I am NOT an expert on teenage girls. In fact, I don’t know that I’m much of an expert on anything, except maybe finding the best desserts at a buffet (ha!)
We have our rough days around here just as often as anyone else does. But I hope that after parenting one daughter through five of the seven teenage years, and another through three, that I’ve learned a little something.
I do know that each child provides a very different parenting experience. Their personalities play a big part in how much they challenge authority, how they respond to correction, and pretty much every other part of the process!
Some are easy-going, naturally want to please, and seek to avoid conflict. They may seem easier to parent, but I think they sometimes cover up what’s going on inside. Other daughters put it all out there, never leaving you to wonder what’s going on with them!
As a mom, I continue to be a work in progress. But here are a few helpful ideas I’ve discovered along the way.
1. Wait for a calm moment to address the issue.
In the heat of the moment, when emotions run high, I’m likely to say something I shouldn’t. And my daughter’s not going to be listening to my advice/correction, because her focus is totally on how unfair I’m being, how her life is falling apart, etc. (You get the idea.)
This waiting thing goes against my nature, because I want to settle things right away and move on. But over and over (I’m a slow learner), I’ve found out that nothing productive comes of jumping right in to the discussion. Better to let both of us take time to process the situation. When she’s calm, she’s much more likely to think like an adult, and something productive can be accomplished.
2. Know that being the parent isn’t always fun or easy.
Sometimes it means saying “no,” and being very unpopular with your daughter for a while. Other times, it may mean insisting she follow through with something she doesn’t want to do.
I don’t want to sound all “gloom and doom,” because there are so many great parts of having a teenage daughter. But the advice you’ve probably heard before is true…your child needs a parent, not another friend.
3. Realize that she’s listening to you more than you think she is.
How do I know this? Because she’ll bring up something I said when I thought she was paying no attention to me whatsoever. That can be good – as in, “Wow, you really are learning something!” Or it can go the other way – as in, “Oh, no, you really did hear me say that!”
4. Understand that she can get just as overwhelmed by stress and busyness as you do.
Our teenagers have a lot going on in their lives. Between school, sports, work, and other extra-curricular activities, our daughters can get very busy. Not only that, they’re learning to drive (a huge responsibility!) and beginning to make decisions about their future.
They may have high expectations for themselves, and not meeting those goals can bring disappointment. It’s not an excuse for disrespect or poor behavior, but make sure you try to understand all that they’re dealing with on a daily basis.
5. Recognize that only God can change her heart.
If you ever lived under the illusion that you were in control of your child’s life, now is the time you realize you have none. The older and more independent they become, the more you realize that they have the power to make good choices or bad ones.
So pray. This is what I need to remember every. single. day. We’re neck-deep in the season of college choice and “what should I major in.” I’m not arrogant enough to think that I know God’s will for her life. It is for Him to do His work in her heart… and for her to allow it.
I can’t soften her heart any more than I can control her emotions. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. And honestly, isn’t that a relief??? While I have a responsibility to teach her about our Savior, and to train her in His commandments, it’s the work of God to grow her in her faith.
For you mamas who’ve already parented a teenage girl through a few rough days, I’d love to hear your perspective. This non-expert mama enjoys hearing from those who’ve walked this road before me!