Have a way of getting under someone’s skin, especially if you are their parent. As their anchor, you are also their doormat, driver, punching bag, therapist, and enemy. Your teenage daughter knows she needs you, but in her development, she is pulling away from the parent-young child relationship, so things get complicated.
As a teenage girl, you need to prepare yourself for a series of harmful and rebellious behaviors that can make us say things we later regret. To help you through this challenging time, I’ve compiled a list of comments you might want to say but are better off not doing. Admittedly, I have had two daughters who have heard me say most of these undermining statements in frustration over the years. To build rapport, confidence, and self-esteem with your daughter, I advise you to learn from your mistakes and bite your tongue!
1 “You are so selfish!”
All teenagers are concerned with themselves. As annoying as it is, it is typical for developing teenage girls to be egomaniacs. Keep trying to show compassion and talk about the importance of empathy, but don’t expect miracles. It’s all about her now, so don’t say what’s obvious.
2 “Stop being so moody!”
She can’t! Your daughter is experiencing a surge of hormones that makes her cry one minute and laugh hysterically the next. The good news is that if she is upset and cranky, it will go away on its own. Just remember that she can’t help it, and she will be irritated because you are pointing out her bad mood.
3 “Drugs and alcohol can kill you!”
It is true that drugs and alcohol can kill, but by making extreme dramatic statements, you undermine your credibility. Most teens know other kids who drink and use drugs who are still alive and kicking. It is better to discuss the dangers calmly and realistically.
4 “You look like a slut!”
Teenage girls often dress in ways that are reminiscent of a lot of negative sexual stereotypes. With their clothing or lack thereof, they are not asking for sex but instead assume a more mature identity. Be careful; otherwise, your daughter will feel judged and criticized for trying to be an adult.
5 “Don’t get yourself pregnant!”
Of course, it’s essential to discuss the risk of pregnancy, but too much emphasis on not getting pregnant won’t help your daughter deal with other sexual pressures. In her book Girls & Sex, Peggy Orenstein reveals that teenage girls are often pressured to have oral sex and go along with that because at least it won’t get them pregnant. It’s best to discuss a realistic range of sexual behaviors to build a foundation of communication and trust.
6 “You are beautiful.”
Of course, it is beautiful to tell your daughter she is beautiful, but if this is a reflex or the only kind of compliment you give, you do not do her any favors. Teenage girls need efficiency, strength, and pride in their abilities. Being beautiful is a fluke of nature, not an achievement. Try to focus your compliments on traits and actions that will serve her far more than the momentary joy of feeling attractive.
7 “Don’t roll your eyes at me!”
Don’t bother – she can’t help it! Just attribute it to her age and move on. This is not a permanent condition, and drawing attention to it only results in more eye rolls.
8 “That’s OK; I was never good at science (or math, technology, or engineering) either.”
This may seem like a supportive comment, but it’s an insult. Don’t give your daughter an excuse not to strive. It’s OK to tell her you had to work hard for math or science but avoid negative statements in the form of empathy that perpetuate tired, old gender stereotypes. Please don’t put your daughter’s insecurities or weaknesses because her path to success may be very different from yours.
9 “I don’t like your friends.”
Teenage girls are naturally social and loyal to their friends. As they develop, they make the crucial shift from relying solely on the family to expanding their support system. Therefore, criticizing your daughter’s friends is the same as attacking her. Try to avoid speaking negatively about other girls in her group, even if she is unhappy with one of them. After all, dynamics often change at this age: Today’s archenemy maybe her best friend tomorrow, and vice versa.
10 “I’ll throw your phone in a dumpster.”
As much as we hate how our daughters are attached to their phones, it’s better to navigate their phone use thoughtfully rather than hurling empty threats about phone use. Phones should be a reward for expected behavior rather than an entitlement, so use the phone to your advantage. Please give it to your daughter only when she has completed her tasks and homework. Also, spend time explaining the dangers of social media, especially to her self-esteem. If you haven’t already, watch the movie Screenagers together to get the point across.