The teenage years are for self-discovery. After a childhood of parental direction, now is the time to gradually hand over control. She’ll take control anyway, she’s genetically programmed to.
When you start to notice your teenager wanting more autonomy, more freedom to make her own decisions, and for you to back off – that is the cue to do exactly that. If you don’t you are fighting nature – and nature is a powerful force. Not only that but you are forcing your child to deny her natural urge to grow up.
We want our children to mature, but this can only happen if you step out of the way.
Now is the time to trust the process of growing up, even if you don’t feel like you can trust your daugther. As parents we often do not feel ready for the next stage of letting go – so how lucky we are that nature gives our children the impulses required for them to grow up, despite us! Take a deep breath, gather the support of other mothers around you, and begin to give her more freedom to make her own choices.
Just as you began to allow your toddler to pour her own drink, be in the garden without you, and choose her own clothes, so now you will be gradually allowing your teenager to manage decisions around alcohol, go into town without you, and choose her own clothes.
If you continue to try and shape your child’s life she will never learn to shape it herself.
If you continue to try to ensure that she makes the right decisions she will never learn her own mind or how to make her own right decisions.
If you continue to lay down the law, not only will she resent you, but she will not learn how to regulate herself.
For over ten years, part of your job description as parent has been to guide and socialise your child. In the teenage years your job description changes. Now you are required to enable her to find out who she is, how she wants to live, what she wants to do, who she wants to be with. She needs the freedom to experiment. She also needs the safety of your on-going engagement in her life. It’s a new and delicate balance for you both to find.
If you cannot let go of trying to make her be how you think best, then she will be lost to herself. You will not have served her as a parent. You will have inhibited her natural maturation.
Some people cannot begin this maturation process until they leave home and are free of the overpowering influence of their parents; some people never really grow up.
Wouldn’t you prefer your daughter to begin her experimenting whilst in your care?
If you wish for your teenager to proceed healthily on her path towards adulthood you will need to allow her to make her own decisions and mistakes. You can be a trusted companion on this journey alongside her, listening as she figures out how to proceed, listening as she sorts out how to remedy her mistakes, but as soon as you step into the role of trying to manipulate the course of her life she will need to distance herself from you.
Hold your daughter’s life in an open hand.