Manage Your Mother

by Aviva Patz,

End mama drama – and develop a good adult relationship with the woman who knows you best.  

Does your mother still have the power to get under your skin? (Yes.) Can she reduce you to a babbling, confused five-year-old with a single disapproving look? (Yes.) No matter how close you and your mother are, chances are your relationship can still get pretty rocky. “The friction between mothers and daughters centers largely on control,” says psychologist Ann F. Caron, author of “Mothers to Daughters: Searching for New Connections.” “Most mothers still want to rule their daughter, even after she’s grown.”

And while mothers may be motivated to hold on tight to their female offspring, daughters often take an active role in the power play too. Whether or not you realize it, you may be slipping into your old, childhood role – letting Mom pay for dinner or take over the cooking duties for the holiday dinner you offered to host – which only encourages her to continue mothering you. If you want to update your relationship with your mother, the first thing you should change is your own behavior.

The key to getting on equal footing with your mother is to assert yourself lovingly and respectfully. According to research conducted by Deborah Cox, Ph.D., author of “The Anger Advantage,” speaking up about your needs will ultimately improve your relationship (even if she blows her top at first). Here, we take four common mama dramas and show you how to say, “Out with the old behavior, in with the new!” – and make peace with the woman who raised you.

Scenario # 1: Mom comments on your weight: “You’re looking a little full in the face. You’d be so much prettier if you slimmed down.”

Old reaction: “Stop bugging me about my weight! You’re driving me crazy.” Lashing out reinforces the pattern you used to have as a teenager, when she would dish out criticism and you would try to deflect it. Instead of ending your power struggle, this response will only maintain it.

New reaction: Say something such as, “You may think my face is too heavy, but I’m satisfied with it. I’ll decide whether or not I need to lose weight,” recommends psychologist Alyce Faye Cleese, author of “How to Manage Your Mother.” This tells your mother you’re no longer a little girl who can be bossed around and made to feel bad about herself. “She has to learn that you’ve grown up, and you have to learn that she’s no longer in charge,” says Cleese.


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