The mother and teenage daughter relationship can be one of the most difficult relationships in existence. Between alternating moods and the lack of self-esteem and self-respect that a “normal” teenager goes through, the relationship can take many bad turns and one can only hope that these years may get better down the road. But will they? Or is the mother and daughter relationship doomed forever?
When a daughter is born, there is an underlying current behind the scenes. All of a sudden “Daddy” takes on a new role, even if it is the second child. When the son is born, this does not happen. The father looks forward to his role as a guide in life, but when a daughter is born, he becomes the fierce protector. This is an entirely new role for him and one that he must adapt to. The daughter understands this, as well, and notices the difference in her relationship with her father and her mother.
Her relationship with the mother begins with the mother becoming the caretaker, but once she sees what is happening with her father, she wants the role of “Daddy’s Little Girl” to extreme and if she can come between her mother and father, she will be at her happiest. It isn’t that she comes out and wants to claim her father for just her, she just wants to be number one in his eyes and he allows this, as he is the “protector”. Anybody that gets in his daughter’s way will be taken care of. She is his pride and joy and that’s that.
So, what starts out as a seemingly competitive issue later becomes a challenge between mother and daughter. The daughter is at issues with herself and puts her mother at a challenge. In the daughter’s eyes, the older mother gets, the less she knows. How could she, being ancient, understand what it is liked to get dumped? How could she know what it’s like to look in the mirror and hate what is seen? To the teenage daughter, their mother is just that. A mother. Nothing more. Nothing less.
As the teenage daughter matures, her self-esteem will increase and she will learn through a course of unhappy experiences, self-respect. It is in the years between that will be the most difficult for any mother to go through. It is hard to sit back and watch a child make wrong decisions. But in order for your child to mature, they must make wrong decisions and deal with the repercussions. It is a fact of life for anyone. They must realize their mistakes and hopefully, with time and experience, make new ones.
How does a mother handle all of this? Mostly, with patience and understanding. Most of us went through our “terrible teens”, as well and we have to remember them. The most important thing is making sure your daughter knows you love her and know matter what she does wrong, you always will. Regardless of whether she wants you there, she needs to know that you are there for her. Give her time and give her space, but don’t be afraid to jump in when she is doing something that will harm her. Teenagers are going through a lot more than the teens of even twenty years ago. Not only do they have more peer pressure about drugs, but the issue of sex, as well. All you can do is offer your support when it is needed. If you do suspect she is doing drugs or going through a serious depression, don’t be afraid to force counseling on her. She may not like it then, but she’ll appreciate it later on.
Once the daughter has reached a maturity level, she may come back to her mother and realize she is an actual person. This may take years and may not happen until she has her own child and becomes a mother herself. She may look to you and state, “How did you deal with me when I was a teenager?” At that point, you can look at her and tell her, “With patience, my child. With a lot of patience.”
The Mother and Teenage Daughter Relationship
Maintaining a loving mother-daughter relationship in her teenage years is very difficult. She has peer influence to try drugs, alcohol, and sex. She also feels pressured by her school, church, and parents. Now she even has to worry about being violently assaulted. In addition, she is also dealing with identity and hormonal changes. Her increasing hormone levels cause dramatic emotional and behavioral changes. Her moods can change from hour to hour. At times she can feel lonely, isolated, confused, irritable, angry, and even depressed. At times no matter what you say, she will feel irritated with you. Your teenager's brain is also changing. There is a growth spurt in her brain from the age of 12-16. Her evolving thinking processes enable her to learn more difficult topics such as algebra, geometry, and philosophy. However, at the same time her increasing logic skills may cause her to become more argumentative and want to debate every issue. Because of these changes, you need to become more tolerant and patient when she asserts herself. It's a time when your relationship can be severed if you're mostly critical and judgmental. In particular don't threaten her with such things as being kicked out, foster homes, or boot camp. Such threats can severely damage your relationship perhaps for many years.
- Communicating effectively with your teenage daughter is perhaps the most important aspect of your relationship with her. She will listen to you more and accept your guidance if you develop good listening skills. You must practice "active listening" which means that you listen with your eyes, ears, and heart not only to her words, but also to her feelings without interruption or criticism. For instance, she may say, "Mom, you are not fair! Everyone can stay out longer than I can. Why can't you change my curfew?" You can say, "I heard you say that you don't think that I am fair and that you would like me to change your curfew." Then continue by saying, "I am concerned about your emotional and physical safety and that is why I cannot extend your curfew. We will negotiate this when you get older.". She may also talk about her feelings, e.g., "I feel really down today." You could answer, "I hear that you are really feeling down, tell me more." The important thing is to take time and allow your teenager to express herself daily without fear of being judged.
