As a working mom of six kids, I am constantly seeking new ways to connect with my children individually. Our household can be chaotic, to say the least, but I know just how important it is that I set aside the time to understand and support our children's interests, and to teach them life lessons that can only come from me—especially with my daughters.
Sometimes these lessons come from the wisdom I've acquired through my education and background as a child and family educator (I'm trained in child development and behavior). Other times, they come from unexpected places, like a playground interaction that I witness, or a movie or TV show that I happen to watch. And that's exactly what happened when I watched Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil with my daughter.
Since seeing it, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how powerful the mother/daughter bond can be, and how many of the lessons from the movie actually apply to my relationship with my 7-year-old daughter. Lessons that could help me build the best foundation for her that I can, and presumably, other mamas of daughters, too—especially during the more challenging stages of life.
So, I'm sharing the love and passing on five of the strongest takeaways from the film, along with some helpful phrases to incorporate these principles into your own mother/daughter relationship. Because we may know we've got this, mamas, but it doesn't hurt to add some new tools to our belts, either.
1. "I hear you."
There will be things your daughter will tell you that you don't want to hear (like Aurora's engagement announcement) but she needs to know you'll always be there to listen. As mothers, we might not always agree with all of the choices our daughters make, but in the interest of promoting healthy communication, they still need to know that when they come to you, they'll be heard.
Personally, I want to be the one who she goes to when she needs support—to talk about her relationships, her struggles and her dreams. Even if they're different than the dreams I may have for her. And although young girls do often turn to their peers for advice, studies show that mothers are still the most influential person in their daughter's lives through young adulthood. So keep being there for her, mama. And remember that those validating phrases (offered before you give your opinion or advice), will help her feel safe enough to be open and vulnerable.
2. "When you're ready, let's work on how to fix this."
Mistakes happen, especially in relationships. Trust is broken, feelings get hurt, and words do damage but working our way back from that is what matters most. That's why it's crucial that our daughters understand the importance of seeking resolution in order to repair your relationship, and that we assure them that mistakes aren't the end of the world.
We can do this by initiating connection even when we're hurting, and by serving as an example of how taking ownership of the hurt we've caused others can help start us down the path to healing. (Just make sure to respect her own internal timeline and give space when needed.) Much like when Aurora mistakenly accused her mother (Maleficent) of casting a spell on King John and Maleficent had to move past the feeling of betrayal from her distrust, dealing with hurt can take work—it totally spoke to me. That's why our daughters knowing how to forgive and patch up our relationships is an invaluable tool.
3. "I will never stop loving you."
I met my daughter, who is biologically my stepdaughter, when she was three, but that doesn't change the deep love I have for her. I will always regard her as my daughter and I will never treat her any differently than my own. That's why the part of the movie where Aurora declares Maleficent as her mother really spoke to me. It teaches the great lesson that the love between a mother and her daughter is fierce, even when the relationship might look a little different. And loving someone unconditionally and without bounds is a bond that doesn't rely on the ties of birth.
4. "I'm proud of you."
Sure, we'd love it if our daughters always saw us as the center of their universe like they do when they're younger. Right now you might be her world, her best friend, but as she gets older, starts exploring the world and finding her footing, the nature of that dynamic might feel like it's changing (on the surface, at least). All mamas eventually know the tug of it feeling like your daughters are a little less proud of you, like being asked to park down the street when dropping her off, or being told to wear/do/say something less "embarrassing" in front of her peers (I think we could all relate to the moment when Aurora asked her mother to hide her horns). But though it may feel like you're suddenly less important in her life, it's not really true.
Just ask the 76% of girls surveyed who report valuing their parents' opinions over that of their friends when it comes to serious decisions. Growing up or not, our daughters still need to hear that they are capable, worthy and supported by your love. Independence breeds confidence, mama, so reminding her of her value ensures that your words will become her inner voice.
5. "I need you to trust me."
While we've all likely been told by our own mothers when we were younger, "You'll understand when you're a parent one day" or, "I'm doing this for your own good," those types of phrases just send the message that your daughter can't possibly grasp the wisdom behind a decision you may be making on her behalf. Case in point, when Maleficent did what she thought was best by deciding not to reveal the truth about her biological parents, it was an attempt to protect her—a motivation to which most mamas can relate.
Instead, making the point that it's not about her limitations but rather her capabilities by elevating her to a position of maturity (like being asked to instill trust) sends her a more empowering message. And convincing your child that you have her best interest at heart might be easier than you think, as 89% of girls surveyed about youth/parent relationships report acknowledging and understanding that their mothers cared about them (and 91% of boys, too!). So even though she still may not love all of your parenting decisions, she'll definitely know they come from a place of love, and in the end, that's all you can really ask for, mama.
This article was sponsored by Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Thank you for supporting the brands that support mamas and Motherly.