I realized recently that if I’m going to protect my daughter, sometimes the answer has to be “no.” This isn’t the fun part of being a parent.
My daughter looks so mature. She tells me she can handle it; I can trust her. She has it under control. She’s so convincing. It sometimes feels like I’m talking to someone who’s my age.
But she isn’t. I’m not letting the grown-up body fool me. She’s not a mature adult yet, even though she sometimes acts like one.
Her judgment goes out the window in the right circumstances, especially when it comes to boys. It takes energy to stay on top of her social life. She has plenty of energy to plan and push to get her way.
Here are four ways teen daughters make it really hard to say no (and some suggestions of what you can do about it).
She’ll try to intimidate you through her anger.
Your daughter might be skilled at arguing. Teens might belittle you, threaten you and curse you. They might even yell and throw things. And this often works, because they think if they go ballistic, you will be scared and say yes — and she will get her way.
Your teen daughter might mope around, lie in bed and avoid you. She’ll try to look as unhappy and as pathetic as possible when she eats dinner with you. You’ll say, “What’s the matter?” And she’ll looks out the window and says, “Nothing.”
Mothers hate to see daughters unhappy. But moping can be strategic. She is letting you know that you are ruining her life — and she’s hoping her unhappiness will get you to change your mind.
She’ll be sweet.
Does your daughter ever enthusiastically help around the house without asking? Does she suddenly want to hang out with you and even go to the grocery store with you? This tactic often works because you are so grateful that things are going well, you don’t want to do anything to mess that up. Once she butters you up, she will ask you for something she knows you won’t say yes to. (But she’s hoping you’ll say yes to keep her happy.)
She’ll sound reasonable.
Your daughter knows that you are used to her blowing a gasket and will be thrown off with a mature and calm approach. The conversation goes like this. “Mom, really, why can’t I go to the party? Mom, I can take care of myself. If it’s bad, I’ll text you. I’ve left bad situations before. You really can trust me.”
She sounds so mature you feel bad for saying no. And she’s hoping to appeal to your reasonable side. After all, if she’s being reasonable, you have to say yes – or you’re the one being unreasonable.
Here are some proven strategies for moms to help protect their daughters and still stay connected through difficult decisions.
1. Have clear boundaries
Your daughter can be very convincing when you’re in front of her, especially when she’s desperate. She will try to push you to make a decision before you have thought through it. Often this is the first time you are getting the information and you haven’t had time to process it. This is what she is counting on.
Take a break and check in with yourself. Do you feel at peace with your decision? Are you going against your rules and guidelines that you have already established?
You also need to trust your intuition. You can always change your decisions. Remember, your job is to protect her.
2. Stay clear of the drama
Teenage girls are hard-wired for drama. When you react to her drama, you lose your power and your clarity. You can end up feeling bad about how you reacted and she gets her way.
If she attacks you, don’t defend yourself. You don’t have to answer her accusations when she says things like, “You hate all my friends.” When she’s upset, she won’t be able to take in your lecture. Take a break and wait till she’s calm before you talk to her.
I’ve found that texting is a great way to stay clear of the drama. It can allow you to communicate about tough issues without getting sucked in.
3. Get support
When you say no, usually your daughter is not going to be happy with you. When she is in full-force drama, she can make your life miserable, especially if she attacks or threatens you with her words.
This is a time you need support. If you listen to your daughter’s logic you won’t know which end is up. It helps to bounce your decisions off another trusted adult. This will give you some perspective, because your daughter might make you feel like you’re the only mother on the planet who is so protective.
So bring in your partner for support. Call a friend or supportive family member who will listen and help you calm down. If you’re really concerned, seek professional help.
Bottom line: You don’t have to do this alone.
4. Congratulate yourself for being a good mom
It’s hard to maintain a boundary or rule and say no — and easy to give in sometimes. If your teen daughter is unhappy with you, great! You’re doing your job. You’re not ruining her life; you’re protecting her life.
5. Find ways to say yes
It’s good to have a little space from your daughter after you’ve told her no. She can have her feelings about it, but she’ll need time to calm down.
This is where you can get creative. Find a way to say yes.
Your daughter might think you’re out to ruin her life, but of course that’s not true. You want your daughter to be happy and you want her to be protected.
If you had to say no, is there any way you can say yes?
For example: Yes, it’s okay to go to the party as long as the parents will be there. Let me call them and make sure they’re going to be home, and you can go.
This way, you’ve turned the “no” around into an opportunity for a “yes.” Then, it’s your daughters decision if it’s a “no” or a “yes.” You’re showing your daughter that you want her to have a life, but letting her know she has to work with you.
One final note: Don’t feel bad if you’ve caved in. We’ve all done it. But you can wise up and do what’s best for your daughter for the future.
Colleen O’Grady specializes in encouraging and empowering mothers of teenagers, especially teen daughters, to live their highest and best life. From her coaching programs to her therapy sessions, she has helped thousands of mothers and teenage girls uncover their true purpose in life, create more happiness, and move to a place of inner peace.