I recently watched a film about two teenage girls trying to find how they fit into society before heading to college. They encountered stalkers, porn, rage, depression, and promiscuity on their journey. When the movie ended, I said, “Thank God I’m not a teenage girl.” And then I realized that my two daughters might deal with all these issues—which means I might wind up with difficult teenagers. What’s it like dealing with a difficult teenage daughter?As frustrated as a teen girl’s bad behavior can make us, we need to be prepared to help.
Teen girls are navigating their worlds while battling a changing brain, shifting moods, and bad influences. Odds are, this may get them into some trouble, just like the girls in the movie. As frustrated as a teen girl’s bad behavior can make us, we need to be prepared to help. Here are 5 bad behaviors teen girls might get into—and how to handle it if they do.
Teen girls gossip to boost their reputation and hide their insecurities—to gain attention from friends. Yeah, the attention feels good, but at the cost of someone else’s reputation. Remind your daughter that all people deserve respect regardless of their beliefs and opinions. Gossip is the first step toward losing respect and relationships. Your daughter may think gossiping builds friendships when in reality, it tears them down. Gossip leads to a loss of her friends’ trust while stunting her development of empathy.
While gossip is an attack on a person’s reputation, cyberbullying is a flat-out attack on the person. Our daughters have grown up connected to the internet, making it easy to target and bully someone they dislike, disagree with, or want to embarrass. A dad can’t just tell his daughter to stop bullying. He has to find out why she’s bullying. Does she use anger to express another unresolved emotion like grief? Has she been bullied by others, causing her to push back in this same manner? Let’s ask questions to get to the root of our daughters’ behavior and help them through it.
3. Increased Isolation
Over time, that cuddly daddy’s girl who shared every nightmare and school drama with you may start isolating herself from her parents. And when it happens, we can’t force teenage girls to sit down and talk. The desire to separate from their parents is normal and is a healthy part of growing into an adult. But isolation could lead to bad behavior if we completely ignore her during this phase. Just because she doesn’t communicate the way she used to doesn’t mean she wants to be forgotten. We need to pay close attention to her subtle communication cues. Maybe it’s late at night when she finally starts to open up. Staying up later than planned is a sacrifice worth making if it means you can be there with her and for her.
Many teens have seen the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. It’s about a teen girl who commits suicide, leaving behind audio tapes describing all the people who drove her to the horrible decision. Teen suicides increased 28.9 percent after the first season aired, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Girls who harm themselves aren’t always suicidal and death isn’t the intent for kids who cut themselves. Control is. Teen girls also may engage in other harmful behaviors, like eating disorders or drug use. Look for the signs, like cuts or scars, wearing long sleeve shirts even when it’s hot out, sudden isolation, or academic burnout. Get professional help for her. If you are unsure who can help, ask her pediatrician for recommendations.
5. Obsession with Body Image
How far would you have to scroll through the photos in her phone to find one that isn’t a selfie? This obsession with how she looks is cultural—fed to girls through TV, magazines, and social media. But as dads, it’s our job to show our daughters their value. We do that by encouraging her, listening to her thoughts, being present, and acknowledging her interests. We do it by communicating her worth. Science is on our side, as studies show that the more a dad does these things with his daughter, the more likely she is to create a positive self-image and won’t need likes on a selfie to feel good about herself.
Sound off: What advice would you give to a dad who’s dealing with a difficult teenage daughter?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your favorite way to spend time online?”