the write way to talk to your daughter

teen parent communication“I know, Mom! You’ve told me this stuff, like, 1,000 times already! Do I really have to hear another lecture?!”

My pre-teen daughter turned on her heel and stomped away.

Once — what seemed like a lifetime ago — Molly wanted to hear my thoughts. She hugged me tight and loved nightly “tuck-ins” where we’d pray and giggle.

What happened to that girl?

That girl liked me. This girl traded death stares with me. Her growing demands for independence and my growing desire to protect and control had frequently placed us on a collision course. Our clashes weren’t pretty. Sadly, we both often spoke to each other like adolescents. She was 12. I had to be the grownup.

So, one day I laid a journal on her bed and hoped for the best.

She didn’t want to hear my words, but maybe she would read them.

The first entry I wrote told her how much I loved her and wanted to communicate with her. Not with angry words that left us both feeling empty and hostile, but with words that expressed my heart.

Written words could be well-thought out, instead of spewed with heated emotion. They could be read and re-read when she was ready and open to “hearing’ what I had to say.

I had no idea how she’d respond.

Then, just before she went to bed that night, she gave me this: “Thanks for the journal, Mom. I think it’s a good idea.”

Really? I had a good idea? Maybe there was hope for us after all.

Over the past three years, a number of factors have improved our relationship  — prayer and maturity (hers and mine!) — but the journal has been a key component in keeping her heart open. And mine.

I’ve written many “lectures,” apologies and words of advice that I’d never have been able to finish if I’d verbalized them. Plus, they are there for all posterity. One day, she might dismiss them as the rantings of a mom who doesn’t “get it.” But maybe a year later, she’ll view them in a whole new light.

God is patient in this way with His children, too. He keeps speaking to us, even when our hearts are hard. Even when we don’t think He “gets” our longings and hardships. He waits for the day that we come to Him with our eyes opened to the wisdom we once  lacked the perspective and maturity to embrace.

A while back, I wrote a long and heartfelt note in the journal. At the end of the day, I looked in her room and saw the journal in the exact same place I’d left it.

“So, are you going to read the journal?” I asked her, trying to act nonchalant.

“Yes, Mom. But sometimes I like to save it so I have something to look forward to.”

Now that’s something to write home about.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

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19 Comments

  • Yay! I’m glad that you wrote this. As an adolescent counselor, a shared journal is one of the first things I recommend to my clients. The language of tweens and teens can get confusing. Writing down what you want to say takes the emotional charge out so defenses can come down. Another bonus is you have a record of this period in your life. It’s one she can share with her children down the road.

    Reply
  • Trust me when I say this… My mother and and I have had fight after tumultuous fight, but one thin is for certain. I still look to her for guidance in everything I do. Any time I am faced in making a decision big or small, her voice is in my head. Sitting here at 25, I know I will always want my mom even if I don’t always act like it. Your daughter will too! She isn’t slipping away and you have the rest of your life to be there for her.

    Reply
  • Our daughters sure grow up so fast that sometimes when we felt that our communication approach no longer works with them we sometimes ask ourselves if we brought them well.

    When I started blogging, I learned that one way to express how I really feel about my kids is to write about them. It was then I realized there was so much I have not told them and that they deserve to learn about it, before it is too late.

    Thanks again for an inspiring post !

    You may want to drop by my blog and read what I wrote about my eldest daughter.
    http://notonmyownanymore.blogspot.com/2012/07/when-you-were-born.html

    Reply
    • {Melinda} Hi Sarah! Somehow I missed your comment until just now! Thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, my oldest is almost 16. I feel like my time with her is running out and there’s still so much I want to tell her and teach her. She may not always want to hear it, but she needs to. Maybe one day she’ll understand all the words of my heart. I will definitely stop by your blog … in the morning. Way too late tonight! 🙂

      Reply
  • I really like the idea of using a journal to encourage communication. I am going to remember this as an option for my son and I if/when the need arises. I sometimes find it easier to write my feelings than speak them aloud, maybe my children will grow to be like me in that way.

    Reply
    • {Melinda} What I like is that I can finish my thoughts without interruption. And I can think through things more clearly. When they become teenagers, it can be hard to do either of those things!

      Reply
  • Wow, we were on the same brainwave about our daughters this week! The journal idea is such a great way to keep things simple. I’ve had clients do this with their younger daughters when the child is a sib of an intense special needs kiddo. It gives focused, one-on-one quality attention and time that they need so much!

    Reply
    • {Melinda}We’re so in sync, Laurie! What is it that they say about great minds? 🙂 I truly was surprised at how effective it was — sometimes the simple solutions are the most profound.

      Reply
  • I really love that idea. It’s right up my alley since I’d much rather read someone’s words than listen to them. I guess it sounds rude when you put it like that, but it’s true.

    Reply
    • {Melinda} I agree … somehow it doesn’t seem like a lecture when it’s written down! Glad you stopped by — thank you!

      Reply
  • What a wonderful idea! My teenaged daughter and I can usually talk about things, but sometimes one of us will get in a huff and this would be such a great solution. Might try it on my sons too!

    Reply
    • {Melinda} Thanks for stopping by! Hope you are enjoying your day in the SITS spotlight. I haven’t tried the journal with my son, yet, but he’s 12. It might be time to buy another book! 🙂

      Reply
    • {Melinda} It might work with sons, too, but I think moms and daughters have a lot of trouble communicating without emotion when girls hit the pre-teen years.

      No problem regarding the email … I know how busy life gets! 🙂

      Reply
  • {Melinda} Awww… thank you. Your sweet comment made my day. Our goal here is to be real and kind and practical.

    God’s strength and grace is the only way I can keep from being sarcastic and pouty when I feel I’m being attacked or ignored. When I forget or am too stubborn to lean on Him, my mouth takes over. And it’s not a pretty scene.

    Reply
  • How do you do it? Every time I visit your blog, I feel like my heart is fed a little more, my spirit is lifted, and I’ve been in the presence of wonderful, kind wisdom. This post, yet again, is something I dearly need to hear. My daughter is 9, and I am holding onto the idea of communicating with the journal. I think this would really work with her, as we both have tempers, and are quite stubborn. Like you said, I know I need to be the adult, but I sure slip into the adolescent behavior easily.

    Reply

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I PROVIDE WOMEN WITH RESOURCES FOR HEALING AND WHOLENESS

I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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