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How to Cope With Controlling Parents When You Live at Home

These tips on how to deal with controlling parents will help you see your situation differently. The first thing to remember when you’re coping with parents – and you live at home – is that you can’t change them. You can only change how you respond to them.

coping with controlling parents

How to Cope With Controlling Parents

“Giving up hope is one of the healthiest, most life-affirming things you could do for yourself,” writes Dr Laura Schlessinger in Bad Childhood – Good Life: How to Blossom and Thrive in Spite of an Unhappy Childhood. “If, of course, you accept [your controlling parents] and don’t pout.”

Giving up hope may sound negative and depressing — but after you read my explanation and tips for coping with parents who try to control you, you may feel differently. Giving up your expectations may be the healthiest thing you ever do in life.


Controlling Parents – How Do You Cope?

My husband and I attended a family relationships workshop last night (it’s the fifth of seven sessions), and it was all about coping with your childhood relationships. I wrote a bit about it in How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Feel Good Enough.

There is no “one size fits all” answer when you’re looking for ways to deal with controlling parents. Every family is different; I can only offer general ideas for responding to your mom and dad in healthier ways.

Let go of your need to please your parents

We grow up seeking approval, affirmation, and even love from our parents. Part of why it’s so difficult to confront our parents is we don’t want to disappoint or anger them. Even as grown children, we want them to keep loving us – even when we feel like we hate them! A tip on how to deal with controlling parents – or any toxic person in your life – is to recognize your need to please them. Then, learn how to let go of this need.

Cut your financial ties to parents who want to control you

On How to Cope With Difficult Parents, a reader asked for help with her father. He’s making her life miserable – not to mention the effect he has on her husband and child. She said her father helped her get a mortgage loan, and he holds that over them. So…instead of staying financially beholden, she might find ways to free herself and take her life back. This might involve getting a bank loan and paying her dad back – even if the money was originally a gift. It’s not a “gift” if it’s taking an emotional toll.

Or, if everyone agrees that money isn’t owed (the mortgage help or special baby food was a gift, for instance), then she might get him to sign something that states she doesn’t owe him money and he has no right to lord it over her. This black-and-white evidence might help them take money out of the father-daughter relationship.

Learn to recognize emotional blackmail

This is one of the best ways to take your life back! If you have controlling parents, you may recognize that they disguise their criticism, try to make you feel guilty for past behavior, or constantly make you feel bad about your life. They don’t seem to want to let you live your life! Before confronting difficult parents, it’s important to recognize and learn to deal with emotional blackmail.

Read books like the ones I featured, take a weekend workshop in assertiveness training, or talk to a counselor. Keep reminding yourself that you’re a grown adult – you’re not a child anymore, and you don’t have to succumb to emotional manipulations! A big part of this is learning to say “no” without feeling guilty.

If your parents are emotionally manipulative and controlling, read Surprising Examples of Verbal Abuse in Relationships. It may help if you learn how to recognize verbal abuse.

Separate emotion from an action plan

Emotion says, “But I don’t want to confront my parents or move to a different city – I’m scared/tired/frustrated/miserable!” An action plan says, “I want a better life, better relationships. I don’t deserve to be treated like this. To stop this from happening, I need to (insert action plan here).”

To confront your controlling parents, you’ll probably have to do something you don’t want to do: quit a job you love, move to a different city, set and stick to your boundaries, talk to a family counselor, get emotionally stronger, and stand up to other family members. It’s not an easy way to take your life back, but it’s effective.


Start creating your action plan

You can’t change who your parents are, and you may need to keep living at home with them for the next few months or years. Don’t let these facts get you down! There are ways you can deal with controlling parents – and most of them require creating a plan of action.

Examples of action plans:

  • Decide in advance how you’ll calmly and rationally respond to your parents when you feel they’re trying to control you
  • Arrange to phone a friend or trusted adult when you feel like you’re losing control
  • Get specific coping tips from books about family dynamics, such as the one I list below

Talk in person to an adult you trust. There aren’t any quick tips on how to deal with parents who want to control you; you need to find strategies that are geared to your specific family situation.

Stop wishing your parents less controlling, or different

These controlling parents are yours. If you’re still wishing they were different, you need to let go of your wish. You don’t need to give up hope for a better relationship with your parents – but you need to stop hoping they’ll change.  They’ll continue to be overbearing and difficult to take….but luckily, you’re can take charge of your own response to them.

