Responding to her emotional ups and downs

I haven’t met a parent yet who isn’t trying their hardest to be effective at dealing with their teen daughter.  These years can be quite wearisome and what used to work when she was 8 no longer is effective at 14 and then that is no longer effective at 18.

Parenting her during the teen years requires a lot of adaption and flexibility, which isn’t always easy, especially if you struggle with change.

Harvey & Rathbone do an excellent job in their book Parenting a Teen Who Has Intense Emotions describing effective parenting, especially during the emotional ups and downs.

“Effective parenting means doing what works to accomplish your goals, both in the short run and the long run.  It’s not necessarily what might be fair or what you think “should” work based on your past experiences or beliefs.”

Effective parenting requires you to…

1.     Remain calm in the midst of her emotional outbursts

2.     Understand & acknowledge her in the context of her life and experiences

3.     Implement strategies that will de-escalate situations, prioritize what you will respond to and respond with insight & understanding

Effective parenting begins with your mental state and how you are handling your own self in whatever the situation is with your daughter.

There are 3 states of mind that we all tend to operate from and once we understand them better we can make choices in our words and actions that create more effective outcomes.

Emotional Mind – the Reactor

This mental state is all about emotion.  When emotions run high, typically all logic and reason is out the window.  You find that trying to reason with her during this mental state is highly ineffective and even for yourself if you are super emotional she may try and reason with you unsuccessfully.

This state causes both her and you to not solve problems, have difficulty thinking clearly and not able to plan.

Note: most teen girls operate from this mental state, most of the time.  Part of that is brain development.  Her emotions are really beginning to fire and she doesn’t have the advanced reasoning skills developed yet.  This will change as she ages but DO NOT expect a 14 year to be great at logic and reason.

Rational Mind – the Explainer

This mental state is all about logic and reason.  Facts rule and emotions are not considered.  Dad’s tend to operate from this state frequently.  When you or she is in this state of mind the emotions of the other person will not make sense and probably be viewed as annoying because this mindset cause such focus on details & specifics.

Lectures and proving points tend to be the norm in this mental state.  Parents easily fall into this and girls will often shut down and ignore because they are trapped in their emotional mind.

There are girls however that are more logic and reason oriented and struggle to understand the emotional aspect of a situation.  You may notice this when she is dealing with relationship problems and she spends too much time trying to prove her “rightness”.

Wise Mind – the Responder

This is the ideal mental state to achieve.  This mindset takes into account the bigger picture, the goals to accomplish and what is really going to be effective.  It meshes both rational and emotional mental states to come up with responses that will help you move forward.

You have more control in this mental state and the conflict will resolve much more quickly.  This is much harder for her to get to because her brain just isn't there yet.  You should see her increase in this over the teen years and early 20's.  Her prefrontal cortex is in major development mode and it is required to do this mindset well. 

This mindset will fall on the responsibility of mom and dad.

According to Harney & Rathbone you will know you are in this mental state when you…

1.     Recognize that your daughter is reacting emotionally

2.     Stand back and do not lecture

3.     Listen to what she is saying and do not judge it

4.     Remain calm and acknowledge her point of view

5.     Respond in a way that helps you meet your goals

I know… this sounds like a lot of work and frankly, it is.  It will be much more difficult for you then her but you are modeling effective ways of communicating and in the long-term it will pay off for both of you..

How many times has she had a meltdown and you go into lecture mode and then she gets more upset and then it goes on and on maybe even for hours until finally you explode and then nothing ever gets resolved?

If you can pay more attention to your mental state and recognize how it is effecting or not helping, you will improve the relationship and communication with your daughter.  If not you will continue in the typical patterns of parents and daughters during the teen years.  With a little practice you might just be shocked at much it can help!