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Nurturing the Mother-Daughter Bond

Search for links on mother-daughter relationships and very tellingly all the results are going to reveal how you should set about improving or resolving your mother-daughter conflict. That's hardly surprising, motherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and it's plainly fraught with potential mistakes. What is it about this specific relationship that gets so discussed and is all too often so complicated? And how can we make sure we nurture this precious dynamic?

Childhood is where we learn to mimic others. It's where we learn our values, our core beliefs, even our attitudes and behaviour. As kids we are testing our boundaries while developing the courage to break away. Our mothers have to navigate between holding the boundaries and creating a courageous space for us to grow. But as we enter into adolescence, it's time to break away from mum, to form an identity of our own. It's at this stage that we either rebel against our mother's traits or adopt them: we learn to speak our minds, find our own truth, understand our own needs. These differences evolve as we do. Conflict may develop between our values in and outside of home and these are inevitably hard to reconcile. In this case, how can we as mothers and daughters learn to honour our roles, our mutual commitment, and be honoured back, despite the conflicts? And what’s more, this not just for today, but for every day?

For some people the act of becoming a parent can be enough to create the awareness and understanding needed to realise the challenges of motherhood. That in itself creates enough empathy to reconcile a mother-daughter relationship. For others the gap can widen as we realise what is missing, what is not available to us. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t change the relationship. But change lies in the hands of the one who wants the change, it can't be imposed on others. If you want to improve your relationship you have to make it happen, regardless; if you want respect from your mother, start by respecting her and yourself. If you feel frustrated by the way she is, find a way to alleviate your own frustration.

8 Guidelines to Follow
1. Drop Expectations: We often assume or expect people to act in certain ways and when they don't we feel disappointed, or pained and hurt. But expectations set us up for failure. You can't control how your mother behaves or acts, although you can do something about yourself. So focus your attention on what you can do. I know a family where there's a huge amount of criticism flying around. The younger generation who've done the work still expect their elderly mother to have changed. But she hasn't done the work and has never claimed to have done it, they have. The grown up children are doing to their mother exactly what they complain she does to them.

2.Take responsibility for how you feel - the issues you can do something about: Look at the need your mother isn't meeting. Accept no one, not even your mother, is responsible for your feelings; no one can make you feel anything you don't want to feel. As Werner Ernhard said: “Responsibility begins with the willingness to take the stand that one is cause in the matter of one’s life. It is a declaration, not an assertion, that is, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what’s so, and the stand you choose to take on what’s so. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself,  an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.”

3. Instead of judging, empathise: Look at your mother. How are you like her? When have you been like her? What would it take for you to be that way? If you point your finger at mum and say, "You're criticising me," isn't that in itself a criticism? Also, notice how when you point, three fingers come right back to you. So tread softly and bear in mind judgments say more about you than the person you are judging.

4. Make a request Instead of complaining: Complaints don't get you anywhere and they just create tension. What is it you are needing at that moment? Ask for it. 

5. Learn to communicate more effectively: Non Violent Communication, known as NVC, is a great model for opening up communication with others. It's based on the concept that you take responsibility for your feelings and needs. You'd say, "Mum, when you raise your eyebrows like that (state the observable behaviour) I feel (state the feeling: anger, frustrated, annoyed) because respect (or whichever of your values is important to you) is critical.”

In recognising your value system and taking responsibility, you will stop judging the other and be forced to own your feelings.

6. Give back: Our mothers carried us into this world without any manuals and did the best they could with what they had or knew. Now it's your turn to give back. Value her, learn from her and love her.

7. Forgive her for not being perfect: Your mother is flawed, as are you, as is the whole planet. Learn to embrace your own flaws and watch how easy it becomes to soften with others.

8. Honour your mother today in any way you can. What are you grateful for? What do you want to thank her for?

On this Mother's Day I want to honour my mother and thank her for all that she has given me. Mum, this is for you:

  • You taught me the power of positive thinking. It's no surprise I'm a Coach today.
  • You taught me how to extend a helping hand, to be thoughtful, kind and courteous to others.
  • You taught me never to be bored, to be grateful for what we had and do something with it. 
  • You taught me that beauty is definitely not skin deep. You told me I was beautiful and rounded. 
  • You taught me not to judge a book by its cover.
  • You taught me to do better, try harder.
  • You taught me to stand up for myself.
  • You taught me to fix what’s broken.
  • You taught me to treat everyone the same.

  • You taught me manners that serve me to this day.

So from me to my mum and all the other mums out there, here’s a Mother's Day poem that comes with our love and respect:
I'm sorry for the sleepless nights, and the times I make you sigh.
I'm sorry for the crankiness, the times I scream and cry.
I'm sorry I don't have the words for why I need you so.
But there is one thing I need you to know...
You are the centre of my world, you are everything to me.
You are my sun, my moon, my stars.
You're all that I can see.
I am only little for a short time, soon I won't need you so, but I will love you all my life. I just wanted you to know.

Mayssa Dimechkie is a UK trained and certified Co-active Coach, ORSC Practitioner, Counselling Psychologist and NLP MasterTrack Practitioner based in Beirut. You can read more of her articles on www.mayssadimechkie.com

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