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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Teen’s not a girly girl. What will it take for Mom to accept it?

July 17, 2011

Just got an unusual email from a woman who thinks her daughter has a problem. Have a read and see what you think…

Dear Annie,

My daughter and I are not seeing eye to eye. I want to help her with but she will not listen to me. You always hear of parents not wanting their kids to go with the crowd. But my kid does the opposite. She dresses like a boy, only wearing boy’s sports shorts and a t-shirt. She doesn’t like anything girly. Absolutely nothing!! She isn’t boy crazy, that’s a good thing. It is beyond being a tomboy. During sports she will never put her hair up or back like the rest of the girls (even though the coach tells her to). Even on group pictures of the teams she is the only one with her hair down. Could it be that she wants to stand out or that she is trying to fight the establishment? I want her to be herself but this has gotten way overboard and it is causing a lack of friendship. She almost has no friends because she is so different. Should I just let her learn the hard way?

Frustrated Mom

Dear Mom,

I’m not sure what you think your daughter needs to “learn the hard way” or any way for that matter. And while we’re clearing stuff up, how can anyone possibly go “overboard” in being themselves? That’s like saying, “You are too much of who you are.”

You say “I want her to be herself”… but do you really? What I’m hearing loud and clear sounds like “The way she is, is unacceptable!” If that’s where you’re coming from your daughter feels the sting of your disapproval every day. That’s not helpful.

The only positive thing you said about your daughter is that she’s “not boy crazy.” Surely she possesses many admirable traits, but you didn’t mention any. That’s a sign this girl isn’t getting much positive feedback from her mom. Also not helpful.

Clearly you believe your daughter has a problem and if she’d only “listen” to you all would be well. I disagree. This isn’t about you or your well-intended advice. Your daughter may be rejecting girly clothes because she’s questioning her sexual identity. If that’s the case, she’s not purposely defying anyone, rather she’s on an important journey of self-discovery. Whatever her sexual orientation is, she doesn’t need “fixing.” With all due respect, you may be the one who needs a course correction, not your daughter. Because it sounds like she’s doing her own thing very well, thank you and I say, props to her for all that self-confidence!

I don’t mean to give you a hard time. I’m a parent. I understand what it’s like to have expectations of your daughter from Day #1. All parents dream of what their child will grow up to be. Maybe your daughter’s behavior, choice of clothing, etc. is a disappointment to you. Be honest with yourself about that disappointment. Maybe her way of being is embarrassing to you as you watch the reactions she gets from peers and other adults. Please be honest with yourself about that embarrassment as well, but don’t share these emotions with your daughter. She doesn’t need to hear it.

Bottom line, your daughter is who she is and trying to get your approval by pretending to be someone other than her authentic self is not healthy. That would only encourage her to live a lie and put her in conflict with herself. Not the advice she needs.

I’m going to state the obvious because it’s a good reminder to all parents. Your child is not you. And it’s not her job to fulfill your expectations of who she’s “supposed” to be. She is her own wonderfully unique self. She doesn’t need fixing. She needs the unconditional love of her mom. In order to support her journey into adulthood, wherever it may lead, you need to stop trying to change her and start trying to understand her better. I’d strongly suggest you talk with a family therapist or a psychologist ASAP. Hopefully that will help you sort out your feelings so you can learn to accept your daughter and give her the support she needs.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 6:50 pm
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