(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Marie, welcome to the show.
Marie: Hi. How are you?
Dr. Kenner: Very good, thank you. What’s your question?
Marie: I have a problem with my teenager daughter. She’s 16 and she’s changed. She’s been with the same boy now, almost two years.
Dr. Kenner: Two years, she’s been dating someone since the age of 14?
Marie: Yes. But she’s changed, 16 and a half, whatever. She’s changed so much in the past eight months. It’s drastic. A couple of months ago my son would holler at me and she would holler back at him not to be saying that. But now it’s gotten to the point where you go kill yourself, wish you were dead, blah, blah.
Dr. Kenner: She’s saying this to your son or to you?
Marie: To me. After she’s talking to him.
Dr. Kenner: Wait a minute, who is she –
Marie: Me, the mother.
Dr. Kenner: So she’s really angry with you. She’s very angry with you. What happened eight months ago? Are you divorced? Are you dating someone else?
Marie: She’s changed totally.
Dr. Kenner: What do you suspect? Your relationship was okay with her before?
Marie: She was always a spoiled child. Always. Like it was always her way, and to be jealous, like with her brother.
Dr. Kenner: How old is her brother?
Marie: He’ll be 19.
Dr. Kenner: He’s 19, and what is the difference – when you say she’s now 16, and in a nutshell, what is their relationship? Is he the good kid? Is he the golden boy and she’s the bratty kid? What labels?
Marie: To her or to me?
Dr. Kenner: How do you see each of them?
Marie: For me, right now? Because I’ve never really had a problem with my son, because it was the first child and he never really went out until he got his license and he would never imposition you to go out of your way, where my daughter was always the opposite. She would have me going here and there and taking her friends here and there. She was always just jealous. Now she’s got her permit.
Dr. Kenner: What is she jealous of?
Marie: She always tells me that I love him more, that I matter to him. Where my husband favors her, of course.
Dr. Kenner: So there’s been a split in the family. How long has that gone on? These are the very subtle undercurrents in a family, and it’s “Mom is siding with the son and dad’s favorite is the daughter.” That’s what’s going on here.
Marie: Right. And now when she turned 16 she didn’t get a car, and he got a car, but the thing was, he never went out anywhere, never did anything. But he worked since he was 14.
Dr. Kenner: What’s your relationship with your husband, Marie?
Marie: Oh, they find him like gold, because he works all the time and I’m the mean mom.
Dr. Kenner: So both kids come to you, but what’s your relationship? Do you have a really close bond or is it a settled marriage where you’re bored with each other or are you fighting a lot with your husband?
Marie: We on and off fight a lot, yeah.
Dr. Kenner: What is the theme that you fight about? If you could boil it down to one sentence, what is it that you fight about?
Marie: Basically I’m by myself all the time. Because he works all the time.
Dr. Kenner: So you’re feeling very resentful that he’s abandoned you. So unlike – I don’t know if you heard the cut from As Good as it Gets at the beginning of the segment, where he’s just telling this woman what he loves so much about her, you don’t hear that from your husband, right?
Dr. Kenner: How does he treat your daughter? Does he treat you any different than you?
Marie: She’s a queen.
Dr. Kenner: She’s the queen! Okay, so there’s a little jealousy going on there that may not be sibling rivalry.
Marie: I think he’s like, “She’s the queen. If she wants a BMW, she can have it.” She doesn’t deserve a car because, to me, she’s too disrespectful to me, where my son I didn’t have that disrespect.
Dr. Kenner: So the dynamics in your family right now are that your son is the golden boy – those are my words, I understand – with you. He’s the good kid. He’s respectful of you. He values what you’ve done.
Marie: 80% yes.
Dr. Kenner: Believe me, most moms would love that. Your daughter is the rebellious one, and the dynamics in the family are that you’re feeling upset with your husband because he has not been connected with you. You don’t feel important, valued and cherished the way you want to. He works too much, but he does have time for the queen, your daughter. So there’s that subtlety going on. Why do you think she got worse eight months ago? I know you mentioned the boyfriend at the beginning and I don’t know –
Marie: I personally feel, which I can’t tape record back and forth, but I feel he teases her a lot and after she fights with him for maybe an hour or whatever, he gives in, but lately I’ve had the place at the door, I don’t know how many times, from my neighbor.
Dr. Kenner: Wait a minute. I just lost you there. It’s a little hard to hear you.
Marie: Before, it was fine, and then I think all the sudden maybe he wants to dump her, I don’t know. That’s my feeling.
Dr. Kenner: And she’s taking it out on you?
Marie: And he teases her and it all comes out on me.
Dr. Kenner: So you’re the softie, the punching bag. She comes back and she’s used to beating up on you, or she’s used to being the favored anyway, and now she’s being knocked down from the throne in her relationship with her boyfriend, that’s what you suspect? And so she doesn’t like being knocked down, so she’s attacking you. That’s another piece of this puzzle, right?
Marie: That’s a good way of putting it, yes.
Dr. Kenner: So you have two pieces of the puzzle. One is that she’s not your favorite child. Very painful for parents to deal with that. So you want to figure out what you love in her, so that you can rebuild a better relationship with her. You want to deal with a couple of issues separately. Talk with your husband. Tell him how much you miss him. Don’t make it a competition with your daughter, just tell him how much you would love to have that close connection and is he missing it too? And remind him of your best times in your relationship history to try to rekindle that feeling with one another. You may even going to counseling with him. And the second piece is, to sit with your daughter if she wants to and to listen to her. She’s going through some troubles with the boyfriend. If instead of being a punching bag you become a good listener, learning the skill of active listening, my guess is she’ll want to come to you more and not beat you up, but use you in a way that both of you will benefit. You’ll bond closer. Listen, I thank you very much for your call and you can call and let me know how things go, Marie.
Dr. Kenner: Thank you so much.