“You’re So … Mean!”
More than any other social interaction, the relationship between mother and daughter can have more than its fair share of hardship. But with a planned strategy, mom and daughter can acquire the tools to maintain a vibrant and trusting union.
Girls spend much of their juvenile life emulating mom, and they learn most of what they know by imitating her. A young girl’s first organized game of ‘house’ is a reflection of her relationship with her mother. This reenactment reinforces the tie to mom and her value as a prominent figure in her life.
But during those tumultuous teen years, moms and daughters can often find themselves in combat.
Although the two may disagree, there are important measures to take to assure that lines of communication stay unobstructed. This can make the difference between a peaceful environment and a chaotic one.
With three daughters, our household has been through the gamut of battle issues. We’ve differed over body piercing (theirs, not mine), boyfriends, curfews, parties and drinking, to name a few of our topics. There were many disagreements, but with boundaries and a few rules of combat, we would reach a mutual settlement.
Respect: Without respect for each other’s space, privacy or opinion, there will be little effort expended toward harmony. Learn to appreciate each other, though you may not agree. Try not to become frustrated with the vast disagreements that may exist and stay focused on finding an acceptable compromise.
Listen: Individuals interrupt because they think they may lose their train of thought. Actively listening without expending emotional effort trying to come up with a defense helps in understanding. An effective strategy to keep communication fair is to establish the 3/3 Policy. Each speaker has 3 uninterrupted minutes to state her case. This can go on for hours, but in 3-minute segments. Although 3 minutes may seem brief to identify every grievance, it is effective in that you tackle one gripe at a time instead of all at once. Announcing a time and place for discussion can be helpful in that both parties can organize their thoughts. Equipped with a written list, discussions can be more courteous.
Identify the true fear: Sometimes moms declare an objection and claim that they know better because they are more experienced. While that may be true, it is not rational. We may resist a daughter’s association with someone or her participation in an activity because there is something we fear. We might believe that a certain friend is harmful to our daughters or we feel that there will be inordinate activity at a particular function. Whatever the fear, it is important to express it. Daughters deserve a logical explanation of mom’s objection based upon reason.
Offer reassurance: Never lose sight of each other’s significance, even in a fierce debate. Without remarks like, “I love you / you are important to me,” and “I appreciate you and want you to be happy,” heated conversation can turn hostile. Mothers can easily feel taken for granted and daughters can feel misunderstood. Reaffirming each other’s value can help keep perspective during a territorial exchange. Another important way to offer assurance is to repeat what you believe the other person is saying. Sometimes statements are misinterpreted or misunderstood; a response like, “What I hear you saying is …” can help a conversation stay on track.
Make a commitment and stick to it: When compromise is finally achieved, it’s imperative that both parties keep honorable by holding to the agreement. To be known as one who keeps true to one’s word is a respectable attribute. If a commitment cannot be kept, don’t make it; it simply dilutes one’s merit when the next discussion takes place.
Be considerate: It is of more value to admit fault and own a wrongdoing than to simply deny or justify it. Stating, “You’re right, I should not have said that,” or “I was wrong, I’m sorry,” goes a long way in disarming an opponent. It also demonstrates character and sensibility. If the other party reports a statement that caused hurt, be considerate and acknowledge the worthiness of those feelings. Thoughtful questions like, “What can I do next time to avoid hurting you?” can be useful to both parties.
Be honest: Not expressing your innermost feelings can sabotage a discussion. Be true to yourself and air your laundry. Both mom and daughter deserve a voice and holding back will only guarantee that the unresolved issue will erupt again.
Talking during times of peace can help ease tensions during times of war. If mom and daughter get to know each other while levelheaded, jumping to conclusions in a battle may be lessened. When mom knows a daughter’s guiding principles and motivations, she can appreciate how she’s wired. When a daughter can recognize a mom’s value system and objectives, she can understand her mom’s point of view more clearly. A strong connection between mom and daughter can be one of life’s most precious relationships. Rarely does it happen spontaneously, but with determination, a thriving relationship can be rewarding lifelong.