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Moms & teenage daughters - a recipe for conflict...

You Don't Really Know Me
By Terri Apter


Few other family pairings are quite as combustible as a teenage daughter and her mother. In fact, they argue, on average, every two-and-a-half days.  These quarrels are actually attempts to negotiate changes in a relationship that is valued by both mothers and daughters, as psychologist, Terri Apter, discusses in her book, You Don't Really Know Me: Why Mothers and Daughters Fight, and How Both Can Win.


In fact, even fights that seem to be about nothing are a teenager's attempt to navigate perilous emotional terrain.  Handled well, these battles can help both mother and daughter emerge with a renewed closeness, says Apter.  It's not the frequency or intensity of the battles, but, instead, what happens during them that can strengthen or damage the relationship.


"Fighting well with a mother is an important skill," Apter states.  Mothers who ridicule, shame, silence or issue an ultimatum may undermine their ties to daughters who are seeking to recast their relationship, not destroy it.


A teenage girl, she writes, wants her mother to see her as she is, or as she aspires to be, and not as the little girl she once was — or whom her mother hoped she would become.


A daughter often feels her mother doesn't know or understand her, and by fighting hopes to force her mother into a new awareness of who she really is, how she has changed, and what she is now capable of doing and understanding.  But mothers often misinterpret their daughter's outbursts as signs of rejection, and they may pull back feeling hurt and confused.  


Through case studies and conversations between mothers and daughters, Apter shows mothers how to interpret the meanings behind a daughter's angry words and how to emerge from arguments with a new closeness.

Read Excerpt from the book



  • I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You!:  Interviews with Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of  I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You!  A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict.

I Love My Teenage Daughter, But I Can't Stand Her Right Now

By Evelyn Resh, Oprah.com


Tears, fights and backtalk—raising a teenage daughter is not always a bed of roses.  But what's normal? 
Evelyn Resh wants you to know that loving her and liking her don't always have to go together.


I have yet to meet a woman parenting a teen girl who hasn't looked at me at some point and uttered the following sentence:  "I just can't stand her right now!"  The intensity of this feeling is not something you can prepare for, and it is completely disheartening to realize that you find your daughter's company and behavior unbearable.

Mothers can't help but question whether or not this feeling is normal.  It's very upsetting to well-b
alanced, loving mothers to feel disappointed when their daughters arrive home early from a social event or have no plans in the first place, which means they'll be home all night.  No mother would imagine that having her girl at home would leave her wishing she had errands to run.  Just because she's your daughter doesn't guarantee you'll like her—especially as a teenager.  Will she be lovable?  Yes.  But likable?  Absolutely not!


As the mother of a teen daughter and a midwife for teen girls—both of whom I have found quite unlikable from time to time—I assure you that disliking your teen daughter on a fairly regular basis is to be expected and is perfectly normal.  If you've been questioning this, hang around other mothers of teens, or teens themselves.  All your fears about whether your dread falls on the spectrum of normal will be allayed.  Other mothers will be saying what you're saying.  And the girls?  Well, they'll do plenty to leave you in a state of pure scorn with actions that no reasonable person could find charming.


Girls can bring their mothers to tears and feelings of hatred for many reasons.  For example, many a teen girl has shown off her self-appointed expertise in a field where she has little to no experience.  And this can be frustrating.  You may want to ask such obvious questions as, "Exactly how can you be a great driver before you have a permit?" or "When did you become a world-class chef?  From what I can tell, you're still perfecting the art of toast."  When your daughter's self-aggrandizing behaviors and comments are slung at you like boulders from a catapult, you can't help but feel the force of the blow.  But I recommend that you work diligently to keep yourself on an even keel.  When evidence of the obnoxious and untenable rears its ugly head and comes spewing forth from your daughter's mouth, don't let the same venom come from yours.


A strategy for how to handle your teen (Page 2)

Parenting Adolescents and the Problem of Blame
by Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., Psychology Today


Exchanging blame between parent and teenager risks doing harm


Blame is the act of charging some personal injury to other people or to oneself.  It is meant to fix responsibility for wrong doing or what went wrong.  Blame is about finding and fixing fault, and it is acted out between parent and adolescent in a powerful variety of ways.


There is blame as criticism, blame as accusation, blame as excuse, blame as guilt, blame as helplessness, blame as punishment, and blame as anger.


Blame as Criticism


What with the separation, opposition, and differentiation of adolescence, parent and teenager experience more free-floating irritation with each other than before.  Consequently, there is ample criticism to go around.  Who blames who for what?


Parent can blame teenager for making mistakes, committing misdeeds, not thinking ahead, not acting more grown up, not remembering, not working hard enough, not paying attention, not keeping agreements, not behaving responsibly, for being messy, moody, impulsive, thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish, unappreciative, manipulative, uncooperative, and rude.  And the list goes on.