You are free to distance yourself emotionally, physically, socially, and financially. You can choose to live your own life.

How to Cope With Controlling ParentsIn Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your LifeDr. Susan Forward draws on case histories and the real-life voices of adult children of toxic parents to help you free yourself from the frustrating patterns of your relationship with your parents — and discover a new world of self-confidence, inner strength, and emotional independence.

I can’t offer advice on how to deal with controlling parents, but you may find it helpful to share your experience here. Sometimes writing about your family brings insight and clarity, and can help you cope.

To heal from the past, you need to let go of your wish that your family was different.


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199 thoughts on “How to Cope With Controlling Parents When You Live at Home”

  1. Hello everyone,

    I’m a 29 years old male. still living at home. I cannot have a good academic life, and please both of my parents at the same time. I cannot stand the corruption of the university I was before I transferred. My parents are supportive of my studies, but ONLY if it is in agreement with their narrow-minded sentiments.

    I’m doing an awesome project with a medic. If I obey my parents’ advice of not doing anything with him, I’d be totally screwed.

    IF they find out about something they don’t like, because I disobey to their immediate demands whenever their feel like demanding, they threaten me about cutting financial ties with me. And even worse, they love to lend to their close friends some money, but, when I need something more than the basics, it needs to be under certain conditions. If they agree, no problem, if they disagree, then I’m alone.

    My parents are just way too much narrow-minded and I can’t change that. Nothing is EVER good enough for them. Physical and emotional blackmail still run through whenever possible.

    I’ve decided to cut emotional ties with both of them, and start planning about getting out of this household, that, for what I see, their efforts will get short. Not convenient for me either.

    That’s why my older brother is being reaped for what he actually is, another dissociative, narcissistic kind. Well, that’s some good learning for me.

    Kind Regards.

  2. Ew, your dad’s a jerk. He sounds so similar to mine. My dad’s a sexist, controlling, abusive, entitled, and disrespectful jerk who expects respect from everyone else without extending the same courtesy to them, just because he considers himself “the man of the house.” He bullies and bosses around everyone in the house.

    I also still live at home. I’ve been planning to get out for a while. I finally got my mom on my side (because she wasn’t for a long time). It helps tremendously. I started standing up for myself. I no longer tolerate BS. Truth be told, I was afraid to do it earlier because I thought I’d be kicked out and become homeless. But that hasn’t happened. My mom earns more than my dad, and since she’s on my side I feel much safer in speaking out against his behavior.

    Hang in there. You can do it. You can get out. It’s been excruciating for me. I’m older than you and have been stuck here way past the expiration date so to speak. I’m about to get a new job because I spent about a year building my skills on the side for something that pays very well. I’m moving out soon after I land that job and never looking back.

    Good luck to you.

  3. oh god, I’m so sorry.
    you sure had some tough time growing up like that, I can kinda relate.
    this can drive you nuts and yet you still have to bear with it until god knows when but there is one thing that I’m sure of
    the end of it won’t be as pleasant as expected but you’re aiming for your own life goals and that takes some sacrifices that must be made in order to take the ownership of your life
    wish it goes good and easy with you

  4. Hi Emma, I’m about 21 and I have lived independently and have been going to school on my own for a couple years. Let me just say.. it gets so so so much better after you’ve been able to live on your own. I had a bad situation at home and needed some healthy distance, and in such a short amount of time I feel stronger, healthier, and better overall. I used to practically be bedriddden with severe depression and felt like there was no hope… but I began to heal after leaving, and I believe that would happen for you too. Keep on going, you can make it through. Much love, Sarah

  5. Hello,
    I am 36 years old and still live at home and my mom controls my life, she treats me like a baby. She has threatened and even broke up me and my boyfriend more times then I can count and he’s getting fed up with her, he can’t take it anymore. She takes my phone from me, goes through my calls, texts, pictures. When I am out with my boyfriend I have a curfew and if I’m late I have to come in earlier the next time. She is coming in between me and him, she don’t like him and he’s a nice guy, I’d hate to lose him over this. My mom calls me names, says I act like a child, she’s making my life miserable. She controls my money, tells me what to spend it on, I have to tell her where I’m going everytime I go out, it’s ridiculous! She’s been like this for years but it’s just recently getting worse with her. I don’t know what to do anymore, I just want her to ease up a bit and have control back over my life. There’s a lot more to this, just too much to type. I just want her to ease up and let me live my life. I’m sure alot of you can relate to me.

