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Mother-daughter communication: Battleground or fine art?

By Darlene Brock, Special to CNN
Darlene Brock learned her lessons raising daughters  Loren, left, and Chelsea.
Darlene Brock learned her lessons raising daughters Loren, left, and Chelsea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Darlene Brock has learned that all daughters try to win battles of words
  • She says to state your position calmly and leave the room to scream into a pillow
  • Remember: Moms are great, not perfect. So listen to daughter -- she might be right
  • As last resort: "You will do it because I am the mom and I said so"
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Editor's note: Darlene Brock is a former chief operating officer of a record label and now the co-founder of The Grit and Grace Project. Her book "Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughters" is the organization's first release.

(CNN) -- The battleground of words is a place all mothers of daughters will find themselves. The day that sweet little face looks at you with complete defiance challenging every mother bone in your body, you need to be prepared for the inevitable event.

I'm here with a little advice for the brave ladies who are taking on the most difficult job in the world, raising daughters. It is in the arena of words that the job will be done well. So, here are three effective mother-daughter communication tips that can absolutely bring success.

The first: As a mother it is your place to defuse, not to ignite. In the world of females there is a wonderful trait we each possess: That quality is called tenacity. So when we engage with our daughters, we find that characteristic at work. We ask, they respond, we respond, they respond, we react, they react and on and on, with both mother and daughter determined to have the last word.

Mom, you've got to keep your "feminine side" under control. State your position in a reasoned and controlled way, on expectations and consequences. Then the tenacity you must employ is to stick to it without igniting a firestorm.

There will be days you just have to end the confrontation by declaring that each of you will go to your separate corners. I would enter mine, which was usually my bedroom, and stick my head in my pillow. This was to effectively muffle the muted screams of a frustrated mom. After emotionally declaring every word that I wanted to say to my daughter into that bundle of polyester stuffing, I would gather my wits.

Leaving my room with my calm and controlled face I re-entered the arena to successfully complete the conversation.

The second tip all mothers must remember is to listen. Our goal is to be great mothers, not perfect mothers, so this means (this may come as a surprise) we are not always right. We don't possess perfect understanding of all circumstances and even our rules may at times need revision.

So mom, listen when your daughter is struggling with math and only wants to create art projects. She may be revealing her talents. Listen when you have adamantly declared no way is she doing that (whatever that may be), when you find out you misinterpreted her intent or the circumstances she was entering. Listen when she wants to bend her curfew rules because she has a world premier movie to see after she gets off work, but to safely deposit her friends to their homes will make her late. She does have a job, mom; it's a good time to be persuaded.

Really listen when her dreams take her to a college or a city that seems so far away and terribly dangerous. She may be on the life course destined for her and your fears should not be what hold her back.

With this understanding, allow your daughter to express her frustrations, feelings and desires. Having her present a valid viewpoint stated in a calm and reasoned manner is a healthy exercise for both mother and daughter. Let her make her case and truly listen. You want your daughter to be persuasive when she is right, so allow yourself to be persuaded, too.

The last but most important tip is your daughter will be more attentive to your words if she knows you believe in her. This is demonstrated best in the times you are simply living life. Tell her she has abilities and talents and she will work to develop them. Tell her you are proud of her choices and she will make better ones. Tell her you trust her and she will do her best to be trustworthy.

If you tell her something is too hard for her, she will believe it. If you say she can accomplish anything, she will believe that, too. As Pablo Picasso said: "When I was a child my mother said to me 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."

Award show acceptance speeches, dinner conversation and Mother's Day cards all tell of the impact we moms can have on our daughters. So, when you get into the inevitable argument, defuse, don't ignite. Teach her to defend and persuade. And tell that daughter of yours she can indeed be anything she dreams. Your daughter may be the general, the artist or even the president.

Then finally, on those days when all else fails, it is still permissible to look down at that defiant face and say, as mothers throughout time have, "You will do it because I am the mom and I said so."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Darlene Brock.

 
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