Help! I'm Parenting a Teenage Girl.
I'd like to discuss parenting teenage girl. A teenage girl can be very different than parenting a teenage boy. There’s a lot of overlap but the thing to remember about girls is we women girls have very relational brains so our biology is set up to be relational which means that we think about things a little bit differently than boys or males. Think so it’s really not easy being a teenage girl these days and it's definitely not easy parenting one. Today’s teenage girls are bombarded with a whole range of different stressors influencers that maybe you and I didn't have when we were growing up. So what does it mean? It means that being a teenage girl you have hormones. Your body hormones are changing your brain. There’s a lot of angst during teenage years during adolescence. There's a lot going on neurologically and physiologically. I read somewhere once that they've done brain scans on teenage brain and psychotic brain and funny enough they're pretty similar.
Your Teenage Girl and Brain Development
So when your kids or your girls are acting kind of strangely meaning they're impulsive, they're, not going to make really great decisions. It’s because there's a lot going on in their brain and the prefrontal cortex, which is this front part. This is where we are reasonable and rational. It doesn't fully develop for girls until girls until around 18-19 and boys its 22-23. The part of their brain that really thinks, that’s really analytical is under developed during the teenage years. So you put that in with all of the growth in the activity and the hormones and then you layer in all of these outside influences it can be overwhelming. So it's no longer just you as a parent influencing how your child is going to be brought up or what kind of adult that child is going to be, you have TV, movies, commercials, friendships, school, neighbors, like any interaction. Living in a city like Los Angeles we're being inundated with a ton of influence on how we are as a person and who we want to be.
Your Teenage Girl & Social Media
And then we have social media. Social media is amazing and it's also just awful especially for a lot of teenage girls. Social media, like our female brain, is very relational. Social media can get out of control pretty quickly and it’s very stressful. So again being a teenage girl is not easy. Parenting one is definitely not easy. So what can happen, though if we just don't pay attention? If we're not helping our daughters to develop coping skills? if we're not helping our daughters to figure out how to manage through this growth period where things are kind of out of whack and maybe a little out of control? Well statistics say that there's a very high risk of eating disorders, substance abuse and self-harm. Self harm is on the rise; not necessarily being suicidal but cutting and then there's just a high risk of anxiety and depression. So again teenage girls are going through a lot So if we don't help them we know what the risks are.
Understanding Your Teenage Girls
How do we help them? Well part of it is remembering when you were a teenager whether you're, a mom or a dad; remember when you were a teenager what was the one thing that you wanted most of all other than like A million dollars or a car and the freedom to do anything you want? What I hear when I'm working with teenage clients “No one understands me. No one gets me. My parents don't understand they just don't get it” So the best thing you could do to parent your teenage girl is to try to understand them. And understand them doesn't mean try to change them. It means try to just find out what they're about; what are they thinking. How do they feel? Maybe they don't understand what all these hormones are doing? Maybe they don't understand about how to set boundaries? Maybe they don't but you're never going to know unless you talk to them. So get to understand your kids, Teenage girls in particular, because of the relational brain, are really going to appreciate this.
Listening vs. Lecturing Your Teenage Girls
Now when you’re listening and you're trying to understand their perspective Important to remember to talk with them and not at them. So what does that mean? It means lecturing is usually not very effective. They have to sit through all of that at school all day being told what to do being told to do this Now, you need to go here that you needed they don't want to come home and be lectured anymore. So lecturing is not so good. It's really a good idea to avoid lecturing by asking open ended questions.
If you're asking yes or no questions you're going to get yes or no answers. “How was school today?” And they're going to say “fine.” Or “did you have a good day at school?” “Yeah” and then it just it all just stops. Think about asking questions that are going to lead to conversation. Try to ask the open ended questions. You could ask “how was your day today?” “Fine.” “Oh what did you like best? What did you notice went really well? What did you not like? How was it in your math class today? I know you don't like that teacher. What was it like? Oh What do you want to do about that thing? How can I help you?” Do you see how it's more conversational than just “Yeah, everything's fine. I'm Good.” The other thing to try to get away from lecturing is to practice, and it's hard, listening. So reflective listening is a skill where you are making sure that the other person understands you and that you understand them. One of the key things is to use an “I” statement. You would say something like “I'm worried about you. What's going on? Instead of “what's wrong with you?” We try to take the “you” out as much as we can and make the statement about me. What's my experience and then try to talk about that in relation to your daughter.
