As a concerned observer of your daughters' peer group, you also need to keep an eye out for bullying. Preteen and teenage girls can be extraordinarily mean to one another. If you start seeing or hearing evidence of your daughter developing and participating in mean behaviors, make a mental note and talk with her about this as soon as you have a moment alone. This kind of behavior is not only hurtful, but easily escalates as packs of girls often feed off of one another. When you confront your daughter with what you've seen or heard, make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that being mean to anyone is unacceptable and that she must knock it off immediately. She'll protest and tell you you're blowing things out of proportion, and she may even call you a psycho, but that's okay. Tough it out and don't let her get the better of you. Remind her that depending on how the wind is blowing, she might be at the center of the next attack—becoming the bullied rather than the bully. Don't belabor your point, however, and if you feel you didn't succeed, change the subject and try again later.
And remember, you can communicate with your daughter in many ways other than conversation—emails and texts are the new walkie-talkies. Even the old-fashioned note can work. I remember many times when I used a red marker, white paper and tape to convey important messages to my daughter.
But one of the best nonverbal ways to communicate your message is by example. How do you talk about others and negotiate relationships? Those of us who are critical, competitive, quick to blame others and frequently in conflict with friends influence our daughters' behavior accordingly. In contrast, those who give people the benefit of the doubt, have good compromising skills and listen to all the evidence before making final decisions exemplify good citizenship skills from which daughters will benefit.
Our primary job as parents is to raise responsible, independent adults who are compassionate, civilized and caring. This can only happen if parents set the right example and step in to take an active, guiding role when they hear, see or feel something that isn't right. You might get spat on at first, but the rewards will be worth it in the long run when your daughter says please and thank you to everyone, including you.
Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in the OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year-old daughter. Evelyn speaks all over the nation on topics related to women's health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn't Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.
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