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7 Ways to Strengthen Your Mother-Daughter Relationship

7 Ways to Strengthen Your Mother-Daughter Relationship

The handy thing about mothering a daughter is that you are both females. The tricky thing about mothering a daughter is that you are both females. Being a girl or a woman is a complicated business, and mothering one of these intricate creatures can be thornier than you might expect, given that you are both the same gender. Add to this the expectation that a mother-daughter relationship "should" be both natural and lifelong, and you can find yourself carrying a heavy burden where your bond with your daughter is concerned.

I'm convinced that the motherhood learning curve never does entirely straighten out, so I'm still figuring out how to feed and build into and strengthen my relationship with my daughters, both of them young women now. But with more than 20 years of experience in my mom rearview mirror, here's what I can see has created a strong connection between us thus far, and what I trust will continue to strengthen the ties that bind us in the future.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Lordn
  • 1. First, Be the Parent

    1. First, Be the Parent

    "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

    I don't buy into the belief that we can never be our daughters' friends as mothers. A friend is someone we cherish, someone we enjoy spending time with, someone we care about, someone who occupies a sacred place in our hearts—and my daughters and I are all these things to each other, now that they are grown.

    But the first thing my girls needed me to be—the first role they needed me to play—was their parent, and so I tried to keep that calling squarely in my sights when I was tempted to take the easier route of friendship during some of their more challenging years. These days, I am still fully and first their mother, but—oh, the joy of it—now I am their friend, too.

    2. Make Your Own Way

    "You must not covet your neighbor's house. You must not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17 (NLT)

    We could well add "other moms' relationships with their daughters" to the list of things the Tenth Commandment prohibits us from coveting. It can be tempting to look longingly at the kind of connection our mom friends or acquaintances share with their daughters. We can get sucked in by Hallmark movie-type portrayals of what the mother-daughter bond is "supposed" to look like. We can stack our relationship up against the versions offered to us on social media—and find ours lacking.

    But this does our actual relationship with our daughters no favors. It burdens the time we have with them with the potential for disappointment when expectations aren't met. Better we should be intentionally thankful for the past and present we have with our girls and mindfully determined to make our future with them as mutually meaningful as it can be.

    Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
  • caring mom talking with teen looking anxious

    3. Feel Some of What They Feel

    "Like a parent has compassion for their children— that's how the LORD feels compassion for those who honor him." Exodus 20:17 (NLT)

    In our house, we have a saying: "when in doubt, blame the hormones." This is not meant to take away personal responsibility for behaviors or attitudes. Still, it is intended to acknowledge that being a girl or a woman comes with a certain amount of physical and emotional baggage. As moms, we may be inclined to forget some of our younger years' struggles or make light of them when they surface in our daughters, especially if we did not struggle with them ourselves.

    But one way we can show our girls that we are their first cheerleaders is to demonstrate an understanding that things like hair, skin, clothing, and accessories are not just lures into over-prioritizing outward appearance but rather part of their journey toward valuing their innate God-given beauty. Telling my daughter, "You are so beautiful," when she's looking in the mirror every morning and seeing troublesome acne is not my wisest course of action. In my case, this is why I spend a shockingly large sum of money on a shockingly small tube of acne treatment cream because I understand this is first and foremost mental and emotional health medicine. I want my daughters to see by my words and actions that what matters to them matters to me and that what bothers them bothers me, at least on their behalf.

    Photo credit: © Getty Images/Ghislain & Marie Davidde Lossy

  • Mom and daughter in field

    4. Assign Value to Your Differences 

    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

    As an introvert, I once had an extroverted acquaintance tell me, "You are allowed to be who you are." I know her heart was in the right place, but her words rubbed me wrong. To my ears, they sounded like, "I am magnanimously giving you permission to do something that is inherently wrong."

