In Defense of 14-Year-Old Girls

Last week, The Baby Website released the results of a survey in which parents of grown children were asked to name the age at which their kids were most difficult to parent.  Not surprisingly, the teen years beat out the so-called terrible twos when it came to parental  challenges.  While the survey respondents reported that their formerly sweet boys became moody, sullen and uncommunicative at age 15,  girls were said to hit the wall at the age of 14.

Parents of  those sulky 15-year-old boys mostly chalked up their bad behavior up to hormones caused by puberty, an admission that these poor guys are just victims of their own bodies and doing the best they can during a difficult time of life.  Girls, however, weren’t given such a pass.  Parents reported feeling that the main issue with their teen girls was that while they were “turning into women overnight,” their behavior was regressing to that of a toddler, complete with meltdowns and temper tantrums.

As someone who has raised a girl to adulthood and is currently in the thick of it with another, I cannot argue with the assessment that teen girls are challenging.  But, as India Knight points out in the Sunday Times, 14-year-old girls are kind of getting a bad rap here.  Instead of demonizing what is perfectly normal and healthy behavior for a child on the verge of adulthood, she believes parents are the ones who need an attitude adjustment.

I couldn’t agree more.  Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the average teen girl as an overly dramatic child with an inflated sense of her own importance.  And how ridiculous it is that this self-centered creature demands to be treated like an adult while she acts like a put-out toddler, right?  But while it may seem that her current mission in life is to be difficult and make you pay dearly for every little perceived parenting misstep, isn’t she doing just what she’s supposed to be doing?  Asserting herself, pulling away from her parents and becoming her own person? She may be loud and annoying about it, but where’s the harm in that?

It’s not that I never get angry or frustrated by the drama that occurs almost on a daily basis around here.  I am a human, after all.  And a sensitive one at that.   In fact, it is that sensitivity that is helping me maintain my own sanity and connect with her during this time of change.  As hard as it is to be sneered at eye-rolled by a girl whose diaper I used to change, I know it is even harder on her. When she rages and cries and slams doors, I try to take a moment to go there with her.  To remember my own self at that age and imagine what my mother could have done to help me deal.

Oftentimes, the solution lies in doing nothing, giving her some space and, most importantly, not taking it personally.  She may be up and down and hot and cold, but I try to remain steady and warm no matter what she says or does.  And when she’s calm, we talk.  A lot.  About puberty, about friendship, about life in general.  But mostly we talk about how, no matter what happens, I am and always will be on her side.

Image: AJU_photography/Flickr

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