Raising Teen Girls
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Insights into the mental health and well-being of teen girls...

The bully in her head

Worthless    Stupid    Fake   Never good enough   Dumb   A total mess-up  

Can never get it right   Always makes mistakes   Ugly   Fat

 

These words have so much power.  These words tear down, break down and depress teen girls.  Unfortunately they are more common then you would like to know.

She often won’t say them out loud or to you but they sit and wait for the right opportunity to start yelling.  They get louder and louder, overwhelming at times.  When it finally comes out you see the anger, behavior problems, resistance, defiance, arguing as a result. 

OR she goes deep inside and takes it out on herself, pushing herself hard, striving for perfection, harming herself, abusing herself.

This is what the inner bully does to her.  Many teen girls are struggling with her The critical voice that corrects and critiques everything she does.  When I talk with girls about that voice most admit it fuels so much of the chaos that is happening inside.  It almost always fuels depression.

We talk about what her life would look like if that voice was an actual person.  Would she punch her?  Would she run away from her?  She would definitely try to avoid her.  But how does that happen if the bully is in her head?

I ask when the bully first showed up and often it starts in middle school.  Life changes so much in middle school.  7th grade especially brings on new challenges and comparing herself to others begins to rule.  How do I measure up?

How family affects the voice

Around this time her relationship with you is also changing and you are most likely getting a lot more attitude and mood swings.  This is all very normal but it’s very not-normal to her or you.  She will act out and lash out.  How you respond matters.  Your words have so much influence at this age.

Appearance

She will over analyze every word you say so be careful!  Girls have told me that her parents began making comments about her weight or body changes and those sink deep into her spirit leaving a negative impression that she still struggles to overcome years later.  Parent’s intentions are not usually to do harm but unfortunately just pointing out the obvious can sometimes do a lot of damage.

If she is gaining weight, beware of your own beliefs about weight and beauty.  Only discuss it with her if she brings it up.  Create an environment that allows her to come and talk to you about it.  She will when she is ready.  Too often parents jump in and say something about it out of fear and it just makes it worse and hurts your relationship.

Actions

She is going to make dumb, poor decisions.  Times when you think an alien has abducted and taken over.  You will shake your head and wonder “what the heck?”  Girls repeatedly tell me that they HATE when mom and dad bring up what she did over and over again. 

They will say “why can’t my parents see that I am beating myself up over this?”  “They keep talking about it and all it does is remind me of how awful I am”.  “My mom asks me about it every morning and it just makes me angry and ruins the day.”

When she messes up it’s OK to bring it up but once its discussed refrain from bringing it up again unless there is another similar incident.  Even then it’s all about your approach. 

Beware of responding to her emotion.  Out of embarrassment and shame, girls will often lash out.  Keeping your own emotions calmer try to listen for it and communicate to her that she made a mistake, she isn’t a mistake.  This is what she is really thinking.  “My parents think I’m a screw up so I must be a screw up”. 

Families play a role in the development of her inner bully.  If you are always focusing on her negatives she will eventually do the same to herself and others.  Begin paying more attention to what you are reminding her of on a daily basis.  If you notice you tend to focus on the negative begin working hard to highlight positives, no matter how small.  Speak them to her. 

Notice if grandma, dad, grandpa or other family members do the same.  You may need to confront them about their words.  My experience is that people often have good intentions or they are oblivious and say things that really don’t need to be stated.  Often it’s an opinion that wasn’t asked for.

Compassion

The critical voice is difficult to quiet once it develops.  I’m not sure anyone is immune to it but there are ways to deal with it.  Self-compassion is the best tool.  I encourage girls to think about what they would say to a friend in the same situation and learn to talk to herself in that way.  They usually can make the connection but recognize it’s very hard to change that internal dialogue. 

Contrary to what you might think, criticism is not motivating.  She needs to be reminded of this.  Compassion teaches gentleness and kindness as a way to motivate.  The same gentleness and kindness you want her to have towards her family or others, you want her to have towards herself.

Raising a teen girl is hard!  There is a lot to pay attention to and the words you speak are so important.  You don't have to do it alone.  RTG wants to help!

We have several mom coaching groups starting in the fall and would love to have you join us.  We deal with common problems and ways to solve them. Check out our next offerings...