  6. My father is the controlling one, my mother follows through with my dad and adds to the emotional manipulation. I’m 22 years old, my sister is 27 and we have only just started standing our ground. It is hard but it has to be done. I have a job that is an hour drive away, a five week schedule that includes two days for the night shift, because it’s the night shift my parents want me to quit my job. Which btw is the only that has called me back from my application, jobs are hard to get and no other job has responded to my application submission, so I went with this one, which I actually enjoy and don’t mind working there.
    My father said to me I can only go to school and not have a job, and that I’m getting “too independent”. I’m 22! I should start being independent and save up for a car and then later my own place. That’s what young adults do! Plenty of people got to work and study.

    Now they think that because I have a boyfriend now that I changed because of him, but they don’t realize its because of so many years of them controlling us and keeping us home all the time with our proper socializing has made me tired of it all. But of course they don’t see that because they see it as normal parenting. In their book I’m only allowed one day of the whole week to go out.

    He demands respect and yet insults us and demeans and belittles us. I watched my nephew and took my sister to work for 5 years, I cleaned the house whenever they left for trips, fed the dogs, the bunny, cleaned the little car that they let me borrow, cleaned my dishes, did my laundry, fix my room every day and yet that was not enough and they considered me lazy. They said I didn’t do enough around the house. Now that I have a job and go to school and look forward to my future I don’t have time for home. I got good grades once, I got no “get I’m proud of you keep it up” just a cold shoulder, but as soon as I don’t do good, either I get a B or a C in a class I am a immediate failure and the comments and rude remarks are set into effect. There’s barely or even no family time together. What’s really important for my dad, church and work. Nothing else. They forced us for many years to go to a church me and my sister did not feel comfotable. Had I not stood up for us, we would have still been going. My father also lies, he says one thing, next thing you know he didn’t say that at all and goes back to his old ways. A promise breaker ever since we were little. He holds the “I pay for this house, I pay for your studies you are nothing and owe me your life”

    He’s never satisfied. Whenever he or my mother isn’t home, it’s so peaceful. Me and my sister dread coming back home to them. Just recently he’s tried to take the car keys away so that I wouldn’t go to work. I now lock my door to my room in case they come looking in for the keys while I sleep. Another thing he doesn’t like is when we lock the doors, apperabtly he can be the only one to do so in the house. He selfish and prideful. He belittled us by saying that all the kids he knows from his friends have graduated and that me and my sister are failures because we haven’t done so yet.

    He refuses to accept that I want to pay for my own studies. When we were little they never let us go to other friends houses or birthday parties, only school, home, errands and church (which btw they didn’t even put us in the youth group until I was 15.) were our only ways to get out of the house.

    I had horrible depression, (still have it, getting used to controlling it now) and my sister has terrible anxiety. Both causes from being locked up at home for so many years. They don’t believe in mental illness and poke fun at it. They humiliate my sister because of her anxiety and they have yet to know about my depression.

  7. I understand how you feel completely. 21 going on 22 in 2 months and I have an 8:30pm curfew even on summer nights. I had a job, and my mom took back her car that she let’s me drive and I had to cancel my summer job and was unable to secure and other one. I’m graduating college soon and she and my stepdaughter are hell bent on choosing myfuture career and keeping me away from my fiance. Please feel free to email me, I’d love to have someone else to relate too. Yes there’s so much more

  8. I am almost 20 years old and my mom controls everything. Ive barely got a curfew of 8:00. She has barely considered letting me get a job. I feel so angry. When i try talking to her about her needing to loosen up, she gets very angry and calls me a kid. I dont want to be dependent on her. I feel like the only way I’ll ever be able to move out is when i finally get married and even that, she feels she controls. We made an agreement i wouldnt leave for another two or three years and honestly its making me crazy. I cant Even go out on the weekdays, only weekends. I gave up everything, but sometimes i just wanna throw in the towel and end it all.

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