The Fear Factor: Mothers vs. Daughters

July 17, 2013  |  

Why doesn’t your mother understand you?  Is she purposely working on ruining your self-esteem?  Mother/daughter conflicts are older than dirt and have enough history to rival the Encyclopedia Britannica (remember those?).  It is true that mothers and daughters just don’t get along except in some rare cases?  Why is the “mother/daughter” conflict so commonplace in our society?

Women worldwide have been asking these questions of themselves your centuries.  I’ve worked with many mother/daughter combos; including my own and I am inclined to believe that conflicts between the queen and her princess are based on many things like fear, concern about impressions and sometimes jealousy.  For this post, let’s take a peek at fear.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”  If that is true, then we have some work to do ladies.

Many mothers naturally harbor fears about how things will go in their child’s life regardless of gender.  Yet when it comes to a mother’s worries, the way she exhibits those concerns are often in uncomfortable and annoying ways.  Mothers worry about their daughter’s integrity, physical safety, academic achievements, fast-tail friends, pubescent development, self-esteem, questionable boyfriends, sexual urges…need I go on?  All of these concerns are exacerbated if you are a mother who had negative experiences in her younger years or if you simply operate out of fear in most areas of your life.

Growing up with a fearful mom can be the basis of conflict at home for a young lady who instinctually is very positive and hopeful about how her life will unfold.  Because the last few generations of girls are growing up watching females like First Lady and attorney Michelle Obama, Latina singer, actress, entrepreneur Jennifer Lopez, Korean-Canadian award-winning actress Sandra Oh and young, first ever African-American Olympic All-Around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas; young women today have every reason to be faithful about successfully navigating life’s choppy waters regardless of their tragedies, physical appearance, talents or education.  Across industries, women are using the spotlight to tell their truths, pursue their passions feverishly and allow us to watch and learn along the way.  Our mothers and grandmothers had similar women to observe but their access to seeing the movement was limited and the use of technology like social media was nonexistent.

The question is how do we remove the barriers and learn more about the role models we live with every day? Well, it’s going to take some understanding on both parts.  Moms – take heed to the fact that while things remain the same in some respects, times are changing.  Our daughters are developing faster than we did.  These young ladies are exposed to more before the age of seventeen than some of us have ever been.  Don’t waste time trying to make your daughters disconnect from the world.  Devote some time to understanding her world through her eyes. Let her teach you and then share some of your wise tactics that will surely still prove themselves to be useful for her today.  In comparison to previous generations, today’s women are risky, bold, aggressive and proactive.  Celebrate them even if their choices scare you.

Now, for the Millennial Generation (those born between 1978 and the 2000’s); give your mother some respect.  She has arrived to this point in her life without access to all the tools you take for granted and she is still standing.  Be aware of how much has changed in the last twenty years and celebrate your mother’s efforts in trying to keep up.  As she adjusts to the fast pace of technology, health, socializing, etc., remember she would rather see your face, not your Facebook.

We can decrease our mother/daughter conflicts significantly with a bit more acceptance and a lot more openness to our individual realities.  Teach your mother how to tweet and let her show you how to hem your skirt.  No one ever looses in learning.

Wooten is a New York City mom and licensed mental health professional who provided parenting support and childhood development education to families.  If you have topics you’d like to hear more about contact La Shell at


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