Mother-Daughter Conflict: What You Need to Know

Mother scolding her daughterBy: Janae Webb, MS.Ed., LMFTA, Crosswinds Therapist

Advice For Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationships

Mother-daughter relationships are often the most complicated relationships we have. When girls are young, the relationship is often peaceful. As daughters grow up, their personalities emerge often with emotions and complexities as they navigate their teenage years. It is not uncommon to hear outbursts like, “I wish you weren’t my mom!” or, “I hate you!” In difficult moments, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary even for a mother to think those same things in their frustration without saying them.

Have you experienced particularly challenging outbursts with your daughter, or perhaps with your own mom while growing up? A few of the common types of mother-daughter relationships are listed below. There are positives and negatives to each of the dynamics and it helps to be aware of your relationship so you can work on improvements and maintaining a healthy relationship. Does one seem to stand out to you more than the others and fit your relationship with your mom/daughter?

Mother and Daughter Are Best Friends

This is the type of relationship where mother and daughter are extremely close, are in constant communication, and spend a lot of time together. In terms of healthy communication, this relationship has many positives. There are times though, that a daughter needs a parent, a role model, not a best friend. This is especially true during the preteen and teenage years. When the daughter is young, maintaining authority as her mother is necessary in order to create a healthy parent-child relationship, and thus, a lifelong friendship. And, even when a daughter reaches adulthood and has children of her own, she will need an advisor with experience more than she needs a friend. It is important to acknowledge the generation gap to create a healthy relationship.

Advice: Acknowledge the generation gap, maintain authority, be an advisor and a mentor first.

Reversed Roles

In a reversed role relationship, a daughter becomes a caregiver to her mother, whether it is due to age, culture, health, or finances. Mother-daughter relationships often improve as the mothers age because the daughters can begin to feel needed and mothers begin to feel more loved. Where tension can arise is when daughters begin to feel the pressure of demands and uncertainties, and mothers begin to think they are getting unwanted help they do not need. This type of tension can be prevalent in first-generation immigrant families where the mother and daughter grew up in cultures that were not similar. Regardless of the reason, communication and respect are vital keys to building trust and value in this type of relationship.

Advice: Communication and respect are key, build trust with one another, ensure the other person feels valued in the relationship.

Enmeshed Mother-Daughter Relationship

This relationship occurs when no decision is made without consulting the other one. When there is agreement, it can feel like there is always someone you can count on. However, it is difficult to create healthy boundaries when there is such a pressure to be in agreement. There is stress surrounding getting the other’s approval before making decisions. Setting boundaries will slowly minimizes the stress. One party can highlight how much they value the other’s opinion (and vice versa), then clarify that there are some decisions that have to be made by yourself. Boundaries are needed in order to maintain a sense of self as well as to build each woman’s confidence in her role within the relationship.

Advice: Establish and maintain healthy boundaries, while respecting each other.

Personality Clash

This type of relationship exists when one person is strong-willed and has dominant opinions, and the other does not! The clashing can be confidence-building and empower each to speak their mind. When daughters have to fight with their mothers about everything, both can feel powerless. Moms may react by nagging and it can create defensiveness in daughters. Giving each other a sense of importance by listening to each other can be helpful in rebuilding connection. Both parties should develop strong listening skills and learn to respond thoughtfully to each other, rather than reacting in the moment. These skills may take lots of practice to develop but with conscious effort, great improvements can be made within the relationship.

Advice: Express opinions carefully, acknowledge the others feelings, practice listening skills, respond slowly.

A Healthy Reminder About Adolescent Daughters

Teens tend to go through a stage when they do not like their families, but they can be reminded that this stage will not last forever -- and parents should remember that too! Continue to talk to your daughter and do everything you can to keep lines of communication open. Share what you appreciate about her, what your teenage years were like, what your relationship was like with your own mother, and try connecting using her preferred love language. Doing these things may also help you as a mother during what is a truly difficult season of raising a child to adulthood!

While mother-daughter relationships are notoriously difficult, it is important to remember to be slow to anger and quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Everybody messes up, and everyone needs to well-versed in how to apologize to one-another, but forgiveness can begin the healing process.

If you are experiencing an especially challenging relationship with your mother or daughter, it may be time to seek help. Counselors can assist in the re-connection process and help both sides to feel heard and validated. Crosswinds offers several options for counseling; call or fill out a form to learn more about how we can support you.


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