When I was 15, my mom told me she wished she could send me somewhere else for two years. I knew she didn’t really mean it. I was a strong-willed kid who always pushed the limits. When my own three daughters were 13 to 15 years old, I knew exactly what she meant when she said she wanted to send me away.
Girls that age can be a handful. It seemed like no matter what I did, they were combative and irritable. Remembering my mom’s frustrations with me helped me not take my daughters’ attitudes toward me to heart. You don’t have to take your daughter’s attitude to heart, either. Here are five ways to navigate conflict with her.
1. Understand and acknowledge what she’s going through.
Teenage girls are dealing with social comparison pressure, sexuality, physical development, and fledgling adulthood. They don’t know how they fit into the world, whether or not they are enough, what to do with hormonal fluctuations, or how to respond to performance pressure in academics and sports.
As mom, you may be the person she feels the safest to unload upon. Balance the negativity she faces outside the home by being generous with words of affirmation, thus making a deposit into her sense of self. Then, when you have to correct her, it’s not depleting her more.
2. Invest in her interests.
Let her play her music in the car, watch her favorite shows, get involved in her activities. Volunteer with her sports teams or other school functions. Doing this will help you understand her perspective and daily interactions away from home.
3. Don’t project your own adolescence onto her.
Whether your teen years were joyful or difficult, you can’t compare them with your child’s experiences. Her experience may be the polar opposite of yours. And each of your daughters may have differing experiences from each other. Sometimes, daughters feel intimidated by their mothers. They may feel inadequate compared to you and feel ashamed that they don’t shine the same way you did.
4. Allow her to test drive her opinions.
These are the years she is experimenting with her own opinions and beliefs. Listen more than you talk. Validate what she feels even if you don’t understand it. She will change her mind many times during these years. Fighting with her when she presents outrageous opinions will only cause separation from you. If she presents something opposed to your family values, don’t get loud, fearful, or angry. Express yourself calmly and respectfully. Share how you came to your beliefs.
5. Speak your daughter’s love language.
We most feel loved when others speak our own love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman has identified five: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. No matter how old we are, we all need to feel loved. Don’t make the mistake of loving your daughter by using your love language while overlooking hers. My love languages are acts of service and quality time. One of my daughter’s is words of affirmation and another’s is physical touch. Even in the midst of conflict, they knew—when I spoke their love languages—that they were loved.
What does your daughter need from you most right now?