For parents, dealing with difficult teenage daughters can be challenging and much different than raising a challenging teenage son. Teen girls are smart, spirited, and strong. They have their own opinions, and they feel things deeply.
Moreover, teenage girls are going through all kinds of physical and mental changes. They’re developing interests and relationships outside the family. Hence, they’re building an independent sense of self. As a result, they can sometimes bump heads with their parents.
Teen girls aren’t really “difficult.” But navigating the changing parent-child relationship can be. When parents seek advice on how to deal with a teenage girl, they’re looking for ways to stay in close connection with their daughter. Connection is what it’s all about.
Dealing with Difficult Teenage Daughters
Puberty has a powerful impact on a girl’s life. This stage brings both mood changes and new experiences. For girls, puberty begins around age 11. Consequently, girls become physically mature between 14 and 16.
Therefore, the physical development that comes with puberty can trigger body-image and self-esteem issues. Hence, teenage girls are often self-conscious during puberty as a result of body odor, acne, and/or discomfort with the new changes in their appearance. In addition, they can be more moody, depressed, or anxious.
Furthermore, the adolescent brain is still developing throughout the teenage years, in particular the area of the brain that’s responsible for judgment and decision-making. This area, the prefrontal cortex, doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s. Hence, teenage girls are more susceptible to shifting impulses and emotions.
Mood Swings in Early Adolescence
Movies and TV often portray clichéd stories of parents figuring out how to deal with a disrespectful teenage daughter. The stereotypical image of a difficult teenage daughter usually involves slammed doors, yelling, tears, and big fights with parents and siblings. Middle childhood is a time of enormous social and physical growth. “Tweens” are no longer little kids, but they’re not yet teenagers with more responsibilities. Because adults may not be able to remember or relate to these extreme ups and downs, parenting teen girls can be confusing. That’s why parents sometimes feel that they are dealing with difficult teenage daughters.
However, there’s some truth in that stereotype, according to research. A study published in the journal Child Development examined mood changes in nearly 500 adolescents. The researchers followed the teens from age 13 to age 18. Three times per year, the teenagers used online dairies to report on their daily happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety levels over five days.
As a result, the study found that teen mood swings are most variable in early adolescence. Moreover, teen girls showed more extreme variations in happiness and sadness levels.
When Teen Girls Declare Independence
Striving for independence is an inevitable part of adolescent development. Teen girls are learning to take responsibility, forming their own values, and figuring out how to make decisions that are right for them.
Thus, teenage girls express independence through their fashion choices, the music they listen to, the friends they spend time with, and the activities and hobbies they choose. And the choices they make might not be the same ones their parents would make for them.
Therefore, the teen years can be hard on parents. Hence, parenting teen girls requires finding a balance between setting limits and allowing teens to forge their own path. Furthermore, parents may need to let teen girls experience failure. As a result, they learn more about themselves and develop resilience. But it’s not easy for parents to stand aside and watch their teenage daughters struggle and sometimes fail.
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“Older kids … are going through a process of separating themselves from their parents, becoming their own people and shaping who they will be apart from us. In order to do that, they need a certain amount of autonomy, room to stretch, take risks, try things out, and grow. There’s research that reveals kids who are more controlled by their parents lie to their parents more. If we don’t give them that room, they will create it, even through deceit.”
—Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed
Social Media, Body Image, and Teenage Girls
Body image issues impact most teens, especially females. As their bodies develop, teen girls tend to focus lots of energy on their physical appearance. And if they feel any insecurity about their looks, social media generally makes it worse.
According to a survey by Common Sense Media, 35 percent of teenage girls who are active on social media worry about people tagging them in unattractive photos. In addition, 27 percent report being stressed out about how they look when they post pictures. And 22 percent report feeling bad about themselves when nobody comments on or “likes” the photos they post. In addition, Facebook use has also been linked to a higher risk of eating disorders.
Moreover, social media carries the risk of cyberbullying—or simply feeling left out. Consequently, it has a negative impact on the mental health of teenage girls. A study of 13-year-olds called #Being Thirteen found that participants who checked social media sites between 50 and 100 times a day were 37 percent more distressed than those who checked just a few times a day.
Teen Girls and the Importance of Friendships
Friendships are incredibly important for teen girls. Therefore, parents sometimes feel like chopped liver when their daughters choose to spend time with friends instead of family. But connecting with peers is a natural part of adolescent development.
