Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mothering Teen Daughters

In her book Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Dr Christiane Northrup talks about The School of Friendship or how adolescent girls manage their emotions.

It seems like the minefield of high school and nastiness from girlfriends can make being a teenaged girl feel like being a contestant on Survivor. Am I going to be voted out today, or can I still play the game?

Northrup suggests that brain development and hormonal changes bring up "raw uncensored emotions" like anger or hostility. There is no difference between what an adult feels and an adolescent, it's just that they haven't learned to censor them yet or cover them up with food, alcohol or marijuana. Unacceptable feelings also get hidden in the body and come up as illness.

"Adolescence is a small window in time in which an entire peer group -- all of whom are going through huge physical and emotional changes at slightly different rates-- is thrown together in school to learn the social and vocational skills they will be applying throughout their lives. This process started in childhood, of course. But now, the addition of hormonal urges and sexuality make things much more intense. (just like animals in the wild, they pick on people who are different, through herd behavior). "some of it, however, is attributable to the culture we live in."

"I believe adolescent female nastiness is a natural consequence of growing up in a patriarchal society in which a girl's needs for self-development have not been taken seriously until fairly recently. In hierarchical social structures like patriarchy, it has been observed that those with the lowest status tend to fight amongst themselves for the attention of those who have more power than they do. Alice Walker once remarked that the slaveowners knew very well how to keep the slaves in their places -- just keep them fighting amongst themselves. ...Likewise, if we as mothers and women continue to believe that adolescent girls are just naturally nasty, moody and difficult, then we cannot be of much help to them as they negotiate this critical entrance into the adult world of expanded self-expression and creativity."

(and if we haven't worked on our own stuff, how can we guide them past the places where they get stuck?)

Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Dr. Christiane Northrup

Maybe we shouldn't pressure our daughters to be 'nice' all the time. Maybe the indirect back-stabbing and gossipping comes from not being encouraged to speak up. Maybe we should teach our daughters to name this behavior: shunning girls who don't fit in, making fun of girls with the 'wrong' clothing or hairdo's, talking behind girls' backs, etc. Stop the hurtful behaviour one girl at a time, one mother at a time. "That's how a culture changes." (adapted from Northrup's chapter on friendship)

See Northrup's book for some tips on how to help your daughter negotiate girlfighting (validate your daughter's experience; update your own views; point out the real motivation behind the Queen bees of the world; accept your daughter's humanity and that you may not be able to remove the influence of the queen; don't allow your daughter to take it out on you; keep talking and keep your ear to the ground; be her mother, not her best friend; acknowledge and support your daughter's innate ability to deal with her own life).

So, mothers and daughters, express yourselves with love and joy. Speak up and be willing to grow wise.

this wisdom for mothers book is a real treasure, and too lengthy to quote more from,
so I recommend you read it for yourself,



bella said...

I do not have a daughter, meaning I will not have a teenage daughter.
But these words are powerful, needing to be heard by EVERYONE.

Greg said...

I am a New York Times bestselling author working on a new book about mother-daughter relationships and thought you might want to contribute. Please visit my page for details about submitting stories for Mom's Little Angel.

Gregory E. Lang
Author, “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad”