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How Every Daughter Would Undergo These Different Stages Of Relationship With Their Mothers

How Every Daughter Would Undergo These Different Stages Of Relationship With Their Mothers

People often ask me how I did it. How did I manage to raise a savvy, compassionate, and accomplished daughter? A daughter who is kind to strangers and gives back to her community while nurturing her own relationships? A young woman who graduated from college with superb grades, played sports throughout high school, and has now landed a terrific job in Manhattan? A daughter who consistently makes critical life decisions with the certainty and sagacity of someone twice her age?

To answer these questions in full would require several hours. And, so, I simply offer the truth: I gave her unconditional love while nurturing her through every stage of her life.

I became a mother with no clear examples of how to raise a child, let alone a daughter. Raising a girl is a complex, terrifying endeavor, fraught with anxieties—small and large. As the only child of a single mother who was in desperate need of mothering herself, I tumbled into motherhood, guided by instinct alone.

And yet, it was through my lack of knowledge that I became an avid student. I was careful. I was a close listener, a keen observer. Through this, I found a mother-and-daughter bond that was tremendously satisfying—for the both of us.

Every phase of a person’s life presents its own set of challenges—for the individual and for the parent. Knowing these stages and their complications and delights allows mothers to anticipate what’s coming and plan accordingly. If you also hope to navigate your daughter’s life with grace, ease, and joy, keep in mind the following stages—what to expect, and how to operate, in each phase.

Phase 1: The Itty-Bitty Critter Years

There are few things more wonderful than holding your baby girl for the first time. When my daughter was born, I intuitively knew how to care for her. Yes, she needed nutrition, warmth, and rest. But she also needed my presence.

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That undivided attention cannot be overlooked. It is through our love and tenderness that our daughters first learn how to form a solid foundation of trust.

Such trust comes with countless benefits. Parents often remark that true, unconditional love is a concept that isn’t understood until you’ve had a child. While debatable, the rewards are undeniable. Cooing words and gleeful smiles pave the way to first attempts at sentences. When my daughter was a toddler, she often looked out the window and said, “Mommy, today is so froggy!” It took her a handful of months to realize that froggy and foggy were not actually the same thing, but it’s one of my fondest memories of her.

During these precious early years, it’s vital to tune into your daughter’s natural tendencies. Is she shy, or extroverted? Is she a homebody, or does she thrive outside the front door? What sounds does she respond to? Colors, smells, and sights? Is she fiercely independent, or does she crave emotional and physical attentiveness?

My daughter, who grew up to be brave and individualistic, had the habit of changing her mind on a whim. Weeks of only wanting to wear pants were replaced with months of refusing to put on anything but a dress. While seemingly insignificant, noting this behavior allowed me to see that she loved to explore and thrived on change—a fact that remains true to this day. Noting these idiosyncrasies from the time your daughter is born will ease you into a mutually gratifying—and smooth-sailing—relationship.

It is in this stage that mothers should cherish every non-exhausting moment—raising an infant and toddler doesn’t come without exceptional effort—as our little girls won’t always be babes-in-arms.

Phase 2: The Idealization Stage

Post-toddler, but preteen, many daughters become enamored with their mothers. They’re in awe of their moms, who, in their minds, are glamorous, gorgeous, and wise. While inherently independent, during the ages of five to ten, my daughter had a habit of mimicking my actions and behaviors. She wanted to eat what I ate, wear identical outfits, and clean and cook and fold laundry beside me. While shadowing me, she’d pick up my tone of voice, the words I spoke. During this phase, she rarely wanted to leave my side.

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Yet, it is also within this phase that a daughter’s fear of becoming separated from her mother becomes realized, enhanced, and intense. When younger, children who are well-cared for have an indestructible trust in their conviction that their mothers are always present—even when they’re out of sight. As they near their firsts—their first day of preschool, their first day of kindergarten, their first sleepover away—they can become moody and clingy in their attempts to keep this notion alive. Thus, it’s critical in this time to begin offering your daughter a taste of autonomy. Allowing her to make decisions on her own, if in her best interest, will permit her to become self-reliant while ensuring that you, as the mother, remain the primary force of love and authority in her life.

Phase 3: The Preteen Years

From roughly eleven to thirteen years old, the daughters we had known so well—those little girls who refused to be away from us for any solid length of time when they were small—begin to separate from us emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Signs of autonomy are present in children from an early age. For example, when my daughter was three, she, like all kids, thought the only word that existed in the English language was “no.” But, these indications become clearer and more and more unmistakable during the preteen years. Daughters begin to identify more with their peers than their parents, opting for weekends with friends over Saturdays with their folks, and relying on their peers’ opinions more than their mother’s.

It is at this time that young women also start to see the cracks in their mother’s facade. The pure beauty and righteousness they saw in their mothers when they were younger falters, which leads to frustration on the preteen’s part (not to mention the mother’s!). This is a perfectly natural phase for girls to undergo, as it is only through seeing the flaws (real or perceived) in their primary attachment figure that they can exert the courage they need to create distance.

With such changes—which feel seemingly abrupt—it’s critical to continue being present, no matter how much you’d like to pack a bag and run. Why? Because it is also during this stage that girls become increasingly aware of the opposite sex.

Terrifying, isn’t it?

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While daughters become critical of their mothers, mainly identifying only their negative characteristics, they also become more receptive to the attention of males. This occurs because of the Oedipus precept in reverse: The female must demonstrate to herself that her mother is inadequate in order to make the chief male in her life (her father) love and protect her. Clearly unconscious on the daughter’s part, the focus is nevertheless on exposing that mom is wrong and dad is right. With that arrives keen observations on how to be seen as the apple of her father’s eye. In general, during this phase, females become more and more interested in their looks. They also want mom to be there—but only at a distance. Kissing your daughter goodbye in front of school? Not an option. Volunteering in the classroom? Forget it.

The question of how to react during this stage brings us back to the first stage. As a mother, you may want to run and hide—a feeling that becomes even more overwhelming in the stage that follows—but presence is, once again, absolutely key. Frequent dialogue, physical connection, and positive encouragement can save a mother-daughter bond during this time—and save your daughter’s life in the tumultuous years that arrive next.

More importantly, it’s crucial in this phase to make it lovingly, but abundantly, clear that your daughter is not to cross the line of respect and obedience. This may entail taking away some of her privileges for awhile, and explaining why you are doing so. Your daughter will likely fight you for giving her a curfew, curbing her internet privileges, and watching what she and her friends eat, watch, and read. Deep inside, though, she’ll know that you’re right and will gain respect for you.

Phase 4: Adolescence

Our closest family friend liked to joke that my husband’s hair would turn gray the moment our daughter turned fourteen. We laughed it off in front of him, while in private we believed that we were the exception: Our smart, soccer-playing, sweet-and-only-occasionally-salty daughter wouldn’t become like “those other teenager girls.”

We were dead wrong.

Parents often say that getting through the teenage years are the most trying, exhausting, exhilarating, and petrifying. I’m here to say: Believe every word of it.

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As Dr. Josepehine Ferraro explains, “While mothers are idealized when children are four or five years old, teenagers often see their mothers as being old fashioned or ‘out of it.’  This is another stage where children are learning to separate themselves emotionally from their mothers.”

This need to detach manifests itself in many ways. In trying to attain independence, while feeling the magnetic pull of the bond daughters share with their mothers, they often overreact and act out. When my daughter was in her mid-to late-teens, she’d come home enraged with me, asking why I was home when “most moms have jobs.”

I had to bite my tongue in these heated moments. The truth is, I had a job—my role was to raise her. “Get a life!” was also yelled with such frequency that it was the only phrase I heard in my head. Yet, within minutes of yelling this and slamming her door, my daughter would emerge from her bedroom to give me a hug and ask what we were having for dinner. During their teens, daughters want you to hold them tight… but they also want you an ocean away.

Keep in mind that your daughter is experiencing a wide range of emotions that are primarily due to hormonal changes. She’s also under incredible pressure during these years—to fit in, get ahead, look great, play sports, perform brilliantly in the classroom, achieve popularity, and land acceptance at a good college. The anxiety she has over leaving home, coupled with her wish to be strong and autonomous, starts to surface. As she navigates these changes and challenges, it’s important for mothers to retain their temper. Refuse to engage in senseless arguments. Explain that what she’s feeling is entirely normal and inevitable. Offer counsel, candor, and solace. Most importantly, set boundaries—and stick to them. You’ll both thank each other later for it.

Phase 5: Early Adulthood

While adolescence is difficult for both mother and daughter, early adulthood presents its own set of difficulties. Post-college, many young women confront the same pressures they faced in high school, only on a much grander scale. From choosing a career they’re passionate about to selecting a mate, women in this decade are much more overwhelmed than ever before. My daughter recently moved to New York City after scoring a prestigious position. Aiding her in finding an apartment and shopping for a new wardrobe brought back memories of her final years in high school. She was overwrought, antsy, and prone to unloading her troubles on me.

It’s also during this time that daughters have a tendency to realize that, like all humans, their mothers are mortal and imperfect. They’ll attempt to carve out an existence unlike their mothers, while also seeking their validation. The greatest lesson we can teach our daughters during these years is the the significance of self-respect. With it comes self-esteem, ambition, and perseverance. And the greatest satisfaction during this phase? Reclaiming the bond you two shared before adolescence hit, and witnessing the brave woman she’s becoming.

Phase 6: The Thirties and Beyond

By the time your daughter has reached her thirties, you will note how your relationship has blossomed and morphed over time. No longer competitive with you, she’s gained stability, recognition, and independence. It’s often during this era that mothers and daughters begin communicating on a peer-to-peer level. With a family of her own, she turns to you for guidance, and yet through maturity has developed a worldview of her own. She teaches you as much as you advise her. And such is the beauty to behold: The extraordinary woman you’ve created.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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