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How to Cope with your Daughter’s Changing Personality

 

Mom: “Amy, you need to get up, you’re going to be late for school.”

Amy: “I’m not going to school.”

Mom: “Yes, you are. You have that math test today and you cannot be late!”

Amy (putting her blanket over her head): “I’m never going to school again!”

Susann Shier remembers the low point in her daughter’s early adolescence. The girl was a seventh grader and everything—every little thing—was a struggle.

She was terrified about puberty, about adolescence, about how to deal with life, basically. She was just completely out of whack. She finally got my attention and made it clear that she was just beside herself with not knowing what to do,” Shier recalls. “The way I remember it is that I just wanted to freak out and go away too. It was just too much to handle.”

Shier didn’t run away, of course. But even with all her years of training and experience working with teens and their parents as a psychotherapist, she still was impressed by the power of her daughter’s pain, confusion, and need for guidance.

As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed during these emotionally fraught tween and teen years when you’re coping with your daughter’s changing personality. These years are often considered to be the toughest parenting stage since the terrible twos. For many, the worst part is that your daughter seems to rarely “act her age.” She may seem so mature in one circumstance, only to turn around and do something so juvenile that you’re left wondering who is the real girl. And when your daughter unleashes a proposal, arguing her point as well as any adult you know, it’s easy to forget that she’s still a kid.

Girls sometimes look like they’re adults, and that can fool adults into thinking that they’re mature cognitively as well,” says adolescent development specialist Angela Huebner, a Virginia Tech assistant professor. The adolescent brain, Huebner notes, “doesn’t function like an adult brain, especially in the areas of impulsivity, decision-making, and responsibility, the things that drive parents crazy. Adolescents don’t process information the same way.”

Despite this, at various points girls will conduct themselves in a perfectly responsible, mature manner. The problem with a girl’s flip-flopping progress toward maturity is that conflicts are inevitable. You want her to take on responsibility as she gets older; she wants to be awarded more independence. Yet this responsibility-independence partnership rarely glides together in an upward trajectory.

The first step toward a smoother journey is for both parent and daughter to recognize that there will be contradictory behavior. Try a disarmament treaty—if you’ll promise to understand she may act 13, 3, and 23 all on the same day, she’ll promise to understand when you can’t always shift gears quickly. Then as you talk together about some basic developmental struggles all teens and parents experience, you’ll both be able to keep a cooler head and maintain the connection that both sides crave.

Fathers: don’t just do something, stand there. Don’t try to solve problems, just listen to her!

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Anyone who remembers her or his own adolescence will certainly remember that it was rife with seeming impossibilities. It may feel to your girl that the whole world is watching every move she makes, every outfit she wears, every word she says. She’s probably right that, at a minimum, many other girls actually are watching closely.

There are dozens of opportunities for self-doubt. She may be wondering about when she will get her period, or whether other girls’ breasts will grow faster. She may be dealing with pimples, hair growing in new places, and endless conversations about looks with her friends. Schoolwork may be more challenging and friendships less reliable. And sometimes, it seems that no one in the family understands or cares about what’s happening in her life.

It can be a very scary time for girls caught between being a kid and soon-to-be adult. Robbie Weisel, who runs mother-daughter weekend retreats as a community educator for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, remembers one 11-year-old girl summing up what is true for so many girls. “We ask the girls, ‘What is exciting about being a teenager and what is scary?’ One girl said that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to play pretend anymore. They’re getting glimpses of having to let go of being a kid.”

Helping Her Act Responsibly

Given all the conflicts in a girl’s life, it’s not surprising that taking out the trash, listening to her parents’ rules, and other measures of responsibility are sometimes down on her list of priorities. Parents can help girls hone a sense of responsibility by giving her meaningful tasks at home that she can successfully carry out. When she does the job, it’s important that she knows her contribution matters. If it’s her job to wash the dishes, remember that she’s not always going to show the proficiency you would. Still, she’ll get there, especially if you’re encouraging.

The same strategy can be useful as the issues become larger. Make your expectations about responsibility clear, and be consistent about consequences. Remember that she’ll test the limits, and that she is still learning. “This is development; it’s practice,” Huebner says. “The more parents can step back and think about the big picture, the easier it will be. Think about how much the child has changed between ages 5 and 8. Think about how kids do learn to master stuff and all that they’ve mastered since they were 8 years old.”

