The Secret to Maintaining the Mother-Daughter Bond
As it turns out, keeping the lines of communication open may depend on one primary factor: good old-fashioned listening.
Many mothers approach their daughters' switch to double digits in age with
dread -- in no small part because the word at the softball practice drop-off or
in the lobby after a school play is that the world of teenage girlhood is a
horrible, door-slamming place. But some mothers, such as Edna Auerfeld of
Monroe, N.Y., say they prefer this stage. "You can listen to them and talk to
them," says Auerfeld, a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to three girls, ages
14, 12, and 5. "You can negotiate and compromise and make a plan with
Listening is key, says Roni Cohen-Sandler, PhD, psychologist and co author
of I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter
Conflict. "If you're not allowing them to get the period at the end of
their sentence," says Auerfeld, "you're not doing something right in my
But both Auerfeld and Cohen-Sandler agree that listening doesn't necessarily
mean having the same point of view. "Young teens want to be heard and taken
seriously even more than they want their parents to agree with them," says
The Importance of Listening to Your Teen
Listening even when they disagree with what their daughters say can be
especially challenging, Cohen-Sandler says. "Mothers have to respect how girls
feel, rather than telling them how they should feel," she says. "It is crucial
to train girls to pay attention to their inner voice."
A mother's self-awareness -- about her own double-digit years and what she
expects of her teenage daughter -- is essential. "What aspects of the
relationship they had with their own mother do they want to repeat, and which
do they want to do differently?" Cohen-Sandler asks.
In the end, Cohen-Sandler says, mothers do their daughters the best service
when they stand firm.
"As a mother, you have to feel comfortable asserting your authority when
your daughter needs you to," she says. "And that means, at times, risking that
she will be angry or upset or disappointed."
Tips for Getting Along With an Adolescent Daughter
Choose your battles. Auerfeld says she occasionally lets little
things go because she's got her eye on bigger goals -- keeping her girls safe,
on track in school, and out of trouble.
Listen and acknowledge. "My daughter says, 'I would like to stay up
until midnight,'" Auerfeld says. "I say, 'No, you have to get up in the
morning.' She says, 'You're not listening.' I say, 'No, I heard you. I just
disagree with your point.'" Keeping the tone light when she can, says Auerfeld,
has helped her negotiate some potentially divisive conflicts.
Seek support. When Auerfeld sees children whose behavior she likes,
she talks to their moms. "I say, 'What do you think you did right?' Or, 'How
did you do this?'" Checking in with others helps her gauge what's happening in
other families -- and gather information about how to manage hers.