Her friend’s mothers say she is lovely to have around – considerate, polite, friendly. How is it that your daughter turns into someone else entirely when she closes your front door?
The ups and downs of a teen girl’s life are hard for her to handle. She’s still learning how to manage strong feelings and her hormonal swings can take her on an emotional roller-coaster.
Her best friends can seem like a life-line to her. They know what she’s going through because they’re going through it too. She’s not alone.
But it’s often with Mum that she acts out some of her frustrations and tensions.
Pressure at school, peer pressure, feeling the pressure of other’s expectations and demands on her, can all build up, and your daughter lets off steam where it feels safest – with you. Mothers often get the worst of their daughter’s behaviour – girls don’t always know how to manage all that is going on inside of them, and take it out on Mum, trusting that she’s going to keep on loving her. You’re not going to put her down, give her detention, or shun her from the group. You’re going to keep on being there for her, caring about her, even when she behaves like she doesn’t deserve it.
Children don’t have to earn their parents’ love.
That doesn’t give her license to behave poorly, but sometimes we need to make allowances as teens need help to manage themselves. They need clear boundaries about what is not acceptable, but loving forgiveness when they slip up. Teens aren’t entirely in charge of their behaviour, as their hormones rage and their brains reconfigure. Teens are a lot like toddlers – full of strong feelings that they don’t always know how to manage. Teens tantrum and we need to cast our minds back to what worked with toddler tantrums: listening, not shouting, loving firmness, compassion. That doesn’t mean we tolerate and condone their behaviour but by understanding it better, we can deal with it better.
We can set clear limits. Call in reinforcement if needed – godparents grandparents, aunts, a family friend. Get support from other parents of teens, draw on the reassurance and wisdom of experience. Have somewhere away from your teen that you can let off steam too.
You may not have the pleasure of experiencing your daughter as the loveliness your friend’s report, but don’t take it personally.
Living with a teenager is a challenge, but so it being one –
and as the parent we need to be the ones who take charge of the situation
with loving compassion.