Help her see herself as mature and responsible by encouraging successes outside the home. This will also counteract the often harmful and unrealistic cultural messages about what girls should look like, act like, and be like. “Girls can lose their sense of selves if they don’t have something else to define themselves,” Weisel says. “Help your daughter find something that makes her feel good about herself.” If a girl has three or four different interests, she’s more likely to excel in some area even if something is going wrong in another area.

A girl who feels good about herself and who is engaged in the world is more likely to practice fairly consistent responsibility. Girls also learn powerful firsthand messages from what you show them. Show them your best when you can and explain and apologize when you don’t. They will likely follow your example.

Letting go

Keeping your relationship with your daughter is as important to her as it is to you, even if it seems that all she does is push you away. As your daughter grows up, she has to grow away from you. It can feel scary for a parent who feels like her daughter’s shutting her out. But your daughter’s love hasn’t gone away; she just needs time to see who she is without you.

Her cold shoulder, along with persistent behavior conflicts, will get the best of most parents. We lose our patience, we yell, we blame, we threaten disproportionate punishments. And then we have to figure out how to fix it. “You model apology,” Weisel counsels. “And you model it when it’s real for you. So that means maybe you go to a separate space until you can calm down and then give a sincere apology.”

It’s important to make it clear that despite your temper tantrum, your expectations are still the same. Weisel would say something like this: “I showed you anger and I was rude and I’m really sorry for having done that. But that doesn’t mean my rules and expectations are any less. It just means that I showed you that I’m human too. So cut me a little slack, because that’s how we keep our relationship.”

Recognize that they’re going to screw up,” Huebner reminds. “But encourage them and they’ll get through it. Give them enough rope to experiment, but not enough to hang themselves. It’s your job to be the safety net.” When a daughter knows that, bottom line, you will always be there for her, she will be much more likely to show you that she’ll come through for you, no matter what age she feels today.

Anne O’Connor is a Wisconsin freelance writer.

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Lacey Recommends Black Herstory Books

Hey, girls! Did you know that February is Black History (or as we like to say around here, Herstory) Month? Unfortunately, traditional history books and classes have often overlooked the achievements of Black Americans. The books featured this month will help fill in the gaps — and give you inspiration all year long!

Biography Collections

Whether you want to know a little or a lot about amazing Black women from herstory, these books collecting women’s life stories have you covered!

  • My top pick in this section is definitely Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. No matter what your passion, you’ll find a Black woman in these pages who has forged a path ahead. Read about politician Shirley Chisolm who ran for president in 1972, science fiction writer Octavia Butler, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and 37 other Black women who followed their dreams to greatness. Each biography includes a cartoon illustration of the woman featured. 
  • “At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams or impossible,” Chelsea Clinton writes in She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. “Don’t listen to them.” This book is a great way to get a brief overview of Black trailblazers’ lives or to introduce younger siblings and friends to them. Five of the women featured in the book are Black, including some you may have heard of such as Harriet Tubman and Oprah Winfrey; and others who may be less recognizable to you, like Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her seat on a bus when she was just 15, inspring Rosa Parks to do the same; and Ruby Bridges, a brave little girl who was one of the first Black students to attend a school that had been only for Whites before then.
  • Black women aren’t just making history in America, though. In Fearless Women by Toby Reynolds & Paul Carver and 100 Women Who Made History by Stella Caldwell, Clare Hibbert, Andrea Mills, and Rona Skene, you can read about women such as Leymah Gbowee, who led a peace movement to help end the Second Liberian Civil War; Fatuma Noor, a Somali journalist who focused on telling stories the mainstream news overlooked; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s female president; and more, including often-overlooked American history-makers like Sarah Breedlove, the first woman millionaire in the U.S.!

 Featured Biographies

Want to dive deeper into one amazing Black woman or girl’s story? Then check out these titles.

  • In March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her story of being one of the first African American girls to attend an integrated school. But even before that, she was ready to make waves. She was frustrated that she couldn’t drink from the “whites only” water fountains or that she didn’t feel safe even at church. And when adults told her to be patient and know her place, she pushed back toward equality.
  • If you follow the sports world, you probably know about tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. But did you know that both had a desire to win from an early age, that their father coached them in tennis, or that they have BOTH achieved World Number One ranking in both singles and doubles? You can learn all this and more in Who Are Venus and Serena Williams by James Buckley Jr., an illustrated book that follows the sisters’ lives and achievements. 
  • To learn more about Ruby Bridges’ achievements from her own perspective, pick up her book, Through My Eyes, where she describes what it was like to be a six-year-old girl escorted through mobs and protesters to become the first Black child to attend an all-White school.
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson details how, at nine years old, Audrey was the youngest protester ever arrested at a civil rights rally. She joined marches, sit-ins, and other opportunities for activism toward equality even though she KNEW she might end up in jail for it, proving that you are never too young to take a stand.