Teenager can blame parent for not listening, not understanding, not permitting, not trusting, for being embarrassing, ignorant, overprotective, unreasonable, unrealistic, impatient, critical, always worried, tired all the time, being behind the times, being too busy, too bossy, too serious, hard to talk to, too talkative, distant, intrusive, demanding, and over-reactive.  And the list goes on.


It's hard to remember, during this more strained period in their relationship, that what each needs from the other is not criticism from blame, but praise for the teenager and appreciation for the parent.


Go to Page 2

Strengthen Your Mother-Daughter Connection

We like the article below because, in addition to being insightful, it includes three very specific actionable tips.  It is also written in a fun, entertaining way.  Since we are real proponents of keeping things light and seeing the humor in most situations, we really appreciate this style of writing. We feel this is a great read for all mothers of teen and young adult daughters (who still live with you)!   ~ Barb & Laurie


Mother-Daughter Communication:  Battleground or Fine Art?

By Darlene Brock, CNN.com 


The battleground of words is a place all mothers of daughters will find themselves. The day that sweet little face looks at you with complete defiance challenging every mother bone in your body, you need to be prepared for the inevitable event.


I'm here with a little advice for the brave ladies who are taking on the most difficult job in the world, raising daughters. It is in the arena of words that the job will be done well. So, here are three effective mother-daughter communication tips that can absolutely bring success.


The first: As a mother it is your place to defuse, not to ignite. In the world of females there is a wonderful trait we each possess: That quality is called tenacity. So when we engage with our daughters, we find that characteristic at work. We ask, they respond, we respond, they respond, we react, they react and on and on, with both mother and daughter determined to have the last word.


Mom, you've got to keep your "feminine side" under control. State your position in a reasoned and controlled way, on expectations and consequences. Then the tenacity you must employ is to stick to it without igniting a firestorm.


There will be days you just have to end the confrontation by declaring that each of you will go to your separate corners. I would enter mine, which was usually my bedroom, and stick my head in my pillow. This was to effectively muffle the muted screams of a frustrated mom. After emotionally declaring every word that I wanted to say to my daughter into that bundle of polyester stuffing, I would gather my wits.


Leaving my room with my calm and controlled face I re-entered the arena to successfully complete the conversation.


The second tip all mothers must remember is to listen. Our goal is to be great mothers, not perfect mothers, so this means (this may come as a surprise) we are not always right. We don't possess perfect understanding of all circumstances and even our rules may at times need revision.


Read rest of article (Page 2)

11 Mistakes Parents Make With Teen Discipline

By Elizabeth Harrell, LifeScript.com


What not to do when disciplining teenagers


Raging hormones, misunderstandings, raised voices, restrictions and curfews come to mind for many when they hear the phrase “teen discipline.” But wouldn’t you rather think of respect, transitioning into adulthood, rational discussions and reasonable behavior?


The recipe for raising children requires a delicate balance of authority and love. And, with teens, that balance becomes even more precarious. How can you discipline your teen without destroying your relationship?


I surveyed teens in Charleston, S.C., to find out what they thought were the biggest mistakes parents make when disciplining their teenagers. Here were the top two:


1. Lack of consistency
– While all children need consistent discipline, it’s even more important for teens. They get frustrated when a behavior is acceptable one day and not acceptable the next. The established rules need specific consequences. Realistic and consistent consequences demonstrate a “real world” view for teens. Creating house rules with consequences, then responding appropriately, provides all children with security and direction.


2. Not listening
– Parents want to be respected but don’t always return that respect by listening to their teenager. Not listening to your teen expresses that you don’t feel he has anything valuable to say. Even when disagreeing, teens should be given time to express their feelings and thoughts. This shouldn’t give a teen the right to be ugly or behave inappropriately, of course. Modeling and developing guidelines for how argumentative ideas should be expressed is essential. If you want to be heard, learn to listen.


What other mistakes do parents make, according to teens, when disciplining their children?


Read rest of article (Page 2)

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Parent-Teen Conflicts: Don't Fight With Your Teen or Give in - Listen and Understand
By Barbara Gibson


If it feels like every conversation with your teen ends in a shouting match, take heart - you aren't alone. Use these 16 tips to calm the chaos and tame angry tempers.


Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship. For parents of teens, conflicts can seem not only inevitable but also everlasting. When you find that your relationship with your teen involves more shouting than sharing, it may be time to make a change.


Strategies for Calming Parent-Teen Conflict


1.   Accept that conflicts are normal and natural. You cannot always avoid conflicts, but you can always decide to manage conflicts with a positive attitude.


2.   Accept that your teen is an individual (separate and different from you) with his/her own perspectives, opinions, priorities, pressures and ideas.


