Affection and Kindness
No parent wants his or her girl to be a mean girl. Parents want their girl to grow up understanding that kindness to all is key, and that affection, used properly, is never something to shy away from or hide. In the teen years, all that can be difficult to make work, at least to the outside world.
Be Kind to Friends (and Family)
It's such a simple thing to say, and yet many people often find it complicated to do. Be kind. How many times have you said it as your daughter grew? When she was in those toddler years and wanted to grab a toy from another playmate, you drove home the message: don't be mean.
As she worked her way through the early school years, you reinforced it with songs about kindness, stories about what happens when someone is mean, and examples of how she can show her kindness to others.
You clucked your tongue at older girls you saw being mean to others, and particularly those who lashed out at their mothers. You may have even seen a teen girl talk in a mean voice to her parent and thought, “I'm glad I didn't raise my daughter that way!”
Is it possible for a teen girl to avoid ever being mean?
Probably not. Think about your own life: you snap at times. Teens have more pressure on them and will snap. But learning to make good is as important as trying to be kind. Don't expect perfection, but do expect remorse.
It seems easy to say that kindness should begin at home, but with adolescent girls, home can be the toughest place to be kind. The girl who long played nicely with her siblings and cuddled up to Mom and Dad in the evening suddenly begins lashing out at you. In a way, consider it a compliment.
Girls at this age have a lot of pent up stress and anger. They need to find a place they can channel it where they know they are safe. You, dear parent (who she knows deep down will love her through eternity for better or worse), might just be the safest place to vent that anger. But does that make it okay? No. But at least know as it is happening, it is because she loves you.
While you can understand why your child is lashing out at you and at siblings, you cannot simply allow it to become part of life. Don't lash back, but do find a way to show your daughter that she needs to treat everyone — even those who will forgive her quickly — with kindness. When she lashes out, ask her to go to her room or a quiet place and calm down. If she continues, remove yourself (or the sibling) from the situation. And when she is finally calm, talk it through and ask her to apologize. Make her understand her lack of kindness hurt.
And show her that apology — and the other person's willingness to forgive — is an important part of kindness. When she does get the nerve to say sorry, your instant acceptance will be a valuable lesson that wounds can be healed and that wrongs can be made right, all in the name of kindness and character.
Check your own temper when a child lashes out at you. Yelling back will only teach her to yell more. Stay calm, and if you cannot, remove yourself from the situation until you can.
Be Kind to Strangers
Everyone wants her child to be open, friendly, and kind. But things can get in the way. Shyness is one of them, as well as exclusionary behavior learned by friends and even family. How do you get your child to be open to others and still keep to herself as much as she'd like?
For shy girls, this can be a huge challenge. Shyness is often misinterpreted as snobbery. A child who is shy may have trouble even saying “hello” to someone she does not know. Let's say you are at the store with your young, shy daughter. You bump into a friend you know who has not met your child before. You introduce them, and your daughter turns her head the other way, avoiding saying “hello” and even making eye contact.
In your heart, you feel for her shy self. But the best thing you can do is encourage her, from a young age, to work past her shyness and give back at least the minimum acceptable response. In this case, a simple “Hello, nice to meet you,” would do. Sure, she's not going to chat on and on, but she's shown a simple kindness.
Extreme shyness can be pathological. If you notice your child is completely unable to interact with others, talk to her health care provider about possible surrounding issues. There may be an underlying physical or emotional issue at work here.
But what if your daughter, as she grows, just seems to be a snob of sorts? It can happen. First, you need to look at your own patterning. Do you socialize exclusively with one crowd and really have no use for others outside of that crowd? If you are, don't think your child does not notice. Do you tend to socialize with people who live in the same type of houses as you or have the same background? Again, you are patterning for your child.
Girls can fall into cliques from an early age (some kindergarten teachers have even noticed them forming at that stage and worked to break them up). The more you can teach your daughter to be kind to all and accept all kinds of friendship possibilities, the better a character you are helping her to form.
You must intervene when you witness your child committing unkind acts. Consider any mean or cruel act as a punishable offense and don't let it slip by. Not only will you teach your child to act better, you may teach her to stand up when others act badly as well.
Ask your teen to consider this: even if she does not make someone her best friend, there is no reason not to be kind to another person. Ask her to think about what she feels when she sees friends being mean to others. Sure, she'll say she wants to avoid being the one under attack — but why? If she can understand that unkind acts are truly hurtful to others (the same, truly, as reaching out and slapping someone), perhaps she can learn not to take part in them.
The rare teen girl will adopt this to the point of sticking up for others. That is true character. At no age is acceptance by “cool kids” more vital than during these years. If your child can see past that and choose simply to be kind, you're on your way to success.
Showing Appropriate Affection
Remember when hugs weren't at a premium? In fact, restraint in this area is not exactly a bad thing. You really don't want a teen girl walking around hugging everyone she sees. But still, you think, does she have to stiffen up like a board every time someone who cares about her shows any kind of affection? Here, the old adage is so true: children live what they learn. Are you not really an outwardly affectionate person? Do you dislike that about yourself?
Your teen child offers you a chance to change that. You might want to initiate a conversation. (“Have you ever noticed how John's family always hugs one another hello and goodbye? I always wished my parents would do that” could be a good start.) Talk to her about how a light touch can make all the difference with someone, and how, if she can learn to show true affection in proper and positive ways, she'll be able to show friendship, compassion, and care more than most others.