What about you? Do you know of fiction or non-fiction books that highlight important moments or women from Black Herstory? Who is your favorite Black woman or girl hero? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Lacey Recommends Books to Help You Find YOUR Way

The theme of the January/February issue of New Moon Girls — which should be on its way to your mailboxes right now — is “Have it Your Way.” January is the time when lots of us are thinking about how we want the next year to unfold, and this month’s book recommendations might give you some inspiration to make this YOUR year — the year that things go YOUR way! From sports to science to new ways to express yourself, I hope you’ll find something to love in the book recommendations below.Non-Fiction: Real Ways to Have it Your Way

  • The cornerstone of making a life that you want is freedom — the freedom to speak your mind, chase your dreams, pick your friends, and more. Check out My Little Book of Big Freedoms by Amnesty International for a reminder on why all these things are important, no matter what your age or where you live. A beautiful illustration accompanies each freedom, such as the right to life, fairness, belief, and love. And buying the book helps support Amnesty International, a human rights organization dedicated to making sure people all over the world have basic rights.
  • If you’re looking for ways to express yourself, we have you covered! Find your way to artistic creations through My Book of Beautiful Oops: A Scribble It, Smear It, Fold It, Tear It Journal for Young Artists by Barney Saltzberg, which can help you find beauty in ink spills, crumpled paper or paper full of holes, and more. If writing is more your style, you might like Every Day Is Epic: A Guided Journal for Daydreams, Creative Rants & Bright Ideas by Mary Kate McDevitt. In it, you’ll find lots of space for recording your rants, jotting down dreams for the future, and reflecting on what makes each day “epic” — even the ones that seem ordinary at first glance! If you’re looking for a journal that’s a little more low-key, try out All About Me: My Thoughts, My Style, My Life, which has questions on every page to get you thinking about your interests, life, family, and friends. Take a quiz to discover how much of a “daredevil” you are, and write a profile of your favorite pet. Most importantly, fill the pages with what makes you, YOU.
  • But getting artsy isn’t the only way to see life the way you want it to be. You can also express yourself through science and technology. Build the world you want by inventing something new, following the advice of Temple Grandin in her book Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor. Temple is an expert on the humane treatment of animals, and she used her experiences growing up with autism to invent the “hug machine,” a device that helps calm frantic people and animals. In addition to instructions for inventions YOU can make, Temple’s book includes stories about other famous inventors, and how they accomplished their achievements. You could be next!
  • If you’re reading this right now, you are probably using a computer of some sort, whether it takes up a whole desktop or fits in the palm of your hand. Digital technology, like computer software and websites, are a whole world of their own — and by learning to write computer code, YOU can help create that world. Get started with Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani. Reshma’s book has tips on how to get started, finding coding ideas, and more. It also has information about other girl and woman coders, so you’ll know you’re in good company! The series includes fiction books, too, like The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch, for even more girl coders!
  • Of course, to achieve all your goals in the new year, you might want to get organized first. Get Organized Without Losing It by Janet S. Fox can help, with tips on cleaning up major messes, making the most of your time, and more. It will even help you discover if you’re the sort who needs to get organized in the first place!
  • If “Have it your way” reminds you of a restaurant slogan, turn to Fearless Food: Allergy-Free Recipes for Kids. This is a book for you if eating at restaurants or at friends’ houses stresses you out because you are allergic or sensitive to common food ingredients, or if you want to plan meals and snacks that take your friends’ or families’ food sensitivities into account. From pancakes to pasta, you can find recipes in this book that will let you have food YOUR way, no matter what preferences or restrictions you might face.
  • Where would we be without the girls and women who insisted on having it their way and forged new paths for all of us? You can read about some of these brave girls in Girls Who Rocked the World and More Girls Who Rocked the World by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Weldon. From Joan of Arc to Emma Watson (who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies) to regular girls just like you, the stories in these books will show you just how powerful insisting on having things “your way” can be.

