I stated, her peer relationships may be the best vehicle for change. Once she loses a close friend or gets embarrassed after being confronted by someone, perhaps she will change her approach.
On the flip side, her course in life may involve less pitfalls due to her strength and directness. At least it doesn’t sound like she suffers from low self-esteem, which for girls in our current culture, is a great thing. If you want to seek outside help you might consider looking for a social skills group for kids her age or an empathy training program.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts