For some women, the idea of raising a daughter can be really scary. Teen girls, in particular, are known for butting heads with their moms. It may take effort, but there are ways to lay the foundation of a healthy mother-daughter relationship while your daughter is still young. Find out how you can apply these behaviors in your life to work toward a life-long bond with your daughter.
- My Relationship with My Mother
- What is a Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationship?
- How to Build a Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationship
- Keeping Promises
- Prioritizing Time Together
- Really Listening To Her
- Asking Her Questions
- Letting Her Know How I Feel
- Apologizing When I Make Mistakes
- Sharing My Goals and Interests With Her
- Free Flowing “I Love You’s” and Hugs
- Giving Encouragement and Positive Constructive Criticism
- Open Lines of Communication
- Preparing Her for Womanhood
- Final Thoughts
My Relationship with My Mother
Growing up, I would always hear close friends mention how much they would rather have sons than daughters. They would describe how much of a handful they were. They could not imagine being a mother to that kind of daughter. Often they had difficult or strained relationships with their mothers because they couldn’t connect with their mothers in some way or another, especially as teenagers.
It always made me sad.
I have been fortunate to have had a great relationship with my mother. Aside from a few moments when I was absorbed in my pre-teen world, I can’t say that I really ever had a disagreement with my mom that didn’t stem from her just trying to keep me safe and me thinking she wanted to keep me from having fun.
I was no angel, but I tried for the most part to be a “good girl” and not make life too hard for my parents.
Outside of my friend circle, I continued to hear this sentiment from other women and in the media.
I started to wonder if what I had with my mother was some kind of fluke. If I were blessed with a daughter someday, would we be doomed to have a rocky road, at some point?
I always wanted children. My mother used to tell me that I could be a great mother and her words always stuck with me.
As a six-year-old girly girl, I most often thought of having a daughter. I played with my dolls and had lots of names picked out in my head for my future daughter.
So, you can understand why I started to worry as I got such discouraging comments from my friends as a teenager.
I pushed those thoughts to the side and eventually got married to my husband and started to plan our family.
We got pregnant a few months later. After saving the gender as a surprise at birth, we found out we were the proud parents of… you guessed it, a girl!
Our daughter is now seven years old and as she gets older, the thoughts of my teenage girlfriends sometimes come to mind.
Will we one day have a tumultuous relationship?
Luckily, I now (at 30-something and a half) have seen many great mother-daughter relationships that continue to thrive to this day.
So, I know that it is possible to build a great relationship with my daughter. But, I want to be proactive in finding ways to build a great foundation that we can lean on throughout our lives.
What is a Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationship?
First of all, what is a healthy mother-daughter relationship? It can be really tricky to define what healthy relationships look like. So much of it is subjective and based on past experiences, but I’ll tell you what it means to me.
A healthy-mother daughter relationship contains, at least, some measure of:
- Mutual trust
- Open and honest communication
- Support for goals
- Healthy (age-appropriate) boundaries
- No competition
- Empathy for one another
- Mutual effort toward conflict-resolution
- No holding grudges
- Limitless Encouragement
Psychology Today gives a few examples of things that daughters need from their mothers. Thankfully, they align with the ideas that I’ve had for supporting and nurturing my daughter. I will continue to look for resources as she grows.
How to Build a Healthy Mother-Daughter Relationship
I am still very new to motherhood, but I believe that building strong relationships with our children is very important. My daughter is the oldest, so she will be the proof of concept for how this will go. I’ve started to be very intentional about our relationship and hopefully, it will pay off in the future.
Not all moms and daughters long to have a close relationship and it is absolutely not required to be happy and healthy.
But, for those who would like to share that kind of connection, here are some strategies that I am implementing with my young daughter. I hope they will help us build a strong mother-daughter bond.
It’s so easy to make a quick promise to a child and break it for one reason or another.
Maybe you promised you would play dolls with her after you finished work, but you ended up getting sidetracked while preparing dinner.
Maybe you promised a play date for the weekend, but had to cancel because the bathroom sink sprung a leak.
In your mind, these are completely valid reasons for changing plans with your daughter. But to a child, they’re just broken promises.
Every time this happens, a little bit of the trust you are building chips away.
