• Other Friendship Advice

Mom feels helpless as her daughter sabotages her friendships

Published: November 7, 2016 | By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
What can a mom do when a teenager sabotages one friendship after another?



My daughter is 15 years old and just started at a new school. She did not make many girlfriends in her old school, only boys. She is friendly, cheerful and tries her best in everything she does. She supports and encourages others, and always tries to fit in.

Although she makes new friends, they despise her after only a few weeks. She never gets these friendships back so these are not tiffs. She isn’t very communicative with me so I struggle to know where she is going wrong with these relationships.

I don’t think she is capable of being nasty. When I’ve told her ways to combat bullies in the past, she’s said she could never be one; it’s not in her nature.

In her last school, I think she was an outcast because she got along with the boys, is attractive, quite smart and very athletic. Now in the new school I am seeing signs of this all over again even though she isn’t, by far, the smartest or sportiest, etc. of the girls at school.

What can I do to help her when she does not want to talk to anyone about it, including me? My heart is breaking for her!

Signed, Concerned Mom


Dear Concerned Mom

Your daughter is lucky to have a mom as caring and attuned to what is going on in her life as you are. Your daughter is acting her age and all of what you describes sounds like typical teenage behavior. Even though she doesn’t want to talk to you about this issue now doesn’t mean she won’t in the future.

And it doesn’t mean you can’t still find subtle ways to offer advice. Tell her a story about someone you know at work who is having a hard time fitting in. Talk to her in the car so she doesn’t have to make eye contact, which may be more uncomfortable. Make sure she knows you care and are there for her whenever she does want to talk or even if she just wants a hug. Catch her doing something “good” or “nice” and point it out to her.

It can be painful to feel like you are watching your daughter sabotage friends and self-destruct without being able to do anything to help. However, she’s learning from her own mistakes, that something she is doing is not quite “right” (not that she’s doing something “wrong” but whatever she’s doing is causing a negative reaction from others).

Teenage girls (especially in groups) can be mean, sometimes very mean. As a result, some girls can’t handle these social pressures and prefer to spend their time with boys. This can be easier because boys tend to be less communicative, less vindictive and more open to new friendships. It’s also okay, and sometimes even preferable, for a teen to have just a few close female friends rather than many acquaintances.

I have a few questions for you to think about:

  • Does your daughter seem bothered by the rejection she is getting from the other girls?
  • Does your daughter attract drama?
  • Do you think she is aware of what she is doing and is unwilling to change?

It seems your daughter may be unaware of how her actions affect others. Does she like to talk about her accomplishments? That’s great but her peers may see that as bragging. Maybe other girls feel threatened by her and, therefore, feel a need to leave her out or push her away to keep them “on top.”

Or, she might be a “bad friendship picker.” Maybe the girls she’s trying to be friends with are just not the right friend for her to have. Are there other girls in her school or in your community that she might feel more comfortable with? As much as you want to fix this for her she really needs to figure out how to do that for herself.

Since your daughter is “sporty,” you could encourage her to join a team sport (at school or outside of school) where she can meet other girls who have similar interests and who might be more accepting.

My suggestion is to keep caring about your daughter and try to help her build up her self-esteem. Let her know you care but resist the impulse to hover over her friendships or give her the sense she is upsetting. If you help her find ways to feel good about being herself, I’m sure the rest will fall into place.

Signed, Dr. Strober

Dr. Benna Strober is a child/adolescent psychologist in private practice in Mount Kisco, N.Y. She assists individuals to work through their difficulties, find healthy coping strategies and make smart choices.

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Category: Helping children deal with friendship problems, OTHER ADVICE

Comments (1)

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  1. Amy F says:

    Is your daughter unhappy with her friend situation? Has she complained? Some people prefer to socialize with those of the opposite sex. I’ve heard many teen girls, and also some women, say that friendships with guys are less complicated and easier. If this isn’t a problem for her, try to give up some of your thoughts that she should have more girlfriends.

    If your daughter seems depressed or anxious, therapy can be really helpful. Many teenagers are more comfortable talking with a neutral adult rather than a parent, especially if she feels that your support is judgmental. Most of the teenagers I’ve worked with would hear the same comment, made in the same tone of voice as helpful from me while critical from the parent. It’s the nature of the parenting business and not necessarily indicative of judgmental intent.

    Ask your daughter what you can do to support her, then try to do so unless the response is unreasonable, like buying her a car or unsafe. Back off, if she acts, while staying interested and aware. It’s a fine line to walk, and let her take the lead.

    If she were younger I’d suggest talking to her teacher for feedback, but high school is usually too late because kids have so many teachers throughout the day.

    The hardest advice I have is to make sure you’re seeing her as realistically as possible. Almost everyone is capable of reacting in a mean or unkind manner. This will help your objectivity. Kids need both unconditional support and objectivity to grow through tough times.

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