The transition to parenting a teen can be rough for any parent. Gone are the days when your daughter’s biggest problems are deciding what to wear and keeping her room clean. You’re confronting new, more complicated issues, and the stakes are higher: peer pressure, dating, learning to drive, worrying about college, to name a few.
Plus, your daughter’s brain is undergoing many changes. As a result, she’s feeling the pull to become more independent. But she hasn’t quite developed the skills to do so. This can show up as talking back and testing limits. Unsure of how to adapt to the changes they see in their child, many parents end up feeling disrespected, unappreciated, and defeated.
However, it’s important to remember that these changes are a part of your daughter’s transformation from child to adult. Your role as a parent is to guide her through these changes while helping her develop healthy ways of thinking and being. With this in mind, here are five key things to consider as you parent your teen daughter.
Your Role as a Parent Changes
During the teenage years, your daughter may act like she no longer needs (or wants) you to tell her exactly what to do. She’s stretching her wings, learning how to make her own decisions and take responsibility for her life. While it’s not always easy for parents to let go, this growth is necessary. After all, in just a few short years, your daughter will officially be an adult.
This is why your role as a parent needs to change, too. While you used to be the primary decision-maker when it came to how she spent her free time, what activities she participated in, and who to schedule play dates with, now it’s time to give her the leading role in her life.
That doesn’t mean that you have to stand silently on the sidelines, though. Your teen doesn’t need you to tell her exactly what to do, but she still needs your support. You’re now a coach instead of a manager: providing guidance, asking questions, and giving emotional support.
Look for opportunities to teach and model the life skills she’ll need when she is on her own, such as how to:
- Make good decisions
- Deal with conflict
- Cope with disappointment
- Help your daughter manage her emotions
Know It’s Not Personal
Between the sarcasm, rude comments, and their knack for pushing our buttons, it’s hard not to take the things your teen says and does personally.
But it’s important to remember that your daughter’s behavior is more a reflection of the development she is going through as a teen than it is of you or your parenting. She’s learning how to exercise her independence and show the world who she is—and that means distancing herself from you. Unfortunately, her attempts to express her developing autonomy can come across as downright mean sometimes.
So, if your daughter says or does something that feels like a personal attack, pause to notice how you’re feeling. Take a few deep breaths to help you calm down. As challenging as it may be, remind yourself it’s not personal. Your daughter is dealing with emotions she doesn’t quite know how to express in a healthy way yet. Remind yourself that you are the parent and model appropriate communication and behavior for your daughter
Choose Your Battles
There are many potential sources of stress and conflict when you’re raising teens today, so it’s important to focus on what really matters. Don’t get hung up on power struggles with your teen. That’s a game nobody can truly win.
Let go of the need to be right and prioritize communication and connection with your daughter instead. Find out what is going on in her world that might be affecting her mood and behavior at home. Focus on how you can support her in getting back on track versus how you can punish her or force her to do what you want her to do.
Model Respect—Even When Your Teen Daughter is Disrespectful
The eye rolls, shoulder shrugs, noisy sighs, and slamming doors that accompany the teen years seem deeply disrespectful to many parents. No matter how hard you try, you can’t force your child to respect you.
So what can you do to foster an environment of respect at home? Though it isn’t always easy, showing respect towards your teen, even when they’re out of line, is crucial. That means you should avoid yelling, micro-managing her behavior, putting her down, name-calling, criticizing her appearance, and so on. Set a good example by owning up to your mistakes and apologizing when you’ve done something wrong.
Being respectful with your daughter doesn’t mean you can’t set rules or discipline her. But it does mean setting reasonable boundaries and enforcing them fairly and consistently. Your daughter may not always like the rules, and that’s okay too. Part of raising teens today is getting comfortable with them not always liking you.
By modeling respect to your teen, you open the door to her showing respect for you, and perhaps more importantly, learning to respect herself.
Learn How to Handle Your Emotions
When your daughter gets on your last nerve or she walks right over a boundary you’ve set, instead of reacting, take a moment to identify what you’re feeling and why.
When she tells you she has been doing her homework and you find out from her teacher that she’s weeks behind, you’re mad—but why? What else are you feeling? Are you worried that she’s setting herself up for failure? Are you afraid that because she isn’t being honest about her schoolwork, there might be other, bigger things she isn’t telling you? Are you concerned that her actions (or inactions) might mean you’re not a good enough parent?
Getting clear on what you’re really feeling can help you communicate more openly and effectively with your daughter. Instead of yelling at her or punishing her, you can sit down with her and have an open conversation about your concerns.
Your child is growing into a young adult. While you ultimately can’t control her behavior, being able to communicate the deeper feelings behind your upset will allow you to have a more effective conversation. And that will give you a better shot at truly connecting with and understanding each other.
More Resources for Raising a Teenage Girl
Looking for more tips on how to raise your teen daughter? My Words of Wisdom for Teens series is written with teen girls in mind, but many parents have read the books and found lots of great ideas they can apply to their life and parenting. Learn more about the series here.