This topic is dear to my heart, especially this week as I returned from a ‘quick’ visit to see my daughter at college last weekend. She is in her second year at Washington State University and I have been blazing a new path in my parenting journey. As with every generation, mothers and daughters share a special bond, I wish I could put my finger on just what the difference is, but it doesn’t matter. It just is – in such a sweet way.
We each bear the qualities of each other; at times I wish it were only all the good qualities, but as with everything you have to take the good with the bad. I can see myself in my daughter all the time and I also see things that make me wonder where she could have gotten “that” from! It is crazy.
It is every mother’s hope that their daughter grow to be strong, independent, caring, and giving. A mother’s dream is to enjoy the fruits of her labor (no pun intended) …to know that her daughter is happy, confident, and kind to all. There are many detours and roadblocks along the way, I certainly have had mine. Often self-inflected problems that come up in relationships, but never the less things that need to be conquered and worked through. I am by far from a perfect mother, and I hope that if you’ve been hanging around here long, you’ve gotten that loud and clear. I messed up, goof up and carelessly put my foot in my mouth so many times that I have a lot of examples of what ‘not to do’. I provide a lot of learning examples!
But through all these years of mothering a daughter, I’ve come up with a few good building blocks that are helpful for maintaining a relationship that will last long after they leave your home (which comes much too soon!) If you make the effort in developing a strong relationship now, not only will you enjoy a close unique friendship with your daughter, you will also pass on to her the wonderful gift of future strong relationships with her own children.
Really, what can be more important and rewarding than that? Not much, it ranks right up there at the top!
Life is based on building blocks. Relationships, too, are based on the same. Given the tools, you can build yours strong…strong to last the bumps in the road and the trials of life. A strong foundation provides the anchors to weather any storm. It’s never too late to begin. With each new day comes renewal, forgiveness, and a positive step towards building once again.
Without trust, any relationship doesn’t stand a chance. Trust often is confused as a “given”. A God given right! As a loving mother, your daughter has grown to trust YOU. She knows you will pick her up when you say you will. She knows that she is cared for and provided for by YOU. Your daughter also knows your love is unconditional and that regardless of her doings, you’ll be there. She might have to deal with your consequences for doing wrong, but she TRUSTS you above all. Realize that YOU have earned her trust through word, credibility, and actions.
There are five steps to establishing trust between a mother and a daughter. Each important and well guarded. They include: HONESTY; AWARENESS; FOLLOW UP; CONSEQUENCE; and finally, PRIVILEGE. Knowing each of them and how to apply these steps to a working relationship is key in maintaining a loving relationship.
Funny when our children are born, we seem so in tuned to their needs. We know the difference between a hungry cry and a mad cry. We can sense the slight mood change and worry for hours that there is a cold coming on. As our little girls grow, we teach them to talk.
Just because we teach language, an ensemble of “sounds” does not mean we teach communication. Communication as defined by Webster is: an act of transmitting OR an exchange of information or opinions. Think about this, “an act of transmitting” which can mean giving orders, commands, and/or instructions. This of course is necessary at times. It means we mean what we say – and do it! No questions, no discussion. This form of communication is certainly acceptable and appropriate at times. Taking the other side of the definition, “an exchange of information” we understand this to be a form of exploring anothers opinion, thoughts, and logic. This too is very important. As a matter of fact, this is the foundation of effective communication involving two people. Exactly what I shared last week on The Art of Active Listening.
When does it start? As our girls learn their words at the age of 2, they also begin to learn communication skills. These skills are mostly taught by our physical reactions and not our verbal capabilities.
Physical reactions involve the delivery of our words, the tone of our voices, and the actions of our body. It is not about getting through – it’s about logical reasoning and openness to understanding another human being. Since your daughter has already achieved a level of trust in you, she will embrace your skills of communication if delivered in a manner that support her best interests without threatening her own desires. If you are a screamer, trust is easily questioned. YOU, as the parent are expected to be in control at all times. Remember communication can be a “two way street” or a single command. Your choice, your control. I talk and teach moms to regain control in their parenting and communication skills in my Becoming a Calm, Cool and Confident Mom Online Coaching Program. This is invaluable in keeping communication open, especially into the teen years.
Now that we have defined communication, I urge you…don’t spend too much time talking. Teach by actions as well! How? It’s easy…(once you understand how). Spend a lot of time listening!!! Effective listening provides an avenue showing insight into your daughter’s life. There is so much you can learn by listening and observing. Listening not only involves what your daughter says, it involves what others say too. This includes her friends, teachers, enemies and anyone she has contact with. Listening is a skill. Creating environments of opportunity is what you want to do. For example…Car pools are painful to be sure, but when you pick up a bunch of her friends, keep the music to a soft level - don’t talk – just listen! The girls will be open with their chatter and you’ll be able to interpret not only the quality of her friendships, but the collective views of the group. This can be very valuable in future conversations you may have with your daughter. It’s also a great way to get to know her friends! Subtle suggestions from your side will have a better impact if you are more informed…remember what you learned regarding communication…Since your daughter has already achieved a level of trust in you, she will embrace your skills of communication if delivered in a manner that support her best interests without threatening her own desires. YOU, as the parent, are in control at all times. I talked more about The Art of Active Listening last week.
Letting go is the ongoing process we all deal with – I think this is one of the hardest parts of parenting, especially as your children get older. When, how, just enough, not too much. Knowing when to allow your daughter to find her way and knowing when to hold her hand and guide her. There will be times when your heart breaks for her, when you want to take her pain, her place, her path – but the same lessons we’ve learned, so too shall they. We realize we can’t (and should not) always shield her from everything. If you think about it, looking back on our own life – some of the most painful situations taught us the most powerful life lessons. Whether that was empathy and compassion for others, or our ability to forgive and move on; whatever crisis we face we have a choice – We can choose to be “bitter or better”. It’s a choice. In being there for your daughter, while letting go you provide the strength she’ll need to stand on her own. Through pain we grow and through growth we become whole. Sometimes there are no words, sometimes silence and solidarity speak louder than any great speech. If you have built upon the three previous blocks, letting go will be a natural process of love. There is no fear where love dwells. Your goal is accomplished – you have the strong foundation for a lifelong, healthy relationship with your daughter. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to ‘fix’ things for my daughter. It is hard to keep from taking things into my own hands.
Being there involves just that…being there as a friend, a parent, a role model, a mother. Learning today how to build and enjoy a mother/daughter relationship is the best gift you will ever give to both yourself and your daughter. This is a gift that can be passed down from generation to generation, building stronger and deeper each time.
I hope for those of you who have daughters you can take some time to reflect on these building blocks. They truly can be said of the relationship between mothers and sons too, but I just had time to reflect on time with my daughter this past weekend and how my actions during her years in my home has made a difference to her and how it has formed our relationship.
I continue to learn in each new phase of parenting – you never really are ‘not’ a parent!
A great book I found helpful on the subject of raising my daughter was “Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter” by Vicki Courtney. Grab a copy, read it through and take some time to build these conversations into your daughters teen/tween years! You won’t regret it.
What is your favorite building block in parenting your daughter (or son?)
PHOTO – yes, that is me and my daughter Lauren – plus my other “doodle” daughter Molly. A photo that is a few years old, but one of my favorites!