I've been caught in the middle between my 16 yo daughter and her dad far too often lately. I have been trying to stay neutral, but not very successful at getting them to stay cool and listen to one another. Besides, in this situation the peacemaker role frankly sucks. They both still end up angry and neither one really thinks I'm being neutral (kind of like having two kids). :-\
They have been butting head probably since she turned 13, but eventually work things out peacefully. Lately they can't seem to talk AT ALL without getting angry.
The most recent incident stemmed from daughter getting her license and wanting to use the car. (FYI, I am a SAHM and we do have two vehicles) She tried very hard to get a summer job but the competition is fierce. So...no money, no car of her own...no freedom. She's also been feeling pretty isolated from her friends (due to jobs, moves, transportation) and desperate for some autonomy. Car use would be for social reasons only. She has been using public transportation (buses) lately, but it is often inconvenient, inconsistent, and slow.
Dad feels daughter is acting entitled, as if she should be able to take the car whenever she wants despite having no means of paying for gas, insurance, etc. Like many teens, she does come across as a bit self absorbed, although she's honestly fairly sensitive to other people. We live in an affluent little town, and it's amazing how many kids automatically get a (brand new!) car when they get their license - no questions, no job, no problem! While we do have the means to pay for things, he and I both agree that daughter should find a way to contribute in lieu of paying a portion of the added expense. Also, she needs to realize that this is a process of baby steps - start small, prove you can be responsible, earn more driving privileges.
Now Dad has read the last two months of her Twitter feed (which admittedly includes a lot of bitching and complaining, but hey, she's a teenager) and taking it all way too personally. All of that venting has him thinking that his daughter doesn't respect him and "hates" him and pretty much the rest of her extended family. He is a very kind, hardworking, and loyal person, but because he is so upset he's not taking this well. And truthfully, he's forgotten what it is like to be a teenager.
Daughter is really a good girl; kindhearted, deep thinking, caring, socially aware. Her grades are very good, she makes good decisions (i.e. not "perfect" but no destructive choices), has been committed to several long-term creative projects outside of school, is loyal and true to her friends, and believes in the importance of making a difference in the world.
How can I get these two to sit down and talk?
I wouldn't try to be the mediator in the heat of things. DD and myself have been butting heads but when DH tries to get in the middle, it really just makes things worse. Instead, he acts as a private and personal sounding board that we can vent too and that helps more. Often, I don't need DH to tell me my DD's side of things. I just need him to give me a hug and reassure me that I'm not totally unlovable lol.
If your DH is anything like me, his issues have less to do with the car and more to do with the pain of having your cherished baby look at you like your an idiot. Reading the twitter was a really bad idea but then, she did put it out for everyone to see. It's not like he dug into her texts to friends or got into her email account. When I was a kid, you bitched to your friends in private or kept a diary. Twitter is like complaining about your mom to your buddies while she's standing behind you. I would encourage her to find less public ways to blow off steam.
Sometimes, it's better to start with the issues at hand and sort out the emotional later. The major source of conflict it seems is the car. Would your DH consider laying out some internal ways she she could earn car time? Are there special projects in the house? How about scanning in all your old non-digital photos and putting them on disc, yard work, organizing closets, working in the garage, washing and vacuuming out the car weekly, putting in new contact paper on the kitchen shelves, ect. She make HATE this idea but he would be putting the power to use the car in HER court thus giving her some of the control it looks like she's seaking. If she chooses not to do it, well, then she's the one deciding to stay home and she can't rationally blame her father.
Talking isn't going to do any good if neither one is willing to compromise.
If you want her to pay for insurance & gas how can she if she can't get a job?
How is she supposed to take baby steps in responsibility with the car if she isn't given a chance to show responsibility with it?
Can DD trade errand running for car use? Since she cant get a job, maybe she could get your groceries, drop off stuff at goodwill, or other things that you would normally do. Maybe she could agree to use the car one day to voluenteer somewhere so that another day she could have it for her entertainment purposes. Has she taken a class so that her insurance will be lowered? Maybe she could make some babysitting flyers
Holly and David
Adaline (3/20/10), and Charlie (1/26/12- 4/10/12) and our identical twins Callie and Wendy (01/04/13)
She needs to learn right this minute that things like Twitter are NOT private. She's talking smack about her father in easily tracable ways, so she's a bit of fool. Talk to her about the fact that some things in life that one wants to vent about, they need to vent in person and not leave an electronic trail. She owes her father an apology and some assurance that the things he works hard to pay for, like her phone and internet, aren't going to be used to complain about him.
(talk to her about the fact employers check facebook, cell phone records never really go away, etc. this is just basic life skill stuff that she doesn't understand)
Let her do some work around the house for an hourly wage to earn driving rights. She can clean the garage or something. Her father may be more easily to negotiate with AFTER he gets a heart felt apology.
but everything has pros and cons
Thanks for the thoughtful responses. I had never been on the Mothering forum before, but since I'd read and loved the magazine when DD was younger this seemed like the place to start.
