A couple of years ago I took my daughter, then 14, to see “Thirteen,” a small film that got much attention for its disturbing portrayal of middle-school girls gone wild. By the film’s end, the two best friends have progressed from shoplifting, drug-taking and sexually servicing boys to sniffing spraycans and smacking each other hard in the face for kicks. At which point the heroine’s mother, after 90-odd minutes of ineffectiveness, hugs her daughter all night until the sun comes up…suggesting a ray of hope.

When “Thirteen” came out, earnest groups of mothers arranged field trips to see the new film with their daughters and then talk about it– not an activity I felt any inclination to take part in myself. Here is the extent of our mother-daughter discussion: “If I ever had a daughter like that,” I said, as the theater lights came up, “I’d put her in a sack and take her to the pound.”

I was kidding (sort of), and we both laughed, although later I saw that my daughter wrote on her blog, “My mom can be kind of impatient and picky with people.” What a glow of pride I felt at that: She’s got my number, all right.

You might think from this story that my daughter and I have a testy relationship. Actually, the opposite is true. I work from home and so we spend a lot of time together, although not enough in her opinion; as I have to remind her sometimes, it’s not appropriate for a teenager to accompany mom to every press conference or media cocktail party.

And unlike the mothers and teenage daughters in Terri Apter’s book You Don’t Really Know Me: Why Mothers and Daughters Fight and How Both Can Win, we do not fight an average of every two-and-a-half days, for typically 15 minutes, or (as Apter reports happens 28 percent of the time) within five minutes of either of us walking in the door. In fact, except for regular eruptions of impatience on my part at dawdling, and short howls of protest on hers, we rarely fight at all.

I’m not sure what Terri Apter would think of this situation, because none of the zillions she’s documented resembles it in the least. Apter, a Cambridge University psychologist and researcher in family dynamics, has spent over 20 years documenting the interactions of more than 50 mother-daughter pairs in America and the U.K.

You’d think in that time she’d have come across a few memorable personalities, or at least a couple of bossy moralizers after my own heart, but the women and girls in her book are interchangeable stick figures involved in endless variations on the same generic dustup: Ill-mannered daughter explodes over something minor, weak-willed mom snaps back but eventually throws up her hands. It’s impossible to tell any of these people apart, which seems strange: Isn’t each unhappy family supposed to be unhappy in its own way?

Apter barely discusses mothers like me and daughters like mine beyond oblique disapproval: “It isn’t a calm and sunny relationship with a mother that gives a teenage girl the strength she needs.” She does describe (eventually) a couple of girls who don’t pick fights with their mothers. But it turns out that in these cases, the daughters are protective because the moms are drug addicts or mentally ill. Oh.

Unpleasant, out-of-control teen girls have been in the media spotlight ever since movies like “Mean Girls” and Rachel Simmons’s bestselling Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression In Girls. And Terri Apter’s thoughts on adolescence are much quoted; a few months ago, she described twenty- and thirtysomethings who won’t grow up as “thresholders” in that much-discussed Time magazine cover story. But is the conventional media wisdom here quite right?

It’s unfortunately true that many contemporary parents seem to encourage– or at least tolerate– a level of sheer horribleness, not to mention laziness, in their children that would have perplexed previous generations. I’m not claiming that mothers and daughters with good relationships don’t feel tension or exasperation with each other. Just as my daughter gets along with me, I got along with my mother, and she with hers.

And I admit a certain overbearingness seems to run in the family, which can wear on the nerves. I have a vivid memory of my mother, then around 60, placing both hands flat on the table and leaning across to demand sharply of her own mother (then in her 80s and still insisting she knew all the details of some long-ago incident she’d never even witnessed) “Was you there, Charlie?”

Apter’s suggestions of how to talk to adolescent girls will, I suspect, be familiar to anyone who went to those mother/daughter discussion groups about the movie “Thirteen.” But teens are exquisitely attuned to any hint of adult smarm — one of the girls in You Don’t Really Know Me complains that her mother can sound like “some cretinous parenting book” — and it’s hard to imagine a girl listening to these prescribed conversations without snickering.

Probably no chapter in this book is more cretinously divorced from reality than “I’m Too Fat!”, which, while admitting that only 10 percent of girls in Western society have eating disorders, never acknowledges the genuine problem that most Americans now are too fat.

This isn’t to say that teen girls don’t often worry excessively about their appearance, or that mothers needn’t figure out a way to address this. But here’s how Apter suggests a mom whose daughter envies thinner, prettier girls respond:

She and her daughter could work together to shift from thoughts such as “I wish I had legs like that” …to describing women’s legs in terms of punch and power. “They look really strong” or “She looks firm and steady.” The point is to change the vocabulary from “gorgeous” to “go-getting.”

Uh-huh. You could also notice thick-legged women on the street and whisper excitedly to your daughter, “I’ll bet she’ll hold fast in a high wind,” or “Wouldn’t want to get in a kicking contest with that one!” That should work, at least if you live in the agenda-driven universe of cretinous parenting books.

Apter also thinks that “mothers could come right out and admit: ‘I am confused, too, about how important it is to be thin.’ Teenage girls are eager to reflect on the problems they experienced in a confused state.” But what I don’t think they’re ever eager to do is deal with a confused mother, and all of Apter’s moms seem pretty confused, along with their current pop culture counterparts.

I still remember fondly, from my own teen years, my mother’s firm pronouncements about how other women ought to look: “She has no business wearing prints at her age,” or “You can never look classy in a jumpsuit” or– this was a regular, approving refrain about anyone plain but stylish– “She really does a lot with herself.”

Then there was my grandmother’s all-purpose snort of disapproval about any woman she considered ridiculous (someone who claimed looking like a go-getter is better than looking gorgeous would be a prime example): “What a corny dame.”

My mother wasn’t always right– I have some printed dresses I think work, even at my age (although maybe I’m deluding myself), and I suspect it’s at least theoretically possible to look classy in a jumpsuit– but she was never unsure. The realization over the years that she was, in fact, very far from infallible hasn’t dimmed the happy, secure feeling I remember from when she seemed to be a solid rock of confident advice about what to do in every situation.

One day my daughter will realize that I, too, don’t know everything. But she’ll know that I really knew her, just as she really knew me. We’ve got each other’s numbers.

Catherine Seipp is a writer and visiting fellow with IWF. She also maintains a blog, “Cathy’s World.”