In a study done on 35 different families, the Journal of Neuroscience found that the part of the brain that regulates emotions was the most similar between a mother and daughter. Because of this, mothers are able to deeply empathize with their daughters, creating an incredibly strong bond.
Maybe this isn’t news to you because you have a bond like this with your daughter. Maybe you wish your bond with your daughter was stronger. Sometimes the deep connection between mothers and daughters can cause tension. The more you can empathize with someone, the more you know how to push her buttons, right?
What this science tells us is every mom can cultivate a strong bond with her daughter because it’s natural to your biology. All you have to do is maintain this healthy, close bond.
But this balance between close and healthy can be tricky.
In my many years as a pediatrician, I’ve heard countless daughters talk about their mothers. Some have shared heartwarming stories, others not so heartwarming. In thinking about what you want your relationship with your daughter to look like, here are a few mother roles that can disturb the balance between close and healthy:
These are the mothers who believe they must be their child’s everything: cook, counselor, coach, teacher, room mom, etc. Now these things by themselves can be laudable. But when a mother thinks her daughter can’t (or won’t) live a good life without her constant involvement, she is overdoing it and headed for trouble. Daughters who live at home when they are twenty-six because they can’t find a job are often victims of mothers who need to be needed. Some of these daughters assume they need to stay at home to keep their mothers “happy,” and that’s when you have obvious cases of codependency.
These mothers are the bossy ones. They pick out their daughters’ clothes, friends and activities
and tell them what to do with their time at home. They don’t mentor their daughters; they dominate them. She sees herself as the custodian and controller of her child’s mind. Having been told repeatedly that mother knows best, children of controlling parents can doubt themselves, and simple, independent decisions can fill them with anxiety. They also learn to lie—to say what the controlling mother wants to hear—in order to keep her happy.
The Distant Mother
Distant mothers rarely show affection for their daughters and rarely have sincere and deep
conversations with them. Daughters who grow up with distant mothers often feel unworthy; they take their mothers’ lack of affection personally and believe that their mothers fail to show them love, empathy or compassion because there is something wrong with them and they deserve to be emotionally Momabandoned. This, needless to say, can be a serious problem, and a mother’s prolonged emotional absence has even been shown to affect the physical and chemical make-up of a child’s brain.
Best Friend Mothers
Every loving mother wants to be close to her daughter, but there is a serious difference between being a parent and being your daughter’s best friend, and it is terribly harmful to your daughter if you mix up those roles. When your daughter is young—including when she’s in high school—she needs the security of you being the grown-up. When a mother acts as a daughter’s best friend, she inevitably has problems with discipline. In that case, the relationship is more like that of one sibling to another, which leads the daughter to lose confidence in her mother. When she loses confidence, she fails to feel safe. She doesn’t feel that she can trust her mother to make good judgments, give healthy rules or give her the guidance she desperately wants.
Mothers, you are hardwired to be a great parent to your daughter. Your bond is already strong. It’s your job to make sure your daughter knows she can trust you. Avoid being too needy or controlling. Stay close while remaining an authority figure for her, and when you are tempted to turn away or grow distant when things with her get hard, lean in instead. Remember, you have everything you need to be the mom that she needs.