Q: My teenaged daughter has become quite impossible. She thinks only of herself, has fits of anger and is generally unpleasant. She seems to be crying out for attention. She is not interested in hearing me “lecture” her about behaving more reasonably. Please give us some much-needed guidance.
As a rule, according to Chassidut, education should be in a pleasant and loving manner, with an attempt to understand the way the child sees things from his perspective. Many teenagers have difficulty dealing with the confusion they feel as they grow, and many of them seem unable or unwilling to cope. What they need more than anything else at this point in their lives is simple, undemanding love and attention. In this state, they are not looking for advice, and will often reject any advice given by parents. What they need is to know that their parents love them and are there for them. This does not contradict at all being firm on halachic/moral issues. Very often children test their parents to see just where the boundaries are. It is comforting to them to know that there are (true, halachic) boundaries that are constant despite the turmoil they feel inside. As you wrote, your daughter is crying out for attention. Do not feel that by showing her love and attention you are strengthening her negative traits. Initiate opportunities in which you can show her love and attention, such as taking her for a long walk, drive, pizza or something else that she enjoys. After she sees that you care about her and are not interested solely in criticizing or lecturing, she may become more open to hear what you have to say. Remember that even if you don’t say anything, your daughter learns a tremendous amount from you by observing the way that you act and deal with adversity
When you feel that she is open to hearing what you have to say, you can speak with her about refining her character traits – to have love in her heart, the importance of controlling one’s anger, to be less egocentric, etc.
It is also advisable to say your daughter’s personal chapter of Tehillim (her age plus one) together with charity and prayer to G-d that He should help her to go on the right path.
May we hear good news from you soon!