Have you ever had an argument with your daughter?
One of the most common desires I hear from Mums is to improve their communication and connection with their daughter.
I hear from teenage girls as well that they want a better relationship with their Mum…
So how to do that…
There are definitely going to be times when you disagree, when your strongly held values are not what she’s decided to live by, when emotions arise, and when she fights against the boundaries and consequences she experiences – from you or others.
Firstly, boundaries and consequences are safe and necessary. And even though she’s a teenager and almost an adult, she needs them. (She does also need to know that if she breaks the rules, does something stupid and gets herself into trouble she can come to you for help and compassion.)
If she’s fighting against fairly and gently imposed boundaries and consequences, let her. Let her yell and scream and have her tantrum, and explain to her again why things are the way they are. Actions have consequences. This is the most important life lesson your teenage daughter can learn from you.
The teenage brain is actually not fully developed to make the links between actions and consequences, and it also has a heightened emotional spectrum, which makes life even more impulsive. That’s why she still needs you.
And yes, you try your best to impose consequences gently, but sometimes you’re probably going to get upset, I know I do at times. And it’s also true that sometimes the best consequences are not imposed by you but arise naturally – that if she doesn’t do her laundry she’s only going to have stinky uniforms to wear to school on Monday. And it may be appropriate to simply allow her to experience these natural consequences.
But to let her experience the consequences of smoking cigarettes every day without any parental intervention is probably irresponsible!!!
It seems to me that significant conflict occurs in my life when my values don’t match with someone else’s, when they’ve crossed a line that’s important to me but seemingly insignificant to them.
Sometimes I can communicate this calmly and in healthy relationships be heard and validated by people who are willing to respect my values and the needs that I’ve shared, and be willing to change.
Other times, I communicate in a way where I’m not heard because I’m in an emotionally reactive state and coming across with anger and attack which is of course only met with defence and resistance.
And yet at other times, I can communicate my hurt feelings in a calm way, clearly own my emotions and articulate what needs of mine weren’t being met and which of my values weren’t being respected. And then, regardless of how well I’ve communicated what’s true for me, be met still with denial and defence. “I’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve misinterpreted me. You’re experience of this is not true. I’m innocent, how dare you accuse me of this.” Sound familiar?
What to do from here? Well it depends on the relationship. I’m in the lucky/ unlucky position of this situation happening with a friend where it’s all too easy to say, let’s just not be friends any more. And sometimes this is appropriate. It may be appropriate for you with your daughter to say, “your behaviour is not OK, I’m hurt and angry and need these behaviours to be different, if you can’t do that you’re going to spend some time living with your Dad, Aunt, Nana, friend etc.” Yes, it’s extreme, but depending on the situation it may be appropriate.
But, what if that’s not an option? And in the long term it’s really not. Your relationship with your daughter is for life and cannot be simply thrown away at the first (or 100th) sign of conflict.
Maintain your boundaries. Be clear on your values and what’s important to you. Communicate how you feel using “I” statement – I feel sad, hurt, angry, etc. Ask directly for what you need – care, respect, consideration, time out. Respect yourself enough to say no to behaviour that you don’t want to have in your home or life and clearly communicate what the consequences are – minor or major – if that behaviour occurs.
Have compassion for her when she kicks and screams and throws a tantrum when these consequences are applied.
Listen to how she feels and what she needs and teach her how to communicate this clearly, when she’s not mid-emotional storm.
Have patience with her and with yourself.
Ride it out.
All things change with time.
Come to Radiant Woman where you’ll get the chance to share stories and come to a fuller understanding of each other as well as connect with and receive support from other Mums who are having similar challenges.