3.   Avoid being pulled into an argument with your teen. Clearly state your expectation for future behavior (I want you to be in by 10) or your concerns about past behavior (I am concerned that you did not come in by 10); deliver the agreed upon consequence if appropriate and move on.


4.   Avoid interpreting disagreement as disrespect.


5   Accept that you and your teen will feel angry sometimes. That's okay, anger is normal and healthy. Talk about ways to manage anger appropriately (taking a walk, listening to music, journaling). You should also talk about inappropriate expressions of anger, such as hitting, breaking or throwing things, shouting, cursing or name calling. When these things happen let your teen know you understand s/he is angry. When the teen is calm, give a reminder about constructive anger management and deliver a consequence, if necessary.


6.   Remain calm. How you handle conflict is a powerful example for your teen.


7.   Accept that you must listen with the intent to understand. No, you don't have to agree - but understanding fosters compassion, which can help you find common ground, find a compromise, or build consensus. A common complaint among teens is that parents just don't understand. The teen years can feel lonely, stressful and confusing; they need to know that parents understand even if they don't agree.


8.   Come up with ground rules for conflict management when everything is calm. These are "fair fight" rules. Parents and teens should agree on and observe these rules (e.g. no shouting or interrupting, being honest, etc.) during every conflict. Parents AND teens should offer a sincere apology when these rules are not observed.


Read rest of tips for calming parent-teen conflict

Read 29 Fair Fighting Rules

The book,
Side by Side, examines how to openly communicate with one another


For many, motherhood is one of life's greatest joys, but getting along with your children, particularly daughters, isn't always a piece of cake. In “Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication,” author Dr. Charles Sophy examines this family dynamic and how moms and daughters can have an open, loving relationship.


Buy Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication

Watch Interview with Dr. Charles Sophy Below

Are You Trying to Look Like Your Teenage Daughter?


Turns out that, according to a recent study by Temple University researchers, teens have more of an impact on what their mothers wear and buy than their mothers have on them.


The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, included 343 mother-daughter pairs who completed questionnaires about their purchases of personal items such as clothing and makeup.  The average age was 44 for mothers and 16 for daughters.


The study showed that, while teen daughters resist dressing like their mothers, moms tend to feel younger than their age and express that feeling by buying the same clothes and products as their daughters.


"This finding provides initial support for the notion of reverse socialization and suggests that the impact adolescents have on their parents is much more profound than has been credited to them," lead author of the study, Ayalla A. Ruvio, an assistant professor of marketing at Temple University's Fox School of Business, said in a university news release.


This is bad news for teenage girls: While they’re vehemently trying to avoid looking like their mothers, it seems that their mothers are busy copying their fashion sense!


"Mimicking her daughter is like a shortcut to what is hip and cool," said Ruvio, who was also surprised at how eager mothers were to look like their daughters.


"They really tend to copy the way they dress up, the things they wear," she told LiveScience.com. "We did some interviews in a study published elsewhere, and [moms] told us they borrow items from their teenage girls. The teenage girls didn't really like that."


Teen girls do like when their moms look stylish and get compliments, Ruvio said.  But when these same teens are looking for older fashion role models to emulate, they tend to choose celebrities over their own mothers.


"The one thing the girls do not like is to look like their mothers," Ruvio said.  "They're trying very, very hard to establish a separate, distinct image of who they are, and then the mother goes out and mimics them."


According to Psychology Today, “copycat” moms may, without knowing it, be communicating that they want to be their teenage daughters and may be projecting an unintended level of envy.  This isn’t good for any mother-daughter relationship.  So, the message is…go ahead and dress in style, but just don’t try to dress like your teen!


Photo Credit:  Danny Moloshok / Reuters file (Dina Lohan and her daughter, Lindsay)


Moms vs. Teen Daughters Humor

Strategies to Stop Yelling:

Whether trying to discipline your da
ughter or just having a heated debate, once a parent begins to yell, they've lost credibility. Here are 3 things you can do to keep yourself from yelling:

  • Be responsive, not reactive.
  • Let your teen own the problem.
  • Keep your frustrations in check - or take a time out. 

Read more about these
3 Strategies To Stop Yelling

You Say Your Daughter Isn't Like You? Learning to Appreciate the Differences
By Janet from Michigan


When I first found out I was having a baby girl, I pictured her as a miniature version of myself:  dark hair and lots of it; hazel eyes.  She arrived with barely any hair and beautiful blue eyes.


I envisioned a sweet little girl who wanted to please her parents.  I got a child who was independent from day one and argued her opinions forcefully even when she was clearly wrong. (“No, mom, it’s not outer space.  It’s our space.”)


