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Watching a teen being treated like a doormat

Published: July 2, 2015 | Last Updated: July 7, 2015 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
A mom feels helpless and sad that her 15-year-old daughter is being treated like a doormat.



My 15-year-old daughter has always had very few close friends. Everyone seems to like her but she doesn’t ever have more than one or two close friends. She is quiet in groups, a bit awkward (she has a very mild motor disorder) and perhaps a bit too gaga about boy bands.

Recently her one friend has been breaking plans with her (and acting nonchalant about it) when a better offer comes along. So my daughter is excluded from get-togethers even though they’re with most of the girls she knows.

My daughter completely understands that her friend has other friends but she this friend will make exciting plans with my daughter, then causally mention she is going to another girl’s house or party like their plans never existed.

I do not want my daughter to be treated like a doormat but I don’t want her to confront her friend and then be friendless. My daughter belongs to clubs and school activities but never seems to make more than acquaintances. I feel helpless and sad for her. What do I do?

Signed, Worried Mom


Hi Worried Mom,

Watching your daughter struggle socially must be so difficult. I understand your concerns. The first question I had reading your letter was: How does your daughter feel about not being invited to parties and having her friend cancel plans for better offers? You and I know how we’d feel, and we can assume how your daughter feels based on our own experiences but those might not be your daughters feelings.

If she’s bothered by the way her friend is treating their plans so casually, help her problem-solve ways to deal with the situation. Allow her to come up with solutions by asking her questions such as:

“What can you do to let Ashley know how you feel?”

“What’s preventing you from telling her that?”

You can role-play conversations, letting your daughter play her friend (so you see her fears) and you can model more assertive ways for her to express herself.

If she says the cancelled plans don’t bother her, why is that? Does she feel like she’s less important or deserving of friendship? Is her self-esteem low, and does she feel lucky to have any friends? Is she not in touch with her feelings? Is she afraid to share or talk about her disappointment? Her answers to those type questions should tell you how she feels, whether her feelings are indicative of more serious social issues that might benefit from professional support.

I worked with a quiet teenager who felt like she needed a specific invitation to be included in plans her friends made at the school lunch table. She felt so socially awkward that she assumed everyone but she was invited. Once she worked her fears she said, “That sounds like fun. I’d love to come.” Her friends had assumed she didn’t like parties and wasn’t interested. Her social problems didn’t disappear, but she developed more self-confidence.

You might also try to encourage your daughter to seek out friends who like boy bands as much as she does, and not to overlook potential friends of different ages, particularly if she’s not as mature as her peers.

Good luck helping your daughter figuring this out.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Teen friendships

Comments (7)

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  1. Jim says:

    This is a good general answer but I bet she has tried all of these things. She obviously has thought about the problem deeply and has great insight into her child’s needs and abilities. I bet most parents seeking advice from the internet have done the same. What suggestions do people have for parents who have used these skills and their child is still struggleing?

  2. lottie says:

    How awful for you and your daughter. You must be gutted that it is happening. Like Mary says teach you daughter to speak up for herself. It is no use saying yes to everybody or no just to fit in. Tell her she has a choice as to what she wants to do.You can help by making some plans with her. So for instance have a treat for her so that when asked to do something she can say “oh no I am going out with mum,but thanks anyway”. Do it a few times,practise makes perfect. Respect yourself because if you don’t nobody else will. Good luck Lottie


  3. JAM says:

    I think it’s worth your daughter smiling and in a spunky manner, saying “o.k. how about we get together tomorrow afternoon? Or Saturday night?” a few times when her friend cancels. If the friend keeps canceling, she can either say, something like “(insert name), you have been busy lately, and canceled the last 5 (or whatever) get togethers we planned. Is something wrong?” Let the “friend” answer. But it sounds like she isn’t a real friend. She sounds like she’s using your daughter only when her social calendar is empty, and when she sees something that she views as “better” comes along, she cancels with your daughter. So she might be used by this pseudo friend. However, if this girl genuinely likes your daughter and enjoys her company, than when she asks her why she’s been cancelling lately” or if she can meet with her another day, the friend is more likely to try to keep the friendship going. You can try and see.

    Encourage your daughter to make more friends. I have found that the old adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” can be very helpful with friendships. My son “spreads with wealth” so to speak by having a few favorite friends in scouts, a few fave in his youth group, a good neighborhood friend, a few special swim club friends, etc. He sees most of these friends separately and so keeps a humming social life going (he’s 15), is active in hobbies, and also has a good, supportive home life (his younger brother being his very best friend, and he’s even good friends with his younger sister, most of the time :-). He went to a religious retreat recently and “re-met” an old aquaintance from his church choir group that he now keeps in touch with. He even face times with friends that live near and far, and they get on the phone and play video games together. There are so many ways to have friends, challenge and support your daughter to get creative.

    The boy band response was great. And if she just loves music in general, perhaps she could pick up an instrument and become part of an orchestra, school band, music club, etc. Even if it is not something she wants to stick with, just trying new things takes up time and concentration and relieves her from loneliness, and it always provides opportunities to meet people.

    Our library has a reading club, and my son already belongs to a different reading club (another great source of very nice friends!!). But b/c my son is so busy, even though he wishes he could join the library club, he can’t!

    I’m not saying spread her too thin. Alone time is just as important as social time, as is down time. And if she’s a little shy, that’s o.k. Give her some scripted lines and provide her with some tools to help her break out a little.

    My youngest daughter is very shy (not like her brothers!). So I giver her lines she can say to introduce herself, how to ask questions about others (oh, did you enjoy this book? what is your favorite type of music? etc.) and to talk a little about her own likes and dislikes to strike up conversations…This past year she has really started to blossom and make friends.

    Along their journeys, I also make sure I remind them to care deeply for themselves and their own needs, to be kind to themselves (esp. if others are not), to value their own company, and to be their own best friend first, then they can be a decent friend to others without being to self-centered AND without being engulfed and lose themselves to others completely. Balance!!!


    • JAM says:

      sorry for the typos…that’s “spread the wealth” and “without being too self-centered”


      • JAM says:

        BTW, Can I just say, there is a HUGE variety in levels of closeness to friendships. And the closeness will always be fluctuating. Rather than longing for closeness or trying to reproduce the closeness she sees others having on the surface (which is often easily under or overestimated), try focusing on levels of “fun,” being sincere, opening up a little more, trying new activities, increasing her understanding of the vast range of types and levels of friendship, holding on loosely but not too tightly to friendships, developing grace when friendships change or end, and so on. There’s so much else to focus on and get good at when it comes to friendship (communication skills, courage, honesty, gracefully letting go, etc.) than just wanting one level of closeness (which is too rigid anyway in the flux of frendship). Help her focus on other aspects, and learn to be realistic. And there for herself first and foremost.


    • Gina says:

      Thanks & Gracias.!!!


  4. Mary says:

    I think its up to your daughter and how she feels. If she feels like you do- then its important to teach her to respect herself and stand up for herself, otherwise she most certainly will be treated like a door mat because thats all she will feel shes worth.

    Its up to you to teach her to stand up and if shes without this particular friend , doesn’t sound like she will losing much.

    Or with her consent either together or alone talk to her friend.
    Respecting yourself must be taught. Nobody should be too scared to say something if they are not being treated properly.

    How else will she learn.

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