Q: I live in Nigeria and am a single parent of a 15-year-old daughter. If I could live my life over again, I'd not experiment with sex so early.
We live with my mum because I don't earn enough money to rent a place of my own. While reading a parenting book, I discovered that for my mother's generation, obedience was the guiding principle of parenting, but now it's independence. How then does one strike a balance? I don't have any parenting skills. My mum has the experience of having raised three kids. My mum's parenting style is more authoritarian, and I'm more liberal because I believe it's important to be my daughter's friend.
I appreciate my mum's parenting style because she's one of the last vestiges of traditional African life, but I'm having a hard time getting my daughter to appreciate her parenting style. I don't know how to tell my mum.
Everything came to a head recently. I came home early so my daughter could go to a party. I forgot to check if she'd done her chores or completed her homework. After we agreed on her curfew, I let her go to the party. My mum came home and pointed out the things my daughter hadn't done, and insisted I call her back from the party to do her chores. Although I felt rotten for spoiling her fun, I called her. She came home, and that's when my mum scolded her severely.
Shortly afterwards, my daughter walked out of the house without a word. Thankfully, she went to a family friend's house, and that friend brought her home after a long talk.
How do I help my daughter appreciate what her grandmum is doing? How do I get my mum to adjust her parenting style? How do I become a more confident parent? I'm really frightened of being responsible for another person. I don't have any experience.
A: Starting as a teenage mother is never easy! You must feel torn about your responsibility as both a mother and daughter. Your daughter may be doing quite well under her grandmother's guidance and your love. While you'd like to be a friendly mom, you can't only be a friend to your daughter. Parenting has changed, but foundational principles and research show us that authoritative parenting, not authoritarian or permissive, works best. Authoritative parenting includes being responsive to a teen's interests and needs, while also setting limits and having expectations for responsibilities. If your daughter was supposed to do chores before she went to a party, calling her back from the party to complete her tasks may disappoint her, but she'll remember to do her chores next time. Your mom probably overreacted because she realized you didn't agree with the consequence. She was trying to make a point to both you and her granddaughter.
Your daughter tries to get away with things and complains about her grandmother because she knows you don't fully support your mother. If you and your mother could make compromises and be united, your daughter could become both disciplined and independent. This isn't easy, because you have little confidence in your parenting and because your mother has made a loving commitment to you and your daughter. Nevertheless, if your mother gets stricter and you become easier, your daughter will manipulate both of you and will respect neither of you. It isn't too late for you to make changes.
I recommend my book "How to Parent so Children will Learn". For free newsletters about parenting with a united front, principles of parenting or high schoolers who are growing up too fast, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic request to address below. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Rod Waddington