14 year old needs to be the center of attention

I have a 14 year old daughter who, when we are with people, seems to feel the need to be the center of attention always. It gets embarrassing. I feel embarrassed myself, but then I feel embarrassed for her also. I don't know if it is a maturity issue or an only child issue or what. She has never lacked for attention here at home, but I don't think she has learned how to share attention with others. I don't know how to help her. SHE doesn't seem to be aware of this problem, but I am very much aware of it. She doesn't have a lot of friends, and from what she tells me, all the kids at school think she is "weird". I know this age is difficult, but I think she makes it harder than it has to be because of the way she acts. Am I being a worry wart mom? Is there some way I can gently help her...I know that self esteem issues are huge at this age and I don't want to make things worse in my efforts to help.

Dear Cindy,
I don't think you are being a worry wart at all. This age is indeed difficult, and you won't help your daughter by ignoring the issue, although of course you don't want to shame her, either.

This is definitely a maturity issue, but it is also a manners issue. Many kids, especially singletons, don't really have a sense of how to appropriately step into and then out of the limelight in a social situation.

I would approach this in the same way you would address a manners issue, which is by talking with your daughter about it without blaming her in any way. You might say "I've been thinking about when we were in X situation recently. I noticed that you were really enjoying talking about Y and having everyone listen to you. I realized that I had forgotten to teach you an important manners lesson, and of course, how would you know this since I forgot to teach you? In social situations, each person gets a little chance to talk about themselves or their opinion about something, and then the conversation moves on to other people's views or experiences. If you watch me, you'll notice that's what I do when we're with other people. It's considered inappropriate to dominate the conversation. So maybe you and I can start practicing when we're in groups. We need a little signal so you can ask me if it's time for you to start focusing on other folks for awhile, and another signal so I can remind you if you forget."

You might also point out to your daughter that all people need attention and want to be listened to and respected. If she can offer that to others, she will always be appreciated and liked.

For more ideas about fostering social skills, please check out the sections of this website on Emotional & Social Intelligence under "Raising a Great Kid."

Finally, let's address the issue of friends and "weirdness". Any child who is out of the ordinary may be considered "weird" at this age. My own almost-13 year old is thought to be weird because she prefers reading books to watching TV, and is not interested in boys. So that label alone does not concern me. My question to you is whether your daughter has one or more good friends. If she doesn't, then she may need help with social skills or something more.

By the way, your obvious sensitivity to your daughter and concern for her are the best assets she could have at this difficult point in her life. She's a lucky girl.
Dr. Laura

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I have seen amazing improvement in my *very* angry 17 year-old son after acknowledging that there was a reason he was so angry and acting out. We have had several heartfelt conversations and I have seen a real change in how he treats his younger brother, and how he treats me.


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