by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Mother-daughter relationships often go through a turbulent period when the daughter is a teenager. As the teenager goes through natural hormonal changes and displays signs of wanting independence, a stormy relationship between the mother and the daughter might ensue. Given below is a guide for mothers of teenage daughters who are at a loss to understand what they are supposed to do, and how they can tide over this difficult period.
First of all, the new found desire in your daughter to contradict things you say, and push back against you is not because she has reason to hate you; it is just nature’s way of preparing them for an adult, independent life. She is a bundle of raging hormones and she is trying to develop her own identity and opinions.
If you have been a hands-on mother who personally supervised everything your daughter did, now it is time to withdraw a little and let her take the front stage. This includes respecting her space, and allowing healthy risk-taking activities such as physical challenges, outdoor adventures and trying out new social situations.
All parents make mistakes. Teenagers respect parents who are able to say sorry. You need to show your daughter that adults also make mistakes, and what is important is that you learn from your mistake and make amends.
Your daughter should be made aware of certain boundaries that she cannot cross and rules that she has to follow no matter what. Examples include not using bad words, being respectful to others, paying attention to personal grooming, not taking other people’s things without permission, not wearing clothes that are too revealing etc.
There may be behaviors that your daughter engages in that you do not approve of, such as dying her hair, or listening to music that you don’t like. However, as long as it is not dangerous or harmful to herself or others, it is best to let her do it so that she feels a certain degree of control over her life and body. For the same reason, you should allow her to choose the activities to join in school, and choose clothes for herself unless of course she might invite unwanted attention with her choice of clothes.
Many mothers cannot stand getting an eye roll in answer when they tell their daughters something earnestly. However, do not overreact to it. It is best to take it as behaviour that girls will outgrow. In fact, the eye roll is a sign that your child has now begun to think for herself, and she no longer accepts you as the final word in everything. Ignore the eye roll as it happens, but you can discuss it later with your daughter if it disturbs you.
Teen age is the time when friends become more important than family. You may not approve of all of your daughter’s friends, but be extremely cautious about criticizing them in any way. It is best that you allow your daughter to invite them home, so that you know who they are. If a friendship is very clearly unhealthy, you may bring it up privately in an uncritical manner.
There may be things that your daughter would have told you confidentially. Do not ever repeat them to your friends however tempted you are to do so. If your daughter finds out that you have broken her trust, she will want to pull away and not share details about her life with you anymore.
It is often said that parents are the first teachers of a child. In reality, a constantly teaching and lecturing parent alienates teenagers very fast. If you want your daughter to follow a certain behaviour you need to model it yourself, and then remind them in very short words that this is what they need to do. Avoid long lectures at any cost.
Teen age does not stay forever. Children will grow out of adolescence into adults. The battles will not last forever. So be patient, and tell yourself that this is a passing stage. In the meanwhile, try to enjoy your daughter, and help her get through this difficult stage of life. You could give her small surprises such as cooking her favourite food one day, or getting her an unexpected gift. Remember that teenagers still need parenting, but of a different sort.
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