by Gale V. LaFreniere
The following is a letter I received from a reader:
I am 52 years old and have been in the States for 3 years now. I am married with one daughter who is 13 years old. I read your article on teenagers and wanted to see if you can help us with this problem we are having. My daughter has become hard to control. I know she smokes and maybe even drinks during our family get-togethers. Her cousins don’t tell me anything but I suspect it. Also, she always answers back when we try to tell her things and even threatens to call the police if we try to discipline her. She goes out with her friends all the time, is on the phone all the time and never listens to us. She even makes fun of us when we talk to her in English, because she says she does not want to speak Tagalog anymore. My husband thinks we should send her to the Philippines to live with my mother to stop her behavior. I am not sure but anything is better than having her be this way. What do you think?
-Cely, Panorama City
I know how hard you situation is and I can see that you and your husband are feeling that you cannot handle the situation anymore. Both of you are still trying to get used to being in the States. Being in a new place can be very hard and lonely. At the same time, you daughter is going through a very difficult time of her life, adolescence. To begin with, adolescence is already hard, especially now here in the States. So, your first reaction is to try and control your environment by sending your daughter back to the Philippines so that your mother can handle the problem. Your daughter may not listen to your mother more and your mother may not be able to handle it better than you. Your daughter may more than likely continue to act this way with your mother. Worse, she will think that you have given up on her and feel that you have abandoned her. As I see it, sending her back to the Philippines is not the most productive way but may be the easiest way. Instead I would recommend that you and your husband use all the resources available to you here in the States. These resources can help you improve your relationship with your daughter and empower you to take control in ways that will address the problem.
First of all, both you and your husband need to sit down with your daughter and tell her that you are very concerned about her behavior. Be calm rather than angry. Let her know in a loving way why you believe her behaviors are risky and that it is critical for you to make sure she remains safe. Let her know that you are concerned about her behaviors, and outline these behaviors for her. Aske her to share with you her reasons for engaging in such behaviors. Be open and accepting rather than judgmental so that she can share her feelings with you. Tell her how much you love her and would like to help her, but also that her behaviors are not right and will not be tolerated by you and the family. Secondly, make and appointment to meet her teachers and ask about her behavior in school. Ask about her friends and whether these friends have the same behaviors. Get to know her friends and her friends’ parents. Talk to these parents and find out if they are having the same problems. Talk with your daughter again and discuss ways you could help her. Get information from her and listen to what she says. Often our children act out because they are trying to get attention from us or to call attention to their needs which we may have overlooked. Do not get angry or jump to conclusions, try to be calm during your conversations with her. If you find yourself or your husband getting angry, take a break and resume when you are calmer. Involve her in looking for solutions to the problems and ask her for suggestions on appropriate consequences for her inappropriate behaviors. Once you decide with her what these consequences are, stick to them. Do not try to change them because you feel guilty or because your daughter has been good for the last week, or because you feel angrier and add more to these consequences.
I know these suggestions go against our beliefs on disciplining our children. But we have to remember that we decided to come to the States and raise our children here. Our children are adapting to the American way, which can be frightening to us who try to hang on to our Filipino ways. However, we need to change with our children and become the parent they need us to be, even if that means we will need to be Americanized parents.
I agree that this situation is serious and it is important to act now and try to find solutions before the situation becomes dangerous for your daughter. Serious situations require serious solutions. If you feel you need professional help, get it so the mental health professional can help you through the process. Helping your child is the first priority, because as parents, this is our responsibility and privilege.