10 Tips for Improving Mother-Daughter Communication

by Donne Davis on January 20, 2011

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A few years ago, my daughter and I weren’t able to stop in the moment of an argument and listen to each other’s perspectives. We kept our feelings inside where they festered like a splinter. Days later, if one of us could muster up the courage, we might bring up our hurt feelings.

For example, we’d talk on the phone and she’d get impatient with me for asking a question about something she just told me. Then our conversation would begin to unravel:

“Why do you have to use that tone of voice,” I’d ask my daughter.

“Because you don’t listen.”

“I did listen. I just didn’t understand what you meant.”

“Well, it feels like you aren’t listening.”

“I am listening, but if I don’t understand something, I wish you’d cut me some slack and have a little more patience.”

“I’m sorry,” she’d say, and the conversation would end with neither of us feeling that we’d been heard.

Over the past year we’ve gotten motivated to do some conscious work on understanding each other’s perspectives. And—Lord knows—we do have very different perspectives. What prompted this shift for us was the desire to reduce the stress in our communication by trying to resolve things the moment they happened. After several years of feeling palpable stress when we disagreed about something, we came up with a technique that has helped us diffuse the tension.

Now when I see my daughter’s getting worked up about something, I’ll say: “It seems like something’s bothering you. Can we go in the other room and talk?” Then she has a chance to tell me what’s on her mind and we can work through the issue.

We’ve had lots of opportunities to work on our mother-daughter communication over the past eight years. In 2003, I became a grandma. After witnessing my granddaughter’s birth and going completely gaga, I knew I wanted to be a significant part of her life. So my husband and I talked about it with our daughter and son-in-law. We all agreed that two visits a month would work for everyone.

My daughter and I have always valued our relationship and our communication is an important component. When she became a mother and made me a grandmother, our communication took on greater importance. Our time together increased, and with so many new experiences facing us in our new roles, we often felt the tension mounting between us.

We both agree we want love, understanding and respect from each other. Now we’re learning how to be respectful and honest in our communication.

Here are 10 tips we’ve learned to improve our communication:

  1. Make a commitment to understand each other’s perspective.
  2. Agree that you will disagree. It’s not about convincing but understanding the other’s point of view.
  3. Accept each other’s choices without judgment.
  4. Try to resolve a disagreement when it’s happening, rather than keeping your feelings inside for days.
  5. Listen with empathy, not with solutions. Sometimes just saying, “Oh, that must be so hard for you” is all that’s needed.
  6. Use “I” statements, followed by a feeling when you open a discussion.
  7. Recognize you are both adults and let go of the mother-child dynamic.
  8. Acknowledge each other when you’ve expressed your feelings.
  9. Laugh whenever possible and end with a hug or “high five.”
  10. Remember the big picture: By modeling good communication you’re setting an example for your children and the way they speak to you, their siblings and friends.



This post originally appeared as a guest post on Mamapedia.


Crystal Perkins May 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Wow.  Amazing suggestions. my mom and i have a great relationship, she actually just started guest blogging on my site (http://www.mamainstyle.com/happy-mothers-day-grandma-in-style-edition), but of course, there are sometimes those pesky communication issues.  These are great tips! Thanks.

b January 25, 2011 at 8:41 am

You are a very wise grandmother. This relationship is the most valuable one you will ever enjoy.

I find myself writing about this very subject quite often. It seems that we forget that our children are educated, read and want to figure out a lot of things on their own. Here is a quote from an article I wrote called 10 Ways to be a Good Mother-in-Law:

“Babies are durable! …. Grandparents are full of too much advice. They take the complaint about no sleep or diaper rash as an invitation to share their experience. Remember, young parents don’t want your advice. It makes them feel inadequate. If your grandchild is in danger, you need to tell them what you know but don’t get offended when the children puff up like a horny toad. Everyone will survive.”

I would like to quote this article at some time in the future. The relationship we have with our grandchildren is totally dependent on the relationship we have with our children. Too many grandparents are their own worst enemy!


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Norine January 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Hi Donne – I, too, became a grandmother for the first time in 2003 and ‘gaga’ really describes the feeling.
I am very fortunate to say that my daughter and I have always had a very close relationship and I agree with every one of the 10 tips. Especially #8 – I gave my daughter a plaque that says “Find something to laugh about each day” we even have the kids doing it.
I have one son and one daughter and since 2003 they have given us eight grandchildren ages 8 to 1 mo. I am still in awe:)

Grandma Lizzie January 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I’m 60 and my mother occasionally talks to me like I’m a teenager. It makes me very angry and I usually just stop talking. I make a great effort not to do that to my two daughters.

Susan Adcox January 22, 2011 at 7:26 am

My daughters and I have always had easy, close relationships, but these are excellent hints in case I need them some day.

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