For Mothers: How to Speak With Your Daughter

For Mothers: How to Speak With Your Daughter

Listen more than you talk.

By Carol Dean Schreiner

When that tiny baby girl is placed in your arms for the first time, what thoughts come to mind? I want a perfect relationship with this little gal all of her life. We will have the best of times and become the best of friends always. Those are wonderful ideals. Many of your hopes and wishes can happen, but it takes work to build the bonds of your dreams.

If you were designing a perfect relationship for mothers and daughters, what would it look like? No arguments ever? No rules and regulations? Experience will soon teach you that a life without rules will not work. Communicating with a daughter can be challenging. Girls may speak more than most boys, but you won’t always like what they say. However, a healthy mother-daughter relationship can lead you to an ongoing dialogue with your daughter that is extremely rewarding. Use these tips to communicate with the young woman in your life: 

Listen. Often mothers forget the most important part of communicating: the art of listening. Without planning to, a mom can come across in a way that suggests she knows all the answers, that she’s been there and done that and that her way is the only way. Even though you don’t want your daughter to make the same mistakes you’ve made, it’s important to allow her to make her own decisions. A good mother advises and then allows her daughter to exercise her decision-making skills. Then, when the daughter wants to discuss outcomes and consequences, a great mother listens.

Give her what she needs... including space. Open communication does not mean a mom should tell her daughter everything. She must tell her only what she needs to know. Some mothers try to make their daughters their personal confidantes. Don’t try to confide in your daughter about those dreams you’ve left behind. Pushing her in a direction because it was something you missed is a bad idea. Instead, it’s better to learn about her strengths, interests and joys, and then encourage her to pursue her dreams. 

Stay positive. A daughter will not benefit from repeated lectures about how much worse her mother’s childhood was or how impossible it is to succeed. What she needs, instead, is to hear how to make the most of her life by following her heart and making informed, thoughtful and bold decisions. Every woman, young and old, must face occasional challenges, and your positive encouragement as she leaps over the hurdles will warm her heart for a lifetime. 

Share experiences, skills and fun times. Experienced mothers let their daughters help with whatever task comes along. My daughters and I have concocted some pretty dubious food. We may have decorated cupcakes that looked questionable a few times, but we always enjoyed being creative and having fun. Laughter speaks volumes. 

Nurture your mother-daughter relationship. A great relationship is built over years of being open, honest, caring, supportive and loving. Mothers don’t always love what their daughters are doing, but they still love their daughters. A smart mom allows her daughter the freedom to live her own life, but she also keeps the dialogue going. She doesn’t hesitate to e-mail, Facebook, call or write a postcard – whatever it takes to maintain communication, no matter where her daughter may travel.

For a special togetherness activity when they’re young, I heartily recommend reading together. Then, when they grow older, you can share books and great discussions. My daughters and I have enjoyed some amazing conversations about the pros and cons of the books we’ve read. 

Be active in their lives, now, and you’ll have more in common later. My daughters now give me advice, share recipes and offer tips in many different ways. I am so blessed to have wonderful relationships with all three of my daughters. What’s most important is that we love and support one another; we always know that whatever happens, we are there for each other.

As a mom to grown sons as well as a daughter, Barbara Barger, DTM, of the Sooner Toastmasters club in Norman, Oklahoma, appreciates the differences in communication styles between boys and girls. When she asked her boys, “What went on in school today?” Barger usually received the shortest answer possible. Her sons would say, “Nothing,” or “Same old, same old.”

“When I asked my daughter the same question,” says Barger, “I was bombarded with a detailed accounting of the movements, conversations, feelings and opinions of every person in our small high school.” Barger took her Toastmasters skills to heart and became a tuned-in listener. It paid off in a close relationship with her girl. Barger notes, “I surely do miss the daily gossip update now that she is an adult and living in another city.”

As the mother of three daughters, I’ve enjoyed an experience that has been wonderful but also frustrating at times. Each daughter is so different! My three girls vary not only in looks but also in activities and personalities. When you have more than one child, you must learn how to communicate with each one differently. I wish I’d been in Toastmasters when I was raising my girls. Table Topics would have been invaluable to me when my daughters were growing up: I could have asked each one the same question and received completely different answers. One decision might work for one daughter, but not for all three.

What’s more, in Toastmasters we benefit from guidelines that help us with our speeches and our evaluations. Raising children, I didn’t always have the right guidelines or the right questions to ask. And as a result, once in a while my evaluation was simply the cold hard fact that I’d made a mistake. Somehow, my daughters managed to survive my mistakes. And yours, most likely, will too.

In the end, communication isn’t always about words. Barger makes the most of this now that her daughter is grown. “One of our favorite things to do is to shop together. Our fashion tastes are very different,” she notes. “So when my daughter holds ups an article of clothing and says, ‘Isn’t this the cutest thing ever?’ I’ve learned that verbal language is not needed. My facial expression tells her my opinion of the article in question. When I find something that I think is just what one of us needs, my daughter responds with a slight frown and a shrug of her shoulders.”

Although her daughter is now 32, Barger still offers motherly advice; she can’t help herself. But one type of mother-daughter communication remains her favorite. “One of the best things is that when we are talking on the phone or she is leaving after a visit, our communication always ends with ‘Love you!’ and we mean it.” 

Carol Dean Schreiner, DTM, is a member of the Sooner Toastmasters club in Norman, Oklahoma. She can be reached at her Web site:

Editor’s Note: Are you a mother of sons or a father of daughters? Care to share your secrets for successful parent-child communication? E-mail and tell us about your experience.