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Studying the Anatomy of a Mother-Daughter Argument

Read about the different stages of a mother-daughter argument and how to arrive at a resolution.

Studying the Anatomy of a Mother-Daughter Argument

Building Blocks

A reactive problem is one that arises as a result of another individual's actions or behavior to the initial or first problem that arose.

You may have just stormed out of your daughter's house or hung up the phone furious at your mother. Yet you can't really figure out why the disagreement or conversation you were having resulted in a reactive problem or escalated into a major conflict.

Consequently, I think it is worthwhile to stop and take a look at how arguments arise. The model I like is described by Andrew Christensen, Ph.D., and Neil J. Jacobson, Ph.D., authors of Reconcilable Differences (Guildford Press, 2000). Although this model was designed to explain conflicts in love relationships it easily makes the transition into mother-daughter conflicts as well.

Christensen and Jacobson's anatomy of an argument involves three stages. A modified presentation of their anatomy is provided in the illustration.

Stage 1
An Initial Provocative

Actions or inactions that trigger significant differences, vulnerabilities, and emotional upset

Stage 2
Unsuccessful Coping

Blame, accusation, coercion, anger, overreaction, minimizing, and avoidance

Stage 3

Escalation that creates a new or intensified problem and rigid and extreme positions that can result in alienation or disconnection

How a problem can escalate into alienation or disconnection.

How to Prevent Escalation

Along with all of the information given to you beforehand that described problems that may nudge their way into the mother-daughter relationships, you are armed with the knowledge of how conflicts escalate. This plethora of information would be useless unless you were committed to seeing the necessity to circumvent this natural progression of initial problems into bigger and more explosive reactive ones.

Ways to accomplish just that include…

  • Dropping emotions that ignite further conflict.
  • Finding an option that empowers you to influence a more positive outcome.
  • Staying calm and not exploding or allowing anger to overtake you.
  • Making your feelings known in a constructive fashion.
  • Taking time out and postponing your reaction.
  • Making invitations for resolution without putting all the blame on your mother or daughter.

How to Extend Verbal Invitations for Resolutions

Verbal initiations require your thoughtful consideration. They can initiate success or failure in your attempts to communicate. Examples of these types of statements are…

    "I am feeling angry by what was said. I would like to cool off and then talk about it later."

    "This is the way I just interpreted what you said. Perhaps you don't realize how that sounds to me or how it makes me feel."

    "I think you have overstepped your bounds. I am not comfortable discussing that with you. I appreciate your concern. Perhaps there is another way I can make you feel more at ease with my decision."

    "I think we both have to realize that each of us has to make some concessions here."

    "I appreciate your opinion. I will consider it. Does that make you feel better?"

These are noncombative statements that demonstrate you have boundaries you expect your intergenerational partner to respect. At the same time, you are expressing your opinion without being so presumptuous as to express your partner's. These sentences invite your mother or daughter to make other statements to clarify her points and to understand that her words have great affect on you.

Building Blocks

Resolution means coming to terms with a situation, making changes, solving a problem, finding a solution, and determining future action.

How to Arrive at a Resolution

The best road to finding a resolution to a problem, small or large, is to…

  • Step back for an objective view.
  • Be specific in your own mind about what will improve the situation.
  • Don't be stubborn and resist change.
  • Prioritize what bothers you the most, don't attempt to work on everything at once.
  • Acknowledge and praise one another's attempts to resolve problems.
  • Use diplomacy.
  • Address conflicts and don't allow them to fester into major battles.
  • Stop fearing loss of love and begin believing in the power of it.

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