Talking to Our Daughters: Tips From a Mother Who's Been There

Family Matters on 06.10.11
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When I first found out that I was having a girl, I was ecstatic. A daughter! What could be better? So many things went through my mind: shopping for the cute clothes, going for mani/pedi dates together, and introducing her to every sport possible and seeing which one(s) stuck. Then, a little cloud started edging toward all that sunshine and rainbows: the teen years.

Let's just say that I was not the easiest teenager. How do I put this nicely? I was, ahem, rebellious. I fought -- and I fought hard. This usually consisted of screaming, storming out of the house, slamming doors, and believing that life, in general, was just so unfair. Unfortunately, this usually was directed at my mother, although my stepmother and father got their fair share, too. And, for the most part, all three of them kept their cool pretty well.

Now that I have my own child, I am blown away at my parents' ability to remain calm during those temper-tantrum days. My daughter, not yet one, has decided that getting her diaper changed is oh-so-boring, and she will no longer remain on her back until the job is done. She immediately flips over to her stomach, pops up on her hands and knees, and tries to take off over the side of the changing table. I tell her, "Just let me finish changing  your diaper, then you can get down and play, play, play!" Of course, I know it's impossible to reason with a child so young -- just like it's impossible to reason with an unruly teenage girl. It makes me think about what I have coming to me. Karma, my mom likes to tell me.

There may be help on the horizon. I was scanning CNN.com this morning when I came across an article about Darlene Brock, a former COO of a recording company and mother to two daughters. Brock recently published a book entitled Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughters. In it, she details her own struggles with her girls and outlines lessons on good communication with your own daughter. Her advice is fairly straightforward: stay calm, listen, and tell her, always, that you believe in her. This is sound advice from a mother who's been there -- twice. And her delivery is funny, sincere, and direct. Here's a sample of her work showing her realistic view of raising girls:

As a mother it is your place to defuse, not to ignite. In the world of females there is a wonderful trait we each possess: That quality is called tenacity. So when we engage with our daughters, we find that characteristic at work. We ask, they respond, we respond, they respond, we react, they react and on and on, with both mother and daughter determined to have the last word.

Mom, you've got to keep your "feminine side" under control. State your position in a reasoned and controlled way, on expectations and consequences. Then the tenacity you must employ is to stick to it without igniting a firestorm.

There will be days you just have to end the confrontation by declaring that each of you will go to your separate corners. I would enter mine, which was usually my bedroom, and stick my head in my pillow. This was to effectively muffle the muted screams of a frustrated mom. After emotionally declaring every word that I wanted to say to my daughter into that bundle of polyester stuffing, I would gather my wits.

Leaving my room with my calm and controlled face I re-entered the arena to successfully complete the conversation.

Sounds like my kind of book by my kind of woman. And one that I'll need to read several times before we hit the tumultuous teen years. So, please excuse me while hop online to order my copy.

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