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Dakota Johnson and Melanie Griffith's tense red-carpet interview was deemed one of the most awkward moments of the Oscars. We’ve all had those times when we revert to our angsty 14-year-old selves around our mothers. Here's how to deal with it.

Leslie Barrie
February 24, 2015

And the award for most "painfully awkward" mother-daughter exchange goes to...Dakota Johnson and Melanie Griffith.

By now, you've probably seen video of the 25-year-old Fifty Shades of Grey star getting heated when her mom (and Oscars date) flatly tells ABC's Lara Spencer that, nope, she hasn't seen her daughter's controversial movie.  “I don’t think I can. I think it would be strange,” the 57-year-old Griffith explained during a red carpet interview Sunday.

After a bit of back and forth, Johnson can't handle it anymore. "Alright! You don't have to see it," she snapped.

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Although many people have deemed it one of the most awkward moments of the Oscars (and really, it was), we’ve all had those times when, despite having long finished puberty, we revert to our angsty 14-year-old selves around our mothers—then curse ourselves later.

“Even if you've evolved into an adult relationship with your mom, when you’re in such a stressful situation, just like Dakota was on the red carpet, it’s normal to regress to that previous state of your mother-daughter relationship,” says Gail Saltz, MD, Health's contributing psychology editor.

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But just because we all do it doesn’t make it any easier to experience—for you or your mom. If you find yourself about to pull a Dakota, here are some suggestions for dealing with it, before, during, and after a fight.

Before: Plan on how you’ll handle tense situations

“If you star in a movie with BDSM scenes and bring your mom as your date to the Oscars, there’s a good chance you’re going to be asked whether your mom will see the film,” Dr. Saltz says. It wasn’t an off-the-wall question. “So to avoid an awkward moment like that, it would have been smart to strategize before stepping on the red carpet about what they’ll each say when someone does bring it up,” Dr. Saltz adds.

What you should do: If your parents are meeting your partner’s parents for the first time and you want everything to go smoothly, it’s worth having a conversation with your mom about what topics may come up that the two of you feel touchy about. (Maybe your mom gets on you for working late hours, and you always snap when she brings it up?) Then come to an agreement about how you’ll both avoid the jaw clenching and eye rolling.

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During: Realize when it’s not worth fighting about

While there’s no way of knowing the typical dynamic between Dakota and Melanie, the fact that they are on the same career path could spark competitive mother-daughter tension, even if neither of them is aware of it. “Dakota went into her mom’s field, and Dakota was at the Oscars because she is in a super-hyped movie, but her mom is not in a movie right now, especially one that’s getting this much buzz—so that can ratchet up a mother’s competitive feelings, unconsciously,” Dr. Saltz says.

Plus, “when daughters disagree, it’s a move to independence—which is healthy and normal—but sometimes it can cause moms to slip back into their old parenting role,” she adds.

What you should do: If fights tend to break out over how you made a Thanksgiving side dish (especially if it's her recipe) or how much you spend on your gym membership despite her advice to shop around, this could be the root of the tension. Instead of arguing, it may be easier (and wiser) just to let it go. After everything your mom has probably done for you over the years, you can give her that, right?

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Later: Talk it out

We don't know how Dakota and Melanie worked things out, but we do hope they talked about it afterward, the healthy way. “You don’t want to deal with it in a way that says, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’—because placing blame won’t help, and could lead to more strain,” Dr. Saltz says.

What you should do: The best thing to say to smooth things over: ‘Mom, when I am with you talking about x, I feel y. I’m wondering if you have any idea why this is happening?’ Dr. Saltz advises. In the end, the goal is to deal with the situation as two adults because your relationship is more important than selecting a "winner."

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