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The Good Daughter Syndrome
with Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C.

Mother to Daughter – 6 Things To Say Instead of Giving Advice

You know the feeling. You are just itching to give advice, but you can sense it isn’t the best thing to do.

You’ve noticed:

-Your advice always seems to fall on deaf ears. 
You can talk yourself blue… but your advice seems to go in one ear and out the other.
From the depths of your experience, you give her your very best hard-won, heartfelt advice.

Then, she turns around and ignores it, or does the complete opposite.

-Or worse, your daughter appears to listen & seems to agree, only to proceed precisely the way she was going to in the first place as if you never said a thing. 
“Why even try?”, you ask yourself, exhausted.
You wished you had someone there for you the way you’re there for her, caring enough to listen.
When it isn’t making you ill as a hornet, her dismissal is breaking your heart. You have so much to offer your daughter, so much pain to spare her, and she just throws your advice away like yesterday’s news.
You sense she needs something more from you but, for the life of you,  you don’t know what.

If this happens more than you care to admit, and resentment has begun to set in, perhaps it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach.

Ask yourself- Do you want to be right? Or would you rather feel close and connected? 
Is this the time for setting her straight?  Or is it the time to lay the groundwork for trust and emotional safety.

Getting clear on this may be harder than you think.

If you are like so many mothers, you feel intense internal pressure to be right, to have the answers. In this culture, most mothers do feel pressure to fix things for their daughters.  They are tasked with the competing demands of being everything to their daughters while, simultaneously, letting them go.
Nevermind it is impossible to do both at once.

What can you do?

If it is a more significant connection you want, you will be ready to reassess your approach.
To that end, you can increase your sense of connection by asking questions that keep the focus on your daughter who is struggling, rather than telling her what to do.

6 Things To Say Instead Of Giving Advice-

(when you’d rather be close than be right)

1. What do you see as your options in this situation?

2. How do you understand the problem?

3. What do you feel is at stake here?

4. What is it that you want out of the situation?

5. If you could bring yourself to do anything, what would that be?

6. What kind of outcome would you consider a success?

By asking follow-up questions, you convey that you trust the intelligence, sensitivity, and competence of your daughter.

 This helps her feel valued instead of corrected.

When she feels valued, she will be more open and less guarded with you. And, over time, being open and accepted strengthens the connection and builds feelings of trust.
If it is connection you want, you have to demonstrate that you care more than you need to be right.
When you ask questions rather than give answers and opinions,  you show her you believe in her ability to figure things out for herself. What’s more, when you have nurtured a genuine connection, any advice ( when it is asked for) actually has a better chance of landing.
As a therapist to women for 30 years, I see that many women, especially mothers,  feel that they need to provide answers. Many times their daughters don’t need answers as much as they need witness, acceptance, warmth, and connection.
If they don’t explicitly ask for advice, many times they know what they should do… they just have trouble implementing it. When she talks it out with you, she feels connected and supported. This will help your relationship and, ultimately, help her carry out what she knows is right- for her.
If I could put a bug in many a mother’s ear of a grown daughter, this is what I would say.-
” Your daughter is trusting you with her struggle. Listen generously, and only give advice that is asked for. You need to make sure that your daughter feels heard, accepted, and valued before you give advice.”  
As a mother, I know it is hard to forgo being the one with the answers. But, if you let your daughter come to her own solutions as you support her, the payoff is huge.
You will feel more connected, and she will be more willing to come to you again and share her struggles all the while helping you grow closer.

If you suspect you might be in the role of the good daughter with your own mother- go here to find out.

Mother to Daughter – 6 Things To Say Instead of Giving Advice

Katherine Fabrizio

Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C. has treated adult daughters of narcissistic mothers, trapped in the role of the Good Daughter for over 30 years. Dedicated to empowering these women, she offers online help for clients and training (CE’s) for therapists at Her book, Daughters Rising: Rising Above the Shame, Guilt and Self-Doubt Mothers Pass Down to Daughters, is available on Amazon. Katherine lives in Raleigh N.C. where she raised two daughters and still speaks regularly with her mother. Do you suffer from the Good Daughter Syndrome? Find out here!

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APA Reference
Fabrizio, K. (2018). Mother to Daughter – 6 Things To Say Instead of Giving Advice. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2018
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