Mothers and daughters: bridging the gap through trust Mothers and daughters: bridging the gap through trust

Being a mother to a daughter involves understanding that her personality is different than the person that is raising her. Communication and open dialogue between the two is key.

Medical Advisor Lucy Pérez Cognitive behavioral psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare.

The notion that conflict will always exist between mothers and daughters is not always true, sometimes there are no problems in the relationship. However, when difficulties arise, many factors are involved, states Dr. Lucy Pérez, cognitive behavioral psychologist and specialist in clinical evaluations and emotional disorder interventions.

One of the factors that can affect this relationship is the mother’s background of what her upbringing was like. “This background is built upon cultural processes that affect the relationship with her daughter. For example, her childhood experiences, the relationship she had with her parents, the example they set for her, whether there was violence, and whether her parents gave her emotional support or if there was good communication,” Dr. Pérez specifies.

Other influential factors include how the mother adapted to changes in her life, her experience with sexuality, how she integrated into a social group, whether she had academic opportunities or not, as well as other responsibilities she has as an adult that affect her ability to make her own decisions and solve problems.

In context

Many the conflicts that exist in mother-daughter relationships are due to fulfilling gender roles, what the mother hopes her daughter will become as a woman, and even what she expects of herself in the role of a woman. “She is expected to be obedient, organized, attentive and pleasant to others. Due to this, girls begin to experience subtle forms of mistreatment, such as expectations for how she should dress, how much she should weigh, what size she is, how she expresses herself, and her way of talking and walking. If she doesn’t meet these expectations, others will never approve of her,” says the psychologist.

Being the mother to a woman is not the same as being a mother to a man. Men have less expectations of them, are taught to believe in themselves and to be strong and handsome however they want to be. The mother and son relationship lacks these tensions and expectations and is there is more tolerance involved.

Everything can influence how a woman raises her daughter. Sometimes, the phases a young woman goes through become the main barrier to her having a relationship with her mother, as she may have the desire to live her own life.

“There are two problems here: mothers who are tired of their daughters being disobedient, and daughters who are exhausted from the demands of their mothers. Some mothers try to overcome these types of conflicts by being aggressive, a very quick way to make others do what you want. But this is proof that the mother has not had the skills or emotional intelligence to be convincing to her daughter and make her follow the rules without being aggressive.”

One of the important aspects of raising a daughter is to be aware that she is different from her mother, has her own and personality and will probably not lead a life similar to that of the person that raised her. Rather, mothers should make the responsible decision of trying to understand these conditions and raise her child without requiring her to have the same patterns of behavior.

“Daddy’s girl”

Conversely, if a daughter’s father spoils her, this also contributes to creating conflict between mothers and daughters. Psychologist Lucy Pérez asserts that, “Many of the issues children have are caused by the parents’ poor behavior,” in the sense that they themselves are unclear about how to raise their children or what rules should be established.

If either parent loses authority, this creates space for conflict because the one that enforces the rule, begins to be the bad parent, and the one that provides rewards or takes away punishments from a “daddy’s girl,” begins to be the good parent.

Having a good relationship as a couple and having opportunities to enter into dialogue with clear agreements about the goal of raising a child are key. “Even though there are mothers that lose credibility with their daughters on their own, for example when they say, ‘Wait until your father gets home, then you’ll see,’ which immediately gives the impression that the mother is not able to enforce a rule, or for example, when they give their child an ultimatum and do not follow through with it,” the psychologist states.

Communication is key

Both sides contribute to communication-based conflicts: either because a mother’s expectations for what she wants for her child are not met because there is not adequate and sincere communication, or because the daughter begins to act independently.

Many times, these difficulties arise not only because of the mother’s upbringing, but because they are single mothers or were daughters with absent fathers. In the struggle to play the role of both father and mother, or for her daughter to not live what she went through, the mother may not tell the truth to not hurt her daughter’s feelings or prevent reliving a painful past.

In these cases, a mother’s demands maybe too much for the mindset of the teen. Her demands may be met more easily if the mother talks directly with her daughter, without hiding anything and making her understand the importance of good behavior. This will build trust and also allow the daughter to communicate in a natural way.

This will give them the space and opportunity to create or strengthen their relationship.

How to improve communication

  • Provide a good example when expressing emotions and solving problems.
  • Promote mutual trust by not judging, denying or invalidating who your daughter is as a person, boosting her self-esteem and self-love.
  • Try not to compare her with her siblings or peers and learn to respect differences.
  • Leave subtle forms of mistreatment behind, such as discrediting her or wanting her to fit a set mold.
  • Foster opportunities for validation and the expression of emotions. Validation involves valuing another’s emotions, and allowing them to feel at ease and express their feelings as well as establish opportunities to be heard so that the daughter realizes her emotions are important to others, in this case, her mother.
  • Keep mental health in mind. If problems cannot be solved with your own skills, or without harming others or yourself, it is important to seek the support of a mental health professional. Together with the help of a specialist, the search can begin for different alternatives that focus on more positive childrearing models.