Mothers and daughters can often find that their relationship is becoming hard to handle, and it’s not just puberty that can lead to a rift. Moms of toddlers and preteens often bemoan their daughter’s sudden bad attitude and search for reasons why she can be behaving so disrespectfully towards them. If you’ve recently found yourself disciplining your daughter for the hundredth time – and you’re wondering how to get through to her – read on.

Don’t use gifts as a bribe for good behavior, you look like a doormat. It’s easy to reward ‘normal’ behavior with a trinket or two as you’re so grateful for your daughter’s co-operation, but it’s not helping in the long run. Focus on bigger, harder goals, such as excellent school-work, keeping her curfew all week and doing her chores without complaining. Also, look for gifts that she can use on a day-to-day basis so your money’s not wasted. Gola bags, sports equipment or a charm on a bracelet she likes are much more useful than an endless stream of make-up and clothes. Reward little, and when you do, make sure it’s deserved.

Talk to her

You’d be surprised what can surface when you take the time to probe deeper into your daughter’s behavior – and the answer may not be what you’re expecting. Make sure you start your conversation in a way that puts her at ease, and when you say that it’s a no-holds-barred chat, make sure you stick to your side of the deal. If something your daughter confesses to makes you angry, now is not the time to retaliate – just listen, count to ten, and let her speak her mind.

Don’t be afraid to discipline her

Children are very good at pushing a parent’s boundaries, but that doesn’t mean they should get away with anti-social behavior. A good trick is to warn a child three times before instilling a punishment – that way they know exactly what they’re doing wrong, and what the consequences will be. Never, ever smack your children, even if you don’t think you’re capable of injuring them.

If you’ve recently gone through a divorce or separation, it might be worth talking to your ex about your daughter’s behavior. Providing the two of you are on good terms, you have the potential to work out what’s bothering her. Perhaps your ex is depending on you to play bad cop, or maybe your daughter is blaming you for the split? Either way, your ex can be a valuable resource in this situation by showing your daughter that you’re just as much to ‘blame’ like him.

Pick Your Battles

A good way to win brownie points with older girls is to allow them to think that they’ve won some kind of battle – so when your fifteen-year-old comes home with a bearded, motorcycle-riding, monosyllabic catch, make sure you warmly greet him. Your daughter will be astounded that you, too, think she’s onto a winner and the new arrival will be amazed that you’re not the ‘nightmare parent’ he’s expected. Don’t be surprised if the evening turns out to be a rather jolly affair for all.

Follow up with Kindness

Every time you have to discipline your daughter, it’s good practice to be the first to extend the olive branch afterward. Saying something like, “I’m sorry I had to ground you, but your behavior at … really appalled me” will show her that you didn’t punish her out of spite, and you’re sorry for causing her distress. Most times, you’ll end up with an equally-sorry daughter who will be ready to apologize too.

If all else fails, a sneaky trick is to leave some of your daughter’s baby photo albums lying around. Her curiosity will get the better of her, and her resolve to be as unpleasant as possible will soften when she sees baby pictures of herself and you. Just make sure she thinks she’s stumbled across them accidentally, otherwise the game’s up…

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