A new book I just read promises to break the drama cycle between mothers and daughters. Bring it on!
Kimberly Seals Allers: My daughter is wonderful. But the closer she gets to her upcoming 10th birthday, the more I've been noticing a little bit of attitude slipping out every now and then. In fact, there have been a few "Oh no you didn't" moments when I had to catch myself to keep from losing it. I thought, If I'd given that look or said those words to my mother, I'd have been putting an ice pack somewhere pretty quick.
But of course, as a very modern mom, I'm always looking for new ways to communicate and connect with my daughter, even when my old-school reflexes kick in. That's why I was so interested in a new book by Dr. Charles Sophy that proposes a revolutionary plan to break the cycle of fighting and negative communication between mothers and daughters. (I guess the shrink industry will have to find another cash-cow if mothers and daughters resolve all their issues.)
Dr. Sophy says it's stuff like too much emotionality, too much estrogen, unspoken competition and nonverbal communication (such as eye-rolling) that really kills it between moms and daughters.
His book is called "Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication." Dr. Sophy, a well-known clinical psychiatrist who has treated lots of young people -- including young Hollywood celebrities and foster children in the Los Angeles County child-welfare system -- has seen a lot of different family dynamics (though mostly broken ones). He has some pretty cool insights into fixing what's not working between mothers and daughters.
What I love most about Dr. Sophy's approach is that it's totally mom-driven. It gives parents the power to resolve even the most heated arguments about outfits, boys, curfews, hairstyles or body piercing. His approach is called "Side by Side" (not be confused with the good ole' Upside the Head method), and he explains the technique in his new book.
While most moms may be thinking, "What's wrong with my daughter?" Dr. Sophy says that problem-solving should begin with moms doing what he calls "upfront work." "Parenting begins with you," he says. "You have to be a solid mom to raise a solid child. Moms, you have to unhook yourself first."
To help, Dr. Sophy outlines a balancing tool called S.W.E.E.P., which looks at five key areas of your life as a mom (Sleep, Work, Eating, Emotional Expression of Self and Play). He says that a balanced S.W.E.E.P. makes the difference between an emotionally and physically stable mom and one who's a walking disaster.
And buckle up, because the "upfront work" also includes delving into your relationship with your own mother and looking for regrets, disappointments and any unmet needs that may be playing out negatively in your interactions with your daughter. (Oh. Yes. He. Did.)
After he gets moms on the right footing, Sophy introduces a tool he calls the "Chair Strategy" -- an easy-to-use communication tool that reduces the emotionality of arguments and allows a mom to guide any conversation to a place of love and respect. (At least until you get the rolling eyes and the "You're ruining my life!" screech, followed by the stomp-away and the door-slam.)
Dr. Sophy says that mothers and daughters are usually operating in one of three "chair-like" positions:
Back-to-Back: This one ain't good. In this position, mother and daughter are at odds, with no chance of seeing eye-to-eye and making a real connection.
Face-to-Face: This is when mom and daughter are openly discussing an issue honestly and with respect, whether they agree or not. This is ideal for working out difficulties, but because it's so intense, it's hard to keep it going for a long time.
Side-by-Side: This is when mother and daughter are supportive of each other, looking in the same direction and sharing the same perspective. (Ahhh.) This is the ideal position for everyday communication.
Dr. Sophy says it's mom's role to take charge, move those chairs around and get them in the right position. I'm still reading the book, and I'm already seeing my own boo-boos. For example, the next time my baby girl comes home with three wrong on a spelling test, I'll definitely praise her 17 correct answers first. Note to the uninitiated: That's called strength-based speaking, and it's a good thing.
I've got plenty to learn. But having a better relationship with my daughter is definitely worth reading 243 pages, so I'm all in. I'll keep you posted.
|Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning business journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of MochaManual.com, a weekly online magazine for moms of color. She is the author of "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy" and "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit." Kimberly is a divorcing mother of two and lives on Long Island, NY.|