Linda, I've had the "nothing is private" discussions before, but I don't think it had really sunk in until now. She's been careful with her FB page since it's tied to her real name, but then started using Twitter and Tumblr with aliases and has definitely gotten pretty casual/careless. Duh, there are still ways to figure out who you are...trails to follow. Things are forever tied together on the internet, and YES, what you say and do will come back to haunt you. Like whatsnextmom said, "Twitter is like complaining about your mom to your buddies while she's standing behind you." So true. The girl had GOT to be smarter than that.
DH and I have been trying to talk calmly about the whole thing, but it's not easy. I know he's hurt and angry, and that's a huge part of the picture right now. Personally, I think they both owe each other an apology. They need to sit down and talk, but I intend to stay out of that discussion.
For now I'm setting up a home "work" schedule so DD can earn some driving time and contribute to the household in more substantial ways. This will at least give her the means to earn some "currency" to use toward car expenses. It also gives her some control over the situation; don't do the work, don't get the car...do the work, earn car time/freedom + show Dad you can be responsible. In the meantime, I will continue support her job search. College kids start to head back out in another month, and the local coffee shop told her they'd need replacements by the end of summer.
One day at a time...
I can really see why your husband was hurt. I suspect most teens complain about their parents from time to time; it seems really normal to me for a teen to vent to their friends and say nasty things. But none of us wants to read what our teen wrote about when they were angry. Hopefully, your DD will learn through this.
And hopefully, your DH will too. It sounds like he was being unreasonable in the first place.
Hopefully, everything coming out into the open will allow the situation to change in positive ways for both of them. May be they will be able to see how the other one feels, to develop more empathy.
Another thought for your DD -- has she checked into doing volunteer work? One of my DDs is volunteering at the library this summer. It's been REALLY good for her, and one of the side benefits is that they will give her a job references at the end. She's creating a work history. If you DD found someplace where she could do regular volunteer work with regular hours and a boss, it could make her applications for paying jobs look much better. And it would help prove to her father than she isn't lazy.
but everything has pros and cons
Is there a chance your DH could read this thread?
She may wish her father would read what she said but
whatever if you feel upset or angry with her perhaps the next
time she's almost out the door you could say something like,
"Twitter is all public, you know!" with a little accusation in your
voice and say no more and let your daughter wonder who told
you or if you read it all. Tell your DH about this as in a way
this is backing him up without your daughter being able to storm
out accusing somebody of spying etc..
I'm guessing your DH has walked away from an argument
with you or somebody else expressing or thinking a bunch
or expletives etc.. Perhaps you could suggest to him that that
stuff was all in the heat of the moment and maybe some
showing off for her friends; not her true feelings about him.
About the arguing
I would suggest that you never try to mediate between them
when they're arguing. You might ask your DH if you could have
a code word that meant you thought he was working against
what he wanted to accomplish with his daughter perhaps being
to angry or going nowhere with her or whatever. He gets to use
the word too but if he overcomes his thoughts and emotions and
stops arguing when you use the code word then he is your knight
in shining armor for a while having honored your wisdom and wish.
One way to get them to talk might be to intervene (not mediate)
just when they start to get a little hot understanding it can go from
tepid to boiling in a minute or less. Intervene by saying, hopefully
with a stern yet inviting smile, "I want to see you too in my chambers."
said in mock fashion like a judge to two argiung lawyers. In your
chambers you've prepared hot or cold beverages with goodies of
various sorts to please both of them and sit them a bit distant from
each other. When you feel they've cooled off you might then say,
"Sorry for the interuption, please continue your discussion." Leave
if you cannot control yourself completely telling each that you love them
and wish they would not fight but work it out peacefully.
If you are centered or in the zone than you might stay only to
communuicate with both of them only with your eyes, especially with
DH. If he's doing well show delight, love, whatever but melt him. If he's
failing show concern increasing to alarm if he's getting angier.
For your daughter I suggest you look at the 30-year-old you see
your daughter becoming when you look at that 16-year-old with your
eyes showing a little pride and a bit of "You go girl" when she's being
convincing, not suceeding necessarily, but trying to convince or better
yet to enroll her father. Your eyes might show concern or "Where are
you going with this stuff?" if she's losing it.
Cars are one thing but for me communications skills paramount.
Leave, looking disappointed in both of them, if you feel it's escalating.
I'd clue your DH in that you might ask the two of them to move to a
different room and that you are not going to mediate or even speak but
could he just move with his daughter.
He may be hurt by what he read on Twitter but he might also be alarmed
at the person he sees speaking when he reads those words. Words that
indicate his daughter is changing in a way he thinks is wrong and that
change must be altered.
"Staying in charge as a mother means exercising one's own judgment
about what is best for one's child. It means, at times, ignoring the advice
of experts. It means fighting one's way into institutional decision making
in an effort to make it responsive to the needs of one's own child, It means
trusting one's own point of view. Most of all it means developing the ability
to tolerate both the internal anxiety and the external hostility that are
generated when one tries to stay in charge." ~ Elaine Heffer
"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make
for our children." ~ Tatanka Iotanka
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