Mothers & Daughters & how to survive them - FamilyEducation
Mothers & Daughters & how to survive them
09/22/2009 at 13:10 PM

I need help, I'm going out of my mind. I love my partner who is the mother of out two teenage daughters aged 15 & 16 years. Both the girls are behaving in typical teenage fashion. The older of the two is confrontational and opinionated and pushes every boundary, but at the same time has a heart of gold and shows flashes of maturity well beyond her years, whilst the younger daughter is deceitful, lies about her whereabouts and gets obsessed about older boys and cars. She is also subject to increasing amounts of rumours that she is taking drugs such as ecstacy. My partner is at her witts end and is struggling to cope, which often results in very ugly confrontations. I hate to see all the confrontation going on and I find myself wanting to put my arms around my daughters to reassure them and provide some guidence whilst acknowledgeing that my partner sees this as me taking sides against her and failing to provide a united front. What am I supposed to do, I love my daughters and I love my partner. I understand that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and that discipline has to be introduced when behaviour is unacceptable,  sometimes I feel that when there are heated confrontations it is difficult for me to accept what is said or done, even though I realise this is in the 'heat of the moment'. There are plenty of guides relating to difficult teenagers and mother/daughter relationship issues and indeed dad / daughter relationships. There are very few, if any, guides about what dads should do in situations where there is conflict between mothers & daughters and what dads should be doing to keep everything together. I find myself trying to be peacemaker and walking on eggshells. Will this period really be over at some point and my relationships still be intact ? 

Why not try to have some family meetings where you can all voice your opinions and make sure that you and your partner are consistent in your approach. It sounds like your two daughters are playing you off against each other. Something like good cop, bad cop. Make decisions at these meetings and stick to them. Rest assured that this period will be over probably quite soon. Take it from the mother of three grown up children and a son of 18. Keep smiling. There is an end to the constant conflict.


The tricky part of this is the united front.  I would prepare the ground a little.  First, show (and tell) your partner that she is your first priority.  Talk about how the conflict must be difficult for her.  Be sure to keep the power dynamic fair while you talk about what the two of you would like to address while talking to the girls. 

In my family, I tell the kids early on that I am done raising them when they are 14.  I make sure they understand the behaviors  that are expected in our home, and we have family meetings at least every month from the time they are little.  Then, when they are about 14, I expect them to be making choices that are healthy for them and wise.  I'll give input when it's really needed, but it's amazing that when you give the power to the children (and they are not stupid) then the power struggles are a very minimal part of what goes on.



before you attempt any kind of intervention between you... you need to sit down with their mother and have a conversation in which you both get to voice your frustrations, concerns and ideas.  the trick here is to keep it from getting personal, so ground rules for negotiation and conflict resolution are helpful.  first I suggest that you both make a list of the things that bother each of you and a list of those things you each see as, "not a problem." then compare the lists.  what this does is allow each of you to put into perspective the girls' behaviors and each of your responses to it.  as well, getting it down on paper, will keep it from festering and becoming a point of contention between you and your partner.  at this point, when you compare your lists, you will both have an idea of your individual and combined, expectations, tolerances and feelings so that you can make a conscienctious decision about those things that are most important to both of you as a unit, and how you are willing to handle them together,  providing a united front to the girls.  then you and your partner can let go of the less important issues allowing you to come together and stay together as a couple, who as that couple, and as individuals, has the girls best interest at heart. throughout this process, remain calm and focused.  then, when discussing the family plan with the girls, allow them to offer up their own input without you or their mother being overly emotional or judgmental.  consider the girl's imput but remember that you are the parents.  you do not need to modify your plan just because the girls offer something.  you can, however, if you and your partner feel the girls have something tangable to offer.  the end result of this process will be a list of those behaviors that you and your partner will tolerate, your expectations for compliance, and a clear outcome and consequence for violation.  be consistent and know that with teenagers it's often a crap shoot....but at least you and your partner will have each other upon which to lean.  good luck to you all.


The other thing is, if you are aware of rumors that the younger girl is using drugs, you need to check your gut to see if you believe deep down that she is innocent or using.  If you just know in your gut, and it's not wishful thinking, that she's clear, then just help her cope with the fact that people lie about people, for all those stupid reasons.  If you've got a gut feeling that she is using, I would insist on random urine tests, often.  Teenagers have way to much going on developmentally to waste the time in a drug-induced haze.  And, she could die.  It's just not worth the risk.  If you find she's using, well, you are on a long, complicated road. 


