Today we are talking about something that many of us are dealing with every day, preparing to deal with, or have dealt with in the past: Raising teenage daughters.
Is it really that hard? Let's be real here, the stakes are pretty high. If you parent with one strategy, little Brittni will be shaking her money maker for singles on the weekends at the Candy Shop.
Parent with a different strategy and you will be the proud daddy of the Next Gen Karen.
How do you find the happy medium? How do you raise a teenage girl in a way that results in a strong, confident, empowered woman free of self-loathing that doesn't play the blame game at Thanksgiving 15 years from now?
Let's talk about it.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes, here is your friendly Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and don't claim to be.
I am just a dad trying to share some stuff that can help you avoiding catching a case for child abuse when you lose your crap on little Hailey, Kailey, Madison or Addison.
I think it is pretty universal that most Dad's love having a quote unquote Daddy's little girl.
Little girls are generally cheerful, will dote over their fathers, more likely to hook you up with shoulder rubs and mani/pedis.
Kids in general like to draw their parents pictures and show off cool crafts, but from my experience, and your results may vary, girls are generally more crafty than boys as kids.
But eventually those cheerful, doting daughters of ours become teenagers. The raging hormones and mood swings start to emerge. The random crying spells that pop up over not being able to find a matching sock, or the ice water that she made is too cold! Like, for real? Are you really crying because your cold water is too cold?
When the young ladies of ours begin to cross over from little girl to teenager, the role of dad starts to look a little different.
We have to gear up with the proper tools to ensure we are setting the example of what a man should be. Don't forget, unless your daughter realizes she is LGBTQ or other, ( which is always a possibility), teenage years are when our babies start looking for boyfriends.
We need to be a positive example of how a man should treat, communicate with, and respect a woman. Of course, you should have already been doing this.
We need to gain the tools to have conversations about periods. Have you started planning your period party yet? If you haven't heard Burt Kreisher's skit on period parties yet, I recommend checking that out.
We have to talk about flirtatious behavior and how different language can be misinterpreted.
We have to teach our daughters of the risks of social media, we have to educate them about bullying, both on-line and in person.
WE have to make it crystal clear about the permanence of the internet and the risks of sexting. And remember, every way you have ever looked at a woman, someone at some point will look at your daughter the same way. Are you prepared for that?
A good place to start is getting clear on one thing, and that is this: we live in a world that is constantly changing. The technology, opportunities, and obstacles that our children experience today are unlike those that I, and possibly you, had when we were coming into our teenage years.
This brings me to a quote that I will paraphrase time and time again on episodes related to parenting: We cannot raise our children the way we were raised, because the world in which we were raised no longer exists.
We have to raise our kiddos in their real world, not ours, and not in a dream state with ideal conditions.
We have to be diligent in doing our homework to make sure we are giving our daughters tools that they can actually use.
We have to do what it takes to make sure we are prepared to be there for them as they are going through all of the hormonal changes internally, and experiencing all of the social pressures externally.
As always, we have to be the rock, steady and solid, that they have always been able to count on.
So is it really that hard to raise a teenage daughter?
Here are a few hacks that have helped me along the way. These are the strategies that i use and your results may vary. But if you consistently follow this blueprint, I'll bet that you will at least feel that you are giving it your best shot.
Number 1, do your homework. Educate yourself. You are not alone and many people smarter than us have done a lot of the work already.
Example, Do you think your daughter is crazy? Maybe, but probably not.
A study published in the journal titled Child Development examined mood swings in 500 teens between ages 13 to 18.
You want to know what they found? Shocker! Teen girls showed more extreme variations in happiness and sadness levels than their male counterparts.
To put it plainly, your daughter isn't crazy: her mind and body are going through some things that are complicated and she doesn't know how to maturely work through them.
Be patient and do some research so that you know how to act accordingly when your perfect little princess starts to melt down because she didn't get enough likes on her IG story.
Number 2, Communicate. Be open. Explain that you don't have all the answers, but you are always willing to learn and listen.
Here is the thing that I struggle with most. As long as I can remember, I have been a "fixer".
What does that mean? Well, it means I see everything as a problem that needs fixing. I was a carpenter for many years building everything from homes to shopping centers. When something came up, I was expected to improvise and fix it. When I was in the service, I was taught to improvise, adapt and overcome obstacles. To Find a solution. Now as an engineer, my job is finding solutions to complex problems. That is what I mean by fixer. I am always looking for a solution by circumstance of my ingrained training.
But... I have learned that in many, many situations. People don't want to be fixed.
They want to be heard. Communicating, at least verbally, combines talking and ACTIVELY listening. Did you catch that? ACTIVELY listening.
Listening to what your daughter is telling you and not thinking that she is a project that needs fixing will make huge gains in your efforts.
Offer help if needed but don't force it.
Let's be real here, we are BUSY people with a capital B. But, I encourage you to set a daily reminder on that phone, computer, smart home device, whatever you have, to have a conversation with your kiddo.
Warning, they will know if you are faking it, BUT, they will thank you for trying.
Sources show that active communication with your teenage daughter has numerous positive benefits, such as:
Decreased risk-taking behaviors, redused likelihood of substance abuse, decreased teen sexual activity, and when they are sexually active, they are more likely to use contraceptives. And last but not least, improved mental health.
Number 3, and most importantly, be flexible.
There is no clearly defined right or wrong here. You have to improvise.
Just like parenting in general, there are no instruction manuals or rule books.
Be prepared to make compromises. Be compassionate and focus on the positives.
Let them take healthy risks and don't sweat the small stuff. According to the resident 15 year old around here, if your teen daughter is comfortable talking to you about "things" then you are on the right track already.
Here are a couple wins and losses I have picked up along the way. A few years ago when my daughter was first getting monthly visits from Aunt Flo my wife had gone out of town.
Apparently we didn't have the proper paperwork at home for my daughter to file away her mess.
One thing led to another and we were at the supermarket together.
Being the awesome dad that I was at the time, I sent her in with my debit card and chose to hang in the car while she got it sorted out.
Now keep in mind, the whole reason I stayed in the car was to avoid an embarrassing moment for her.
Turns out, she was clueless as to what she needed to get and i had put her in a situation she was unprepared for. Dad fail #1.
On the flip side, recently my wife and kids went out of town on vacation and I stayed home to man the fort. Well, one night out of the blue my daughter calls and is crying her eyes out... for no reason.
Guess what I didn't do. I didn't tell her to suck it up buttercup. I listened to her, I talked her off the proverbial ledge, and I gave her tools that I use today to help when I am felling out of sorts.
Dad win #1. The truth is my daughter time and time again comes to me when she is struggling emotionally.
The key is not to shy away from the hard talks.
To be the rock, steady and solid, as she has always expected me to be.
The bottom line is this. Raising children to turn out as decent human beings is a challenge. We pick up some wins and some losses along the way, we question our methods, we secretly measure ourselves against the fake Facebook parents, but at the end of the day, is it really that hard to raise teenage daughters?
So, what do you think? Let me know in the comments!