    As mothers, as we seek to shore up our relationship with our daughters, we would do well to be careful that we do not appear to be merely putting up with those things about our girls that are different from ourselves, especially when we do not understand or particularly like those differences. As long as God's standard is not being compromised, our daughters' unique personalities, personal preferences, style choices, interests, and ways of approaching life are facets of their fearfully and wonderfully made selves we need to value in tangible ways.

    Perhaps we seek our girls' perspective on a matter. Maybe we ask them to show us how to do something. We might initiate time together built around one of their interests. Perhaps we ask for and take their advice. By investing our time, curiosity, and resources into our relationship, we communicate to our daughters that we value who they are and what they love.

    Photo credit: ©Getty Images/max-kegfire

  • Mom and daughter making a Thanksgiving turkey together, How to be thankful when times are tough

    5. Feed Your Common Connections

    "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called." Ephesians 4:3-4

    My younger daughter and I have very different core personalities, but we share a common passion for, among other things, the Oxford comma. (For the uninitiated, the Oxford comma is the comma that follows the next-to-last item in a list. There are some who maintain it is optional or even unnecessary; however, my daughter and I vehemently disagree.) We frequently send each other messages laughingly lamenting our run-ins with "unbelievers" in everyday life, such as when my daughter texted me she had discovered, much to her chagrin, that her favorite college professor did not believe in the Oxford comma. We also share a love of baking and will routinely send recipe links to each other, with no preamble or context needed.

    With both my girls, we're always looking forward to the next time we can spend together, whether baking or camping or shopping or having a slumber party or watching a movie. When other things in life—personality differences, scheduling challenges, other relationships, geographical distance—might pull us apart, these actions and activities and the memories that grow out of them push us together.

    6. Reinforce the Good

    "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

    At the last home football game of my younger daughter's marching band season a few years ago, my drumline girl was in a familiar funk. Also familiar: I had no idea what the problem was. I asked if she was okay even though the answer was obvious, and she muttered something about a cramp and wandered off. My husband and I picked her up at the end of the night, and her earbuds immediately went in as usual. But when we got home and were walking into the house, she said, "Oh, Mom, I wanted to let you know that I did have that weird cramp, and I thought the rest of the night was going to be miserable, but I ended up laughing with my friends and having a really good time." I told her, "I'm so glad to know that. Thank you for telling me."

    Some days, in some seasons, there is much we want from our daughters that we don't get from them. So when they give us something we'd like more of, we're wise to put a grateful exclamation point on it.

    Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Filadendron

  • Happy mother and daughter

    7. Boldly Pray for Your Relationship 

    "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14:13-14

    When God created the first man, He demonstrated the priority He places on relationship because He created us first and foremost to have a relationship with Him. And when He created the first woman, He demonstrated the priority He places on us having a relationship with others. We can always expectantly ask God to bless what He has clearly ordained, and so if, as mothers, He blesses us with daughters, we can know He is in favor of our relationship with them. From there, we can boldly approach His throne of grace with confidence and ask Him to imbue those relationships with mercy and grace.

    We can ask Abba to help us understand and appreciate each other as mothers and daughters. We can ask Him to move our hearts toward forgiveness where that is needed. We can ask Him to protect our relationship from selfishness. We can ask Him to give us the wisdom to know how to make our bond stronger.

    Several years ago, I was getting ready to head over to my parents' house to join an extended-family gathering already in progress. Just before I left our house, I got a text from my older daughter: "do you want me to get you some of that dip you like? I'm worried it's going to be all gone when you get here." I've known and cared for and loved my daughter her entire life. But in that moment (and not for the first or last time), I felt known, cared for, and loved by her, too. It was as if I was standing back a little distance and gazing at a gorgeous relationship house…one we'd been building together and adding onto all that time.

    Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

    Elizabeth SpencerElizabeth Spencer is a wife, mom, freelance writer, baker, Bible study facilitator, and worship leader from Battle Creek, Michigan. She writes about faith, family, and food (with some occasional funny thrown in) on her blog, Guilty Chocoholic Mama, and on Facebook. She is the author of the devotional Known By His Names: A 365-Day Journey From The Beginning to The Amen.

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