You lay out her clothes, tell her how her hair would look best and dish daily on friend drama. You think you’re helping, but you may actually be setting your daughter up for eating disorders and self-esteem problems, reports Yahoo! News.
According to a new study from the University of Georgia, the best thing moms can do for their daughters is to stop offering unsolicited advice and criticism, which can be deeply damaging. According to the actual study of more than 250 “triad families” (consisting of a mom, a young adult daughter, and another adult sibling), “…it was the hyper-involved and overtly critical expressed emotion communication pattern that was directly and negatively related to social competence, and was also indirectly associated with psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes.” In other words, all that “help,” despite how well-intentioned, is deeply undermining.
I have a son and a daughter. I love them both like crazy and raise them roughly the same. But with one I have to resist a strong urge to say, “if I were you…” because at one point I WAS her. The connection between mother and daughter can be uncomfortably close at times, and it’s hard to hold your tongue about clothes/friends/schoolwork. You remember the crushing disappointments and humiliations of mean girls and awkward phases, and you’d do anything to help your little girl avoid them. But you can’t—and besides, getting through them builds the character she’ll need to be a strong woman. But damn, it’s hard sometimes.
Where does solid parenting end and meddling begin? We’d like to see a study on that, please.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.