Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't You Dare Touch the Wheel (Parenting Advice for Parenting Teenage Girls)

And so the focus of this blog post will be on how moms can survive the teenage years with their girls. It was requested by Kacie who commented:

I'm really interested in your advice here. I lead a group of Jr. High girls and all of the moms are new to the teenage years and some are already at their wits end and begging us for help. Although I am the oldest of six kids, I've never parented before so I don't think my advice is worth much.

Do you have any advice you'd give mothers of teen girls that are pushing away from their moms?

First, you need to understandI am the worst ever mother for teenage girls. I hate shopping, I despise drama, and I never do my nails or hair. I am embarrassing on every level. I don't look good. I don't care what people think about me. I don't try hard to watch what I say or do in front of others. See? I am a teenage girls worst nightmare.

But I have learned that really, teenage girls are going to be who they are regardless. They are going to be fine -- they will survive. The question is, will I?

So here goes.... my advice...

Don't touch the wheel. This goes back to my analogy about driving. In the teenage years, your daughter is driving and you are in the passenger seat. She's not going to let you drive. She might let you THINK you're driving, but she's going to drive. Here is the way it goes.

But I want to take that a step further and say that most conflicts take place during the times when the parents freak out and reach over and grab the wheel. Then there is a struggle for the steering wheel and the car is all over the road. Yelling and screaming and potential accidents are all around during those struggling times. (I actually had this literally happen when my daughter wanted to get out of the car when I was driving once and it was not fun -- she was trying to take control of the vehicle while I was driving).

Instead of trying to take the wheel, pray hard, close your eyes if you have to, and continue to be encouraging. You can provide consequences (the ditch) and let them know what will happen. But you can't attempt to keep them out of the ditch. The more you try, the more determined they are to land there.

There are of course other things to help:

1) Don't take things personally;

2) Stay as far away from their drama as you can. A non-anxious presence who listens without too much comment is welcome.

3) Refrain from vocalizing many of your preferences. I have found that sooner or later my daughters both figure things out but that if I jump in and tell them what is best I do two things: first, I push them in the opposite direction, and secondly, i rob them of learning their own lessons.

4) Let go a bit -- this goes back to letting them learn. We do so much to protect our kids that we don't allow them to make any mistakes -- which is how most of us learn things.

5) Realize that no matter what you think, you can't control them. They may have a relationship with you that leads them to want to please you or a good moral backbone that will lead them in the right direction but they will be making their own decisions.

6) Try to focus on openness and honesty being more important than rules. If teens feel they can talk to their parents they may be more likely to let them in when something is happening than if they fear being consequenced for everything.

I learned so much the hard way by doing things wrong. I'm not sure that my daughters would be any different than they are now had I done things differently (they are complete opposites from one another in the choices they've made) but I would certainly have saved myself much heartache, drama, stress, and tension.

So, my first piece of advice would be to avoid having daughters if at all possible (alert: Humor, tongue in cheek, sarcasm, etc.) But if it is too late and you already have them and they are teens .... best of luck.

Trust them a little, trust God a lot, let them drive, and whatever you do, don't grab the wheel.


Cyndi said...

I agree with all of this for most daughters. When it comes to those who do not have the ability to make mistakes and learn from them then the rules change just a little bit. There is only so much socially unacceptable behavior that one can allow them to engage in before you need to step in and put a stop to it.

I am blessed to have two daughter who are normal in every way and it has been a lot of fun to watch them grow up, make their mistakes, and learn how to become young ladies who are very fun to be around, happy, well adjusted, and caring. With them being older then the other two helps me to determine how to parent them as they are much more challenging.

Beth said...

I loved this advice. I have 3 1/2 year old daughter (and a 5 yo easy going son), and we battle so much already. I KNOW I am doomed in 10 years. I am archiving your advice -- I will need it down the road!

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Very interesting and, I think, dead on. I remember my own mother trying desperately to be controlling, it just made me more skilled at lying, sneaking around and hiding my plans.
I have 4 and 6 girls, so that last part of your advice is somewhat useless lol...