Moms, you know the feeling – one minute your daughter is this tiny, sweet, kind and lovable child, who doesn’t complain (too much!) and would give anything to spend time with you. The next, she is a teenager! A teenager in a world that revolves around social media, image, popularity and peer pressure. One of the common challenges that occurs during this time is the impact on the Mother/Daughter relationship. As a mom, you play many different roles in your daughter’s life; her friend, enemy, therapist, driver, personal chef and at times even her punching bag. During her teenage years, your daughter will be searching to find her true self and longing for her independence. Deep down (although she won’t admit it), your daughter knows that she needs you, however, due to the developmental stage she is experiencing, she may withdraw from the once ‘close’ Mother/Daughter relationship and conflict may inevitably arise.
Interestingly enough, researchers have found a pattern for conflicts between mothers and teenage daughters. Often, fights or arguments tend to occur at the end of the day. Does this sound familiar? You all get home after a long day at school and work and there are household chores that need doing. You ask your daughter to put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher, which is met with a sigh or a rolling of the eyes (a very common behavior which unfortunately does not disappear!) This in turn leads to irritation on your side, as you may see it as her being disrespectful, and you start raising your voice at her. Your teenage daughter may then retaliate and things go from 0 to 100 very quickly. A battle has now begun and there is conflict and tension. Other fights also often start over the smallest of things:
- The untidiness of your daughter’s room.
- Not approving of what your daughter wears to a rugby match at a local boys’ school or the mall.
- Limiting cellphone usage.
- Not approving of your daughter’s friends. (A tip to remember in the world of a teenager; one-minute teenagers can be the worst of enemies and the next they are the best of friends, so be careful of making negative comments about the friend when they are fighting.)
- Talking to or dating boys.
- Socialising rules such as curfew times.
- Giving your advice or opinion, that your daughter does not agree with.
As a mom, what you need to remember, is that when your daughter is giving you a hard time, try your best not to take it too personally (easier said than done, I know). Lisa Damour (2016), author of Untangled: Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood, gives the following advice when your daughter is having a bad day and takes it out on you or the family: If your daughter feels that she must punish your family for her bad day, you might let one or two cutting comments pass. But, if it becomes clear that she plans to be wretched all evening, go ahead and say, “You may not be in a good mood, but you are not allowed to mistreat us. If you want to talk about what’s bugging you, I’m all ears. If you’re going to be nasty all night, don’t do it here.” (p. 92).
There may also be times when your daughter is complaining about friends, school or teachers. My advice is just listening quietly and reminding yourself that you are providing her with a safe space to unload the stress of her day. Often as parents, we want to give our opinion, a plan to address the problem or give advice. However, do not feel like you have to always ‘fix’ your daughter’s problems. Often, the things she complains about cannot be fixed and all she wants is for you to listen. In the past, you may have tried and found that she just rejects your suggestions or advice and gets irritated with you, even though your advice may be excellent. When your daughter starts complaining, you may want to ask her, “Do you want to hear my advice or opinion?” If she answers “yes”, then tell her. If she answers “no”, bite your tongue and know that your daughter is now aware that she shouldn’t take your silence in the wrong way.
Below are two quotes about Mother/Daughter relationships:
“No relationship is as highly charged as that between mother and daughter, or as riddled with expectations that could, like a landmine, detonate with a single misstep, a solitary stray word that, without warning, wounds or enrages. And no relationship is as bursting with possibilities of goodwill and understanding.” Victoria Secunda
“A daughter and her mother are never free of one another – no matter how they disagree. For they are so entwined in heart and mind that, gladly or unwillingly, they share each love, each job, each sorrow and each bitter wrong life-long.” Pam Brown
So, hang in there moms. Raising a teenage daughter is not easy; especially in 2020! It would be lovely if your daughter came with an instruction manual which included what you can or cannot say or when you should or should not talk. Just try and remember that you are doing a great job, even if you may not always feel like it at times.