How to Be a Perfect Daughter
Throughout our lives, our parents have a lasting impact on who we are and the decisions we make. They offer support when we need it and tough love when we aren't living up to our potential. It's not easy, and every child owes good parents a debt of gratitude and respect. Being a "perfect" daughter is one way of providing that, but it means being a daughter who is perfect for the people who raised her, respecting their values and making meaningful contributions to the happiness of her parents.
Being a “Perfect” Daughter
Be realistic.No person is ever perfect, but as the U.S. author John Steinbeck once said “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Remind yourself that even Olympic gold medalists get points off on their scores (but still win). That Albert Einstein made (but learned from) his mistakes and imperfect solutions. Never let “perfect” undermine your self-esteem and become the enemy of all the excellent, worthwhile (but unfortunately imperfect) things you are capable of.
- Striving for absolute “perfection” can be counterproductive, because it can diminish an accomplishment or task completion just because it is not flawless success.
- Perfectionism is also closely linked to depression, troubled relationships, and decreased life satisfaction.
Always ask first.If you are unsure whether something you wish to do will upset your parents, ask first. If you are hesitant to ask, it is probably a good sign that it will upset your parents.
- When asking, always ensure you've thought through the possible outcomes of what you are asking to do and anticipate the concerns your parents will have.
- Don't get upset. Although your parents may seem resistant to your suggestion, remember to stay cool-headed and present facts and examples that illustrate why you should do something and why you are capable of handling any outcomes.
- Especially if you are still living at home, if your parents say "no," always honor their wishes, even if it is not what you would prefer.
Honor your responsibilities.When you have promised parents you will do something, but wait until you have to be told again (and again), it can create negative tensions.
- Set expectations early. Say “Mom, I have [x, y and z] to finish before I’ll have time, but as soon as I am free, I will take care of this,” then complete all tasks before having to be asked additional times.
- Anticipate needs and fill them. Do you know what days garbage runs on? Are guest expected over the weekend? Take out the garbage, clean your room and other rooms in the house, all without being asked.
Be respectful.You may not initially agree with what your parents are saying, but remind yourself that they have your best interests at heart.
- They have seen more of life than you have and may have insights that you are too young to have access to.
- Trust that they are looking out for you and don’t back talk. Back talk creates arguments and can be counterproductive to establishing yourself as respectful and trustworthy.
Take care of yourself.Demonstrate respect for yourself by caring for your body’s needs and maintaining a healthy appearance. Your parents love you and it reassures them to see you healthy and well-cared for.
- Keep up with hygiene and cleanliness. Try to take a bath or shower daily. At the very least, wipe off sweat and grime with a soapy wash cloth. Wash hair every 1-3 days.
- Wear clean clothes and comb your hair. Iron clothes that need ironing. Wear a belt with pants, especially loose ones. Style hair to keep it out of your face.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Three meals a day is traditionally recommended; however, nutritionists have indicated that 5-6 smaller meals spread over the day can actually be healthier for us and maintain a more even blood sugar. Regardless of which meal plan you choose, make sure you are eating enough to be healthy.
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Teens between the ages of 14 to 17 need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Anyone over the age of 18 needs at somewhere between 7-9 hours.
Take help.Although we often want to show our parents how successful and capable we are, there are times when we may need help to reach our desired goals.
- Don’t be too proud or egotistical to accept help from your parents, even in the form of advice.
- When you do take help, be humble and show gratitude for the contributions your parents make.
Be patient with your parents.When we are young, the world is ours and we can let our ambitions guide what happens. But think about how difficult it can be for parents to adjust to rapid changes that we take for granted.
- When you get married, get a job, move to a new place, it can remind them of their own mortality, or make them lonely for the days when you were just down the hall.
- Help parents adjust to your own evolution. Take time to talk with them and let them ask questions. Help them understand, but don’t be angry if they can’t always do it. Remind them that acceptance and trust are just as powerful as understanding.