- When things are difficult place a rubber band on your wrist. Snap it before reacting to your teenage daughter. It will give you a moment to regroup and to react more rationally.
- Allow your teenager to express anger in a healthy way, without shouting and allow yourself to do the same. Express anger in a normal voice and in "I" terms (e.g., "I am angry because...") rather than accusatory "you" terms.
- Decide on a few reasonable, clear rules concerning such things as curfew, drinking, drugs, chores, homework, respect, and stick to them consistently. Have appropriate and immediate consequences that fit the rule broken without berating, threatening, or calling names. It is important for you to be respectful even while handing out consequences. As your teenager gets older, you need to be open and willing to adapt and set new rules.
- Don't have unreasonable expectations. Many teenagers are going to school, participating in athletics, and working part time. Be a bit lenient with home chores. Leave their rooms alone. Just ask them to close the door.
- Become knowledgeable about early signs of alcohol, drug abuse or eating disorders. If you suspect any of the above, get medical and/or psychological help immediately for your daughter and possibly for yourself.
- Invite your teenage daughter's friends and boyfriends over to your house. Get to know them well. Know their names and phone numbers. Invite even the boyfriend who you believe is not good for her. Have him over for dinner frequently. You don't have to like him. She will let go of him if you don't berate her daily and if you don't forbid him to come to your home. Use discretion; however, if he has a drug addiction. In addition get to know the parents of your teenager's friends and communicate with them frequently so you can support each other in monitoring your teenagers' activities and locations.
- Do tell her that she is wonderful and beautiful frequently and give her a few hugs when she is feeling down. Discover her talents and gifts and encourage her to develop them
- Make her birthdays special. Try to bake a birthday cake. Give her a small gift and a beautiful birthday card. On the card express your love and name all the wonderful qualities that you see and appreciate in her. Make this a yearly ritual. She will treasure it for the rest of her life.
- Don't go out of town and leave her home alone during her high school years. She may be pressured by friends to have parties that can get destructive.
- Encourage your daughter to be assertive so she can speak up for herself when she is not treated respectfully
- Encourage your daughter to get a good education and if possible to go to college. Show an interest in her homework, assisting if you can when she needs help.
- Tell her often how important she is to you and how you value her. Say, "You are very special to me and always will be. I love you with my whole heart. I enjoy it very much when we talk and when you tell me what is going on in your life. You are a great joy to me." Tell her often how proud you are of her many achievements and take time to attend all of the activities in which she is involved.
- Take one night a week and do something fun with her that she enjoys. (For example, I took a cake decorating class with one of my daughters.)
- Teach her to value herself. Explain to her that self-talk is very important and that what she says to herself will influence her self image. Instruct her to stand in front of a mirror and say to herself, "You are very special and I love you! I can feel good or proud about ...(and list things like school activities, grades, jobs, helping others, etc.). " I did this myself when I was young and said, "You know you are better than average, so love and respect yourself and expect the same treatment from others." It is very important to affirm our goodness even though we are imperfect. This is not self-centeredness, but a way of building self-esteem. Without a good self-esteem she may not set boundaries in a relationship and may allow others to mistreat her.
- Teach her to set boundaries. This means to set limits about what she will allow another person to say or do to her in a relationship. She needs to say, "No!" when someone is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. If the person does not stop, then she needs to leave the relationship.
- Teach her to accept and like her body. Again, she should stand in front of a mirror and say, "I love my body, I love my hair, I love my face." Do this daily. This is important because television is so brutal right now to women. They are selling the idea that only stick-thin women can be happy. This is not true and we need to teach our daughters otherwise.
- Be a good model for her in everything that you expect her to do.
- Stay connected and never abandon her. I believe that a mother's love is the most important love in a girl's life. When I went through difficult times, I remembered these words that my mother uttered, "I love you, you are very special to me." Those words gave me strength and belief in myself when I felt alone, lonely, and abandoned. The night before she died at the age of 90, she called me and said, "I love you so much. You have been a wonderful daughter to me and you have given me much joy." I will treasure those loving word until the last day of my life and I pray to God that I will have the opportunity to utter those same loving words to each of my daughters the night before I die.
- Love your daughter with a soulful love for the rest of your life. Thereby you will make her life happier and make this a better world. It is wonderful when other people tell me how much my daughters have touched their lives and how grateful they are to have met them. The love that you give them will be passed on to others forever.
Reclaiming Our Daughters: What Parenting a Pre-Teen Taught Me About Real Girls
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