Rather than viewing teenage girls challenging behaviors as negative, try to step back and view them as developing into being a young woman. Here are the developmental tasks they are working on.
Teenage Girls’ Developmental Tasks
- 1. Physical maturation
« Mood swings from hormonal changes which can cause them to act on impulse.
« Their bodies are suddenly out of control.
- Breasts, waistlines and hips going through many changes
- They spend a great deal of time on comparing themselves with their ideal, which usually comes from society, and their peers.
- 2. Finding her identity
« Important task of differentiating herself from you.
- Parents should hold back and allow her to express her own voice. Through her expression of her thoughts and feelings with you listening with interest, she will learn to know herself.
- She will experiment with fads, causes, trends, styles and different types of people.
- She will be hearing and watching your values and deciding which will become her own values.
« Her feeling of confusion and anger due to so many changes can often lead to the creation of cliques.
- Anger that is not allowed to be expressed to an empathetic and non-judgmental adult so she can sort it out, can be negatively directed to other girls in the form of cliques and isolation.
- She may loose her sense of individuality and gain comfort in a group identity.
- Insecurity in herself may lead to intolerance of others.
« With this insecurity comes a feeling of being extraordinarily sensitive to perceived criticism and rejection. Many times she is her worst critique. Parents would do well to hold back on criticism.
- Give her plenty of reassurance and unlimited support.
- 3. Becoming independent
« During this time, she feels the need to push you away to allow her to feel as if she were on her own.
« Don’t be fooled by “mind your own business”, or “Leave me alone.”
« You can learn how to avoid communication blocks and listen to her thoughts and feelings without judgment and criticism so she can feel your love and support.
« If she feels any criticism while she shares her struggle to figure out what she thinks, feels and values, she will close up.
« Know that your ability to support her moral development by allowing her to talk and self-evaluate will enable her to stay close to you instead of having to pull away.
« Since the female psyche values close relationship, you and your daughter can have many moments of close connection if you are able to listen with empathy rather than reacting with fear and criticism. Remember that talking about thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean she will do them. On the contrary, your listening will allow her to release hurt, frustration, fear which will enhance her intelligence leading her to make more positive choices.
“… girls struggle as their strong feelings come up against a relational impasse that shuts out their experiences or shuts down their loud voices, a wall of “should” in which approval is associated with their silence, love with selflessness, relationship with lack of conflict. Here their anger and strong feelings are associated with danger and disruption…girls are conscious and aware of this relational impasse, this move toward false, or idealized relationships – at least at age ten and eleven.”
Meeting at the Crossroads, Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development by Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan.
©2013 Cynthia Klein has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with dads, moms and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, webinars, and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the magazine Parenting on the Peninsula. Contact Cynthia at bridges 2 understanding, bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com or call 650. 341.0779.