By Tommi Lewis Tilden
Perhaps the worst part about parenting is hearing those dreaded three words from the mouth of your babe: “I hate you.” You realize it’s a childish outburst, but the words still sting. Here are some ways to deal when your daughter turns defiant.
“My mom just won’t quit nagging me,” grumbles 14-year-old Amanda. “She’s always on me about something — grades, cleaning up my room, what I’m wearing, who I’m hanging with. It’s endless. And it makes me crazy. Right now I hate my mom.”
But it wasn’t always this way. Not long ago, Amanda and her mom, Brenda, were inseparable. “We’d shop, go to movies, we even liked the same TV shows,” explains Brenda. “It all changed around the time Amanda turned 12. She started hanging out with girls in middle school that I felt were a bad influence. Her grades began to suffer. Suddenly my role was rule-maker and enforcer.”
“Adolescence is a time of separation from what the child considers controlling, out of touch and nagging parental relationships,” explains David Kipper M.D., a Beverly Hills-based internist and author of The Addiction Solution. As part of his practice, Dr. Kipper handles youth addiction issues and deals with many parents in distress. He says the tween period is especially volatile for mothers and daughters. “It’s a transition from cute to combat and the stress it creates is enormous…and predictable.”
Dr Kipper offers these five ways to make it manageable:
1. Pick Your Battles
Most moms want to establish rules around curfew, money, schoolwork, dating, drinking, drugs and shopping, according to Susan Shapiro Barash, author of You’re Grounded, Now Let’s Go Shopping. “Assess your daughter’s personality and understand what she might be most at risk for,” says Dr. Kipper. “What are the things worth fighting for? Is she making bad choices about friends? Is she at risk for taking drugs, drinking, or smoking? Are her grades suffering? Don’t try to tackle everything, just what matters most.”
2. Be Flexible
Just because you had certain rules growing up, it doesn’t mean the same holds true for your daughter. For instance, Dr. Kipper says to consider setting a curfew that is consistent with your daughter’s group. If her appearance is an issue, take a look at how her peers dress and then agree on something that’s acceptable to you both.
3. Enlist a Friend’s Help
When author Bruce Feiler (Council of Dads) thought he was dying of cancer, he enlisted six male friends to help raise his daughters in his absence. Feiler discovered that his anointed group offered wisdom, comfort and hope to his daughters even while he battled — and eventually came through — the cancer scare. The friends, it turned out, were just as valuable helping to raise Feiler’s daughters while he was still living. “Recruit a trusted friend, aunt, doctor, teacher, anyone that your daughter respects, to help keep her boundaries clear,” advises Dr. Kipper. “Remember, she needs to separate from you in order to be independent, but she has no tools. Your message will have a greater of chance of sticking if you have someone else to help encourage your daughter in the right direction.”
4. Make Time for Mother/Daughter Fun
Whether it’s shopping, watching a sports game or a favorite TV show, listening to music, or cooking together, make sure to take the time to do these things regularly with your daughter. And let it be on her terms, meaning let her make decisions about the activity, and even lead it.
5. Focus on Yourself
Do things that make you happy and don’t include your daughter. It can be something fun (dinner with girlfriends or bowling with your husband), impulsive (an afternoon movie), or self-indulgent (a spa treatment). It might mean attending a regular yoga or exercise class, a book club, or some spiritual activities. “You will accomplish two things,” says Dr. Kipper. “You reduce your own stress, and you set a good example for your daughter.”