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Dear Graham Norton: 'How can I stop my grown-up daughter treating me so scornfully?'

Graham Norton
Dear Graham Norton: 'How can I stop my grown-up daughter treating me so scornfully?' Credit: Andrew Crowley/mrned.org

Dear Graham

My daughter is married to a lovely man, has two adorable daughters and a job she loves and is doing a Master’s degree part-time. Recently she has given the impression she can barely tolerate me. Everything I say is greeted with a sarcastic one-liner. She sneers at my politics, my religion and my “rich friends” – ordinary middle-class people. She appears to have forgotten all the love and support she received from us during her childhood and her dark, difficult teenage years: I simply denied her access to everything she wanted to do, apparently.

Now she has started to treat her elder sister the same way. I fear an all-out war if I handle this the wrong way.

Anon, via email

Credit: Andrew Crowley

Dear Anon

I feel you need to be honest with yourself. Is the life that your daughter is living the one you envisaged for her? It is all very well acknowledging her happiness now, but you must also accept why your daughter feels the way she does. Has your other daughter done better in terms of education or career in comparison?

The trouble with tackling situations like this is that things can never be unsaid. You are wise to fear the outbreak of long-term hostilities, so tread very carefully. Can you identify anything that might have provoked the deterioration of relations recently? Did she fail an exam? Are her children struggling at school? Did her sister get a promotion? For some reason she is feeling judged, and is fighting back.

The trouble with tackling situations like this is that things can never be unsaid

You could just do nothing. But if you do want to address this, you will be defusing an emotional bomb. Try not to be defensive. You may not recognise the childhood she describes but it is how she remembers it that matters.

Be patient. You could try apologising. Obviously this may entail a rewriting of history, but you will never be able to achieve peace without making concessions – if words of contrition stick in your throat, I refer you to the “do nothing” option.

Have you spoken to your other daughter about this situation? Has she any idea what has caused it? Things are always complicated between mothers and daughters. Add to the mix a sister and two granddaughters and it becomes a drawer full of string. Whatever happens I trust sure your daughter will become more understanding of her mother when her own girls hit their teens. In an ideal world she will seek you out and tell you that you didn’t do such a bad job after all.