I thought she would be smart (finally, a match) and a good student.  But getting good grades was not something that motivated her. She did her schoolwork when and if she felt like it.


Funny.  I had worried about having a boy because I had grown up with two sisters and knew nothing about raising sons.  And here I was in foreign territory anyway. With a girl.


I never expected parenting to be easy. However, I have found that having a child whose personality and approach to life are different from mine makes it a little more challenging.  Since she is not a “mini me” and should not be, it is up to me to learn to understand and appreciate her.  After all, what moms do best is love their children unconditionally.   


Okay, so what if she doesn’t like history or politics (my majors)?  She loves Shakespeare and biology.  So what if she doesn’t write outlines or think in a linear manner (like me)?  She has outstanding visual spatial skills and incredible musical ability (not like me).  She struggles with getting up in the morning and turns in homework late, but she is spontaneous and wisely seeks balance between work and play.


My daughter is someone who has been challenging the “status quo” practically from birth.  She has no tolerance for what she thinks are arbitrary rules.  (“Why does everyone say that you have to do well in school so you can get a good job so you can make a lot of money?  Why is money all people care about?  That’s just wrong.”)  Our society can be quick to discount people who think this way and who, in my view, make life difficult for themselves by refusing to toe the line.  I am not like that.  I work with things the way they are.  But my daughter has to do things on her own terms.  With a little luck and plenty of perseverance she will find people who will value her unique contributions, both professionally and personally.


There have been days when I have felt at a complete loss. Times when I wanted to run away from home.  Days when my daughter would yell at me “Mom, I’M NOT YOU!”  But when I could not calm myself down or put things in perspective, I was able to defer to my husband.  Thankfully, he does relate to her and understand her.  He can usually find the humor in the situation or at least be less emotional than I can be.


Ironically, my daughter and I are the same when it comes to keeping our feelings inside. This is where I truly do relate, so I am the one who must be patient and wait until she is ready to talk.  And when we do connect it is a very special feeling--at least for me.  While we sometimes criticize each other, deep down there is mutual love and respect.  I have to believe that because in the fall she will be off to college and my job will essentially be done.


So where does that leave us?  Intellectually, I accept that my daughter is her own person.  But emotionally, I confess, I struggle with it every day.  When she barks, “You don’t get me, do you?”  I answer meekly, “No, I guess I don’t.”  It doesn’t mean I love her any less.  That I don’t appreciate her many qualities and talents.  I make sure she knows that I love her unconditionally and always will. That’s one thing she can count on. She will choose the path that’s right for her.  She will do things “her way.”  And I will be so proud.  As the French say, vive la difference!

Have a comment or need to vent? Visit the Motherrr.com Forum.


Read Janet's husband's "rebuttal" below:

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A Dad’s Take on The Mother-Daughter Thing

By Husband of Janet from Michigan


My wife thinks that she and our daughter are very different and that’s why they often butt heads.  Funny, but I don’t see it that way.  In fact, when I told Janet that the reason she and our daughter clash is that they are the same, she could not contain herself:  “What?! You can’t be serious!” 


So I had to cite some examples—for instance “You are both independent.  And you are both strong-willed.”  My wife replied, “Well, maybe now.  But I wasn’t that way when I was seventeen.”  I pointed out that it’s now that they are having the conflicts, not back when she was seventeen.  Obviously, that makes no sense.


Janet then probed, “So then why don’t you intervene when you see trouble?”  “Nope,” I said, “That’s when I run for the hills.  Why do you think I started taking those long bike rides?”  “Great,” she pouted, “Who is going to play referee?”


It’s hard to stand on the sidelines and watch the mother-daughter thing unfold.  Especially when your daughter is a teen and is doing what she’s supposed to do:  individuate.  My wife knows that separating is a good thing—it’s what we work toward for 18 long years.  I tell her to stop micromanaging and back off.  Our daughter is pushing the limits and that can be a real source of conflict.  Hey, I have my moments with her, too, but I am able to diffuse the situation with humor.  Maybe moms don’t always see the humorous side when things get tense.


My wife doesn’t like it when I tell her to stop nagging our daughter.  By repeating herself she teaches our daughter to ignore her mom—at least until mom starts yelling.  My advice is to be consistent, say it once and then follow through.  What’s the problem?


Now, I could have said all of this in one sentence, but Janet said I needed to stretch this out. The point is, my wife and my daughter are more alike than they realize.  And that’s why they fight.  That’s it.

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More Moms & Teen Girls Articles

  • Battles Are Part of Raising Teenage Daughters: There is actually a silver lining to the battles during a daughter's adolescence. What?! Read excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters by Rosanne Rosen.

  • Mothering Like Our Mothers: To mother like our mothers, or not to mother like our mothers...that is the question. By Janet from Michigan