The mother-daughter relationship can be quite a roller coaster ride — some parts are thrilling and crazy fun and some parts can make you feel anxious, fearful or nauseated. The big difference is that you can get off the roller coaster ride while the relationship with your daughter is forever.
Most of us want to continue the ride with our daughters and make it as smooth as possible. But it’s a given that this key relationship in our lives is going to face challenges. There’s one significant factor that will give you and your daughter the best chance of negotiating those scary rides and keep an overall healthy and loving relationship: communication that is mutually respectful and honest. This will not only make for a smoother ride but will strengthen the bond between you and your daughter.
All mothers and daughters want the same things from each other: love, empathy, and respect. What gets in the way, according to the primary complaints that daughters have about their moms, is that moms try to parent them even when the daughters are parents themselves and moms can be overly critical and demanding. From the moms’ perspective, daughters don’t listen to them, make poor choices and have no time for them.
Here are some ways to achieve mutual respect:
Avoid giving advice. If your daughter wants advice, she’ll ask for it. And even when she does, be careful what you say. She is probably seeking validation, not a recommendation for change.
Listen with empathy. Start with “that must be so hard for you.” Try to imagine what it is like seeing the world through her eyes that are different from what you faced when you were her age.
Affirm and reaffirm your daughter’s strengths. Take time to encourage, acknowledge and recognize her strengths with specific examples.
Ask for what you need. Be direct in your communication so you’re clear. Don’t leave up to your daughter to find the hidden message in what you need.
Avoid being judgmental. Often when you find fault in your daughter it’s a fault you find in yourself. Try reflecting on where your judgment might be coming from.
Use “I” statements to express your feelings. When you lead with “you always” or “you never,” it’s a trigger for an argument.
Be an active listener. Active listening is reflecting back what the other person is saying instead of assuming you already know. When you reflect back, you’re letting your daughter know she’s being heard and you understand.
Keep communication open. Even when conflict arises, don’t give up. Agree to disagree. It’s normal to have different opinions and you may learn something new in the process.
Make the first move when your relationship gets stuck. Think about how you feel in the relationship and what you can do to change.
Learn to forgive. Forgiveness is the key to well-being and allows you to repair the damage quickly.
Stick to the present. Don’t bring up an old argument that becomes the default disagreement. Focus on the present.
Mother-daughter relationships are fraught with tension. They are also the source of some of our deepest joy. When your daughter reaches out, be available and appreciate the moment for what it can be — a time when you can share a moment of vulnerability with one another.
What’s the biggest challenge in your mother-daughter relationship? Leave your answer in the comment box below.