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Are You Repeating Your Mother?

By: Melissa Worthington

Despite our best efforts to avoid it, we often find ourselves repeating the “mistakes" of our parents. Remember back to when you were an adolescent. Chances are you often found yourself muttering something that sounded like, “I’ll never do that to my daughter," in response to your mother’s reaction to something you did.

Could it be that our parents really do become wiser the older we get? Or is it simply that with life experience we begin to truly understand the wisdom behind most of those seemingly wrong or unfair decisions or punishments? That’s all fine and good, but how do you communicate this to your daughter, who is feeling, as you felt, misunderstood, unfairly accused, or wrongfully imprisoned.

Saying things like, “you’ll understand when you’re older," aren’t really the answer either. Remember how you felt when you heard that statement? So, think back to when you were a teenager. Other than getting your way, what did you most want from your mother? Love? Respect? To feel that your voice was heard and considered? What are some things you can do right now, to make your daughter feel heard? First, listen. This will take some time to perfect, especially if you are currently locked into a battle of wills that has been building for quite some time. Start with something small. Something that is not going to be an issue, or something to which you are likely to say “yes." It’s easy to get locked into a pattern of saying “no" every time we are asked for permission, especially with a teenager who is behaving in a less than charming manner. Here is where you start. The next time you get a request (or demand), ask why the desired activity is so important to her.

Tell her you want to understand her point of view. This doesn’t mean that you will always “change your mind," but it will give her more of a sense that you are listening, and that what is important to her matters to you. This is why starting with something you would say yes to, is helpful. This will also make things easier on the occasions that you have to say "no."

Also, examine why you are saying no. Is it because you truly believe it is in her best interest, or, are you just mad at her, or feel as if she is slipping out of your control? Just as in the majority of customer service people we encounter today, saying "no" seems much easier than saying "yes." After all, saying "yes" often leads to more work, worry, and aggravation, than if we had just said "no." When you do have to say "no," try giving her the reason for it, instead of “because I said so."

Another way to break this pattern is to allow your daughter to explore who she is. This can be very difficult, especially if she has no interest in following in your footsteps. Even though society’s “rules" about careers for women have changed since you, and especially your mother were growing up, we all have ideas for what our children will become as adults. Be patient. Remember the number of “career changes" you came up with when you were in school. Just like you, she will change her mind, and just as you felt passionately about something (or someone) one week, then completely changed the next, so too will your daughter. In order for her to find herself, and decide the woman she will become, she will need your help. Partially for guidance, and partially to let her try and fail. Knowing you will be there for her when she falls will give her the added courage and faith she’ll need to try new things, instead of waiting for an “I told you so," at the end.

None of this is to suggest that you are not the boss. As her parent, you are charged with keeping her safe and raising her to be a productive member of society, a good person, and in the end, what you say goes. This means that there will still be screaming matches, hurt feelings, and things said that you wish you could take back. However, by taking some time to really listen, you will avoid much of the resentment, back talk, and general disobedience that most teenagers feel and dish out to their parents. You will also raise a child that will come to you first when she has a problem, instead of hiding it from you and going to her friends, and will have more of an understanding that everything won’t go her way all of the time. In the end you are teaching your child to communicate effectively, stating what she wants and making a case for why you should decide in her favor. She will learn not only how to deal with “winning" but also, more importantly, how to deal with setbacks, disappointment, and other challenges. These are valuable skills that will not be taught in school until at least collegeFind Article, if even then.

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