We hope that kids don’t harp on these “changes of plans”, but kids have memories like elephants. Those little brains are still hotwired to remember every time you broke a promise.
Trust me, I have been reminded of times when I’ve done this.
I have been trying to be mindful to make promises sparingly, especially while they are still young.
Ensuring they understand that there is a chance things could change will reduce the amount of disappointment.
Often, I will tell my daughter that I will try my best to make something happen, but if it doesn’t she and that thing are still very important to me. But, it may just have to be postponed.
I started to see a shift when I started to take that approach. She became much more understanding of the variables that may affect our plans and was more receptive to changes.
I’m hoping that this will allow us to build more trust over the years.
Prioritizing Time Together
As a working, homeschooling wife and mom of three, our days are hectic. Our youngest is two and keeps us all on our toes and ready to shift at the drop of a dime.
For this reason, it is really difficult to spend focused quality girl time with my daughter whenever she wants.
Sometimes, she tells me that she just wants to spend time with just me and not with all the boys.
While I can’t promise that it will always happen spontaneously, I can be intentional about carving out time consistently to make a moment for just her and me.
Right now, that takes the form of spending a few extra minutes with her at bedtime for us to cuddle and talk.
She calls it “Question Corner with Mommy”.
It is the cutest thing I’ve ever been a part of. She looks forward to saying goodnight to her brothers and climbing in bed with me. Then she’ll unload her questions of the day on me.
Sometimes, I’m really in a rush to get to the next part of my nightly routine (i.e. finish the dishes, straighten up the house, spend time with Hubby, or get in some extra work), but seeing her face light up when it’s time for me to focus on just her, makes those few minutes worth it.
I want to continue to make time for her, no matter what that turns into over the years.
She will always be a priority of mine and it’s my responsibility to ensure that she knows it and sees it through my actions.
Really Listening To Her
In the course of our days, with screaming kids and busy schedules, sometimes we can drown out the individual voices of our children; to zone out while finishing the dishes, or keep scrolling on our phones.
While we’d like to think our brains are really good at multitasking, they’re not magic.
I’m often guilty of not hearing the first few “Mommy!”s that are said when I’m in the middle of something. I can see the disappointment in her eyes when she realizes I’m not giving her my full attention.
Hubby and I are trying to help the kids understand patience and to be considerate when interrupting someone, we don’t want our children to ever feel like we don’t want to listen to them.
Taking a moment to stop what I’m doing, look my daughter in the eyes, and really listen to her shows her that her voice and thoughts are important to me.
I would like for her to always know that she is not a bother to me and that I care what she has to say.
Hopefully, as she gets older I can continue to work on being considerate enough to take a pause to listen to her and let her know she can come to me and not feel dismissed.
Asking Her Questions
As a kid, I would hear the sentiment that children are to be seen and not heard. Granted this seemed to apply to older generations, but I can see remnants of it to this day.
Because we work from home and homeschool, our children are at home with us all day, every day.
This means MUCH more daily interaction than I ever imagined we’d be able to have. So, there’s not a whole lot I miss about my daughter’s day.
Without having that “How was your day?” discussion after returning from a day at school, it would be easy to assume I know just about everything about my daughter.
But, just like adults, you may never know unless you ask. As her world expands, there’s a LOT on her mind.
I use random moments and our “Question Corner” time to ask her about herself. Some questions I ask periodically to check in and others just to get a new conversation started.
Either way, I want her to know that I’m interested in her thoughts, goals, fears, plans for the future, and how I can be a better mom to her.
Questions I Ask to Validate My Young Daughter
- How are you feeling?
- What do you need to feel happy?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- Have I done anything to make you sad lately?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- What makes you the happiest?
- What are you afraid of?
- What is your favorite thing to do?
- Is there anything you feel sorry about?
- Is there anything that is worrying you?
Along with those questions, my favorite is simply, “What would you like to know about today?”
Asking these questions leads to great conversations, gives me great insight into who she is right now and who she wants to be, and lets her know that I am interested in her.
As she gets older, I know that answers to questions may become more limited as she seeks her independence and privacy.
I just hope that laying the foundation of communication will ensure that she knows she can always come to me.
Letting Her Know How I Feel
One disconnect that I think daughters may have with their mothers is not seeing them as individuals apart from being their mothers.
