I am the mother of three daughters ranging from mid-teens to early 20s.
These teenage years have been bumpy, with those bumps actually feeling like mountains some days. Through the years, I have read many articles about how strained mother/daughter relationships can sometimes be and I vowed to make connecting with my girls a priority.
I will admit, however, I have not always done a great job because of living in the extremes of “super-strict mom” and “fun permissible best friend mom”!
In the end, I have discovered it’s about balance.
So I tried a little she said/she said with my 17-year old, “D.” Here’s how it went:
What do you think strains mother/teen daughter relationships?
D: Many girls struggle with feeling close to their moms because daughters get nagged and yelled at so often for things they don’t think are a big deal. Or sometimes moms say things they don’t realize hurt us. Many girls also struggle relating to their moms because of differing morals and expectations. And comparing us can be upsetting; I have had conversations with my friends about how unfair they feel they are treated compared to older or younger siblings and how they don’t feel appreciated by their moms.
M: Fear plays a big part in why moms interact the way they do with their teenage daughters. Moms often nag and lecture because they are worried. Our daughters have to realize we were teenage girls once, too! We do understand more than they think we do.
One thing I have noticed with my daughters and their friends is how easy it seems to lie or not tell the whole truth—and for a parent, that’s scary! Being honest even when it’s hard has always been something I have tried to emphasize. I know they will make mistakes. I will make mistakes. But if there is no honest communication, it’s very likely those mistakes will be repeated and cause some serious pain.
And because lying is often considered not a “big deal” by teenagers, distrust is something very common between mothers and daughters that will cause constant tension and eventually deteriorate the relationship.
How do you balance everything as a busy teenager?
D: I think life as a teenager now is very different from what it was for my mom. I try to balance family, my relationship with God, school, work, sports and my social life by trying to stay organized and get a good amount of sleep. The keyword is “try” because this doesn’t always happen! Sometimes when I know I have a busy week, I will plan out and write down everything in a notebook.
Another way of staying organized is to try to think ahead. For example, if I work Monday and Tuesday night but I have a school assignment due Wednesday, I will work on it as much as I can over the weekend if possible. And as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized having a lot of friends can be stressful and hard to maintain so just having a couple really close friends is the way to go for me personally… it just stinks when all of them are busy, but those are the times to binge-watch The Office in bed!
M: I personally feel like being busy is good for teenage girls; it means less time mindlessly scrolling through social media and overthinking the problems they are experiencing. There is, after all, almost always a dilemma of some kind they are working through. I agree with the need for getting enough sleep. I enforce that one as much as possible because everything will fall apart and their decision-making skills will be affected if they are sleep-deprived.
Organization is also important, but so is being purposeful with time. So girls: Put. the. phones. down.
What is a significant challenge teenage girls face today? And be honest.
D: One of the most challenging things about being a teenage girl in today’s society besides the pressure to excel constantly at school and every activity is the amount of expectations there are for us in guy/girl relationships. Think of it like this… a girl really likes a boy, he likes her back and they start dating. Almost immediately the expectation is that it’s normal to be participating in sexual activities and if this does not happen, many peers accuse this couple of not truly liking each other so that puts more pressure on the relationship.
There are also many girls who are not dating anyone seriously but will be physical with a boy and be publically shamed for it (in person and all over social media) while the guy gets praised for doing the same thing. And maybe the worst one is if a girl decides she does not want to casually “hook up” with a guy, she is made fun of and most guys ignore her. How is any of this fair for us girls? No matter what we choose, we are not valued.
M: Along with this double-standard, I’ll add the pressure of what these teens see and post on social media is unbelievable and cruel at times. I hope if I taught my daughters anything, it is that they do not need to date to feel accepted and they should never settle or lower their standards. That is why as moms it is vital we help our daughters recognize their value and have the tough talks with them. Be purposeful in communication, but not accusing or nag.
Ask her questions even about things you don’t think she would ever do because chances are she has done some of them or at least thought about it. Be her safe place to tell the truth even if she understands there will be consequences. And our daughters will learn from our own examples, not just our words. If we lie or gossip, they will think that’s okay and do it, too. If we don’t value ourselves, they won’t value themselves either.
As parents, we all have our own opinions on appropriate guy/girl behavior but I think we can all agree we do not want our daughters to be humiliated because they have given up trying to be accepted. Not sure this makes sense.
What do you appreciate most about your relationship with your mom/daughter?
D: The thing I most appreciate about my mom in our relationship is that she really cares about me and loves on me. She always makes sure I am reminded that God has a plan for me and she takes amazing care of me even when I am being difficult! She also makes sure to tell me when I am doing something that is not the best for me. She’s also so fun and spontaneous with me and I love it!
M: I have different things I appreciate about each of my daughters. One common thing is that we have fun together and they include me in their lives. I get invited to do things with them and they text me throughout their days. I appreciate that they value our family time even at an age when many of their peers want complete independence and avoid their families as much as possible.
I appreciate that they do not stay mad for very long and are forgiving. And we all pray for one another. There is nothing more comforting for a mom when I might be close to tears and one of my daughters will come over and put her hand on me and just offer encouragement or a prayer. That warms my heart!
What is something you want to improve in your mother/daughter relationship?
D: I think one thing my mom and I both have to work on is listening to each other better even if it’s something we don’t want to hear. Sometimes she has a hard time just letting things go. On occasion she dwells too much on mistakes I have made that were hurtful to her or me; meanwhile, I have learned my lesson and don’t want to think about the past anymore.
M: I would like to improve our ways of communicating and yell at each other less. I try to give them space when they need it but not so much that they disconnect from me, so I hope to keep making progress with that balance. Sometimes I have to talk about something uncomfortable they do not want to discuss, so I try to wait for the ideal time and place to have that conversation even if I am ready to burst!
And we have spent a lot of time in the past few years working on self-control and respect.
What do you think your mom/daughter wants out of your relationship?
D: I believe the thing my mom wants most from our relationship is unconditional love because she wants us to be close and honest with each other all the time. She wants to be my rock and my “go-to” person…and she is! I’m blessed to have her in my life.
M: I think daughters want to know they are loved all the time, even when they make mistakes; they want forgiveness and a clean slate during those times. Daughters want to feel safe and to make sure I remind them that no matter what people and circumstances throw at them, they will get through those times and are never alone. Lastly, I think they want realistic boundaries that expand as they grow. I’m working on that one!
No matter whether we are moms or daughters, it is important to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. It is normal and healthy to disagree at times, but that situation doesn’t mean issues cannot be resolved peacefully.
I would even suggest discussing these questions with your own daughter. I learned some new things about the daughter who participated with me in writing this article and we are trying to make an effort to work on the weak spots in our relationship.
One day these teenage girls will be adults and moms themselves. Our relationships with them now are certainly worth the investment!
Diakon staff member and mom
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