Fiction – Inspiring Stories

If you want to read a story about brave girls who insisted on marching to the beats of their own drums, find inspiration in these books.

  • Eleven-year-old Maya is obsessed with soccer — but in 1980s Malaysia, where soccer is a “boys’ game,” Maya has trouble finding anyone who shares her dream of an all-girls’ soccer team. And at home, she can’t understand why her parents aren’t getting along despite her best efforts to keep the family together. Read about how she overcomes obstacles on and off the field in Ten by Shamini Flint.
  • With book titles like Rock Star and Class Act, you just know that Jada Jones is a girl who knows how to follow her own passions! You can catch up with her in the Jada Jones series by Vanessa Brantley Newton as she explores her passion for studying rocks and minerals while trying to make new friends and runs for class president despite her fear of public speaking.
  • In Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Ellie is used to being able to create anything she wants to. But when she wants to build a dog house for her best friend’s birthday, her plans get so elaborate that she needs help from two groups of kids who don’t usually get along. Can she build new friendships along with her friend’s gift? This book takes you inside Ellie’s plans with blueprints, notes, and drawings of her ambitious project as it unfolds.

What about you? Have you read any of the books above? What are your favorite books about girls who do things their own way? Leave a comment with your suggestions below!

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Lacey Recommends Books About Making Gifts

It’s that time of year again! Whether you celebrate Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or all of the above, when girls are exchanging gifts with those they care about. Before you take her to the mall, consider whether the recipients would appreciate a homemade gift.

People will treasure something she put her own time, effort, and creativity into as much or more than something that came from a store. And she’ll probably enjoy making them and saving money, too! Below are some homemade gift books for girls that give her ideas to get started.

Do you have other ideas for homemade gifts? What are your favorite books or websites for inspiration? Will you try any of the books or ideas above? Leave a comment to let me know!

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Girl-Powered & Girl-Needed & Girl-Loved

Girls love New Moon Girls. (You already knew that!) Grab this chance to keep and add all the girl(s) you love in our Girl-Powered community!

And to save on everything in our new online shop!

I love reading NMG magazine! I really enjoy how you encourage girls like me to love themselves, be kind, and be bold. – Mikaila, 12

Act now, and save 10% through Nov 28. Just use coupon code THANKS.

If you have a tween daughter, New Moon Girls is great. You’ll love it for its empowering messages and she’ll read it because it’s written by and for girls her age. – Rosalind Wiseman, author Queenbees & Wannabees

Parents love how NMG gives their daughters courage, creativity, and compassion.

My daughter’s membership ends in a few months, and I want to renew it for at least two years—or five years! We just love the magazine! – Heather Pujet

African American female teen writing in journal

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and other family give NMG for a gift that lasts all year.

Just ordered for my granddaughter. Thank you for continuing your great work—I had this wonderful magazine for my (3) daughters when they were growing up! – Maria Shea, MA LPC

Our safe, Girls’ Online Community is vibrant and unique.

Everyone here seems so much more real than on other social media. It’s such a community, and I love that! – Ellie, 13,

Award-winning, Inclusive, International, and Advertising-Free–NMG is for you!

Phoebe adores NMG. Our wackadoodle world needs MORE of this: Girls Growing into Womanhood; nurturing their Fiercely Thoughtful/ Powerful Minds/ Hearts/ Bodies and Souls as they Grow their community of Guides and Allies. For all you do and have done, from the bottom of my Filled to Bursting Heart, thank you!! – Jenn Thomas

Remember: Act now, and save 10% through Nov 28. Just use the coupon code THANKS when you’re checking out.

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How Girls Can Break Out of Bystanding

 

We don’t want any girl to experience the hurt illustrated above by artist Janice Liu. It opens a six-panel cartoon giving specific, simple, safe tactics kids can use to counteract bullying by peers. Featured in our Sept/Oct 2017 issue, it shows girls how they and friends can support each other to break out of bystanding and help kids who are being bullied.

Now that’s brave sisterhood!

The accompanying No Joke Zone article by Rachel Simmons, best-selling author of Odd Girl Out and co-founder of Girls Leadership, shows girls how they can set boundaries with friends on things they feel sensitive about.

The final icing on the feature section is excellent advice from NMG member Mathilde, 12, sharing her experience in handling inevitable friendship problems.

Download a pdf of this special feature as our gift through Dec 31, 2017 (after that it’s just 1.99).  Keep it handy for when you or someone else needs it.