Surviving Female Adolescence
What a mother needs to do when her teenage daughter is spinning out of control and nothing is bringing her back
by Naomi Drew, M.A.
author of Hope and Healing
One of the number one reasons kids go out of control at this age is when we don't stand behind what we say. As parents, the first thing we need to do for our teens is set clear, fair standards and limits, and stick by them no matter what. If your daughter has to be in at midnight, she has to be in at midnight, and if she's not, there needs to be a consequence.
Consequences can be tricky. Best way to handle them is to sit down with your daughter at a neutral time -- a time when neither of you is angry -- and talk about the rules of the house. Try to find acceptable places to compromise so your child feels like she has a voice too, but never compromise on the things that are most important like those that can affect her safety or good moral judgement. Next, ask your child what consequences she believes would be fair. Often kids are harder on themselves than we are, and letting them have a part in decision-making can cut down on the power struggles. Now it's your job to follow through.
Another critical key - talk to your child's highest self. No matter how bad her actions, address the action, not the person, and use I messages; e.g.: I am so upset that you left the house without permission. That is TOTALLY unacceptable." Hear your child out once (don't allow it to turn into a bicker session), then give a consequence. Berating, forcing, guilt-trips, and put-downs will only reinforce your child's bad behavior.
The most critical key of all - find ways to enter your child's world. Listen to her music with her, even if you hate it. Do some activities together that she likes, even if they're things you dont normally do (window shopping at the mall?). Take a genuine interest in what moves and motivates her. Each time you step into her world you create increased trust and openess, even if you can't see it right away.
Find things to compliment her on too. Often when our kids become difficult, our eyes become blind to the good things they do. Be like a detective on a search for all the decent qualities she has and good things she does. Each time you see something positive, tell her, and avoid qualifiers like, "Shannaon, I like the way you offered to help you brother clear the table. Too bad you don't do it more often." Each time you catch your daughter doing something right, it's like you're holding up a mirror to her best self. Dont fog that mirror with subtle put-downs. Help her see herself in a positive guise and allow her to see that you appreciate her, even though you might have been at each others' throats fifteen minutes ago.
More than anything else, never lose sight of the love you have for your daughter, no matter how much she might be drving you crazy. Find ways to show her that love. I promise you, the love you show her will eventually come back to you. Be patient. This phase will pass.
Naomi Drew is recognized around the world as an expert on conflict resolution and peacemaking in schools and homes. Hailed as visionary, her work has enabled educators, parents, and people of all ages to live together more cooperatively.
Her work has been recognized by educational leaders throughout the country. People of all ages have attested to durable changes in their relationships after applying the principles Drew outlines. Her work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV and she currently serves as a parenting expert for Classroom Close-ups, a public television show.
She is the author of four books, serves as a consultant to school districts, leads seminars, and runs parenting courses. Her latest book is Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World. Visit www.learningpeace.com for more information on Naomi Drew and her work.
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