Archive for April, 2014

My Daughter is Mean

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sometimes a mom will arrive in my office quite distressed and embarrassed by her daughter who has “no filter.” This might be the girl who is aggressive on and off the soccer field. Or, the one who says “who cares?” when her peer shares something dear to her heart.  She may be the child who shuts down and sneers at her mom or anyone else who gets on her nerves.  This can be embarrassing and as a parent you might feel as if you have to go around cleaning up her every social faux pas.  When it comes to “what are little girls made of,” it may not be “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  How does this happen? Is it the parents’ fault? Can something be done about it?

The challenge parents face when they try to turn sour to sweet is this. The child who is bossy or blunt and often harsh or rude may also be, paradoxically, anxious and socially awkward as well as sensitive. She may know very well that the wrong words come out of her mouth, and she may feel she has little control over it.  Many human beings with this kind of impulsivity or lack of social sensitivity try to become comical in an effort to buffer their abrasive nature. Others shut down and claim to “not care.”  Most are acutely aware when parents disapprove, making frequent comments and/or lecturing about manners to no avail.

Lessons and growth do not always come from the parent. Yes, you can make a brief non sarcastic comment or observation as long as you do not do this incessantly. Something like, “when you said ‘shut up’ to your friend in the car riding home, you likely hurt her feelings,” or “saying ‘shut up’ when you are feeling annoyed or impatient may not going to result in sustained friendship for you.”

When you drop observations ever so briefly to avoid obnoxious lecture-mode parenting, say more! What can she do if she actually puts the brakes on her mind and mouth?   “So, when you feel your friend is being ignorant, you could be quiet,  just go somewhere else in your head or you could change the subject.”  Then it is time for you, as the parent, to change the subject and move on. I call this “drop, download then depart.”  The point is to hold up the mirror and allow space for your daughter to reflect and catch the download.  To keep talking is to risk dismissal. Then all your daughter is at risk for hearing is your disappointment rather than the lesson. Challenging but more powerful.

Notice that in my example the mom does not personalize, meaning, she does not say “what I suggest you do…”  Danger!  To parent in accordance to your opinions and wisdom means your child has to be you or imbibe your wisdom rather than feeling empowered to catch her own flaws and find a way to become better, thereby owning it as her own correction.

Your job is to observe, acknowledge damage done in a poignant manner without much drama or insult. Touch down with your comment, stated objectively without tone, and carry on!  This leaves the ball in her court and it’s then time for her to wrestle with her social challenge.  Your a guiding post and always  her guardian angel who has her back.