The Relationship: Clashing PersonalitiesShe’s bullheaded, opinionated, contrary. (And you’re not, of course.) You may share the same genes, but that’s where the similarities end.
Why it’s good: Your frequent head-butting may not be pretty, but there’s a purpose to all your bickering. “The model of the sensitive, nurturing mother is our cultural expectation, but it’s not the historically dominant one,” says Lee Sharkey, assistant professor of English and women's studies at the University of Maine at Farmington. “That’s not what put food on the table.” Rather, a mother did whatever she could think of to help her children survive.
Why it’s challenging: It’s confusing for a grown woman to fight with her mother about things like boyfriends, hair length, or even her mother’s own health care. Each party feels powerless, says Tannen. Moms typically feel ignored and react by badgering. Daughters feel, well, badgered and become defensive.
Improving relations: “Mothers underestimate their own power and overestimate their daughters’, and vice versa,” says Tannen. Daughters can help by “giving their mothers a sense of their importance during conversation,” says Saltz. Repeating comments in the context of “So you’re saying…” lets Mom know that you’re listening, even if her advice isn’t always heeded.
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