“Things were different when you were young” says my daughter when I try to share my “wordly wisdom” with her. I watch, from a distance, as she turns into a young woman. I watch her friendships come and go, or change. I feel her heartbreak when her “BFF” decides that she has moved onto someone new. I remember how the power struggle works between girls, deciding which girl they will “follow” or which group they aspire to “join”. I try to provide her with advice that has been formed over many years and through learning from many mistakes. I try to shield her from the hurt my mistakes caused me. I try to save her feeling regret at the harsh words that come from our mouths when we lash out at someone who we feel has hurt us. I try to teach her that people don’t always say how they really feel and that often her friends are hurting just as much as she is, but are too scared to show it. I try to tell her to be the better person when her friends are saying bad things to her or about her. However, like many generations before, my daughter tells me that I “just wouldn’t understand”.
As grown women, we do understand quite a bit because some things never change. The stereotype of the “Queen Bee” pops up in every playground now and in past generations. We are well aware of the “groups” of girls, defining themselves by the friends they choose and the fear that if they venture out to form new friendships, they risk losing what they currently have. As grown women we say to our daughters, stand up for what you believe, don’t follow for the sake of following. But if we are honest and remember those days, honestly it’s scary.
Girls and their friendships are a labyrinth of puzzles, clouded by hormones and a lack of experience and maturity. As mothers we are likely to only hear one side of the story. If we reach out to other mothers involved it can be problematic with the risk of becoming “my daughter said” vs. “your daughter said” with our natural protective instinct kicking in and things getting out of hand. If we go down this path it’s likely that the mothers won’t be talking in a week and the girls will be back as “BFFs” forgetting that they ever fought.
So, how do we help our daughters navigate their way through the stormy seas of high school? I would love to hear from parents who have learned from parenting teens. I don’t know right now, so I turned to the very knowledgable Rosalind Wiseman and her book “Queen Bees and Wannabees”. There’s a chapter on communication and parenting styles…I have to admit, I could see a little of myself in almost every one…both the good and the bad. However, I came to this and this is what I aspire to.
“The Loving Hard-Ass Parent…Parents with this philosophy know there may be things their daughter hides from them, like emails, texts, or early and sometimes troubled relationships with boys, but they don’t take it as a personal insult or an indication that their relationship with their daughter is weak. When they make mistakes, they own up to their behaviour and right the wrong, and they encourage their daughter to do the same. They demonstrate that you can learn from mistakes and be better for it. They love their daughter unconditionally but hold her accountable for decisions and behaviour that go against the family’s values and ethics. When they’re told that their daughter may have done something wrong, they listen and don’t blame other people for their daughter’s behaviour. At the same time, they never make her feel ashamed of who she is.”
The book is informative and helpful and I particularly like some of the points on communication such as suggestions that parents should share their own experiences, especially the ones where we made a mistake and learned from it. It is also advised that we should not to try to solve our daughters’ problems, but empower her to solve them herself.
So, as my daughter comes home from school today, I will stop myself from asking her every little detail about what is going on with the friend she is having troubles with at the moment. I will try to be there for her as I know she may be sad deep down, but I won’t make a big deal of it. I will support her decision to broaden her friendship circle so that she is resilient enough to move on when these situations are presented. I will also trust her to do what she thinks is right. Most of all, I hope to do what my parents did for me, and let me know that no matter what she does (right or wrong), I will always be there for her.