How Do I Communicate With My Teenage Daughter
So let's say you don't know you say something like I feel scared when I noticed you shutting me out and then they say back to you ‘you don't have to worry.’ Sometimes people think “Well, yes, I do I'm your mother, I worry about you. Do you see how there's a lot of “you” in there? Or you can say “Well I have no choice, I'm your mom and I worry. And when I notice you're shutting down I worry even more. So can you help me not worry so much and then I can leave you alone. Usually you add that in there and I will leave you alone they're like ‘Oh yes now I can get my mom or dad to leave me alone.” But having conversation, good conversation, is really going to, help you to understand when you need to step in and when you can kind of leave them alone a little bit; but if you're just getting yes, or no answers or “fine, yeah, okay” that's, not a conversation. So reflective listening also includes saying something and then literally repeating it back to the other person. If I'm talking to my daughter and I say she says to me “Well I really don't like my math teacher. She's just really dumb, she doesn't know what she's doing, she doesn’t know how to teach. I’m lost all the time. Nobody's doing good in the class. Nobody likes her. If I'm going to reflect back I'm going to say “Oh wow sounds like you really don't like this teacher and seems like she doesn't really know what she's doing. That's Terrible.” Do you see how you just pretty much summarized and said back to the person what they said to you but as the receiver of that your daughter is going to feel like yeah okay, moms listening to me. And then the conversation keeps going once you stop listening and turn on the lecture button your kids, you could probably see it in their eyes just gets kind of like glazed over just looking around or they're looking at the floor. Dopey, not engaged, they’re definitely not listening to you. You can scream and holler and get as loud as you want to get and it's not going to change anything. They're, not going to listen to you. But if you show that you're listening to them they're going to start listening to you.
Catch Your Teenager Doing Something Good
Another thing that can help to maintain or improve the relationship you have with your daughter is to just try to catch her doing something good. Often times as parents were really quick to find something that’s wrong. “You didn't do your homework. The dishes aren’t done. Your bedroom isn’t clean. Oh it's. It’s not practiced, It’s not the norm for parents to say ”Thanks for picking up your room! Oh thanks for turning off the light in the bathroom. Oh thank you for taking out the trash. For finishing your homework without giving me a hard time.” Try hard to catch your teenage girl doing something good. This is where flattery gets you everywhere. One other key point is to remember is you always want to be firm not harsh or not aggressive. If You're trying to have a conversation you cannot be mad. So do your best to try to breathe, calm your own nervous system. Get what you want to say in your head so that you can articulate it clearly and in an appropriate way. Plan with love not anger and sometimes it’s tough love but anger is not going to get you anywhere. Again think about when you were a kid and your parents may have had an angry moment or maybe several angry moments. Were you like Wow? I really want to do better because I'm inspired or were you probably super angry or really scared? Again, if you want your teenage daughter to be sad, scared or angry go ahead and be harsh, lecture all the time, don't listen. That's exactly what you’re going to get.
Setting Boundaries for Your Teenage Daughter
So when we're talking about being firm and maybe tough love we're talking about holding boundaries. If you set a boundary and you don't hold it none of your boundaries are going to mean anything which kind of means like if you set a rule for an expectation and be like, Oh well, this time will let it go or you forget and you just forget It's. Just out then, whatever you say your teenage girl is not going to take it very seriously because in the past there was no consequence or there was no follow up. Setting a boundary making s rule, setting some kind of expectation you have to be ready to hold to it back it up and have consequences and follow through with the consequences. Let’s say you tell your teenage daughter “Okay If you're late for your 10 o 'clock curfew you're going to be grounded for the following weekend” and then the weekend comes and you forget and your teenage daughter was ground and she goes out and gets to stay out till 10 because that's her curfew but she's still got to go out. So does that mean that she has gotten consequence for making a bad choice or does it mean that she slid under the radar and as long as you're, not paying attention, she could kind of do whatever she wants? The good guy and saying let's say you decide okay You're going to be grounded for a week starting from Sunday to Sunday or It's Friday through the following Sunday and during the week your daughter is doing great she's, getting all their homework done she's coming home, she's, helping to clean up in the kitchen, she's doing all her chores. Everything is going really great and then Friday rolls around and she says “you know things have been going really great. Is it okay if I could go out today because I've learned my lesson being the good guy means that you're like you know what you doing go ahead and go but then that's not the full punishment; the consequence was to be grounded from Friday to following Sunday.
