Solomon Jones: 3 simple rules for raising a teenage daughter

Posted: February 20, 2013

WHEN MY DAUGHTER Eve was little, we were inseparable. I'd listen to her talk about her imaginary boyfriend in Florida. I'd hold long conversations on her pink feather toy phone. I even played jacks with her once or twice, because seeing her smile was worth every bounce of the ball.

But girls grow up, and when they do, they become different people. It's not as drastic a transformation as Linda Blair's in "The Exorcist," but it's pretty darn close. In fact, if you put a regular teenage girl in a lineup with a chick possessed by Beelzebub, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating, but I've parented a teenage girl. My oldest child, Adrianne, is 20 now, and I still experience hand tremors when I think of her teenage shenanigans.

Watching her leave the house fully clothed only to change into a miniskirt at school? Been there, done that. Hearing her declare her undying love for the boy who's like a walking disease? Yep, I've seen that one, too. Checking her room at 3 a.m. and finding her texting a Lil Wayne wannabe? I'm afraid I've been there, as well.

Shepherding a girl through her teenage years isn't easy, and because Eve is 11, I figure I've got two years to prepare. My previous experience might be my saving grace, because my years of matching wits with a teenage girl taught me two very important things: Girls are just like boys. They're just sneakier.

Maybe that seems like an oversimplification. It might even be a little sexist. But if you have a preteen girl, this is not the time for political correctness. This is the time for truth, because if you're a parent - and especially if you're a dad - the truth shall set you free.

So now, without further ado, here are three truths to help you get through your daughter's teenage years, and to do so without pulling your hair out.

No. 1: Teenage girls want love.

In a man's mind, love means going to work, making money and using it to take care of a woman. Your daughter won't understand that until she actually has bills to pay. For now, she wants a different kind of love.

She wants to be loved by someone who will tell her she's pretty 125 times, then ignore her for the next week. She wants someone with a little thug in him. Someone who makes getting in trouble look cool. Someone who can sing, dance or rap, but who wouldn't know a quadratic equation if it bit him in the butt. Your daughter wants a loser, my friend.

If you simply give her money without giving her all the things that she wants from him, she's going to take your $20, walk around the corner and hand it over to Pretty Ricky, because it's cute that he doesn't have a job.

So here's what you have to do. Tell her she's pretty. Give her hugs. And know the names Justin Bieber and Mindless Behavior. It's OK to call them corny, because hating popular artists is the height of cool.

Oh, yeah, you should have a little thug in you, too. You'll need that to scare off Pretty Ricky.

No. 2: Teenage girls listen to their friends.

We all want to believe we can stop our naive teens from listening to their clueless peers. But I'm afraid teens have been dispensing bad advice to each other since the beginning of time. No parent can change that overnight. So we have to do the next best thing: We have to spend at least as much time with them as their friends do.

I know this can be terribly inconvenient. But would you rather spend an hour groping through the dark, pulsating aisles of your local Hollister store with your daughter - as I did two weeks ago - or spend time sitting nervously in a doctor's office awaiting her latest test results?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

No. 3: Teenage girls need validation.

Girls are trapped when it comes to their bodies. Runway models make them think everything's too big. Nicki Minaj makes them think everything's too small. Kim Kardashian makes them think that if they put everything on tape, they might just get famous.

As a dad, however, my message is always the same: Everything about my child is beautiful, and if I tell her often enough, she just might end up believing it. And that truth shall set her free.


Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books,including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.

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