Be true to you.Being true to you means that you are confident, happy, learning, and growing. Nothing makes a parent more content than seeing their child coming into their own and being successful. When you are true to you, you are actualizing the person your parents raised you to be. Sometimes, however, being true to you will initially create tension with parents.
- For example, if you parents want you to attend church with them, but you are not religious, let them know that you wish not to go. If you still have to attend their church, consider how you can still be true to your values during the experience. Resources like the Skeptics Bible offer some great conversation starters to get people thinking about the contradictions and inconsistencies within religious scriptures.
- Are you worried about coming out to your parents? While your sexuality is an important part of who you are and should be celebrated, if you are living at home with your parents, you may not want to share this part of yourself at that time. If you are living away from home and worried about talking to your parents about your sexual orientation, consider speaking to a therapist about the best "coming out" options for your circumstances.
Pay it forward.Take the advantages, kindness, support, and generosity you’ve been shown by your parents and offer it to others. That could be your own children, your spouse, friends, and other family members.
- Volunteer to be a “Big Sister,” who offers support and life guidance to at-risk young women.
- When you use what you’ve been given you help others, you show respect and gratitude for the upbringing your parents gave you.
Being a “Perfect” Daughter-In-Law
Balance individuality and closeness.When families grow and gain new members, it can require some adjustment, particularly for the new addition. Remember that your partner loves you for who you are, and that you should not try to be someone else. At the same time, look for opportunities to make connections to his or her family.
Be open to new family relationships.Although every family does things differently, many families accept new members by immediately treating them as a new sibling or child.
- If you are an only child and have never had siblings before, think of sibling relationships as being like living with a best friend for most of your life. Everyone tries to get along, have fun, and take care of each other, with lots of compromises.
- Accept that hugs, jokes, and some teasing may come along with being the new sibling, but that it is coming from a place of love and welcome. Reciprocate in turn when possible.
Give yourself “Me” time.Especially if you have just married into a new family, be sure to plan for at least an hour a day of “Me” time during visits.
- "Me" time may be when you say “I’m going to have a quick nap” and then rest for a few moment, thinking back over the events of the day, releasing any possible stress that may have built up.
- You can even ask you partner to join you, especially if there is something you are confused about any want to ask questions.
- Over time, as you and your partner's family become better acquainted, these quiet moments may not even be necessary.
Be honest.The relationship between a parent and biological child can permit a degree of honesty unmatched by any other relationship. While your partner may be able to tell their parents anything, remember that they are getting to know you, and tact can be important maintaining peace.
- Remember to never lie to your partner’s family, but also remember to break difficult truths with respect and kindness.
Set boundaries.When we begin a relationship with a partner’s family, we usually want them to like us as much as possible. Yet, while compromise is important, it is equally as important not to sacrifice your entire personal comfort for someone else.
- For example, are your partner’s parents asking you to come visit for the holidays when you both really want to stay home? If you and your partner agree, be kind, but firm, in letting the rest of the family know that you will be delighted to join them at a different time, but can’t make the requested date.
- This may cause disappointment at first but, in the long-run, establishes reasonable expectations and mutual respect.
Agree to disagree.There are points on which you will never agree with a partner’s family. This is not a sign of failure or incompatibility. Instead, think of it as a challenge, to love and be tolerant in spite of differences.
- For example, do you already know that your partner’s parents have different politics than you? If anyone asks, say “You know, I’ve never been entirely comfortable talking about politics. Mind if I sit this one out and listen?”
- If pushed, gently remind others that you respect their beliefs and feelings, love them dearly, hope they can respect your feelings as well.
Be open to change.Compromise is a key part of maintaining healthy family relationships. This may mean accepting that your partner’s family has completely different holiday traditions, or that Aunt Margaret willalwaysmakes her macaroni and cheese for special occasions (even though that was what you always made).
- While you should never give up all the habits and rituals that bring joy and meaning to your life, you may find that you need to adjust how and when you observe your own traditions. For example, if Aunt Margaret always makes the macaroni and cheese, ask your partner what kind of dish you could make that could become a family staple.