As a child, it’s hard to imagine the feelings of an adult and understand their perspective. Adults know everything, right? Until kids inevitably realize that adults don’t have life figured out, resentment and defiance can trickle in.
Right now, my daughter knows that I do not know everything, I do not have all of the answers and I make mistakes every day.
As a kid, when I asked my mom her (and my dad’s) secret to raising a family, she said, “We didn’t always know what we were doing, but we planned as best we could, prayed, and tried to have fun while doing it.”
I can’t tell you how much weight was lifted from my young shoulders as I considered the responsibility of becoming an adult and starting a family.
Understanding that my parents were flawed humanized them for me, at an early age. Kids tend to hold their parents up on a perfect pedestal until the parent one day falls from grace, so to speak.
My daughter can sense when I’m frustrated or tired, and she never holds back and asks me about myself.
She might ask, “Are you ok, Mommy?” when I’m in the middle of doing the dishes.
This shows me that her perception of my energy is that I’m not happy, therefore something must be wrong. Or that she or the boys did something to upset me.
That’s usually not farther from the truth.
I simply let her know that dishes are not my favorite thing, so while it’s very important to keep the house clean, I don’t always smile while I’m doing it.
In those moments, I’m very honest about my feelings and reassure her that it’s not her fault.
However, when she does contribute to my frustrations by not listening or getting into trouble, I let her know so that she understands how her actions affect others.
By taking this approach, I hope to build a mutual consideration for each other.
Apologizing When I Make Mistakes
Saying I’m sorry to kids does not come easily to everyone. Some parents may feel that the authority that they have over their children supersedes their need to apologize.
In my opinion, apologizing to your children when making a mistake is crucial.
As I work to build my daughter’s trust in me, I have to make sure that she knows I can be accountable for my actions.
I can’t require that she apologizes and not hold myself to the same standard. Doing so can breed distrust and make me a hypocrite.
As parents, we can’t fall back on the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. I always felt conflicted when I was a kid.
I didn’t understand why adults should be able to do the things they told us were wrong. I’m sure my kids wouldn’t get it either.
I hope that by owning up to my mistakes (especially with regard to her), my daughter will see that I can admit when I’m wrong and am open to becoming better every day.
Sharing My Goals and Interests With Her
As mothers, we are whole people, with hopes and dreams that could bring us personal fulfillment.
While I freely let my daughter know the plans we have as a family and my hopes for her happiness, I also let her know about my personal goals and interests.
Allowing her to learn more about me and the things that I love gives her insight into the person that I am.
I want her to know, understand, and be proud of me.
My hope is that as she grows, even if we can’t share the same interests, she will gain more perspective on the decisions I’ve made.
By sharing my goals, she can go along on the journey. As I began blogging, she was right there.
As my husband and I embarked on new family business ventures, she was right there.
Aside from the big things, I let her know what I like, in general.
If she asks what I’m reading/watching I let her know. I want to share as much about myself as I can, while she’s still interested. And hopefully, she always will be.
Right now, she’s interested in almost everything I do, which is super flattering. But, I know that there will come a time when the idea of Mommy is not as bright and shiny.
However, I hope that her understanding of Mommy, the woman, will continue to grow.
That’s when I hope our mother-daughter bond can evolve into something more like friends.
We have but a short time in this life and I don’t want to miss opportunities to share who I am with my little girl.
Free Flowing “I Love You’s” and Hugs
Nothing makes a young child feel validated like affection from Mom and Dad.
Taking time to say, “I love you,” and giving hugs throughout the day lets my daughter know that I am there for her emotional needs.
She can’t always articulate why she needs it, but when she comes to me for a hug, I never say, “No.”
At seven years old, she’s getting tall and lanky, but I still let her take a running leap for a squeezy, wrap-her-legs-around-me-hug.
In those moments, I hope she feels that I am there for her right then and there; and that I always will be.
Along with those hugs are frequent and free-flowing “I love you’s”.
I don’t think that you can ever say “I love you” too much. Those words could never be diluted when it comes to your loved ones, especially your children.
I probably say it 30+ times a day. Every chance I get, I let her know that I adore her and I’m happy that she and her brothers are in my life.
Giving Encouragement and Positive Constructive Criticism
Going up, my mother was our family’s biggest cheerleader. I never felt unsupported when taking on a new task.
