When our babies are born, we make all decisions for their health and welfare. We decide on what they will wear, what they will eat and everything in between. When they start to walk and talk, they start to demonstrate their freedom to move and their expanding curiosity. We watch them closely as they test the waters of independence.
My daughter was about 4 or 5 years old when she started making decisions about what to wear and it was all based on the shoes she wanted to wear. If I selected her clothes before hand, she learned how to choose her shoes based on the colors or the style of the clothes. That was a harmless decision for her to make.
As she got older, she made more decisions about what worked for her and what made her feel good. By gradually increasing your level of trust (letting go), your daughter increases her decision-making skills (becomes responsible). By increasing her decision-making powers with her increasing age, she learns to make responsible decisions based on the probable outcome.
As your daughter gets older, talk with her – not at her. By this I mean, ask questions. Ask questions that require an answer more in depth than yes or no. Rather than asking, “How was your day at school?” Try this; “Tell me something about your day.” Or “Tell me about an event or lesson from today that you will remember and why.”
An important piece when asking the question is listening to the answer. Have you ever had someone ask about your well-being and not wait for the answer? How did that make you feel? Don’t make your daughter feel that her words, feelings or thoughts are not important enough to get your undivided attention. The most important piece is to listen without judgment.
Be flexible. I had a client who was flexible with friends, lovers and even strangers but never flexible with her daughter. Her mantra was, I don’t want her to be like me and I don’t want her to go through what I went through. So she stifled her daughter’s growth. She would not allow her to grow into her own greatness. I pointed out how wonderful Mom had turned out. I reminded her of the beauty in her world and her successes. After further discussions she realized that she might not be this awesome without those lessons learned.
Another option is to talk with other parents of teens. Those parents are probably feeling the same things you are. They have been or are going through the same growing pains that you have or will experience. They may be able to make the transition from pre-teen to adulthood easier for you, which in turn make it easier for your daughter. I can remember telling friends with younger daughters to prepare for the years 14 – 18. During this time I did not know who this child was. The beauty of it all is that at 19 years old, I got my angel back and life is nice again.
Enjoy the formative years with your daughter by allowing her to grow into the woman that she will be proud to become. When she is able to share and grow in safety with you, she is better able to share and grow with the world.
Happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road.