The mother-daughter team of Sil Reynolds and Eliza Reynolds has found a way to reinvent the often-tempestuous relationship between mothers and their preteen and teenage daughters.
In an unusual yet highly effective format, mom Sil writes one half of Mothering & Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Teen Years while daughter Eliza writes the other. There is a joint chapter in the middle. Their message is a bit unconventional, but has proven powerful for many of the mother-daughter pairs they’ve met. Adolescence doesn’t have to be a battle ground for moms and daughters and can even reinforce the relationship.
Mothering & Daughtering sprung from the Reynolds’ workshops for mothers and their 10-15 year-old daughters over the last seven years. Mom Sil says, “Teen mood swings and ambivalent feelings make it challenging for us mothers to remember that our teenage daughters crave our everyday guidance and loving support in their lives.”
I asked each of them to explain how mothers and daughters can navigate the challenges of the teenage years and grow closer instead of damaging their bond.
Moms and Daughters as Allies
As a unit, Sil and Eliza contend that mother-daughter conflict is not inevitable. In fact, teen daughter Eliza states emphatically, “In a culture where mom-bashing seems to slip off the tongue and flow through the halls of middle-school, it can seem bizarre to try to talk or even think with compassion about our mothers. Sometimes it feels like we’re supposed to not get along with them.”
Inside Every Mother is a Daughter
But, the duo stress that despite these feelings and actions, teenage girls do want and need a strong relationship with their mothers. Learning to view their mom as their ally—not their enemy—is key to peace and definitely possible.
“All mothers are daughters and we mothers can use our experience of being a daughter to mother our teenage daughters more effectively,” Sil says. She also encourages moms to embrace mothering as a kind of martial arts dance. “Teenage daughters are resistant, for sure, but they don’t have to be. That’s where what I call the “mothering-as-a-martial-art-dance” comes in handy.”
Daughters Need “Safe Containers”
By using a mother’s intuition and reframing why her daughter might be resistant to her suggestions, advice or rules, moms can see how a daughter might simply be trying to discover her own identity. And in doing that, rejecting mom is part of the process—moms should step back and know that it isn’t as personal as they think it is. After all, all moms are also daughters—and were once teenagers. Reframing a daughter’s behavior within the greater context of her own growing up is central to diffusing conflict.
Sil and Eliza emphasize to mothers that even though it can be tempting to act like your daughter’s best friend, teenaged daughters need to be kept in a “safe container.”
Sil explains, “As our daughter’s mother, we can ‘contain’ her by not reacting to her moody behavior, by holding the line at rude behavior, and by waiting until she calms down before we discuss the issues at hand. It can be really hard work to contain a teenager in these ways, but if we remember that we are the adult in the relationship, and that they need us to remain steady, this can fortify us.”