by Janet Lund, creator of The Neutral Zone
I, like you, had a good relationship with my daughter when she was a baby. It continued as she grew from being a baby to a toddler to a little girl. It was a delight to see her love of life shine each morning when my daughter awoke. My little lady was excited for what each day had in store for her. She loved meeting people, learning new things in school, and running with her imagination while playing at home. We, of course, had our challenges but besides the terrible twos (or in my case the “threes”) life with my little girl was good!!
But then everything changed! Everything that worked before worked no more! You like me saw it coming, though. As the pre-teen and teenage years came along her happy go lucky attitude started to fade. She grew uncertain about herself. She had her own interests and passions get verbally bashed down by kids at school. As time went by her heart grew heavy. Fun conversations after school evolved into heavy emotional moments. She would have outbursts of frustration, anger, and tears. Our little ice-cream dates no longer wiped away the challenges of the day. The harder I tried to help her look on the bright side of life the angrier she got. She seemed almost determined to be angry and see the worst in people and situations. My little Sunbeam became hidden more and more by dark emotional clouds.
My daughter and I had many tough days. Lots of misunderstandings raised voices and head butting. It seemed like I could do nothing right. My parenting confidence faded, and I was overcome by my own tears of frustration. After a heated disagreement, I would beat myself up. “How could you be so stupid?!” “How did this happen? Where did my sweet daughter go? I use to work well with teens at my job, how come all I ever do is argue with my own daughter?” When I was in the thick of an argument, I felt helpless.
Finally, I took some advice from Einstein. He used to say that, “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” I realized it was time to stop and reflect on what I was doing over and over again.
Time for a change. As I said, everything I used to do didn’t work anymore, so it was time to change my game plan. I worked at finding new tools for my relational tool belt. I spent time thinking back on my career when I worked with parents and teens. I remembered observing what conversations went well and which ones didn’t between Mom’s and daughters. Several of those daughters gave me insight into the struggles they had with their moms. I went to counseling to get in touch with my own insecurities and discovered how I was getting in my own the way of parenting my daughter. Research taught me more about what is going on inside of a teenage girl’s mind and emotional system due to all the changes a girl experiences. I also experienced a whole lot of trial and error. Together all these things taught me how I could do a better job of mothering my daughter.