The Secret to Maintaining a Good Relationship With A Teenager Daughter
Jesse is turning fourteen in December. Technically, she’s supposed to hate me. We’re supposed to fight daily - maybe even hourly. She’s supposed to be bitchy and miserable to be be around. She’s supposed to give me major attitude and roll her eyes…a lot.
Look, Jesse’s not perfect. She’s human, after all, and a teenage girl going through a crap-ton of hormonal changes. She’s still trying to figure out her place in the world while maintaining good grades and establishing a social circle. I remember what that was like when I was her age, and I know it sucks. Big time. So, I cut the kid some slack. Not too much, mind you, because I don’t want to raise an assholes, but just enough to give her breathing room to grow while letting her know I’m close enough to catch her when she falls.
And speaking of assholes…
Here’s the secret to how I raise I raise my girls. I allow them to define the nature of our relationship with three governing rules that are as simple as they are complex.
Act like an asshole and I’ll treat you like an asshole.
Respect yourself and those around you, and I’ll return that respect tenfold.
Be honest with me, and I’ll trust in you.
These rules are the foundation of the relationships I have with my daughters - even with Tyler who is only eight. So far, it’s been working. We’ll see how it goes with Tyler as she gets older, but with Jesse, it’s created a unique relationship for us. One that is open and honest and built on mutual trust and respect.
I don’t go through Jesse’s phone when her back is turned. I don’t search her room while she’s in school. Some parents are horrified when I tell them this, but the truth is, I don’t have to go all Private Eye on her. She and I talk. We have epic conversations, and through them, she’s learned that she can - literally - tell me anything. I will never judge her. I will never hold her mistakes over her head. Will I get angry or disappointed if she messes up? Depends on the situation, to be honest. Telling me everything doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences if she stupidly tries cigarettes, or drinks a beer. She also knows I’ll go full-lunatic if she ever dares try drugs.
I’m sure as she get older there will be things she doesn’t tell me. And that’s okay, too. Some things are meant for her, and her alone. But the big things like losing her virginity (just writing that made me want to vomit and lock her up forever), or getting drunk for the first time…she knows I understand that’s all part of becoming an adult. I may like the process since these girls are my daughters, but I’m not stupid. I didn’t reach the age of 45 under a rock. I have to get out of my own way and allow my children the freedom to grow and learn and explore who they are, while always being there as a positive guiding force.
And trust me, this is all easier written than actually done in the real world in real time!
No One Is Perfect
I never put undue pressure on my daughters to be perfect. They’re human. Humans make mistakes. From getting a bad grade to making a poor decision, we all mess up. I allow my girls the chance to make those mistakes, but also made damn sure they learn from them. An occasional bad grade is okay as long as they did their best. Consistent bad grades? Something is wrong, and we’ll figure it out together. One crap decision won’t define them. Constant bad choices? There’s a problem, and we’ll solve it as a team.
Will this always work? Probably not. Will this type of parenting work for everyone? No. But, it’s working for us so far, so I’ll keep at it until, or if, I need to change things up.
Don’t Be An Asshole
Growing up is a process, one I can’t do for them. My purpose in this life as their mom is arm them with the tools they’ll need to overcome obstacles, make good choices, and never - not ever - be an asshole.
I truly believe if you give a child a strong foundation, one built on mutual respect and trust, you’ll have an easier time of things once your child hits those evil teenage years.
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