Adolescence Explained In Just One Letter: i
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Yes! My daughter is so self-involved, all she ever thinks about is herself! I, i, i! It’s like she has blinders on and is totally oblivious to the real world!”
Although narcissism is indeed a common trend among adolescents, that’s not quite the “i” that I was referring to. Here are the 3 i’s that explain your girl’s adolescent behavior:
Understanding how each of these factors plays into your girl’s behavior is CRUCIAL! So let’s break them down.
1. Independence: “Leave me alone!” “Stay out of my business!” “But all my friends are going!” Any of these sound familiar? Freedom and independence are of such significance to most girls that they will go to great lengths to attain them. They’ll sneak out, lie about their whereabouts, fail to communicate with you… If they feel you are unwilling to give them the independence they want, adolescents’ natural instincts are to create independence for themselves– no matter the consequence. Understandably this becomes incredibly frustrating and confusing for you. What most girls don’t understand, is that those types of sneaky, devious and dishonest behaviors make you trust them LESS and ultimately decrease their chances of acquiring the independence they want! It seems obvious but you wouldn’t believe how many girls I’ve worked with who fail to connect these dots…
In order to break this backwards thinking, it’s critical that you explain two things to your girls. First, independence is a right, not a privilege. Freedom is earned through consistency, reliability and credibility. In this way, they are directly responsible for their own level of independence. If they get grounded or restricted, it’s not because you’re mean or strict. It’s because their behavior warranted a consequence. Plain and simple. Second, in a clarifying conversation, explain what your expectations are so they understand what they need to do in order to earn their privilege. Whether it’s homework, chores, or otherwise, be specific about the task and the time frame in which it needs to be met. And, in order to satisfy your girl, give a specific reward for a specific task. “If this, then this.” “If you get all of your homework done by 9pm every night this week, you can go out with friends Friday night.” Watch their productivity sky rocket!
2. Individuation: Do you ever feel like your daughter hates something simply you happen like it? Does your daughter constantly disagree with you? Roll her eyes at you? Make you feel like you’re an idiot? Not to worry, you’re not alone. This kind of behavior is extremely common. One of the most significant, but also most painful, parts of adolescents is individuation– when your girl will do anything and everything to be different from you. The hardest part for parents is not taking this behavior personally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should roll over and allow your daughter to be disrespectful. But I find that this behavior touches on the “my daughter is changing and I’m scared because I don’t know her like I used to” nerve. Try to remember that your daughter is supposed to individuate from you! There will be various phases and stages when she will challenge and question every word out of your mouth. Developmentally, that kind of behavior is indicative of an adolescent who is trying to become their own person for the first time in their life. Previously, your girl has been a product of you, your tastes, your preferences, your opinions and your visions. Adolescence is the time when she will resist you in the name of self-determination. So when you feel the sting of your daughter keeping you at arm’s length, breathe. Remember that it’s not about YOU. It’s about her need to be separate from you. Her own entity.
3. Identity: If you take away nothing else please remember this– the hallmark of adolescence is identity formation. In more ways than you probably know, your daughter is struggling to figure out who she is, what she stands for and what is most important to her. With major influences and mixed messages coming at her from every direction, she is likely to feel insecure and confused about her place in the world. If you ever wonder why your daughter is “so sensitive” it’s because she’s unsure of who she is and feels threatened when she perceives you to be questioning her identity. It’s completely normal for girls to try on various types and groups before they find the one that feels authentic. Some you might like, others you might despise. Instead of projecting judgment or disapproval, I encourage you to get curious. Ask her questions and try to understand, from her perspective, what she’s feeling.
So there you have it. Whenever you need some context for your daughter’s confusing, distant and frustrating behavior, just remember, adolescence = i.