Dr. Charles Sophy’s book, Side By Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication is a practical guide for every mom who wants to improve her relationship with her daughter by learning how to communicate in a more effective and loving way. Written in accessible language with lots of fascinating case studies, Sophy writes:
“Our relationship with our daughter is and always will be a work in progress. Every day is a new challenge. Yesterday’s problems and solutions will be replaced with new and unforeseen challenges.”
He compares the mother-daughter relationship to being on a roller coaster ride that lasts forever and has no safety bar. But don’t be afraid. He provides some simple rules to ensure a safe ride that will strengthen the bond between you and your daughter through respectful and honest communication.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Up-Front Work focuses on moms doing some introspective work on their emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being.
- Chair Strategy techniques and how to implement them
- Hot-Button Issues in parenting: sex, money, values, and divorce
In every mother-daughter relationship, Sophy explains, there are four inherent truths that are out of our control:
- Mothers and daughters want the same things: love, understanding, respect.
- Mothers and daughters speak the same language.
- Mothers and daughters, on some level, are in competition with each other.
- Mothers and daughters have estrogen—lots of it.
Side By Side refers to a concrete technique Sophy developed in his psychiatric practice called the Chair Strategy that begins with a visual image of the position of two chairs. He asks the reader to imagine that the chairs represent the way you and your daughter are communicating. Are they back-to-back so neither of you can see each other’s point of view? Are they face-to-face, enabling you to share respectfully opposing viewpoints? Or are the chairs side-by-side, with the two of you working together to sustain your relationship?
The Chair Strategy is so accessible that it can be utilized whether your daughter is an adult with children of her own or as young as five years old. Sophy’s basic philosophy is that it’s up to us moms to create an environment conducive to openness and true sharing. His strategy is designed to bring strength, respect, and safety to the mother-daughter communication so that no issue you face will completely derail your relationship.
As you work through each position in your communication, optimally you end up in the side-by-side position, supportive of one another but open to disagreement. This position enables both mother and daughter to explain their perspectives in a neutral way and then work toward a resolution—even if the resolution is to disagree.
Sophy encourages mothers not to give up or let fear of rejection or humiliation stop us from pursuing a connection with our daughters. He provides some excellent tools and techniques.
- I love you, you know that?
- It’s time to move forward.
- We need to heal.
- Let’s not do this anymore.
- It’s time for us to reconnect.
- Do you forgive me? I forgive you.
Four Rules of Talking
- Respect each other by listening.
- Do not speak when the other person is speaking.
- Let the other person finish talking, even if you disagree.
- Establish a signal (a wink, a wave of the hand) that lets the other person know you would like to talk.
It’s never too late to have a better relationship with your daughter but remember it takes time and willingness on both sides. This book will not only help your relationship with your daughter, it will help your daughter’s relationship with your granddaughter.