The relationship between a mom and daughter can be famously fraught with complications, full of fun and wonderful memories, or both. From Gilmore Girls to Sharp Objects to older classics like Golden Girls, the media is packed with examples of both loving and contentious mother-daughter relationships. The reason for that? We’ve all got mothers. Every single one of us. And coming to terms with whatever that relationship looks like is one of the greatest tasks in our emotional development as humans! So the first thing to know if you’re struggling with mother/daughter fighting is you are not alone. Let’s take a deeper look into why mothers and daughters fight and how to stop.
Where Does the Tension Come From?
The source of arguments between mothers and daughters is not always easy to pin down. There are, frankly, so many places that tension could be coming from that there might be more than one. There are a number of resources out there for you to read more and research specific attributes of your mother/daughter relationship, but here are a few common ones.
You know the old cliché that says “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Yeah… what about the one that says “familiarity breeds contempt?” At a very basic level, sometimes the tension between a parent and child can be coming from the mere fact that they never have space away from one another. The mother’s 100% access to every detail of her daughter’s life makes her the most informed observer of her daughter’s decisions about everything from paperwork to snack foods, and vice versa. Especially if you’re cooped up in the same house together, this constant exposure to one another simply provides you with more opportunities for arguing than you might have in other relationships! In the words of the great band Chicago, “Everybody needs a little time away…. From each other.” If this is the source of the tension in your mother/daughter relationship, it might just be time for a break–we’ll talk more about that later in the section on boundaries.
Social influences and culture have a huge impact on our opinions and beliefs, and often, mothers and daughters are simply on opposite sides of a cultural divide. From politics and religion to passions and pursuits, mom and daughter can simply have different priorities in life. When someone as close to you as a mother or daughter sees such important topics differently from you, it can feel like an attack on your identity. But is it? That depends. More on this in the section on grace and respect.
Independence vs. Protection
The moment a lot of mother and daughter fights begin is the moment one expresses any opinion about the decisions of the other. Because of that constant exposure we mentioned earlier, the opinions of our close family members hit harder. They have context. They might just know what they’re talking about. And that can be infuriating. Nothing feels more like an outright attack on a daughter’s independence, competence, and intelligence than when Mom says, “Is that what you’re wearing?” But the fact of the matter is that, in many cases (not all), Mom was just speaking from a place of protection, thinking through things like weather, activity, and societal pressures because she wants her daughter to have the easiest and safest experience possible. In a healthy relationship, this is where grace and respect would step in. In an unhealthy one, cue the fight!
Every daughter has a mom. Every mom is a daughter. If the mother/daughter relationship is this big of a deal, then we have to realize that it can impact more than just a single generation. How you’re parented (or not parented) is inevitably influenced by how your parents were parented. Recognizing that your mother is the result of her own experience as a daughter can be a huge step toward healing, especially if the source of the tension between you is actually rooted in the mother/daughter tensions of a previous generation. If your mom has a hard time accepting your independence, maybe her own independence was disrespected too. These kinds of things are passed down through families, and that very well could be the root of your personal mother/daughter struggles.
What Can We Do About It?
If you’re researching why mothers and daughters fight, you’re probably interested in figuring out how to stop fighting with your mom or daughter. Identifying the many sources of tension is a great place to start, but be careful not to simply blame your relationship problems on an outside factor. Use this information to attempt growth and healing.
Start by listening. As hard as it might sound, next time a fight breaks out, don’t get sucked into the emotional tennis match. Take a deep breath and say, “Okay, this is something that clearly matters to you. Help me understand it better.” Instead of talking, open your ears. Try to give the other person some space to calmly vocalize what’s really at the heart of this moment’s argument. Is this about independence? Is this about generational differences? Though it sounds scary, the only way to stop fighting is to stop fighting and start listening to why you and the other person can’t see eye to eye on something.
Grace and Respect
Again, this might be difficult, because you might feel so justified in your “side” of the argument that you think respecting the other person would be admitting defeat, but what’s the point of all that listening you just did if you’re just going to turn around and say, “Nope, I’m right. You’re wrong.” If you want your mom or your daughter to respect how you feel and think, might it not be fair to give her the same respect? There are 7 billion people on this planet, and therefore approximately 7 billion perspectives on every possible situation. Just as your life experiences have informed the way you see the world, your mom’s experiences have informed her. The world has room for more than one opinion. It does. Do your best to give your mom or daughter some grace and respect when you disagree, and hopefully she’ll be able to do the same in return.
Sometimes, however, we only have a certain amount of grace and respect to give before we’re empty. Boundaries help us to protect our energy so that we can engage with people from a healthy place, rather than constantly reacting to them from a place of self-preservation. If you and your mom or daughter are constantly butting heads, it might be time to establish some boundaries. You need to create space for each other to feel like independent, competent, and capable human beings in your own right. Constant exposure, like living together or talking on the phone every single day, may not be what your relationship needs right now. Take some time to figure out what you want your mother/daughter relationship to look like and establish some boundaries that could help get you closer to that goal.
Professional counseling is never a bad idea! And without mother/daughter relationships, counselors and therapists all over the world would be out of work. Sometimes we’re too close to our own situation to see it clearly enough to identify specific sources, triggers, or boundary issues. A calm and objective outside eye may be just what you need. Perhaps you need counseling just for yourself because you still don’t feel safe and comfortable having these tough conversations with your mom or daughter. Perhaps the two of you want to try mother/daughter counseling together. Talk therapy of any kind will likely be useful in helping you untangle the complicated mess that can be going on between a mother and daughter, so check out sources like Focus On The Family or our own HopeCoaches if you’re interested in that kind of support.
It would be dismissive to end this article without acknowledging that sometimes the relationship between a mother and daughter can be more than just a little challenging. Sometimes deep hurt is there, stemming from abuse, addiction, and much darker origins than disagreeing about politics or fashion. If that’s the case, whatever boundaries you try to set, or however much you may try to listen, healing this relationship may not be within your power. The only actions you can control are your own. If your mom or daughter can’t reciprocate the grace and respect you try to give them, it may be all you can do to seek support for yourself.
Don’t Give Up
Proverbs 10:12 says “Hate stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” No matter how bad the fights have gotten between you and your mom or daughter, the foundation of love that (hopefully) courses through the veins of your relationship can win in the end. It may be difficult, but it is possible to build stronger relationships with our parents and children. Don’t give up! And if you need help or support during the journey, you can always reach out to us at TheHopeLine and chat with a HopeCoach for help.
For me, building stronger relationships is all about setting healthy boundaries. Find out 4 ways to set healthy boundaries here.