Written by Doctor G

How to Deal With Teenagers Who Hate Family Events

MP900400095[1] Hello Dr. Im a mom of a 15 yr old teen. I have an issue that I don’t know how to resolve. When ever we have something planned as a family gathering and is not something she wants to do at that moment she decided she doesn’t want to go and doesn’t get ready and we end up staying home. What advice can you give me to help solve this situation.

Nancy, in CA

Nancy, your daughter is doing her best to run your house. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

First of all, you can show your daughter that you respect her feelings by including her in some of the decision-making beforehand. If there are several family gatherings coming up, ask her opinions about, for example, which three of the four events this week she prefers your family attend. Don’t offer to stay home from something if you feel strongly about going, but give her some choice when it is possible.

Then ask her what social plans she has for the week. Make it clear that her cooperation and attendance at these family events is required if she wants to spend time with her friends this week.

Next, be definitive about what “cooperation” and “attendance” mean. Write it down and go over it with her, in a contract. I’m going to give you an example, so I’ll make up some 15 year old plans and some family plans. Let’s name your daughter Julie for this, and also assume that these three family events are not negotiable.


Social Plans Contract for June 1-8, 2012

Family Plans                          

  1. Friday evening dinner at Grandma’s. Ready at 6:00pm.
  2. Sunday morning little brother’s soccer game. Ready at 9:30am.
  3. Wednesday evening cousin’s birthday dinner. Ready at 7:00pm (homework finished).

Julie’s Plans

  1. Saturday at the mall with Sophie and Tanya.
  2. Saturday evening sleepover at Tanya’s.
  3. Sunday afternoon movie with friends.
  4. Tuesday after school hanging out with Krista.

Julie agrees to:

  1. Be ready to leave for each family event at the time listed.
  2. Keep negative opinions about the event to herself.
  3. Greet each family member as we arrive at the event.
  4. Spend no more than 15 minutes of the event looking at or using her phone.
  5. Engage in the activities of the event with a good attitude. (You can be more specific here as needed).
  6. Thank the hosts and say goodbye to everyone there.

If Julie does each of these things with a good attitude, Mom and Dad will give rides and support for all of Julie’s plans listed (also with a good attitude!).

If Julie is not willing to do these things for or at an event, the following event with her friends will be cancelled. If she insists on staying home, therefore requiring some or all of our family to miss the event, all of her social events will be cancelled for a period of one week after that day.


Nancy, this is a great learning opportunity for your daughter. She will learn about clear expectations. She will understand better what respectful behavior at an event means. And she will learn the resilience that comes from following a contract. Best of all, if you hold up your end of the bargain, you will build her trust!

You will build her trust when you are happy to give her a ride to the mall. You will even earn her trust when you cancel her plans because she didn’t follow the contract! She will tell you that you hate her, she hates you, you don’t understand anything. But she will learn that when you say something you follow through and that you are the adult. She can depend on you.

Has anyone else used contracts with their kids?

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