20 Ways Not to Talk to Your Teenage Daughter – Then How to Fix Things

by Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.

Oh Our Teenage Daughters!!

Teenage girls are sensitive to the way people in authority talk to them, especially their mothers.
They are easily wounded, feel criticized, and vulnerable when they sense or get outright disapproval. However, even the most devoted mothers are only trying to shape them up to be young women and don’t understand their sensitive narcissism.

20 Sentences to Avoid When Mothers Talk to Their Daughters

1. “You are such a disappointment.”
2. “Don’t you ever listen?”
3. “Fix your hair.”
4. “Are you really going to wear that?”
5. “Who were you on the phone with?”
6. “When are you going to talk to that teacher?”
7. “Get it together.”
8. “That’s a terrible habit. Stop biting your nails.”
9. “Give it up. Just apologize!”
10. “You’re too sensitive.”
11. “Mothers are people, too.”
12. “Clean your room.”
13. “Finish your college essays.”
14. “Let me read your college essays.”
15. “Watch what you eat.”
16. “Play with your brother.”
17. “Keep your hands off your face.”
18. “Don’t you ever think?”
19. “Now you’ve done it.”
20. “It’s really for your own good.”

Why Your Daughter Keeps Her Distance

The likelihood that your daughter keeps her distance when she hears such remarks on a scale of 1-10 is sadly 10. She’s sure you don’t understand her, don’t really care, think only how you want her to look for your friends, think she’s not a good enough of a person, and deep down disapprove of her in general, nevertheless, as a growing young woman. Hopefully, not all of that—but probably some of that.

What’s a caring mother to do?

On the other hand, to your surprise, if she could spell it out, she loves you deeply, wants desperately to be liked and loved by you, wants your approval above everyone else’s and needs you to know her as she really is as of right now in her tumultuous life.

Rules and restrictions that are intended to keep her safe only make her feel alienated and judged like she doesn’t have a decent mind of her own, can’t make sensible judgments, and is a basic loser. Punishments make her avoid you, escalate not listening to you because you just become a misinterpreting authority who doesn’t get it.

Because deep down she has at least one if not all of the following three big fears:
• being seen as failure
• being rejected
• being abandoned and unloved

The Remedy—Use Parental Intelligence

  1. Step Backwhen you see a behavior that is puzzling, disarming, and distressing. That means pause, wait, don’t react, even say nothing and just observe. See how often it occurs and keep track in your mind if you see a pattern. This outward calm may have a good effect because your daughter doesn’t feel judged because you’re not judging her. You’re just paying attention quietly. How can you judge what you don’t understand yet?
    2. Self-Reflect which means monitor your own feelings and reactions. Look inward to your own mind instead of just focusing on your daughter. Are you scared, worried, angry, confused? If you are there’s a good chance, your daughter is too. Does she remind you of yourself when you were her age? Does she or do you remind you of your mother? Just think this through. Remember—no reacting yet.
  2. Understand Your Daughter’s Mindby beginning to listen carefully without judgment to whatever she mentions. You might hear her criticize a friend, admit to a lowered grade, tell you about a secret boyfriend, come in past curfew. Hang out and listen, listen, listen without punishments or criticisms. Be a sounding board, not a know-it-all.

You are becoming a “Meaning-Maker.” Her behaviors are turning into words and they are starting to mean something. In fact, you’ve shifted your focus from her external actions to her internal world. Bravo! Now you’re the mother she can trust and confide in.

  1. Understand Your Daughter’s Developmentby realizing how much she’s changed in a year or a month! Notice if she’s moody or has settled down. Don’t comment, just be sensitive.
  2. Problem Solvethe real problems, not the external stuff like messy rooms and curfews and homework. By now, you’ve gotten to know the real girl who used to avoid you and feel all alone. She’s your girl again. The one who used to talk to you when she was ten. She no longer feels judged so she can tell you the overarching problems like her self-esteem, her fears of rejection, her need to be loved and maybe even held once in a while.

Each teenage girl is actually different. They all go through stages in their own specific and unique ways and need to know you know that. Being different is good. Who needs ordinary and acceptable? Don’t you wish somebody knew that when you were a teen?


Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy. She has been on the faculties of New York University and the Society for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, among others. She has written extensively on parenting for various publications, including the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation, The Inner World of the Mother, Newsday’s Parents & Children Magazine, Long Island Parent. She writes her popular column, PARENTAL INTELLIGENCE, at Moms Magazine and blogs for Huffington Post. Her new book is Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior.