There’s a study that shows that mothers feel good about themselves when their sons achievements surpass their own. But when their daughters start to perform better, many mothers actually feel worse about themselves.
Jealousy in a mother-daughter relationship can have unhealthy effects. While a young girl is growing up she uses her mother as her primary example of how to be a girl, woman, friend, lover, and person in the world. If this same mother is putting her down, and jealous of her accomplishments, the child not only becomes confused, but often gives up.
As a mother to a teenage daughter, I’ve consciously paid attention to how my relationship to my daughter’s achievements affects her self-worth and ability to perform to her full potential.
I offer a few words of advice here to fellow mothers who want to ensure a healthy, supportive relationship with their daughters.
Do What’s Best for Your Daughter
From the beginning of our mother-daughter journey, I decided to consciously focus on who my daughter is, not who I would like her to be.
So when my daughter performed in a winter recital in front of a small audience, I was disappointed. She missed notes and portions of the song as if months of practice had all of a sudden vanished. The performance seemed way below her potential. As her piano teacher came over to us after the recital full of compliments, I could not hide my confused look.
Knowing my daughter was capable of more, I changed her to a more challenging piano program the following semester. She was extremely sad to leave the only piano teacher she worked with for the last 5 years. I explained to her that I was not trying to make her life difficult—I was trying to set up better opportunities for her to develop her gifts.
Acknowledge What She Needs (and Doesn’t)
Dismissal is one of the most toxic patterns in a mother-daughter relationship.
Dismissive behavior occurs across a spectrum, and can become combative if the mother actively and aggressively turns dismissal into rejection. Human offspring are hardwired to need and seek proximity to their mothers, and dismissing a daughter’s need for her mother’s attention and love isn’t going to make that need go away.
Acknowledging my daughter’s feelings was a top priority because ignoring how she would be impacted could have given her mixed signals about why this change was happening. Making it clear to her that my opinion about her as a performer and as a brilliant young woman had not wavered was crucial.
Having a discussion with her about her vision for herself helped us come to a final decision together. This also created open space for emotions to settle down.
At first, we went to a couple practices together until she gave me the “mom, I’ve got this” look. Sitting by the door, went to waiting downstairs, and eventually waiting in the car for her to finish each week.
Support Her in Expressing Her Truth
My daughter’s big day finally arrived. She practiced, found the perfect dress, and had her stage entrance and exit perfected. It was time to perform in an auditorium full of people on a large black piano with the spotlight on her. Full of confidence, she performed with excellence.
This was not a girl who was coached into being something that was not natural for her. By truly knowing who she is and her vision for herself, my role as a mother was to guide her towards being able to fully express her exceptional truth.
Keep this Approach in Mind
In all cases of maternal jealousy towards the daughter, the daughter is left with little support for who she is as a whole person. She feels unloved. As Mother Theresa so aptly writes, “the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”
As we continue further into her teenage years, here’s my approach:
- When making decisions, keep in mind who she really is
- Acknowledge her feelings and thoughts
- Be in her corner and know when to back off
- Celebrate her excellence
How do you make sure your mother-daughter relationship remains strong without competition or comparisons? Having an approach for this early can have a huge positive impact throughout the years.
Crystal Gibson is a wife and mother of two from Cleveland, Ohio whose interest in women’s empowerment comes from her personal experiences, raising her daughter and navigating corporate America for over a decade. She is passionate about simple living, mindfulness & meditation, gratitude, and raising strong daughters. Her goal is to write about these ideas to help women and girls with their journey – figuring out who they are and what they represent to the world. When she is not writing, she can be found gardening, crafting and spending time with her family.