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.
“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.
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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.
In Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Dr. 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.