Monday, September 28, 2015

Mother-Daughter Tug-of-War

 "Madre e hija (8150244296)" by Juanedc from Zaragoza, España - Madre e hijaUploaded by juanedc. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

It’s no secret that mothers and daughters have their share of communication problems. It’s a tale as old as time. It was true of the relationship between my mother and me as well as that between my own daughters and me. Under both circumstances, conversations were often back-and-forth, tit-for-tat - like a game of Tug-of-War.
As a teen and young adult daughter, my communication skills were, shall we say, somewhat lacking, both in finesse and compassion. My mother and I fought constantly - and those fights usually ended with feelings of hurt and anger for both of us.
Fast forward a few years and the shoe was on the other foot. I was the one raising teenage girls. And, oy vey! In retrospect, I’m not sure I did any better than my own mother, but the communication between my girls and me has dramatically improved over the years - with maturity and lots of practice.
And what I’ve learned through navigating my own relationships is that mother-daughter interactions don’t have to be a game of Tug-of-War. There are better ways you can relate to the most important Janes in your life.
These tips work. Take it from a seasoned veteran!

  1. Let Go of the Rope. Women, particularly mothers and daughters, can feel like they’re in competition with each other (See Kris Kardashian). This is NOT true - drop the notion that your interactions need to have a competitive edge to them. Everyone has a different communication style. Everyone deserves to be heard and spoken to in a respectful, calm manner. Mothers and daughters are no different.

  1. Step Out of Your Shoes. Moms, kick off your comfortable loafers and, daughters, step down from those 4-inch stilettos. Try to view each other as friends. Clear your head of the roles of “mom” or “daughter” before beginning a conversation. I mean, really, if your BFF were watching you go down a destructive or unproductive path, would she let you go over the cliff without saying a word? Yeah, that’s what I thought. The same applies to both of you. Fellow Janes unite!
  1. Listen Before You Speak. Remember, this is for both mothers AND daughters! Asking thoughtful questions and using active listening skills go a looooong way. For example, “Mom, I sense tension. What is it about the guy I’m dating that you don’t like?,” or, “Jane, what qualities do you find attractive in Joe?” Active listening means keeping your mouth shut; hence, the two ears and one mouth we were issued (and, no, it doesn’t count as listening if you’re formulating a response before the other person finishes speaking).

  1. Meet in the Middle. This has to do with empathy/sympathy. Daughters, do not forget that your mother was once an insecure little girl herself, and so your mom’s experiences in life are invaluable. They could potentially save you a LOT of heartache. Moms, remember your daughter is not your little girl anymore; she’s struggling to become the badass Jane that you are today and needs a mentor, not criticism. Ultimately, you do not own her future - she does.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect?! Repeat to yourself: “Disagreements do not equal War.” My girls and I have had MANY past battles, but we always have each other’s backs when no one else does. This is a fact. But to get to that point in our relationship meant we had to learn, and learning meant making mistakes until we got it right. Mother Janes, accept your daughters as the savvy girls they are, whether you agree with everything they say and do or not. Daughter Janes, call your mothers and tell her how much you value her and the patience it took to raise such a badass daughter. 

Don’t give up on each other, ever. Period.
* GI Jane *

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