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Teen with Alienating Behavior

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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

Answered by on -


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

Teen with Alienating Behavior

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Teen with Alienating Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 21 Jun 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.