This Common Parenting Stereotype Is Harming Our Children

Every mom is confronted with unsolicited advice from time to time – or worse – doomsday comments about what they will go through during the different phases of childhood from those who think they know best.

We are often able to brush these comments aside, but some have become so prolific in the world of parenting that we almost begin to believe them as fact instead of stereotype.  And some of this advice and opinions on parenting has become heavily embedded in our culture.

Here’s where the stereotypical teenage daughter comes in.  To have others tell it, raising a teenage girl is like climbing Mount Everest and being thrown off the summit.  But why have teenage girls gotten such a bad rap?  Aren’t the teen years just another phase of our kids’ all-too-short childhood to be treasured, despite the ups and downs?

The horror stories we hear about raising a teenage daughter are a deeply-rooted stereotype that moms can, and should, dispute.  A teenage daughter is a wonderful blessing, and moms can learn a lot about themselves – both who they are, and who they were as teens – by cultivating this relationship in a positive way. reported:

This disdain for teenagers in general, and teen girls especially, is nothing new and not uncommon. Teens, we are told, are lackadaisical, entitled, whiny, and obsessed with their phones [but] teens are fascinating, interesting, and on the whole pretty awesome. They’re entering a time in their lives where they’re figuring out who they are and doing what they can to assert themselves in this glorious mess of a world. I’ve yet to encounter one who didn’t respond positively to encouragement and intellectual engagement. Moreover, I’ve not met a single teenager who didn’t want to learn from the adults in their lives (or at the very least didn’t learn from us in spite of themselves).

Are teenagers perfect? Of course not. Like all other children (because let’s not forget, as we often do, that teenagers are still children) they come with their own unique set of challenges. Their brains are going through some absolutely bonkers (yet developmentally normal) things that make moodiness, bad decisions, and general chaos all too common. Like all people, some of them are just naturally irritating. They’re not angels, but one shouldn’t have to be an angel to be treated with kindness and respect.

All of the negative connotations associated with teenagers can simply be a matter of not taking the time to understand them.  And because all of the emotions and challenges that come along with raising a teen can be intensified in girls, teenage daughters often face an attitude of disdain more than teenage sons.

Teens scare parents because we see them becoming independent people – essentially slipping away from us.  We see them a few short years in the future being adults and no longer needing us.  And there seems to be so much pressure these days on women that teen girls often bear the brunt of social scrutiny.

We want our daughters to be strong, but strong teen girls are often called “pushy” or “catty.”  They’re supposed to be confident, but are perceived as “bossy.”  They want to be feminine, but are accused of being “shallow.”  Teen sons are often portrayed as being respectful and protective of their mothers, while teen girls are perceived as giving their parents years of stressful drama.

The fact is, the same rule of parenting applies to daughters in the teen years as with any other phase of childhood.  Keeping open communication and building a relationship of trust are key.  And as they get older, we give them a little more freedom to prove to us they are making good decisions.

You can have a close relationship with your teenage daughter – remember, you were a teenage girl once yourself.  Think about the ups and downs of your relationship with your own mom.  What do you wish she understood?  What were the fights and disagreements really about?  When we really give our daughters the time they deserve to really get to know who they are and who they want to be, the rest falls into place.

Moms and daughters really just want the same things:  understanding, respect, patience, and love.  The negative stereotypes swirling around do not have to become reality and are not good for our girls – or our boys. continued:

Moms: what are we telling our girls when we buy into this? What are we saying about ourselves when we speak so negatively about women and girls? How much better could our daughters’ self-esteem be if we stopped? What would our relationships, not just with our daughters but with all women, look like then?

And what message is this sending men and boys? What will be in the minds of the boys in high school and the men in Congress when they’ve heard, from the time they’re small, that “teenage girls are volatile and manipulative and emotional and annoying and unworthy of compassion and respect and love?”

It’s no wonder teenage girls experience a self-esteem gap relative to their male peers that is not bridged until old age. In addition to hearing all the things they’re supposed to be (pretty, popular, thin, sexy but chaste but not prude, etc.) they’re also hearing a whole lot of the things they are (“mean girls,” vapid, self-absorbed, etc.) This insecurity has been shown to hold them back from everything from sports to raising their hand in class to reporting abuse.

And this insecurity can be prevented by having a strong and present mom who really talks – and really listens – to what is going on with their daughters.  Just as when they are small, our girls want our approval and our acceptance, not our judgment and constant disapproval.

With a little patience and some digging into our own insecurities and fears, moms can learn to understand and appreciate these transition years from little girl to grown woman.  Your little girl will always need you, and these sometimes rocky years will strengthen the foundation of your relationship.

Do you have a teenage daughter?  What have you done to really understand her and strengthen your bond?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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