This is something I would like to do for my daughter, as well.
At this age, no goal is out of her reach. It’s my job to give her the support to believe in herself and provide the resources she needs to achieve them.
If I can remain conscious of this behavior, I hope my daughter will always understand that she has my support.
Along with this support must also come some level of positive, yet constructive criticism.
I would do her a disservice if I only applauded her efforts, even with misguided or unrealistic.
If my goal is to prepare her for a fulfilling and productive life, I must help her to understand when her efforts are not aligned with her goals and help her to course correct, when needed.
I will not always agree with her choices, but I will always be there to cheer her on to become the best version of herself.
Open Lines of Communication
My mother recently found old letters that she and I had written to my late grandmother. I found it amazing that she’d held on to handwritten copies of them; some for over 40 years. My mom always told me how special it is to send and receive handwritten notes.
Taking the time to communicate with someone with your own handwriting shows the level of consideration you have for that person.
Even receiving a postcard that my grandmother wrote to me when I was six years old, showed me that she was thinking of me, even when on her fabulous trip to Hawaii. It made me feel so special.
Writing letters or sharing journals also provides an avenue of communication that might be uncomfortable in regular conversation.
No matter how close we are, I’m sure there will be topics or conversations that will be difficult to have face-to-face.
I have always been better at sharing my thoughts in writing, especially when strong emotions are flowing.
Now that my daughter is seven, and is gaining confidence in expressing herself through writing, I look forward to sharing in the same “letters to mommy” tradition that I had growing up.
I will try out a few things to see how it worked for us; starting with letters.
At some point, we can also try out a shared journal, as well.
Preparing Her for Womanhood
So far all of the things that I’ve mentioned could also apply to how I hope to bond with my sons. This one, however, applies only to my daughter.
It is my job to prepare her for womanhood, starting right now.
There is so much for her to learn and I want to be her first source of information about becoming a woman.
I’ve already begun to share tidbits about what’s to come with puberty, pregnancy, being a wife, and motherhood. I don’t want her to be afraid of the changes and challenges that are ahead of her.
My mother answered a lot of questions for me when I was a little girl, so I wasn’t fearful when I got my period. I had even (naively) been looking forward to it.
I looked forward to pregnancy and motherhood because my mother shared her experiences with me. Her open and honest discussions removed the veil of mystery.
I felt prepared to embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly that come with growing up and I was excited to experience those things for myself.
So, I hope that as my daughter grows, she will be armed with the insight she needs to be a confident woman, whatever her life decisions may be.
I’m excited to see her grow up and I want her to be, as well. Though not in too much of a rush to do so 🙂
I am truly grateful for the bond I have with my mother. I am happy to call her my friend.
Who knows what the future will hold for the relationship between my daughter and me, but I will continue to nurture it like a delicate flower.
I never imagined what love I would have for my little girl and I want to make sure that she feels it every day.
With intention, a little luck, and a whole lot of prayer, I hope we will continue to build a strong mother-daughter bond.
How are you planning to foster a healthy mother-daughter bond with your daughter? Share your ideas with us below!
Excellent article! We should all read this before we become mothers!
Thank you so much for reading, confectionarydesigns! My hope is that we all find little ways to be better for our loved ones every day!
What a vulnerable, inspiring, thoughtful and helpful post! I hope all mothers read this!
Thank you so much for reading, Audrey! I’m so glad you found this article helpful. We’re all figuring it out one day at a time 🙂
I wasn’t that close with my Mom growing up but now we are closer than ever. She is my best friend. She was a single Mom of 6 and she was a Nurse so most of my childhood was spent taking care of myself and hanging out with friends while my Mom worked long hours to give us a good life. Her job didn’t leave much time for bonding but now I understand she was doing what she had to do and I think that makes her the best Mom of all. We are all grown now and she found love. I am so happy for her and our relationship now. <3
Thank you so much for reading! I’m so happy you were able to develop a wonderful bond with your mother. Your mom sounds like a Rockstar! I understand so many of the choices my mother made on a completely different level now. The sacrifices of a mother are endless. Having the strength to forgive and give grace to our mothers and daughters truly takes effort. I hope that when it’s all said and done, I’ve done enough (despite my inevitable mistakes) to build that kind of relationship with my daughter.