The other other thing is, and I put this on a different entry because it's a whole new can of worms

Have you considered marriage?  It's no guarantee, but sometimes just the sheer hassle of getting a divorce is enough to make you step back, take a deep breath, and work through problems, instead of stomping out and never coming back.  At least, it works that way for me.  And if I was your partner and we were dealing with my difficult daughters and life was purgatorial, and you said, while it was like that, you know, real, you said, " I want to be your husband for the rest of our lives,"  I'd believe you.   I'd cry.  It would be a real good thing.


Ok, so I have read all the responses and ready to give the family meeting idea a try. I have already suggested this and scheduled the meeting for tomorrow evening. The suggestion has been met with a very mixed response. I want the meeting to be constructive allowing everyone to vent their opinions and views, but fear it could turn out to be confrontational and therefore counter-productive. My idea for tomorrow is to try and narrow the issues so that we work together on listing our collective concerns and then set out an agenda for discussing these at a later meeting. Already my eldest daughter has become defensive and doesn't see that there is any point in meeting as it wont get us anywhere. I've told her, and the rest of the family, that I want our home to be a happy environment, where we recognise that although we will undoubtedly fight with each other we can also completely rely on each others support, no matter what. I have absolutely no idea how this thing is going to turn out but one things for sure, it will at least confront the issues, which has got to be better than them simmering away beneath the surface. The point that gail makes about considering marriage, is a fair one, but not relevant I feel. We have discussed marriage many times, but as we have both been divorced prior to meeting 18 years ago, neither of us have felt that our commitment to each other could be made any stronger by a marriage certificate. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow and hoping for the best.


good for you, Dad...not surprised that one of the girls is feeling defensive.  she may feel guilty about her behavior and is worried that all of this is all for her...ego centrism runs as deep in teenage girls as it does younger ones! unfortunately, unless you want to include a trusted someone else in your family's business, you end of  having to mediate this.  keep those rules for  negotiation and conflict resolution in mind.  the last thing you want is for this to become confrontational for anyone.  give that marriage thing another thought...eighteen years is a huge investment...a piece of paper seems a small price to pay for peace of mind.  let us know how it goes!


Fair enough about the marriage suggestion, consider it laid to rest in my mind.  (if it mattered;) 

If you check back before the meeting, I have another perhaps irrelevant suggestion, but you were so gracious about the last that I thought I'd offer it anyway.  Set a definite time for the meeting to start.  When the fateful hour arrives, say something, I don't know what exactly, but have everybody participate in a full minute of just being together silently.  It might help tune things up so they aren't so confrontational.  I am a believer in the power of silence.


Well, what can I say. The meeting has turned out to be a disaster. I scheduled it for 8pm but my eldest daughter didn't get home until 9.30pm. We knew she would want to avoid having to confront the 'issues' we wanted to raise. I insisted that the meeting went ahead even though it was late. We spent almost 2 hours where the mood ranged from hostile to defensive. We probably succeeded in getting the message across that we expected certain behaviour and that if the girls didn't meet those minimum standards then there would be consequences. I explained that I wanted them to consider 3 prime areas, trust, consideration & respect, which extended to themselves rather than just us as their parents. We listened to their views and explained why some we would agree with and others not. Our youngest daughter, surprisingly, was very constructive, whilst our older daughter just didn't want to play ball and ended up walking out of the session.

Today the elder daughter breached one of the conditions that we highlighted and as a consequence my partner took her mobile phone from her. This has led to violent conduct with household items damaged, before I got home from work. She has tried her best to get her mobile back off us but we have resisted as her behaviour has been totally unacceptable.
Not sure where this now leaves us. Perhaps it's a case of having to take 1 step back before taking any steps forward.

Something I learned in psychology classes.  When you are modifying a behavior it WILL get worse BEFORE it gets better.  Thus, your daughter's response may be viewed as progress:)

Read Heinlein's Starship Troopers.  One of the points made in there is that the Drill Sergeant or other officer has an obligation to protect the Private from a charge of assaulting an officer. 

The point I'm trying to make is that your daughter is going to push buttons and press the limits like never before.  BE READY, and be a sure boundary for her. 

Keep your cool.  Tell her you love her anyway, but she can't ____fill in the blank.   Or, tell her she can't ____, but you love her anyway. 



As I see it, you have succeed in a few areas.  You and your partner appear to have presented a united front. The girls had a chance to voice their opinions and you layed all your parent/partner cards on the table.  Your younger daughter was participant and  the elder daughter now has clear cut boundries and appropriate consequences in place should she cross those boundries.  Her response and the damage to the household items amounts to little more than a temper tantrum, an attempt to get you to give in to her.  Stay your ground, Man!  It will be difficult for a bit, but when she sees that she no longer controls the situation, her tantrums will subside.  Good for all of you!