Dear Father of a Teenage Daughter,
You love your kids and would do anything for them. That should be enough, right?
Wrong! You don’t fucking know what you are up against! A teenage girl’s psyche is random and bitchy. They can’t help it, so you need to help yourself. If you won’t listen to your wife, listen to me. I was raised by a single father, so I have had some world-class training in being a bitchy teenage daughter. I was good at it. Some of my most committed roles were in my teens. Award-winning stuff. Oh, if only there had been smartphones to film it all.
You need to know that without some serious support, you are fucked. I can’t sugar-coat it. You need a slap across the face on this one.
Your daughter is closer to being a woman than you will care to admit, and there are some new rules to parenting that will ensure you don’t fuck up your whole family dynamic and alienate your daughter during this stressful time. I’m not an expert. I am only just surviving a teenage daughter myself and I have banged my head against the wall my fair share of times. To be fair, most of those times it has been because I saw someone else in our house falling into the trap and it was too late to intervene (you know who you are…).
In the interest of raising a generation of girls who are empowered to be fabulous women, I wanted to reach out to those fathers who are sliding down the rabbit hole.
Save yourselves while there is still time.
Rule #1: Shut the fuck up.
It is not a coincidence this is Rule #1. It is the most important. You may know how to solve your daughter’s problem, but she doesn’t think you do. She doesn’t care if you’ve run into this before or if you can see the end to her troubles. She needs to wallow in it a bit. Circle it around in her brain and maybe even have a good cry. She will solve it herself and be proud of it. This will confirm that you don’t know what you are fucking talking about and that is OK. She solved it. Move on.
Rule #2: You don’t know anything.
Remember that she truly believes that both parents know very little, but daddy knows nothing at all about her problems. This doesn’t last forever, so accept it now for maximum benefit.
Rule #3: Reinforcements are nearby.
You may think your wife is far from remembering what it’s like to be a teenage girl. On the calendar, maybe she is. Every mother I know forgets why they are standing in the canned goods isle on occasion, but, I can assure you, they haven’t fully forgotten what it’s like to be a teenage girl.
I remember my dad trying to pour me a cup of tea (how dare he?). I remember being told to get off the phone (how dare he?). I remember when my dad tried to solve my problems or tell me what I wanted for dinner, who I should hang out with or what I should ask for for Christmas (how dare he?). The woman in your life is your biggest ally. She will know what to do on more occasions than not, and you should not be afraid to step aside and let the pro deal with the devil (see Rule #1 when reinforcements are not around).
Rule #4: Avoid, avoid, avoid.
If a foul mood is afoot do not, I repeat NOT, hug, kiss or otherwise touch your daughter. Do not ask what is wrong. This too shall pass. She will get over what is bugging her and move on in due course. You have to avoid it now before her problem becomes yours. Any physical sign of empathy will only delay the outcome and provoke yelling, tears, storming off and bad feelings. To be clear, I am talking about your yelling, tears, storming off and bad feelings – not hers.
She can be tough as nails when she sees weakness. Trust me. That maniacal laugh you hear coming from her room is not YouTube.
Rule #5: Never discuss the following with your daughter unless you have backup:
:: Boys. Discussion of boys is always off limits even with a competent female adult nearby. If she approaches you on the subject, it’s a trap. You should contact reinforcements, stat.
:: Friends. Do not discuss who her friends are, what they like, and when she is going to see them next, because it sounds pedo creepy. “When are you going to see that nice girl again?” Say it out loud several times and you will understand.
:: Her appearance. This is really important. Any small criticism of appearance can leave lasting scars. Even compliments can be viewed as criticisms too, so tread lightly. You can say how beautiful she looks but not how grown up she looks. This is really her rule, trust me on this. If she is wearing something that makes her look like a hussy, proceed cautiously, and ask her to wait a minute while you fetch backup. Saying she needs any sort of hygiene will only move her further from the water. As soon as she is interested in boys, don’t worry, she will not need a reminder to hit the showers.
Rule #6: Do not tell her to get off her phone just because you are annoyed by it.
Her phone is her connection. Her friends will help your daughter when you can’t or when she won’t let you. You and your wife are no longer her number one and number two influencers and the sooner you get that, the sooner you can understand. Don’t get me wrong, those bitches her friends will be the source of many problems, but you have given your daughter the tools to get through those. If you take away her phone, you will alienate her. Might as well add a hundred to the therapy jar each time you try.
Rule #7: Love.
These rules are not to imply you give your daughter the power in the house. In fact, the opposite. You and your wife must still maintain the power to parent and tell your daughter she can’t date, smoke, drink, drive, go out until her homework is done, cop an attitude and more. In order for your daughter to respect the No’s when they come up though, she needs to know you trust her judgment when the little things arise and that you always love her unconditionally – greasy hair and all. You are not giving her the power; you are empowering her.
I’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating. This too shall pass. She is growing so fast and learning so much about herself and the world. It’s an exciting time for parents to watch their babies get boobs blossom into adults. She will get through this. You all will. By loving and supporting her, and, for fuck’s sake shutting up, she will turn out just right and you will avoid thousands in therapy.
Oh, and here’s the kicker. The above applies to conversations with your wife as well. You. Are. Welcome.
A mother in the trenches herself.