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How to survive your daughter's teenage years

As Madonna vows to be a stricter parent after those photos of Lourdes smoking, we talk to mums and their girls about surviving the teenage years. By Kerry McKittrick and Laura McGarrity.

Growing up as the daughter of Madonna, Lourdes Leon has probably spent most of her life being shocked at what her mother is up to. But now it seems the tables have turned, after photos emerged of the 15-year-old smoking with some male friends outside her school in New York.

For Madge — ironically a famously strict parent despite a career built on raunch — the revelation proved shocking and prompted a public reflection on her parenting skills.

When asked how she reacted, Madonna (53), admitted she “wasn't very happy”. And while she already considers herself a disciplinarian, she has decided to come down harder on her children. “I'm probably not as tough as I should be,” she told the Today show.

“I think I need to be maybe tougher. Every day is a negotiation, but cigarette smoking I'm not very fond of.”

Of course, clashing with your parents is practically a rite of passage for teenagers. And Madonna’s recent experience proves it really doesn’t matter if you are a superstar or an ordinary mum, there will always be battles. We spoke to local mums and daughters about their experiences of the ups and downs of growing up and how they coped with teenage angst.

Anne (43) owns Please Don't Tell boutique on Belfast's Lisburn Road and lives in Belfast with husband Chris and children, Sasha (17), Jonny (13) and Elisa (11). She says:

I’ve suspected Sasha of having secrets but I don't know for sure. She may have stayed out and told me she was at a friend's house — I always pick her up the next day to check if she was where she was supposed to be. She doesn't have a particular curfew but I always need know where she is as one of my biggest fears is something will happen and I won't know.

Now that she's 17 she's very good at checking in with a text or phone call. Without me even asking she'll send me a text to say she'll be late or that she's at her friend’s house.

I've seen a couple of photos on Facebook where she's had a cigarette in her hand. I know she doesn't smoke as a rule so it was probably just because she was on a night out. These days teens generally don't smoke because they get it drummed into them at school just how bad it is.

I’d always know if Sasha had been drinking or misbehaving; at one point I’d my suspicions so sat her down and asked her questions. I could tell by her face that she was lying. I told her that she always has to be honest with me and since then things have been a lot better and our relationship has become quite open. I'm not really worried about Sasha drinking, it's more about her drinking in heels because I'm scared she'll fall over and be left on the ground. She always says she can walk in heels and it won't happen, but it’s normal parent worry.

The approach we've used has been good and it's made Sasha responsible. She says that people with strict parents will rebel.”

Sasha says:

A couple of years ago mum figured out that I was underage drinking — basically because everyone was doing it. It wasn't okay with her though and I got a good grounding for that one. I used to keep things from mum but now I know it's better to tell the truth. I know the difference between right and wrong and I don't need to lie. If there was something I couldn't tell mum about then I probably wouldn't do it. I know people my age smoke but I don't like it and it costs too much anyway.

I think I’m over the hump of my teenage years. Mum and I certainly get along better now — everything's more relaxed. Mum and I are friends on Facebook but I don't think that's a security thing — she probably wants to check out what I'm wearing.”

Emma (36) is a novelist and scriptwriter and lives in Dungannon with her three children, Jordan (16), Jade (10) and Adam (9). She says:

Jordan's turned 16 and I can't believe how lucky I've been so far — I know what I was getting up to at 16. It's an experimental age so it's almost expected for a teenager to drink or smoke. I'm more worried about things like hard drugs, but thankfully Jordan's just not interested in any of it. She hates smoking and doesn't like drink. It was my birthday recently and a friend gave me a bottle of Champagne. I asked her if she wanted a sip but she refused. At this stage I’d be surprised to find out that Jordan was drinking — and I’d also be disappointed if she was doing it in secret. I’d much rather she was open about things instead of going out and binge drinking somewhere I wouldn’t know about it. If that happened I think it would be more due to peer pressure than anything else.

Jordan's of an age now where she's started going to discos and she sees her friends drinking. She's sensible but that could all change in a couple of months. We talk about it all the time. I think if we're both open then Jordan won't feel that she has to rebel against me. If she ever did go on a binge it would be something we would have to sit down and discuss. It would probably result in the reins being tightened a bit — the worst thing you can do to a teenager these days is to take their phone away from them! I think she would be most disappointed in herself though. Doing something like that and losing control would scare her.”

Jordan says:

I've never been caught out but that's because I hate all that stuff. I can barely be in the same room as a smoker but I also think that people my age are too young to be drinking. I’ve seen others doing it and it's so dangerous. They don't know what they're doing and that's when you can really get into trouble. I probably won't drink until I'm 18 but even then I might not bother — I haven't decided yet.

I have never felt under pressure to smoke. We had to analyse an anti-smoking campaign in school and it was awful. We saw all the statistics about death and heart disease and it really put me off. You get addicted so easily too.

I'm always under pressure to drink when I go out even though I always turn down the offer of one — that probably makes me unusual among my peers.I've talked to my mum about it before and she says it's my choice, which is good, but I still don't want to do it.”

Lawrain Aumonier (45) owns David Aumonier Hairdressers with husband David. They live in Bangor with children, Davis (16) and Paris (18). She says:

As Paris has grown older, I've always tried to guide her rather than tell her what she can and cannot do. I'm not really a disciplinarian, so I try and give her enough freedom so she can go her own way, but not too much that she goes wild.

