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Puddle Coach Column ~ Q&A / Parenting: Frustrated Mom of a 12 year old

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Puddle Coach Column, by Patrice Swenson                                                                                                                     Have a question for the Puddle Coach? Submit here

 

Dear Puddle Coach,                                                                                                                                                                                        Patrice Swenson, Puddle CoachDescription: Description: Description: http://www.rainbowinthepuddle.com/sites/default/files/images/Life%20Coach%20Pic%20for%20Business%20Card_2.jpg

I have been struggling with my daughter lately. She’s only 12 years old but wants to be dating already. I told her absolutely not and ever since, she has been a difficult to deal with, to say the least! I’ve always been pretty close to all my kids and felt like I could handle things pretty well, but I’m not sure I know what to do with her. She seems to be boy crazy and I’m not going to let her start dating at 12 years old. My older daughter, who is now 24 and married, was nothing like my younger daughter, so this is really difficult. I feel like I have some type of an argument at least once a day. I don’t like the way she’s acting and I don’t really know what else to do. I make the rules and she needs to follow them. She comes home and goes to her room and pretty much stays in there. She’s on her cell phone and computer pretty much anytime she’s home. I have taken both the phone and computer away for long periods but it seems like things are only getting worse. I’ve even gotten to the point of taking her to a therapist and she hated that even more. It seems like everything just makes things worse. I’m at a loss, I love my daughter but I feel like this is so not how I raised her to be and I don’t know what else to do. My husband isn’t really of much help either; his answer is to just let her be and avoid conflict at all costs; that’s not the answer! Not sure what to do; any thoughts?

Frustrated mom ~

Dear Frustrated Mom,

You obviously care and want the best for your daughter. You’ve involved a therapist and you’re writing for some help here. It’s not easy to know what is going on inside someone, even someone as close to you as your daughter. At 12 years old, it’s pretty common to want to date and it’s also very common to want to spend time in your room. She is maturing, and changing, both physically and mentally. You mentioned you have another daughter who is much older and was never this way. You also mentioned that you have a husband that seems to use avoidance to cope with the situation. I’m curious if you are more frustrated with your daughter, yourself or your husband? Sometimes we think we should just know what to do or what is wrong, because we had other kids this didn’t happen with, but each person is unique and special for who they are. It won’t bring you solutions by comparing her to someone else.

It might be helpful to look up some information on the difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting. Some of the best solutions will involve one simple skill; communication. Talk with her, support her, learn who she is, what is changing in her, who she likes and why. Rules and boundaries are great; but it doesn’t mean you need to dictate them or come across as a ruler. Have you talked with her in a calm way and let it be ok, that she feels whatever she feels? Have you asked her about her feelings and can you mirror them back to her? Acknowledging what she feels and what she wants, will go far; that does not mean you must compromise your boundary or rule, but it may mean you explain it calmly, lovingly and accept that she’s struggling and love her through that by showing her how to respond, NOT react to situations. Kids learn more from what is demonstrated than any other method of learning.

I’m curious what your daughter observes at home between you and your husband when it comes to conflict resolution. Could you allow her to invite the person she likes to your house for dinner or some time together? Could you foster an environment that allows her to have some time with this person in a safe and supervised way? Dating at 12 can be scary to hear for any parent; maybe you could ask what dating means to her; sometimes it’s just a way of saying, I like someone and he/she is special to me. Even when dating is not allowed, it happens. It might be good to get to know the people she likes and use each situation for continued conversations that develop your relationship and closeness with her; she probably wants to just feel important and independent. Explain more to her about your boundaries and think of ways that allow her some freedoms to express and evolve in a safe space. Most often, kids will do just fine, as long as they have a solid connection and feel safe with their space at home and their parents. Create a space that invites her to open up, not a space that fosters fear. This can be done by showing her that her feelings are important, valid and heard. She may only be 12, but those feelings she has about dating, to her, feel very important. You're heart seems to be in the right place; just share your fears with her and open the dialog...sometimes this is a perfect time to tell those stories of the things you did that may not have been so perfect as a kid or the things you wanted. This could end up being a situation that bonds you closer to her, by simply understanding how and why she feels and wants these things. Hugs are pretty powerful too, but ask her if it's ok; feeling like she can give you permission to do something will help too; even small things like asking if you can enter her room. She needs to feel she has some control in her life. You sound like you're open to growing as a parent; just let it be OK, you may not know everything to do and just do your best! 

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