This post: 10 Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say to My Teenage Daughter
Written by: Marybeth Bock
Every parent of teen girls knows that sometimes our daughters have the uncanny ability to fire us up, catch us off-guard and fuel our frustration. In those moments, it’s all too easy to lose control, lash out, and say something we would normally never say… things we typically regret.
Although we might pass off our occasional verbal outbursts as having a bad day (thinking our daughters will do the same), sometimes our words have a way of striking straight to our daughters’ hearts.
Our girls are already battling enough self-esteem issues. The last thing they need is us eroding their self-esteem even more by tossing out flippant or careless remarks that hold the power to leave long-lasting emotional scars. More importantly, now more than ever, our daughters need us… we need to focus on drawing them closer to us, not pushing them away. Here are 10 things you’ll never hear me say to my teenage daughter.
10 Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say to My Teenage Daughter
1. “It’s Not a Big Deal, Get Over It.”
When you’re a teen girl dealing with unpredictable swinging hormones while navigating school, family and friendships that all too often involve mounds of drama (not to mention all the emotion that comes with romantic relationships), even the littlest things can seem like a big deal.
But we have to remember that little can pull our daughters down more or create more of a division between us than when we don’t validate their feelings. Saying things like, “Oh, come on… you’re overreacting,” “It’s not that big of a deal,” or “Don’t worry… you’ll get over it,” certainly isn’t helping our daughters navigate their sea of emotions and it’s not fortifying our relationship. Bottom line, if it’s a big deal to our daughters, we need to treat it as a big deal, too by extending a little grace ~ listening, empathizing, and offering guidance, if she’s accepting.
2. “How Could You Do Something So Stupid?”
If you’re like a lot of parents, this rhetorical question has popped out of your mouth at one time or another during your daughter’s teen years – especially when she’s baffled you beyond belief by doing something totally irresponsible, inexplicable or downright dangerous.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that our daughters still have underdeveloped brains that lack the cognitive skills that adults have. Shaming our girls for (more often than not) typical teen behavior won’t help us expand our sphere of influence. Rather than jumping in and shaming or blaming, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your girl still has plenty of growing up to do.
3. “You’re Not Wearing That, Are You?”
Teen girls are notorious for pushing a few boundaries and trying out a few new “personalities” when it comes to fashion. Whether it’s wearing shorts that we feel are way too short to wear in public or trying out a trend that’s sure to garner plenty of (not so positive) attention, we have to remind ourselves that it’s all part of their normal developmental journey to figure out exactly who they are while trying on a more grown-up identity they can call their own.
Tread lighting when you’re disapproving of your daughter’s fashion choices or your daughter is likely to feel criticized and judged which can foster a rebellious attitude.
4. “You Really Shouldn’t Be Eating That.”
Even though we have our daughter’s very best interest at heart, trying to dictate what she eats is a recipe for disaster. Making a snide comment when she walks in the door after school munching on a big bag of Cheetos or giving her a nasty look when she orders a greasy hamburger doesn’t teach our girls anything about nutrition or the importance of adopting healthy eating habits.
Rather than shame your daughter, gently guide and influence her by buying healthy foods, modeling healthy eating habits yourself, and focusing on her overall health, not the size of her waist or thighs. The more we attach negative feelings to food, the more we increase the chance of our girls developing unhealthy (and even dangerous) eating habits.
5. “Your Friend is a Bad Influence. I Don’t Want You Hanging with Them.”
For most teen girls, their friends aren’t just their friends, they’re their world. That’s why when we show disapproval or peg one (or more) of their friends (or their boyfriend/partner) as “a bad influence,” it hits our daughters hard. Sure, we mean well. And, let’s face it, our advice and concern come from years of experience, but dictating who our girls hang with can lead them to become angry or hang out with them even more just to prove a point.
Instead, encourage your daughter to invite her friend over. Get to know them. You may find they’re not nearly as bad of an influence as you once thought. However, if they are, you’ll be far more likely to influence your daughter’s friend choices when you tread lightly and gently nudge her to come to that conclusion on her own.
6. “You’re SO Selfish!”
Spoiler alert… all teen girls (and boys, too) are self-absorbed. It’s developmentally normal for teenagers to be totally egomaniacs and rather narcissistic. Rather than pointing out the obvious, just focus on instilling empathy in her heart, being a solid role model, and teaching her that everything isn’t always just “about her.”
Volunteer together, teach her to be a giver, put some responsibility on her shoulders – above all, when your daughter says or does something that makes you question whether you’re raising a selfish, ungrateful child just remember, with a little time, patience, and guidance she’ll come around eventually.
7. “You’d Be So Much Prettier if You Just…”
Oh, it’s so tempting… we want our girls to feel pretty, to fit in with the crowd, to be accepted. If only she just did something with her hair, wore a little eye shadow or mascara or dressed a little differently, she might be more popular or pretty. But encouraging our girls to change who they are is a dangerous proposition.
Sure, we can gently nudge our girls to try a new hairstyle or encourage them to experiment with their fashion style a bit, but our daughters need to develop their own style and, more importantly, they need to know we accept and love them exactly as they are.
8. “Why Do You Care SO Much About What Everyone Else Thinks?”
Like it or not, the teen years are when our girls’ self-esteem is the most fragile. They want to be liked. They want to be invited. They want to be included. They want to fit in. So, yes… they do care what their friends and acquaintances (and, in some cases, perfect strangers) think.
Rather than trying to convince your daughter not to care what other people think (which can be an uphill battle), focus on helping her foster self-confidence by encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone and put herself out there. Help her develop grit – that ability to put other people’s opinions and criticism into perspective, to strive toward her own unique goals, and learn to brush herself off and try again when things down work out as planned. Empower her so she’ll never base her worth on the opinions of others.
9. “You’re So Lazy.”
Life as a teen girl is stressful. School, homework, family obligations, friends (which typically involves far too much drama), boyfriends/partners, sports and extracurriculars, and pressure to have life all figured out by the time they graduate high school is enough to send even the most well-adjusted teen girl into overdrive. Whether they had a lousy day in school, they’re completely swamped and overwhelmed with homework, or they’re struggling to figure out which college to attend, teen girls need downtime to simply decompress and figure out a few things on their own.
So, the next time your daughter is chilling out in her bedroom with headphones on and doesn’t appear to have a care in the world, think again. Trust me, her mind is racing. She’s mentally spent. And, she needs that time to recoup and regenerate before she dives into her to-do list or ventures back into the world again.
10. “What’s Wrong with You?”
Why aren’t you more like your sister? Why can’t you do better in school? Why don’t you try harder? Why are you so introverted? Why do you act that way? What’s wrong with you? Of all the things you’ll never hear me say to my teenage daughter, this tops the list. Nothing can shake a teen girl’s confidence more than being pounded with the notion that something’s wrong with her simply because she doesn’t measure up in her parent’s eyes.
Teen girls are in the midst of massive changes – physically, mentally, psychologically – and they have so much growing up to do. Who your daughter is today won’t be who she is next year or even next month. Give her space to grow and become who she’s meant to be. Love, support and appreciate her through it all. She needs to know without question that your love is unconditional.
Raising girls who are confident and secure in who they are and cultivating a lifelong, loving bond with them should always be our ultimate parenting goal. By holding our tongue in those pivotal moments, we’ll be doing our daughter and our relationship with her a huge favor.
If you enjoyed, “10 Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say to My Teenage Daughter,” you might also enjoy:
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.