Daughter Depends Too Much on Mom
by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero
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THE PROBLEM: My 8 yo daughter has a habit of running everything through me. She tells me every little thing about herself. (My nose was runny on the bus, my teacher called on me twice, my elbow hurt when I threw the ball at recess.) She also looks to me to affirm her opinions. If someone asks her how she likes a particular movie, she’ll glance my way, as if she’s checking to see what I thought about it first. The worst is when she follows me around the house, telling me everything she’s thinking. It totally gets on my nerves! I usually just give her quick responses, but sometimes I snap and say something like: “Figure it out yourself!” I know I’m her mom, so I hate to hurt her feelings like this, but I’m only human. How can I get her to break the habit?
MARY SAYS: In order to break your daughter’s habit, you must break your own, the one where you ‘give her quick responses.’ (And don’t worry about the ‘snapping’ part. That’s part of being a mom!) Your daughter is seeking external validation for her every move, a habit that compromises her boundaries and as you are discovering, compromises yours, too.
The goal here is to encourage your daughter to look within for guidance, rather than seeking it elsewhere.
We all have internal guidance systems, but like muscles, they must be exercised to support healthy development. You can help your daughter do this by bouncing her inquiries back to her rather than weighing in.
For example, when she tells you she got an ‘A’ on a test, ask her how she feels about it. If she scrapes here knee on the driveway and comes running, ask her what she should do about it. If she glances your way to see whether or not she likes a movie, respond with “Well???”
If changing your responses doesn’t quite get you there, you might want to try a mirror. A small, pocket-sized one will do. When your daughter seeks a nod or a word from you, hold the mirror up and remind her that she’s the one to ask. Not you.
The beauty of this technique is that once your daughter gets used to it, she’ll start to feel more confident. Her constant need for affirmation was creating an energy leak for her, whether she knew it or not, and her newly acquired ability to be her own north star will empower her in many areas of her life.
Once she’s no longer obsessively seeking your two cents, you’ll find her soliciting your opinion when she really needs it, at which point, you’ll feel honored she’s come to you.
ERIKA SAYS: I have what some would call a needy child, and let me tell you, it can be mentally draining when I hear “Mommy” for the thousandth time. One of the reasons my son follows me around so much is that he's an only child; when we’re home, I'm his only companion. Sometimes I think he may be feeling lonely, perhaps bored, or he feels like I haven’t given him enough attention. Whatever it is, he’ll do things like announce when he’s thirsty and wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me he has to potty.
It drives me bonkers.
I admit I hovered over him too much as a toddler and quite possibly didn’t empower him enough to be independent. (Insert mom guilt.) Here’s the good news: we can always break habits and teach our little humans new ones. If your daughter is the type to consistently ask for help, complain she can’t figure something out, or share conflicts she’s had with classmates, encourage her to find her own solutions to her problems.
Lately, I’ve been asking my son to do just that as opposed to snapping at him and saying: “You figure it out.” I like to tell him to try, try again, try his best, and then when he thinks he’s done, try some more! If he still can’t figure it out, then—and only then—may he bring it to me. (And when he does, I ask him to tell me what he’s tried so far!)
Try this technique with your daughter and see if she doesn't blossom into an independent little girl. She can figure out SO MUCH on her own. You want your daughter to feel like she can come to you for anything, but you don’t want her to be dependent on you for all her needs. The goal is to show her she can accomplish things, problem solve, and trust her own judgement.
It may seem like your daughter is needy, but I’m guessing she’s the type of child whose love language is quality time. Undivided attention feeds her soul and makes her feel seen, heard, and loved. Be sure to set time aside to indulge her and have meaningful conversations, which will further empower her to figure things out on her own: her likes, dislikes, how to find resolutions, and especially how to find her own voice.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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ABOUT MARY FOLLIN
Mary is the author of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective with parents of younger children.
ABOUT Erika Guerrero
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.
ABOUT Suzanne Johnson
Suzanne Johnson, mother of five children and grandmother of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of the Realms of Edenocht series.
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