Close teen friendships offer many mental health benefits. However, friendships and friend groups among teenage girls can sometimes be volatile. Therefore, parents need to offer comfort and encouragement if their daughters lose friends or feel unpopular.
Especially important, parents should avoid judging their teenage daughter’s friends. The more accepting they can be, the better. The priority is to maintain closeness and communication between parents and daughters. Therefore, knowing their friends and respecting their friendships is key.
10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Teenage Daughters
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for how to parent a teenager. But dealing with difficult teenage daughters requires caring and compassion. Here are 10 tips for parenting teen girls.
Don’t take difficult behavior personally.
Teenage girls are developing their identity and opinions. And part of that is disagreeing with and pushing back against what they perceive as parental control. Difficult teenage daughters aren’t being difficult out of spite. Rather, they are acting under the influence of intense biological shifts. Whether you’re dealing with eye rolls, snarky comebacks, or tantrum tantrums, stay calm and remember to breathe!
Establish ground rules and boundaries.
To establish boundaries for teenage girls, parents need to create limits. Next, parents and daughters can set age-appropriate consequences that will go into effect if the rules are broken. However, severe punishment is not the best approach when dealing with difficult teenage daughters. In fact, punishment can make things worse. Teen girls can withdraw further from parents.
Parents should connect with their teen daughters as often as possible. Listen well and share appropriately. Open, ongoing communication between parents and teens has numerous positive benefits, including decreased teen risk-taking behaviors, decreased teen sexual activity, and improved teen mental health.
For parents of teenage girls, maintaining compassion is essential. And it helps not only adolescents but parents as well. One study found that we cope better with others’ negative emotions by strengthening our compassion.
Focus on the positive.
Even when parents are dealing with difficult teenage daughters, there are often positive moments as well. Parents can focus on what’s working. Hence, they can make sure their daughters know that they appreciate them, even when things are bumpy.
Let them take healthy risks.
Risk-taking isn’t always a bad thing for teenage girls. In fact, a certain level of safe, positive risk-taking is essential for teens to develop their sense of self and gain self-esteem. Healthy risk-taking activities include performing, traveling, outdoor adventures, physical challenges, and entering new social situations.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Teen girls often want to express themselves by dying their hair purple, getting a new piercing, or listening to music their parents hate. The best approach is to let it go. Hence, teens feel a sense of control over their bodies and their environments. And, hopefully, they won’t feel the need to push the boundaries in more dangerous ways.
It’s critical for children to feel understood and validated. Moreover, parents can show trust in their daughters by taking their opinions into account. Therefore, parents and teen girls can create rules and consequences through mutual consent.
Practice unconditional love.
Parents should never withdraw or withhold their love based on a difficult behavior. Teen girls need to know that their parents will be there for them no matter what.
Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Parents should never hesitate to seek help when dealing with difficult teenage daughters. That might mean talking with a parent coach or going to a parent support group. Or parents and teens can attend family therapy together. Furthermore, teenage girls may benefit from a consultation with a qualified mental health professional during this turbulent time.
In summary, parents wondering how to deal with a teenage girl can find many helpful sources. But ultimately, parenting advice for raising a teenage daughter comes down to patience and empathy.
Furthermore, the teen years only last so long. Consequently, dealing with a difficult teenage daughter will soon become a memory. Therefore, strong parent-teen relationships provide a foundation for ongoing positive connections as teenagers become young adults.
- The part of the brain responsible for judgment and decision-making is still developing throughout the teenage years, making teenage girls more susceptible to shifting impulses and emotions.
- Mood swings are most variable in early adolescence, with teen girls showing more extreme variations in happiness and sadness levels than boys.
- Parenting a teen girl requires finding a balance between setting limits and allowing her to forge her own path.
- Connecting with peers is a natural part of adolescent development, and having close friends offers many mental health benefits. Parents should not take it personally when a daughter chooses to spend time with friends instead of them.
- The best advice for parents on how to deal with a difficult teenage girl boils down to ways to stay in close connection with their child.
Frequently Asked Questions About Difficult Daughters
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Common Sense Media
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Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Jul;47(5):516-23.
Soc Sci Med. 2013 Nov; 97: 161–169.
J Adolesc Health. 2003 Aug;33(2):98-107.
JAMA Pediatr. 2016 Jan; 170(1): 14–16.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2015; 157: 129.
Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 51, Issue 4, Sep 2011, 423-428.
Cereb Cortex. 2013 Jul;23(7):1552-61.