I recently led a very special Mom/Daughter workshop. Sixty moms showed up each with a middle or high school daughter in tow. My goal for our 90 minutes together was two-fold:
1) Offer pragmatic calming down strategies which I knew would come in handy next time Mom & Daughter find themselves in one of those “I can’t believe we’re fighting about this again!!!” fights.
2) Provide Moms & Daughters with opportunities to understand and appreciate the unique challenges facing the other generation.
I introduced the Calming Strategies: I’m going to teach you how to do re-centering breathing. So next time you feel off-balance (and believe me there’s always a next time), you can get yourself back to the place where you do your best thinking. Give me a couple of minutes of your time and you’ll have a tool you can use whenever you’re about to ‘lose it.’ It’s very easy to breathe. The real challenge is to remember to breathe when you need to. And that would be any time you and your daughter or you and your mom get locked in a DESTRUCTIVE WASTE OF TIME yelling match – which covers pretty much all yelling matches.
Here’s how to breathe. Go for it!
As for the Opportunities to Understand one another, those came in the form of 20 posted questions lining both sides of the room. These first six were for Moms and Daughters:
1. I’m very proud of my daughter/my mom when______
Most common Mom answers: Shows backbone. Achieves a goal she’s worked for. Helps others.
Most common Daughter answers: Wears cute clothes. Does what she loves. Trusts me & relaxes.
2. I wish my daughter/my mom would _______ more.
Most common Mom answers: Help (do chores) without being asked. Open up and talk to me.
Most common Daughter answers: Trust me. Understand me. Listen to me.
3. I’d like to apologize to my daughter/my mom for______
Most common Mom answers: Yelling & losing patience. Being critical. Not listening.
Most common Daughter answers: Being rude/disrespectful/bitchy. Taking things out on her.
4. Sometimes I’m embarrassed when my daughter/my mom ______
Most common Mom answers: Is rude to me in front of others. Dresses like she does. Gets upset over nothing.
Most common Daughter answers: Dances/sings/laughs/talks too much. Gets too ‘involved’ w/my problems. Tries to act cool around my friends.
5. I feel especially close to my daughter/my mom when______
Most common Mom answers: She confides in me. We hang out together.
Most common Daughter answers: We do stuff together (shop, watch movies, etc.), We talk, We hang out.
6. Most of our conflicts are about______
Most common Mom answers: Chores/helping out. Homework/time management. Siblings.
Most common Daughter answers: Attitude. Grades. Clothes. Social stuff (Curfew, Parties, Texting)
Then there were four Moms Only questions:
7. I could do a better job as a mom if I______
Most common Mom answers: Calmed down. Slowed down. Just relaxed. Had more patience. Had fewer tasks to do.
8. The best advice I could give my daughter is______
Most common Mom answers: Respect yourself. Trust yourself. Do what makes you happy.
9. The hardest part about being a mom is _____
Most common Mom answers: Being patient. Feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing.
10. Sometimes I _____ (Same thing I hated as a kid!) I’m trying to change this behavior.
Most common Mom answers: Get mad about the messy room. Say things I should know are embarrassing to my daughter. Want my daughter to be someone different (from who she is)
And here are the four Daughters Only questions:
7. I would be easier to live with if I______
Most common Daughter answers: Wasn’t so emotional/stressed/bitchy. Listen more. Argued Less. Cleaned up after myself.
8. When something is bothering me I’d like my mom to______
Most common Daughters answers: Leave me alone. Be nice.
9. When we argue I sometime_____ (even if I know it’ll increase tension). I’m trying to change that behavior.
Most common Daughter answers: Yell. Say mean things.
10. If I’m ever a mom, I swear I will_______
Most common Daughter answers: Have an open relationship with her. Be cool if my child wants to go out. Listen.
As you read the questions and mentally answer them you’ll probably wonder how your daughter would respond. Maybe you could use them as a way to let each other in on how each of you feels about your relationship. I invite you to take these questions and your answers as tool for identifying what works in your relationship with your daughter. Celebrate those positive things and continue making time for them. On the flip side, use what you both learn here and work with your daughter to change the aspects of your relationship that could use improvement.
Oh, and one more thing… don’t forget to breathe.