Respectful Ways to Disagree With My Mom as an Adult Daughter

Your love for each other can help you respectfully disagree.
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Reaching adulthood and moving out of your parent’s house will not put an end to the arguments you and your mother will have. She will still worry about you and provide advice you didn’t ask for and probably didn’t want. You can respectfully disagree with her without alienating her or giving up your independence.

1 Unsolicited Advice

One of the biggest conflict areas between adult children and their parents is unsolicited advice, according to Kira Birditt, et al. in a 2009 study in the Psychology and Aging journal entitled "Tensions in the Parent and Adult Child Relationship." The tension is generally higher between daughters and mothers than between sons and their parents. Gently ask your mother to only provide advice that you request, allowing you to create your own successes and mistakes. Promise to ask for help if you honestly can’t figure things out, and then follow through on occasions where her advice is helpful, such as providing the recipe for a favorite dish or explaining how she achieves success at a task you do not. She'll feel that you respect her wisdom and understand that she’s just trying to help.

2 Grace and Humility

A little humility and grace can go a long way in smoothing ruffled feathers and hurt feelings. Remind your mother that you love her and always will, but you’re all grown up now, suggests Tina Wakefield in “Living with a Broken Heart: Are You Estranged from Your Child?” for Empowering Parents. Some days your mother might forget that. Listen to her side of the conflict and repeat back what you heard her say so that she feels understood. Admit when you’re wrong and apologize if you took offense when none was meant or jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t correct. Give her the benefit of the doubt and ask her to do the same for you.

3 Take a Time Out

You may have days when your mother hits the wrong nerve and sends your frustration spinning through your brain. Tell your mother that you have to run and vacate the conversation, in person or over the phone. Plead a date, an appointment or whatever, but don’t say something that you will regret later. Spend time alone or with someone who will listen to you vent before you resume the conversation. Respond over the phone, in text or email if you feel that face-to-face will resume the conflict. Don’t avoid the issue, advises Birditt et al., because that doesn’t work. Look for a win-win solution and a way to let her know that you understand her viewpoint.

4 Get Help

You and your mother may have topics that always end in conflict. Enlist a mediator who can help you hear one another and find common ground, suggest psychologist Jack Hamilton and mediator Elisabeth Seaman in “Between Aging Parents And Adult Children” for A mediator can insist that you both respond with respect and fairness until you find a workable solution. If everything else has failed, it's worth a try to respectfully agree without hurting her feelings.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.