How Teens Push our Buttons
Yes, teen girls can be drama queens, but moms can be drama mamas.
Our disrespectful, moody, entitled, and defiant daughters can push our buttons.
And what happens when they push our buttons?
We get angry and frustrated very quickly. We fire words right back at our daughters that end up escalating the drama and we get hooked. It’s hard to walk away. And now it’s turned into a drama dance.
Now I am not blaming moms or letting teenage girls off the hook.
But moms need to take responsibility for their part in the drama dance. I am a mom of a teen and I know how easy it is to get hooked in the drama. But here is the good news.
When you take responsibility for your part, you can avoid a majority of the drama with your daughter.
The drama will dissipate quickly when you refuse to join the drama dance.
It takes two to do the drama dance. This is why it’s important to know how you escalate the drama. No mom intentionally escalates the drama dance. It’s a reaction. You react because you are afraid, or frustrated, or she makes you feel like a failure.
The Six Ways Moms Escalate Drama
1. Lose Control
Your daughter loses control. She starts yelling and being disrespectful, and before you know it, you feel the fire welling up in your belly. You are in touch with your inner warrior. You’ve had it, and you are ready to put her in her place, but you lose control.
You lose control of your words, judgment, and actions.
Result: When you lose control, it gives your daughter permission to lose control. This creates a downward cycle that creates a whole new set of problems.
What you can do about it: Take a break. Go to the store. Walk around the block. Take a shower. You need time to calm down.
2. Escalate the Arguing
Avoid arguing at all costs. It is not a conversation; it’s a power struggle where there is going to be a winner and a loser. It’s a battle to the finish.
Your daughter will try to get what she wants by arguing with you.
She will use her teenage logic which is really code for “I will argue with you till you let me do what I want.”
She will throw things at you like, “You hate my friends.” If you take the bait and start defending and arguing why you don’t hate her friends, she will continue to argue with more passion and emotion. These arguments go downhill quickly. She will throw everything at you to get her way.
Result: Arguments are doomed from the beginning. Your daughter really is not open to what you have to say. She just wants her way. Because these arguments are so frustrating and irrational you are bound to lose it in bigger ways.
What you can do about it: Wait for a time when both you and your daughter are calm. This is your best chance to have a conversation. When one person is upset it will turn into an argument.
Get clear about what you think and what you are going to do about it. A lot of arguing happens when you are not clear.
3. Scare Her
Another tactic is trying to scare your daughter into changing. This happens when you feel you can’t get through to her.
You try to scare her by making negative predictions about the future.
If you are sick and tired of your daughter’s room being trashed, you say, “If you don’t learn how to take care of your things you are going to be the biggest slob in the world. No one will want to room with you in college. Good luck finding a guy who will put up with that.”
These negative predictions fly from your mouth when you are really frustrated and you don’t know what else to do.
Other negative predictions are:
- If you keep eating like that you’re going to be huge.
- If you don’t care about your grades you will never get into a college. You’ll be lucky to get a job at a fast-food restaurant.
Result: Your daughter feels humiliated or shame. She’ll feel that you’ve given up on her.
One teenage girl told me, “My mom thinks I’m stupid and can’t get into college.”
Negative predictions lead to apathy, despair, anger, and shame. They never motivate.
What you can do about it: Remember your daughter’s strengths, abilities, and resiliencies. This will help calm your fears. Encourage her by saying things like, “I know you can be successful when you put the time and effort into it.” You are challenging her but in a positive way.
4. Threaten Her
Threats are different than consequences. A good consequence is well thought out. It is doable and instructs. Threats are like waving a sledgehammer over your daughter’s head.
- If you keep acting like this you’re going to boarding school.
- You’re going to live with your dad.
- You’re never going to drive again.
- I’m not paying for college.
These threats use fear to “motivate.” The problem is that fear never motivates. It throws you and your daughter in a limbic reaction of fight, flight, or freeze. Your daughter will cuss you out or shut down but she will not grow from it.
Most of the time, these “empty threats” are impossible to carry out.
Threats are knee-jerk reactions to a situation and are not well thought out.
The intent of threats is to hurt and punish. They are mean-spirited. Because of this, they hurt your relationship with your daughter. Your daughter will react by avoiding you or saying she hates you.
Results: When you use threats, you lose credibility since there is no follow-through.
Threats are harmful to your relationship with your daughter. They will not motivate, instruct or change your daughter’s behavior in a positive way.
What you can do about it: You don’t have to give a consequence in the heated moment. Take time to calm down and get clear. A good consequence takes time to formulate. Give a consequence that you can back up and is related to the offense.
5. Label Her
Labels are extremely shaming because they attack her core essence.
A label says this is who you are and who you will be. A label tells your daughter she is permanently flawed. Some common labels used are selfish, slob, lazy, stupid, mean, rude, or obnoxious.
Labels stick and are hard to forget.
No mom wants their daughters to be “selfish.” When you are desperate, you tell her she’s selfish in hopes that she will be shocked and change her behavior and be more giving. The opposite is true. She will become the label. She will start seeing herself as “selfish.”
Result: Label the box your daughter is in because she feels ashamed. Shame corrodes the part of your daughter that thinks she can do better.
What you can do about it: Point out your daughter’s strengths. Even if she is negative most of the time, remember the exceptions when she is positive. If you think your daughter is selfish, remember times when she has been thoughtful and giving. Catch her when she is the exception and encourage her.
6. Show Contempt
Contempt is an attitude. It’s easy to recognize when your daughter does it. You see her rolling her eyes at you or throwing out sarcastic comments.
Contempt is a hostile disrespect for another. It is the opposite of respect. Its goal is to bring someone down to size. It belittles, mocks, and uses sarcastic humor.
Never react to your daughter’s disrespect with contempt. It is the most harmful of tactics.
Sometimes moms will justify their mocking behavior to show their daughters how contempt feels. Your daughter will not get the point. She will feel your hate or rejection and will not learn anything.
Be careful when using sarcasm. Never use it to belittle your daughter.
Comments like, “Sure, you can get into any college you want, with grades like that,” when your daughter’s grades are poor will humiliate, mock and shame her.
Now you can use humor with your daughter. Just make sure it’s absurd and not belittling of your daughter.
One time my daughter had tampon wrappers and plastic applicators on the floor of the bathroom, and a couple of wet towels. I made a sign that said, “Please put your tampon wrappers in the trash. Signed, ghetto police.” This is absurd, but it worked. My daughter laughed and cleaned the bathroom.
Result: Using contempt will greatly damage your relationship with your daughter and erode her confidence. Your daughter will feel betrayed and see you as her enemy.
What you can do about it: When contempt shows up, it is a warning sign that you are so frustrated with your daughter that you don’t like her. Spend time with your daughter that is relaxed and creates a nice experience for both of you.
Take time right now and identify your part in the drama dance. Decide today what you can do about it.