Understanding Mother/Daughter Conflict

By: Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor and Life Coach

One of the most challenging relationships in life is found between mothers and their daughters. This dynamic might occur early in childhood or during the teen years, or in some cases go on for years into adulthood. At its worst, the friction and fights generated by these conflicts can destroy a family. Understanding what is causing the conflict in a home is the beginning of solving the problem. The four most common conflict styles daughters use to do battle with their mothers are listed below as well as what to do to cope with the conflict to bring peace back to your home.

1) KIA- Know it all's
Showing disrespect through continual arguments to degrade their Mom and discredit her authority as a parent.
Mood: Bossy, harsh, critical, aloof and continual verbal conflict. (Mood worsens as Mom confronts her behavior).
Message: "I'm in control of my life, you can't tell me what to do- so don't even try. Wake up and smell the coffee Mom- you’re an idiot."
Motivation: (Arrogance allows me to be my own Authority)

2) Drama Queens
Dressing like a "grown up" woman with sophistication; while underneath acting like a little girl with self-serving behavior. (Princess)
Mood: Changes instantly with no predictability. Weepy and screaming one minute, then brooding or giggly the next. Loud with demands for more!
Message: "I look like I stepped out of a clothing catalog, but am scared to death inside. Watch out! Next mood swing- two minutes!"
Motivation: (Approval through Acting like Adult)

3) Tough Chicks
Method: Attacking mom with aggression and meanness, this keeps her away, but also continually punishes mom as the one closest person in her life.
Mood: Dark, evil, hateful, spiteful, bitter and extreme. Use of gutter talk and lifestyle are common ways to add to the hurt directed to Mom. This often includes the lifestyle of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll”.
Message: "Get the *#*&%* out of my way you sorry *#%&*. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! Please don't ever leave me!"
Motivation: (Attacking to prove Acceptance)

4) Good Girls
Method: Dodging mom with busy activity and lots of "yes ma'am" talk but never letting mom get close enough to see what’s really going on.
Mood: Distant, casual, socially acceptable, perhaps even friendly at times- but you are never allowed inside to see the heart. Or the hurt she has.
Message: "I'll play by the rules to keep the peace, but cannot wait to get out of this house and be away from you!"
Motivation: (Avoidance through Activity)

Frequently asked questions about mother/daughter conflict:

When do these mother/daughter conflicts show up and when are they thehardest to deal with?

(The patterns can be identified in late childhood, around age 7-8, but are definitely the worst at age 15-16 when things can become completely chaotic and out of control. Sadly as an older teen, dangerous and impulsive choices can occur that result in permanent damage or death, like some of the tragic car accidents you hear about in the news when a teen girl breaks all the rules of safe driving and it seriously injures her or even sometimes may cost her life).

Is it possible to have more than one of these mother/daughter conflict styles going at the same time?

(Sadly, yes and the more conflict dynamics going at the same time, theharder it is to stabilize and treat to bring stability back to the home).

Why do daughters do these terrible things to their Mom?

(Lots of factors seem to complicate and influence this hurtful behavior from daughters to their mothers; however the biggest issues are listed below).

- Negative peer pressure from other girls and especially from the influence of older guys who seem to have unusual power over impressionable girls who are younger.

- Experimentation with drugs, alcohol or other forms of substance abuse, which can cause a child to act totally differently toward family members. Remember, parental denial is a subconscious reaction to prevent the parent from feeling the pain of discovery, but research shows that teens are actually into substances 6 times more often than their parents believe. Secrets, lies, cover-ups and sudden changes in behavior are warning signs of dangerous behavior changes that may require immediate attention.

- Cultural and society pressure to be "perfectly" beautiful or thin, and the often dramatic shift in a girls behavior because of the secretive life that comes from Anorexia, Bulimia or compulsive overeating disorders.

- Media pressures to act like a thirty year old female in charge of her life and new found sexuality instead of a teenaged girl. (e.g. television shows like “Sex and the City”, “Friends”, and many "chick flick" films portray this message as well, which is easily misinterpreted by teens who are confused as to how a grown up woman should act).

- The need to feel in control of one's life as part of discovering one's identity in adolescence. This is normal, but really complicated in broken, blended or dysfunctional families where the girl doesn't feel connected, or feels lost and unattached to her family.

- Spiritual attacks. The Bible talks openly about how the enemy of our souls may attack God's children. Sometimes teens will get involved in the mystical or magical themes of witchcraft or new age spirituality and the hidden factor in their behavioral change is from demonic activity. Parents need to maintain a state of consistent prayer and keep their homes filled with God's praises to protect their sons and daughters from this attack.

Can Mom's make a difficult situation like the ones you have describedworse and not even know it?

(Mom's are often the closest human connection to a teen, who is tryingto figure out how to be an adult. The girl part of her wants to take control of herfuture by experimenting with new feelings and attitudes, which is a normal and healthy emotion God designed in young women on the journey to adulthood. However, if a Mom steps in with a parenting style that feels "smothering" to the teen, Rebellion is worsened if a Mom isn't tuned into her daughter’s changes and reacts with the appropriate parenting style. This is seriously complicated when a dad is absent; either through divorce, workaholism or addiction to sports or TV; as well as the number of other children that Mom may be parenting or number of other jobs she works!

- Mom's have an IMPOSSIBLE job! God never designed for her to do it alone, and if a dad isn't involved, he has to be drawn in to reach out to protect and guide his daughter. Mom's can never replace a dad, nor should they try. That's why loving Christian people in God's church are so important. Girls need to see healthy role models and have access to other godly women during these years when it may be really difficult sometimes to connect to their own Mom.)

So what can we do to begin to rebuild and restore mothers and daughters?

(Take positive action now to address the issues that you may have identified in this special report. Don't wait another minute to reach out to rebuild this lifelong relationship!)

Mother/Daughter Conflict Strategy:

To connect a daughter into healthy family relationships and guide her to become a strong young woman, she needs to receive the four elements of becoming a “God’s Girl”. These are the key areas for both mothers and fathers to focus on giving to their daughter in her journey to become successful as an adult.

1) Acceptance
From the people closest to her, no matter what she may have said or done in the past.

2) Approval
In spite of all of her teen insecurities, imperfections, fears and failures, which she feels like she is drowning in sometimes.

3) Affection
Gentle, tender, kindness and love from safe people in her family and life. She needs healthy touch now more than ever!

4) Authority
Giving up control to accept the leading of God in her life as the ultimate source of guidance, love and support.

About the author:
Dwight Bain is a turnaround expert on finding success after a crisis

  • Nationally Certified Counselor, in practice since 1984
  • Founder of The LifeWorks Group in Orlando, FL
  • Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator
  • Chaplain/CISM team member- Orange County Sheriff's Office, Orlando, FL
  • Critical Incident Counselor and Trainer for the US National Guard, Washington DC
  • Certified Trainer by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Baltimore MD.
  • Crisis Counselor at Ground Zero in New York City after the Terrorist attacks of 9-11-01
  • Contributing author, The Soul Care Bible, a reference Bible focused on counseling issues
  • Contributing author, Competent Christian Counseling, a graduate textbook in psychology
  • Author, The Ground Zero Experience, a crisis counseling guide for recovery
  • Author, Destination Success, a life coaching guide on turning stress into success

Note: This material may be copied to pass along to help others if you leave the authors name and contact information attached. For more information about how to solve family conflict, coping with crisis or media interviews on life strategies, contact The LifeWorks Group in Orlando at 407.647.7005 or visit our website at


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