Fighting with your Daughter

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There is nothing quite as drama filled as fighting with your daughter. Girls, teenagers especially, tend to have a way of making sure that everyone within a ten mile radius knows that they are less than pleased. Of course, parents don’t particularly enjoy the prospect of going ten rounds with their children, but sometimes there seems to be no avoiding the inevitable. One might begin to question whether teenager girls, however, don’t get some sort of satisfaction of going at it. After all, they are skilled and rather ambitious about locking horns with parental figures.

It has been noted by nearly every adolescent specialist that arguing is just a sign that your little girl is growing up. A normal amount of separation anxiety can often be the cause of what seems like teenage angst, which leads to those strange and unpredictable personality changes that many teenage girls go through. It can be like living with a brute force hurricane right in your own home. You never know what strength the destruction will be, but you can bet the house that it will come. Why? And how do we get through this less than appealing stage in life?

As your daughter grows up, she has found that she needs to spend quite a bit of energy and time conforming, or refraining from conforming, to a great deal of social and family pressures. She is zinging around on one hormonal rush after another that doesn’t always make sense to her. Furthermore, she wants to be taken seriously, something not easily accomplished in the land of a teenage girl. By the time girls reach ten or eleven, they realize that they will be critically defined by their looks, their presence, their style, and their stereotypical association. This can be incredibly frustrating. One year maybe she got into playing sports but the following year she wants to focus on her academics. Because she played sports previously she might very well discover that a simple transition from one interest to another ends up being a really big deal within the social structure she lives in.

To top it off, at home things are changing and she might be feeling like she can’t grow up fast enough one minute and that she is growing up too fast the next. Responsibilities, freedom, and her desire to create her own person without parental influence all melts within her own little private pot and she becomes a smoke stack ready to blow at any minute. For parents, it’s a trying time. For your daughter, it is a time that she might not be so sure what is happening to her and why. Her frustration is now becoming your frustration. And hence…let the battle begin.

Fortunately, no matter what, you are still the parent, so you still get to call the shots and maintain some semblance of control. Fighting with your teenage daughter requires two elements. She has to argue with you. Then you have to argue in return. The best option when you feel that steam pot starting to boil over is to remove your emotional attachment to her behavior. Just like when she was two years old and she hurled her little body down on the sidewalk and threw a God awful fit, the more you fed it the larger her fit grew. If you want her tendency to argue with you to diminish, you need to make sure that you are not feeding it.

Starving the argument is very difficult, especially with the unkind wit a teenage daughter can toss in your direction. They have a knack for knowing exactly what words will hurt you the most and they will use them without regard when they are angry enough. Despite your hurt feelings, you still get to be the parent.

Start by laying down the ground rules. Hold a little family meeting from time to time and explain what the rules are, explain that they are not up for negotiation or interpretation, and explain the immediate consequence for choosing to disregard the ground rules. The more responsible she comes with age the more you can adjust the ground rules to reflect that. Try your level best to match her freedom with her current state of responsible and humane actions. If she has become the tyrannical threat of the family’s peace on a daily basis with her mood swings but gets her homework and chores done on time every day, she still is showing a lack of maturity for excessive freedom.

During the family ground rule meeting, I would suggest strong focus on her weak spot. As a teenage girl, I woke up beastly and angry. I didn’t like being awake early and I was able to show off my poor attitude for about two solid hours. My weak spot would have been something along the lines of showing good graces to others even when I was not in a positive mood. Find those weak spots and target them during the family meeting. Ask yourself what ignites her tendency to argue and what does she value in terms of rewards and punishments? If she goes to soccer practice (or whatever her interests are) every afternoon, lay it on the line for her. Explain that when she continues to argue with over specific issues, she will miss an afternoon of practice. Putting it in specific terms not only helps clarify what issues she needs to work on immediately, but also removes the potential for misunderstanding and further arguments.

Holding this meeting as a family puts everyone on the same page. Having been a teenage girl once myself, I can easily see why my parents always wanted a third witness in the family during negotiations. It’s so easy for any intelligent teenage girl to attempt to manipulate the situation by “hearing” your terms in her own special way. Having the whole family participate in these meetings leaves no room for creative interpretation when she gets busted for breaking a ground rule. Additionally, if you have other children, this is a good time to check in with their behavior as well and you won’t be pinpointing one child for poor behavior.

Stick to it, stick to it, stick to it. You have to love the magic of your daughter’s desire to keep you wrapped around her little finger. It’s a gift that girls have, their ability to turn you to mush so that they can have their way. When you come down on her with a consequence for breaking a ground rule, arguing and sweet talking aren’t going to get her what she wants. Learning new and alternative methods of expressing herself is going to get her where she wants to go. The earlier you teach her this life lesson, the easier her early adult years will be.

For every parent of a teenage daughter, there is an argument just around the corner. By keeping your rules straight, your consequences clear, and simply sticking to your guns without emotionally engaging in her argument, fighting with your daughter is likely to happen much less frequently than ever before.

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