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Why Are Mother/Daughter Relationships So Difficult?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
“Girls are easy,” say well-meaning family and friends to new mothers of girls. And when women embark on their parenting journey, they often carry this fantasy of being their daughter’s close companion and confidant.
 
In reality, mother/daughter relationships can be tough – fraught with conflict, arguing and lots of drama. Menninger psychologist Patricia Daza, PhD, manager of the Compass Program for Young Adults, says much of that conflict happens when the mother sees herself in her child, and the child wants to assert her own identity. Dr. Daza weighs in on some common mother/daughter conflicts.
 

“You’re always criticizing me!”

What seems like a simple suggestion to a mom can come across as criticism to her daughter. But before dismissing your daughter’s charges of criticism, ask why.
 
“If you are hearing, ‘You are always criticizing me’ from your daughter, it is helpful to mentalize. You could say, ‘I am sorry you think that. I don’t think I am criticizing you, but tell me why you think that.’ That will also give you some time to pause and reflect, and figure it out.”
 

“You’re no fun!”

“In our society, the mom continues to have most of the parental responsibility and is often the taskmaster in the home,” said Dr. Daza. “In continuing these roles, we are inadvertently communicating to our daughters that Dad can have all the fun.”
 
To counter that message, Daza advises parents to try to divide up the fun and necessary jobs more evenly – so Mom isn’t always stuck nagging about chores and homework.
 

“I’m not you, Mom!”

“Mothers may look back at their past and wish they had done something differently, or they may want their daughters to follow their same path, which means many focus their hopes and dreams on their daughters,” Dr. Daza said, adding that this approach backfires if it doesn’t account for a daughter’s individuality.
 
Getting some blowback from your daughter about your expectations? Take a step back and think about your past and your own relationship with your mother. Are you trying to recreate a good relationship or fix the mistakes of a bad one? Are you encouraging your daughter’s interests and dreams, or pushing your own? Your experiences inform the way you parent your daughter.