When I was younger my mum was much stricter with me — I was afraid of my mum, but Paris would never be afraid of me.

I think that comes down to a generational difference. My mum would have hit us if we were out of line, but I’d take away Paris' pocket money or ground her.

I grounded Paris for a year at one point because she was hanging around with the wrong crowd.

And when Paris was 14 I caught her smoking; she came in from school one day and I smelt it. When I asked her about it she claimed she was holding the cigarette for a friend, but I told her you don't smell like that just from holding one for a few seconds.

To punish her I stopped her pocket money, so she wouldn't have money to buy cigarettes.

Trying new things like smoking or drinking is a rite of passage in your teens, and everything that Paris got in trouble for doing, well, I did the same when I was her age.

My mum caught me smoking and as a punishment I was made to smoke a packet of 10. It was supposed to make me get sick of them but I actually enjoyed it. Mum realised that so made me eat the 10th cigarette.

Since both my children were very young I’ve talked to them quite openly and told them things like smoking and drinking are fine in moderation, but they must not to be a slave to them.

Paris is 18 now and on her birthday I actually introduced myself to her and said ‘I'm now your friend as well as your mother’. Mind you, I can still shout at her and tell her to clean her room.”

Paris says:

My friends are always saying how cool my mum is and compared to most mums she is pretty relaxed and trusting. She gives me space to do my own thing, but not enough so I start to think she doesn't care. We’ve a good balance.

It’s a bad thing if parents allow you to do your own thing. I heard about one person who was locked in by their parents so kept sneaking out — doing something like that only makes someone go out and get in trouble.

Mum caught me drinking when I was 15. I’d told her I was going to the cinema, but I went and drank cider with my friends instead.

I came home at 11pm and mum grounded me for a month. I've also got caught smoking.

All teens will smoke or drink cider, but generally I wouldn't say I’m a rebel because once mum and dad tell me not to do something again, I don’t. It’s just not to worth it.

I know Madonna has come out and said she is going to be tougher on Lourdes after she found out that she was smoking, but, to be honest, I don't think it's going to work.

If you are determined to smoke you're going to smoke and with Madonna being away so much I’d imagine it’s impossible for her to watch Lourdes 24/7.”

‘I’ll never forget the day police brought me home’

By Maureen Coleman

My mother and I have a very close bond. We speak every day, I see her several times a week and last year we embarked on our first proper holiday together, when I treated her to a Mediterranean cruise. That bond has strengthened the older and wiser I've become. Now, I can appreciate all the sacrifices she's made for me and I know I'm fortunate to have her as a best friend.

But of course that hasn't always been the case. While I wasn't exactly the world's most rebellious teen, there were times when my mum could happily have disowned me for my brattish behaviour and hormonal temper tantrums.

In many ways I was a model teen. I didn't smoke or drink and excelled at school. I never sneaked out to meet lads — I’d a steady boyfriend from quite a young age and though my parents didn't exactly approve, they felt it better to accept him. Where we did clash was over my appearance — I was a second generation mod. My parents' only experience of mod culture was reading about the Brighton riots and the battles that ensued with the rockers.

My poor mum would despair when I'd head out, dressed head to toe like a Sandie Shaw clone. It wasn't so much the style that she hated — she'd worn Mary Quant mini dresses herself — but that my wardrobe was made up of moth eaten, second-hand rejects. She'd offer to take me shopping, trying to entice me with promises of pretty ra-ra skirts and big-shouldered blouses, but I was having none of it.

And then there was the make-up — pale face, pale lips and big panda eyes, outlined in several layers of black kohl. I thought I looked like Dusty Springfield, she thought I looked like the devil incarnate. She'd plead with me to wash it all off, I'd throw a hissy-fit and run out off the house.

One day I slipped off to Bangor for a mods day out. I told mum I was staying with a friend in Antrim, but there was no fooling her. I was standing at the seafront when I spotted her car. There was mum, driving along, peering anxiously out. My friend and I ducked into the nearest telephone box and my mother drove on. She denies it was her, but the wry smile gives it away.

Then there was the time the police brought me home. I was hanging out with my homies at the gates of Belfast Castle. There was no alcohol, we were just sitting chatting, when suddenly, the RUC appeared.

They’d received reports of gangs of youths roaming the Castle grounds and were going to bring three of us home, to set an example. I just knew they'd single me out — I must have had the look of a cheeky imp. Along with two boys, I was bundled into the back of the police car for our journey of shame.

Imagine my mother's horror when she opened the front door to find me standing there, sheepishly, with an officer of the law. “Mrs Coleman, don't be alarmed, your daughter's done nothing wrong. We've brought her home for her own safety,” he began.

Once inside, all hell broke loose. Despite my protestations of innocence, I was banished to my bedroom. Worse was to come. I was grounded for a week and banned from going to the Radio One Roadshow that weekend in Bangor.

I don't think I was a Terrible Teen. But she might say otherwise. And mother knows best.

how to survive teenage years

  • Don't be a friend: Be a parent. It's your job to guide and advise your daughter
  • Compromise: If you are constantly at loggerheads over an issue then try to find a creative solution.
  • Rewards: Reinforcement of good behaviour encourages more.
  • Spend time together: It's important to take time to give your daughter undivided attention.
  • Give responsibility: Showing trust in your teenager will give them less to rebel against.
  • Communicate: It's important for a parent to set limits for a teen but also for them to listen.

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