The relationship between teenage girls and their mothers is traditionally a tricky one. While girls are often dad’s little angel, they’re more likely to clash with their mum. A cliché? Yes, in part. But stereotypes don’t appear out of nowhere. If you’re struggling to take charge of your difficult teenage daughter, you’re certainly not alone.
I love my daughter. I look at her every day and wonder at the amazing person I played a part in creating. I also find myself taking a deep breath and counting to ten. It’s not just the piles of clothes on the floor or the dirty plates in the kitchen. She gives attitude in spades and can be as stubborn as – well, as I am. She’s not just my mini-me in looks.
I don’t want to be at odds with her. Having gone through the difficult teenage years without my own mother, I want my relationship with my daughter to be as harmonious as possible. To be what I wished I could have had.
For the most part, it’s all good. We’re very close, and I know that makes me lucky. But it’s not always that easy, as many parents of teenage girls are acutely aware. Add into the mix some worrying statistics; in the UK, eating disorders in girls aged under 19 have almost doubled in the past six years. There’s been a 68% increase in the number of girls aged 13-16 who self-harm.
No wonder we sometimes feel we’re struggling to take charge of our difficult teenage daughters. We don’t know what to do for the best. How do we steer them safely through the difficult years and regain our parent power?
You’re her best example
It’s important to remember we’re the biggest influence on our teenage daughters. She might try and emulate you or she might deliberately be your polar opposite. Either way, she’s taking her cues from you and that’s a big responsibility.
She’ll look at how you live, the choices you make, what’s important to you. Even if she doesn’t act on it now, she’ll be filing away the information for future reference. Make life as an adult woman appealing to her. Show joy in the things you do. It will inspire her.
Live the values you want her to have
If you want her to show respect to others, you need to show it to her. If you want to encourage her to be empathetic and to listen to others, she needs to receive the same treatment. It can be difficult if we seem to have a grumpy, uncommunicative teenager on our hands. But remember, she is trying to find her way in the world. She may act like a grown-up, but inside she’ll often still feel like a child.
Spend time together
Make a regular ‘date’ with your daughter. Time for just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be a big event – sometimes it might just be a takeaway and a film in front of the television. But make sure the rest of the family are elsewhere – this is a chance for you to connect with each other with no distractions.
It’s an opportunity to get to know your daughter as she grows up. To stay in touch with her, to be there if she needs you, to learn what’s important to her. It also means you’ll be aware more quickly if something is wrong.
Choosing to spend time with your daughter sends the message that she’s worth being around – a powerful boost to a teenager’s often-fragile self-esteem.
When you talk to your daughter, don’t tell her what she should do. Don’t impose your views on her world. Even if you don’t agree with some of her choices or opinions, she needs to feel you respect them. You can still offer an alternate view, and she might realise you know a thing or two about life after all. The trick is in the way you let her see it.
Life is busy. If you’re juggling a job, parenting and running a home, chances are you won’t have much free time. If your daughter needs you, though, you must find some. It doesn’t mean dropping everything the second she demands it. But if she wants to talk and you’re too busy, it’s telling her she’s not important.
Far better to say, “I’m just dealing with this deadline, but give me half an hour and we can chat.” Or invite her to help you in the kitchen and talk as you prepare dinner.
If you’re really struggling, then go out to eat or abandon the housework. Maintaining that mother-daughter bond is more important than any domestic duty.