Tears, fights and backtalk—raising a teenage daughter is not always a bed of roses. But what’s normal? Evelyn Resh wants you to know that loving her and liking her don’t always have to go together.
I have yet to meet a woman parenting a teen girl who hasn’t looked at me at some point and uttered the following sentence: “I just can’t stand her right now!” The intensity of this feeling is not something you can
prepare for, and it is completely disheartening to realize that you find your daughter’s company and behavior unbearable.
Mothers can’t help but question whether or not this feeling is normal. It’s very upsetting to well-balanced, loving mothers to feel disappointed when their daughters arrive home early from a social event or have no plans in the first place, which means they’ll be home all night. No mother would imagine that having her girl at home would leave her wishing she had errands to run. Just because she’s your daughter doesn’t guarantee you’ll like her— especially as a teenager. Will she be lovable? Yes. But likable? Absolutely not!
As the mother of a teen daughter and a midwife for teen girls—both of whom I have found quite unlikable from time to time—I assure you that disliking your teen daughter on a fairly regular basis is to be expected and is perfectly normal. If you’ve been questioning this, hang around other mothers of teens, or teens themselves. All your fears about whether your dread falls on the spectrum of normal will be allayed. Other mothers will be saying what you’re saying. And the girls? Well, they’ll do plenty to leave you in a state of pure scorn with actions that no reasonable person could find charming.
Girls can bring their mothers to tears and feelings of hatred for many reasons. For example, many a teen girl has shown off her self-appointed expertise in a field where she has little to no experience. And this can be frustrating. You may want to ask such obvious questions as, “Exactly how can you be a great driver before you have a permit?” or “When did you become a world-class chef? From what I can tell, you’re still perfecting the art of toast.” When your daughter’s self-aggrandizing behaviors and comments are slung at you like boulders from a catapult, you can’t help but feel the force of the blow. But I recommend that you work diligently to keep yourself on an even keel. When evidence of the obnoxious and untenable rears its ugly head and comes spewing forth from your daughter’s mouth, don’t let the same venom come from yours.
A strategy for how to handle your teen First, you need to remember—at all times—that your girl is simply following nature’s assignment and working toward establishing greater independence from you. So acting unbearable actually fits this goal perfectly. After all, the less time you spend with her, the more independent she’ll become and the more successful and happy she’ll be. Her mission is to become a distinctly separate being, and before she can comfortably be around you, she has to feel secure in who she is. She must find herself—even at the expense of your sanity.
Next, put your daughter’s comments in perspective and fall back on your sense of humor to get through. Honestly, since when can someone be an expert on anything if they’ve only been functionally literate for five years? While your daughter’s comments are trying your patience, you have to admit they’re funny—because they’re so preposterous! When you hear something ridiculous, run into another room and write it down in a journal marked “Absurd Comments.” Doing so will get it out of your system and give you proof when you need it that her conduct was horrific—plus think of all the laughs it will give you in the future when the two of you look back on her “wonderful” teen years.
Next, if her braggadocio becomes wounding, tell her! Say something like: “Hey, knock it off. You’re being a real jerk.” It is within the mother’s bill of rights to say this. And don’t be afraid to mention that she’s acting offensive enough for you to refuse to drive her where she’s asked to go. This will help turn her back into a civilized creature.
Lastly, always work from a place of compassion—for yourself and for your daughter. Adolescence is a workout, and the process is facilitated by kindness and common sense. When your daughter’s behavior has led you to the breaking point, remember her mission, your objective to encourage it…:and that you’re a human being, too. What separates you from your daughter is your fully developed frontal lobe. I suggest you use it to its fullest capacity…for both of your sakes.
Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Resh speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk about but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.