Dealing with a Moody Teenager


Q: My 13-year-old daughter is moody and challenges us on everything. What can we do?

A: Social-emotional development involves one's interactions with others and understanding, as well as controlling one's own emotions. During early adolescence, typically considered between 12 to 14 years old, transition in this area can be challenging for both the teen and the parent as various changes are taking place in a teen's life. These include physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes. You may feel as though you are on a roller-coaster ride as your daughter experiences ups and downs while possibly becoming argumentative, indecisive, moody and self-absorbed. She no longer readily accepts her parents' values without question as she is searching for identity and seeking more independence.

Social-emotional changes:

Intense emotions. Teens experience hormonal changes that can cause them to feel uncomfortable and confused. At this same time, the prefrontal cortex — the area of the brain responsible for judgment, self-control and planning — is still developing and your teen has not yet learned how to manage these intense emotions. As a result, your daughter may lash out.

Concern about appearance. Girls especially become much more self-conscious about their body image and their clothes, often comparing themselves to their peers. Your daughter may experience fluctuations in self-esteem at this time.

Increased worries/concerns. As their bodies are changing, teens are also facing more challenging schoolwork. They may have anxiety not only about their development but also about meeting the demands of schoolwork as well as balancing their activities and interests.

Peer relationships. Groups and cliques tend to form in adolescence. Your teen wants acceptance and may try to fit in through various ways, i.e. — clothing, hairstyle and behavior. They are more susceptible to peer pressure during this time.

Family relationships. Teens need more privacy. Your daughter may spend more time alone in her room. Your teen also tends to want to spend less time with family and more time with friends.

Supporting healthy social-emotional development:

Listen. Support your daughter by listening to her concerns and feelings. When she wants to talk to you, give her your full, undivided attention. If this is not possible at the time, schedule a time when you can.

Show your teen empathy. You may not always agree with her, but try to understand her perspective and respect her opinions and feelings. This will keep the door of communication open.

Show interest. Talk with your daughter about activities that are important to her including school, involvement in groups or clubs, and her special interests. Support your daughter by attending her sporting events, performances and productions.

Know about your teen's peer relationships. Get to know your daughter's friends and be aware of her activities with her peer groups. This is an area where your daughter is developing more independence and is choosing her own friends. This also is an area where you must strike a delicate balance between encouraging your daughter to make her own decisions and helping her make healthy choices by providing gentle and consistent guidance.

Choose your battles. Be clear and consistent with limits. However, as your daughter is developing cognitively, she may question your rules and reasons. This is an opportunity to demonstrate warmth and acceptance of her growing independence by having discussions regarding the need for limits and rules.

Peggy Bynum, MSW, LCSW is a therapist at Cone Health -Behavioral Health Center in Reidsville. Please submit your questions to "Is My Kid OK?" by emailing


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