- Another compromise is to have your own Christmas tree and cookies for Santa at home but still enjoy lighting the menorah and having noodle kugel with your partner’s family.
Empathize.Welcoming a new person to the family can be a joyous but also stressful occasion.
- It can remind your in-laws that they are aging, or that their child/brother/sister lives far away, or that there may be limitations on how much family time that can be spent together, which can bring mixed feelings into play.
- While you should never be a door mat or accept disrespect, understand what families go through when a new person is added and attempt to give in-laws the benefit of the doubt before becoming upset or angry.
Creating Positive Interactions with Parents
Be mindful.Think about your own personal life, as well as the relationship you share with family, including parents. What aspects could be made more comfortable, productive, or enjoyable? Below are exercises in mindfulness that can help you be a better daughter:
- Strive for excellence in all tasks you undertake. When you complete tasks without a commitment to success or improvement, you show a lack of concern for the people impacted by the outcome. Instead, demonstrate love, care, and respect by attempting to complete all tasks successfully, pushing for above-average outcomes. Let your parents feel proud of what you have accomplished
- Look for new ways to make positive changes. This could be something as simple as planting flowers in your parent’s garden or deciding to ask your supervisor for a promotion at work. When you make a personal effort to bring happiness to yourself or the people who care about you, you demonstrate a commitment to being a better person for yourself and others.
Communicate.When long periods go without talking to your parents, it can be difficult to make the call when either party needs help or support. For this reason, try to reach out to your parents as often as is convenient and comfortable for both of you.
- For younger adults, this could mean daily check-ins via text to a conversation over dinner. For adult children, try to text and/or call your parents multiple times a week. It doesn’t have to be an important message. It might be as simple as seeing your mom’s favorite flower and wanting to say “hi,” to sharing a funny observation from work.
- Reach out first. Don’t always be the one waiting on a phone call or text. Make time to talk to your parents and call them. Or if you live away from home, invite them to come visit. By reminding our parents of their importance to us, we cement bonds and offer reassurance.
Listen carefully.When parents tell us to listen, it means more than just nodding while they talk. Demonstrate that you are not only engaged but learning through active listening. This is not just an act of respect. It also ensures that you remember what they’ve told you and can act on it appropriately. Below are tactics for active listening:
- Restate information: This demonstrates that you are attentive and also gives you the ability to clarify things you are less certain of.
- Offer subtle "encouragers": Nod your head. Say "uh huh" or "I see" so your parents continue speaking and elaborate on their ideas.
- Summarize: Before ending the conversation or asking questions, summarize information into your own words. This helps you remember what was said, but also allows for your parents to say “That one part is not quite right, let me explain again” in order to offer correction.
- Give feedback: If something strikes you as a good idea, say “I agree that this is good, because…” If you are less certain of another part, say “I’m less certain about this part. Can you explain it again?” This allows you to collaborate and even nuance the information. Depending on the situation, your parents might even welcome suggestions or alternative ideas.
- Probe for more information: when in doubt, ask questions to draw out elaboration, make distinctions, or clarify information. Make sure that you completely understand what you’ve been told and how will impact your behavior.
- Validation: Remind your parents that that you appreciate them taking the time to offer guidance and instruction. Give hugs, make a card, say “Thank you.” Always demonstrate your gratitude for and appreciation of your parents.
Stay in the present.Although it can be tempting to remind our parents of mistakes they’ve made, unless it is key to your protection or health, resist the urge to dwell on the past.
- Forgive. Forgiveness is not a free pass. It doesn’t mean that mistakes that happened are ok or validated. But what it does mean is that you are willing to move on and love in spite of mistakes. That you accept your parents as human and, like you, not expected to be perfect.
- Repair disagreements quickly. The longer a disagreement remains unresolved, the longer resentment builds and the more difficult it can be to make amends. Additionally, when we don’t resolve lingering issues with those closest to us, we build a pattern of behavior that will continue into future relationships as well—even those with our own children. For these reasons, it is best to repair damaged relationships quickly and develop the conflict resolution skills required to be a better person, daughter, and mother.
Sources and Citations
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