Help your eye-rolling daughter see straight

How This Parenting Expert Turned Her Eye-Rolling Tween into a Loving Daughter
by Jean Tracy, MSS

Has your daughter changed from a cool kid into a difficult tween? Let’s find out how this mother turned her child into a loving girl again.

I ask Debbie Pokornik, a parenting expert, how she’s helping her daughter become a genuine woman instead of a media princess.

This question evolved from the excellent book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.

Debbie’s 3 Suggestions for Dealing with Difficult Daughters:

Cinderella Debbie P.
Debbie Pokornik

Raising girls who feel valued as genuine women in a society that tends to portray the feminine in less than desirable terms can be a real challenge. Some things I believe can help us to avoid raising media princesses are:

1. Talking openly about how females are portrayed in movies, magazines, on billboards, etc. in such a way that it opens the door to a good discussion without turning it into a lecture.

2. One of the activities we do in Mother’s & Daughters is to have our Mother/Daughter teams look through magazines and talk about who looks happy, speculate on why they are not happy etc. For my daughter and me these conversations carried on to her Bratz dolls, teenagers in shows and of course to Barbie.

3. We also watched some of the Dove pieces on how they change images in media to lengthen necks, remove blemishes, etc. and create a very unrealistic expectation of what can be physically achieved.

How Debbie Turned Her Eye-Rolling Daughter Around:

Communication is such an important piece of building relationship with our kids and I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to keep the information flowing. Despite this, when my daughter was in that pre-teen stage she started pulling away and turning into someone I really didn’t like. I really believed she was the problem and a piece of me even bought into the idea that this stage was unavoidable. As we drifted further and further apart I realized that I was giving in to a societal belief about tweens and not following my heart.

1.  I scheduled an appointment with my eye-rolling daughter and sat down and had a very open heart to heart. I told her I’d never been a mother of a tween girl before and that I really didn’t know what I was doing much of the time.

2. I found out I was at least half of the problem (correcting her, giving her tasks when she entered the room…) and that what she really needed from me was acceptance, information and honest communication. I shifted on that day from mother to mentor and what a difference it has made.

3. To help with these kinds of open-discussion moments it can be helpful to set up a Girl’s Club with our daughters where no topic is off limits and no repercussions from what is shared will be experienced. This gives them the opportunity to verify what their friends are saying, have access to your wealth of knowledge (careful not to lecture) and find out that you really don’t know all the answers.

4. Finally (although there is definitely more that could be said on this topic), my biggest tip is for each of us to love and accept our daughters AND our responses to our daughters as they go through their stages. Remember our journeys are different – unique to each of us and in the end we cannot live that journey for her.

5. Be open, honest and (appropriately) involved in her life and try really hard to refrain from judging or labeling. Our girls are smart, resilient and beautiful. With the right guidance and compassion they will grow up to be every bit as genuine a woman as we are and perhaps even more-so.

Debbie Pokornik is the owner of: Empowering NRG. You can contact her at:

Jean’s response:

I found Debbie’s advice wise and extremely helpful. She knows through experience what works.

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