AS the father of a 14-year-old daughter, I have learned that raising a teenage girl is not for the timid nor the weak. It will test your patience, your sanity, and your mettle. But it can be done. According to Marika Lindholm, a sociologist who teaches at Northwestern University — with a little patience and understanding — and a few hard and fast rules — it is possible to raise a teen daughter who is resilient. (And won’t hate you!)
Lindholm has three daughters, and she has learned a thing or two about what to do, and more importantly, what not to do when raising teen girls.
Things not to do when raising a teenage girl
Do not give up on them.
Teens sometimes push parents away. “No matter how many times they act like they don’t want you around, they really need to know you are there for them,” she says. “They want to act grown up but, remember, they still need your support.”
Do not create negative prophecies.
I never want to crush my daughter’s dreams, but at the same time, I want her to be realistic with her expectations.
“Don’t say things like, ‘Oh, you will never be able to do that,’” Lindholm cautions. “Don’t undermine their confidence. Speaking as a sociologist I can tell you that those prophesies are really powerful.”
She recommends not dismissing a dream, even if it seems unrealistic. “If your daughter says she is going to go to Columbia University and you know for a fact that the chances of that are slim to none, don’t dismiss it out of hand,” she says. “Instead you tell her, ‘Well, if you want to go to Columbia, you’re going to have to work really hard.’”
Do not let them get away with doing the wrong thing.
Lindholm stresses the importance of accountability when raising teenage girls. “If your daughter says, ‘Oh, I did not know I had a math project due, so can I skip a chore to work on it?’ Your answer should be, ‘You need to work on your time management skills, so, no, you cannot skip this event because you failed to plan accordingly.’”
She believes we shouldn’t make excuses for our kids because they need to learn how to fail. As a parent, it’s so refreshing to hear a professional tell us that it’s okay to hold our kids’ feet to the fire.
Do not be afraid to take their phones.
Lindholm recommends following through if you say you’re going to take your daughter’s phone away. “A phone is a privilege, not a right,” she says. “If they break a rule, there needs to be consequences.”
Do not get too caught up in their clothes.
I have heard friends complain about some of the outfits their daughters wear. Lindholm says the reason for these clothing choices is not what you think.
“Just because they are wearing skimpy outfits doesn’t mean they’re looking to have sex. It doesn’t mean they are dressing that way to get a boy’s attention. “They are on social media and they see which women are popular and what they are wearing and frequently try to emulate that look.” Pick your battles when recommending what your daughter wears.
Do not make unrealistic proclamations.
I’ve had to bite my tongue more than once when I wanted to blurt out something that I hoped might deter my daughter from making poor choices. Lindholm says it’s a bad idea to make dramatic statements like, “Drugs and alcohol will kill you!” or “If you take a taxi you might get raped!”
“You may be trying to protect your daughter by saying things that scare her, but at this age a teenager is starting to figure things out,” she says. They can discern what’s not a credible statement, so you don’t want to get to the point where you’re not taken seriously.”
She says it’s much better to have a serious conversation about possible threats and harmful situations rather than to try scare tactics.
Do not go overboard focusing on their appearance.
I always want to tell my daughter that she’s beautiful, but Lindholm has a good point about why we should temper those types of compliments.
“Being beautiful, or thin, is not an accomplishment; it is more often than not a genetic gift. It’s fine to compliment, but you shouldn’t emphasize superficial traits that are not earned,” she says.
Instead of complimenting physical appearance, Lindholm says it’s better to compliment actions or grades, or even kindness or empathy. Our daughters should feel proud about working hard to become a better soccer player, for instance, and it’s okay to offer positive comments about skill. “But to be overly complimentary to a girl because she has long legs, I don’t think that builds the kind of fortitude you want,” she says.
Raising a teenage girl is hard, but it is also one of the greatest joys of my life. With a little patience, a lot of perseverance, and a good sense of humor to see us through the rough spots, I think we will get through it — together.— yourteenmag