Holding Your Teenage Girl Accountable
So, if you don't hold your teenage girl accountable for that then any consequence you gave there really isn't any consequence because they can negotiate their way out of whatever it is. So being the good guy may feel good in the moment but you're not really helping your teenage girl to understand about consequences and understand that what you say goes. The other thing to keep in mind is that when you are setting consequences try to be realistic. If you’re getting ready to go on a trip to Maui and your daughter is being just a total pill and you're getting really angry and you say “you know what we're not going to Hawaii! I'm canceling. If you don't turn this around we're not going what are the chances of that actually happening? You've bought tickets. You spent money. It's probably nonrefundable Are you really going to cancel that trip to Hawaii and please don't put that out on the table because that's just like saying being grounded is not grounded. Use something realistic and something that you can stick to that, you can remember, set a timer or a reminder on your calendar So you don't forget It's, really important to be firm not harsh and consistent.
So far in talking about parenting a teenage girl, we talked about what it’s like to be a teenage girl; hormones, neurological development of the brain, there's physical development, there's all of the influence from television movies, commercials and social media. Also just kind of feeling a lot and not really knowing what to do with it and then understanding that female brain is very relational.Then we talked more about what would happen. If we don't intervene and really try to parent our teenage girls and we talked about well there's, the fear of eating disorder, substance abuse, self-harm anxiety and depression. What can you do to help communicate? Clearly ask open ended questions use reflective listening, use ‘I” statements be firm but not harsh. The last thing I want to talk about is respect
Getting Respect from Your Teenager
Respect is something that once you lose it, It's pretty it's hard to get back. It's like trust. It needs to be built up over time and it's more about behavior than just saying “Oh I trust you” or “oh I respect you.” it's about how you do it not about what you say so once you lose it It's hard to get back. When we're trying to reestablish respect it’s important to have a conversation and again we're talking about a conversation. One person talks while the other person listens, it’s, not a lecture it's a conversation and set realistic expectations. And then you got to stick to them. Just like with setting boundaries and setting consequences. You've got to be able to follow through. If you don't have follow through then they have no reason to do it because no one’s going to be watching or carrying anyway. So when you're, having this conversation think about the things that the behaviors that you want to see in your daughter and maybe some of the things you don't want to see, but the more positive you can make it usually the better. You're talking about respect you might want to talk about using respectful language. I can't tell you how many families I interact with where the teenage girl often is cussing out their parents. They’re just very disrespectful. So one thing that you can say in this household we use appropriate language. Cursing at someone is not going to be tolerated. We want to be respectful and we wane use appropriate words. Maybe something that's important is “ignoring you.” Ignoring someone is incredibly disrespectful. So maybe you ask to be acknowledged. “In this family we acknowledge each other.” Even we you don't agree we still acknowledge.” So ignoring someone is not going to be okay. Then when you see it happening you need to call it out as not okay in a respectful firm and (not harsh or mean) way.
You Are Not Your Teenage Daughter’s Best Friend
Next don't expect your daughter to be your best friend. This is kind of related to respect your child is your child. You can have a great relationship with your child. I’m all for having a great relationship with your kids. However, it's, not appropriate for you as a parent to be your daughter's best friend whether it’s mom or dad. A child is not supposed to be best friends you're the parent. There is always a clearly defined line about your relationship. Moms and dads and daughters can have great relationships but there's a difference when you're talking about being a best friend. If you think your best friends with your daughter right now it’s probably an illusion. Most teenage girls want a best friend or feel comfortable with the best friend that is one of their peers. So you may have a really great relationship with your daughter but it’s not okay to be a best friend. Friends are peers. A parent and child are not peers. The relationship between mother and daughter requires respect of being the mother or the father. Not the best friend. It's, a different kind of respect
In closing teenage girls are not easy to parent. It can often feel like you’re restraining them by holding the collar of their shirt while at the same time patting them on the head trying to soothe and telling them everything is going to be okay it’s going to be okay. So be firm and loving, be supportive, listen and really try to understand them and together you're going to improve the relationship and you're really going to help your daughter get through adolescence in the best possible way.