Her defiance could be her way of getting your attention.

Ways to Parent a Defiant Preteen Girl

by Susan Revermann

It’s not unusual for a preteen to demonstrate some defiant moments, but if your preteen girl is displaying consistent defiance, it puts a strain on everyone in the household. The parenting tactics you used during her childhood won’t cut it during this time. With persistence, consistency and patience, you should be able to find a way to talk to, discipline, and live with, your defiant preteen.


Clearly define limits and boundaries, so there is no gray area for your preteen to dispute. You should discuss curfews, behavior expectations and house rules with your preteen. Set up some rewards for good behavior, perhaps an allowance for performing certain chores. Also establish consequences for breaking the rules, like the loss of certain privileges such as using her cellphone on weekends or going to the mall with her friends. If your preteen chooses to continue her defiant behavior, give her one warning and then enforce the consequence.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

Try to ignore some of the small stuff. Pick and choose your battles. Not turning in school assignments is a cause for concern, but you might want to ignore your preteen's choice of clothes or hairstyle. Further, every rude name or word that comes out of her mouth doesn’t need to get your attention either. Instead of yelling at her for every chore she refuses to do, give her one reminder or warning and enforce a consequence. Keep in mind that she may actually be displaying negative behavior to get your attention. Instead, catch her being good and praise her for her good behavior immediately. Praise and affection are powerful ways to reinforce good behavior and show your preteen that you notice and care. If she pulls away from physical affection or verbal praise while you’re in public, try a more subtle approach like shoulder squeezes, or waiting until you’re at home to praise her.


You will have a much easier time parenting your daughter when you offer her some choices instead of just making demands. Choices allow your preteen to feel empowered and will reduce the number of power struggles between the two of you. Give her two equally desirable choices and let her decide which route to take. For instance, you might say, “Do you want to take out the trash now or after you finish your homework?” This lets her have a say as to when she does the chore, but the job still gets done.

Positive Opposites

Instead of using negative words like, “Stop” and “Don’t” when you preteen exhibits bad behavior, find "positive opposites" to let her know the type of behavior that you want from her, suggests Dr. Alan Kazdin on the ABCNews website. For example, your preteen is more likely to comply if you say, “Please put your backpack in your room” instead of “Stop leaving your stuff on the kitchen table.” Immediately follow up the request with praise if she complies. You won’t be able to completely weed out “Stop” and “Don’t” from your vocabulary, but if you use positive opposites, you will use them much less often.

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