Sometimes daughters, in an effort to establish themselves as different, begin experimenting with clothes, music, or friendships they know will be met with their mother’s disapproval.
Because of this teen developmental stage, mother-daughter relationships can potentially spiral into a pattern of conflict. As an unintended consequence, a mother may discover that her daughter has grown distant. But if a mother can view her daughter’s growing oppositional behavior as an attempt to express herself and not as a challenge that must be dealt with in an emotional confrontation, prolonged mother-daughter standoffs can be avoided.
|Is her process of individuation upsetting you?Can you let her current expression of self go instead of fighting it? To discover why you’re really upset with her, ask yourself the following questions:|
|1. Am I upset because this behavior is physically hurting my daughter or someone else?|
|2. Am I upset because I feel embarrassed about what people will think of me because of my daughter’s actions?|
|3. Am I upset because I believe something bad is going to happen if we disagree?|
|4. Am I frightened by her being different than me?|
|5. Is it hard for me to like her when she is different from me?|
When you notice your daughter experimenting with clothing, music, language, or friends that you do not approve of, try your best not to react with an intensity that will turn up the emotional volume between you. Such a reaction will give her feedback that this way of communicating her differences or anger is the way to achieve her goal of either distancing herself from you or of creating a verbal conflict. Instead, try to remember that her actions represent an expression of feeling.
Once you are calm, be curious about what your daughter is really trying to communicate. It could just be that she is exploring who she is, or it could be that she feels angry and needs some help and permission to express it with her words.
Here are some of the feelings she might be experiencing:
1. Daughters in their teen years naturally try to figure out their own identity, one that is separate from family. Anger, sadness, frustration, or guilt can build as a result of the conflict between their natural desire to explore themselves and not wanting to hurt or offend their mothers.
2. A daughter may feel angry at her mother and not understand what she is feeling or why. Speaking out in anger may feel too powerful or unsafe for a teen. Thus, a safer way to express this anger is silently through music, clothing, or friend choices.
3. A daughter may feel overwhelmed by her mother’s involvement in her life and not know how to ask for more space. Again, her request might be expressed via actions rather than words.
4. A daughter may not feel confident expressing disagreement with her mother, who is perceived as being more adept at verbal confrontation.
Ultimately, your daughter is looking for your permission to express her differences and wants to know that she can still maintain her emotional connection to you despite those differences.
If there are household rules she is breaking, like staying up too late or dressing too provocatively, address these boundary issues and allow her to share her feelings and ideas on the matter. Try your hardest to remind her of your concerns without heightening the emotional tension. Instead, offer a firm yet kind reminder of your expectations that does not devalue her new interests.
The goal is to maintain kindness and respect in your relationship while also allowing for disagreement and enforcement of limits. Easier said than done! But if you can manifest this balance just 70% of the time, you are doing fine. It has been my experience that if daughters experience acceptance and encouragement of their differences from their mothers, they move on to using their words or other more productive actions to express individuality or difference of opinion.