I am the oldest of three children and the only girl. Growing up, I never had to share a room, makeup, clothes, friends or deal with clashing hormones.
Now, I live in a house where I am the oldest of three females. My daughters borrow clothes, invade my personal space, try on my makeup, and want to hang out with my friends. But the most challenging thing about living with girls are the clashing hormones. Sometimes it feels like days of unceasing PMS as we dodge each others dirty looks, bursts of tears and temper tantrums.
One of the most important things I have learned about parenting girls is not letting them set the tone of the household. In most situations, they react rather than respond, a normal affliction of preteen and teen girls. Their emotions get the best of them, crowding out rational behavior. Tears well, voices escalate, and the gloves come off. I was stunned at how hard it was to refrain from reacting in the same manner. After all, I am an emotional creature too. If you shout at me, then I want to shout back. However, by mimicking their behavior, all I would be doing is acting like a teenager myself.
Here are some tips I’ve found to be effective when it comes to communicating with my daughters when emotions are running heavy:
- Learn to respond rather than react. In the moments when my girls are letting their emotions get the best of them, I take deep breaths, forcing myself to slow down. I wait until they are done talking, rather than try and talk over them, and then let a moment of silence fill the space between us before I speak. The first thing I try to do is repeat back to them what I think they were trying to say to me. Then, I state how I think they must be feeling and what they think they need to resolve the situation. The conversation might sound like this:
“What I hear you say is (blank). This is making you feel (blank). You believe that (blank) will make this situation better.”
After I have been able to establish exactly what the problem is, then I can try and resolve it. Sometimes I agree with what they are asking of me; other times I don’t agree but don’t see the harm in trying to resolve the situation by the means they have asked. Then there are definitely times that I don’t agree at all and have to stand firm on my parental decisions. But at least if I acknowledge what they are saying and feeling first, they know that I am listening and are more likely to engage in a discussion rather than an argument.
- Sometimes leaving the room is the best response. There are times that the conversation has just become too heated and I know I will not be able to control my temper effectively. I’ve learned that leaving the room, retreating to my bedroom and shutting the door is the most effective response. It isn’t running away — it’s keeping the conversation on my terms, and letting them know that I will not tolerate anyone bullying me, especially not my children.
“When you are ready to talk to me, rather than shout at me, then we can continue this conversation.”
How we respond in tense situations with our children will effect how they respond to others, especially as adults. It’s important to model behavior that will help them be better communicators, learn self-control, and still respect others.