Teen refusing to eat dinner with family
My 15 year old has run us through the gamut this past year. She was diagnosed with depression a the end of the last school year, was involved in sexting, had sex, etc. Right now, she seems to be a good place and vows she is not involved in any of those behaviors anymore, although she does not rule out sex. She just doesn't think that is a big deal. She is over her depression although she is severely lacking in motivation, more so than the normal teenager according to her therapist. But based on where she was a year ago, we have made great progress. She has a great friend that we really like, the only problem being is that they spend all their time at that girl's house. This past weekend they were going to sleep at our house, when my daughter announced that they were going to the friend's house because it's more fun over there. I know part of it is that they don't have as many rules as we do, but that's because the friend has not had as many issues as my daughter has. Anyway, we let them go. I picked her up late Sunday afternoon and my daughter was in a great mood. She went up to her room when we got home, but that is not unusual - all she does is text when she's not with friend (actually she texts even when she's with them). I called her down for dinner and she informed that since she was not hungry, she wasn't going to come down. I asked her to come down and just sit with us, but she still refused. I explained to her that it was important to us to have the whole family together for a meal even if not everyone ate - she still refused. I threatened to take her cell phone away. She still refused. I tried to remain calm, but I was so hurt because she had blown us off the previous night and now was refusing to spend 15 minutes with us. I may be making a mountain out of a mol hill here, but can I tell her the expectation is that she does sit with us for meals or she does not have the right to use her cell phone? I don't want to let her just decide when and if she can grace us with her presence, but I don't want to force her so that she "hates" the time with us. Any suggestions?
You did great in not getting upset; as Dr Bradley says, staying calm is our greatest weapon.
My daughter's best friend's parents sometimes tell her, tonight is family night, you've spent enough time with friends, now you're spending the evening with us. I think that's a great idea.
The cell phone doesn't really have much to do with coming to dinner. What I've done is the past is say, when she wants to spend the night next time with the friend, is "no, because of what happened last time you did." Then just walk away from the cries of "unfair!"
I'd likely try to use a compromise saying that you love and miss her but that you can understand that she might want the autonomy of skipping some dinners. Then suggest that if she's willing to do a "date night" with you where you go out to shop, get a coffee, and (God-forbid) chat with each other, that you'll be OK with her missing some dinners. If you go to war with her, you'll likely both lose. If you try to find a middle ground, you both might win. The fact is that if you let her start to miss dinners she'll likely start to miss those same dinners if you haven't made them a symbol of control and power struggles.
Dr. Mike Bradley