Q. What’s wrong with my daughter? She has book sense but no common sense. She is 18, attends college and works part time. She harps on little things and continues for hours or even days arguing with me on the same minor issue. She never thinks she’s at fault and often thinks no one loves her. She argues with her boyfriend in the same way she argues with me. What’s her problem and how can I help her?
Parent-Teen Power Struggle: A Vicious Circle
You and your daughter are in a power struggle. A power struggle is, as it says, a struggle for power or control. The subject you argue about doesn’t matter. You’re both saying “I’m right” or “No, I’m right.” It takes two to argue; it takes two to have a power struggle.
When a power struggle continues over a period of years it affects everyone. All family members feel some anger, resentment, or hurt as a result of the unhappy dialogue that poisons the home. Behind a parent/teen power struggle is the healthy need on the part of the teen to be independent, to do things “my way,” to express his or her unique individuality. This bumps up against the parent’s role as guardian and the parent’s desire to teach and help the young person avoid problems or dangers.
Stopping the Vicious Circle
First you need to realize you are not to blame for the problem but you do contribute to it in the way you respond to your daughter. A power struggle is a vicious circle and this circle needs to be interrupted.
How to Change a Power Struggle
To stop the power struggle you will need to change the way you react or respond to your daughter.
1. Refuse to argue with her. Arguing doesn’t solve anything. Nor does it make a teen-ager listen. This may be difficult. You may have to bite your tongue. Back off when ever you realize you are arguing with her.
2. Learn to see things from her point of view. One technique which helps is to use mirroring. If your daughter says “I’ve had a bad day and I’m too tired to clean my room.” Respond by repeating (mirroring) this back to her, “You’ve had a bad day and you’re too tired to clean your room right now.” Saying this will help her feel understood.
3. Become a good listener. You might ask her to tell you more about her bad day. Most of us will open up when someone listens and accepts what we say without disagreeing, without dismissing our concern or pain, and without offering advice.
4. Don’t get drawn back into the struggle. Changing the way you respond to your daughter will not be easy. She will attempt to draw you back into arguments.
5. Focus on solutions. When she complains resist the urge to defend yourself. Ask her, “What do you wish would change?” Then listen.
6. Don’t overreact. Don’t tolerate disrespect – let her know it’s not acceptable – but don’t overreact to it either. Realize that she doesn’t have the life experience that you do. Therefore, her problems may seem minor to you yet be overwhelming to her. Similarly, your worries may be of no concern to her.
7. Focus on positives. Tell her what you are pleased with about her. Find ways to have fun together.
“It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32 NLT