How to Cope With Controlling Parents

Do you want to stop being manipulated by your mom and dad? These tips on how to cope with parents who are controlling and emotionally manipulative may help. You’ll see from the comments from adult children who have controlling parents that every parent is different, and controlling in his or her own way.

How to Cope With Controlling ParentsAre your parents toxic, and perhaps even destructive? Read 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.

Here’s a surprising twist on living 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, 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 marriage course last night (it’s the fifth of seven sessions), and it was all about coping with your childhood family relationships. I wrote a bit about it in How to Go on a Marriage Retreat Without Leaving Home – and I encourage you to deal with your parental issues, because it has a huge effect on your intimate relationships!

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 for coping with controlling parents – or any toxic person in your life – is to recognize your need to please them, and let go of it. Or, at least learn how to live with it.

Cut your financial ties to parents who want to control

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 mentioned that 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.

How to Cope With Controlling Parents

How to Cope With Controlling Parents

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.

Stop wishing your parents less controlling, or different

coping with controlling parent

These controlling parents are yours, and if you’re still wishing they were different, you need to stop! 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 a grown adult and you are free to distance yourself emotionally, physically, socially, and financially. You can choose to live your own life!

If you have any thoughts on coping with parents who try to control you, please comment below. I can’t offer advice on coping with controlling parents, but it may help you to share your experience coping with difficult parents.

8 comments On How to Cope With Controlling Parents

  • Wow, it is so nice to know that I’m not alone. I am a 31 year old female, and my parents, especially my father, absolutely hate my husband. They really did not have a problem with him until he put his foot down and did not allow them to control our wedding. They wanted my brother, who is a priest, to perform the ceremony, but we wanted a different type of service so we wanted to find someone else to do the ceremony. My brother refused to learn to do the service the way we wanted, so my husband started looking elsewhere. I stood by my husband, and my abusive father became livid and decided not to talk to me anymore. My mother is, unfortunately, controlled by my father, and so is my older brother and disabled uncle. So because my father wouldn’t talk to me, I didn’t get to talk to the rest of them either. Anyway, since he refused to do what they wanted, they began to claim my husband had “abusive tendencies,” and that he had something on his record that they didn’t like (restraining order from when he was much younger, which was expunged). Anyway, I separated from my husband, mainly because I was really hurting that they weren’t talking to me, and because he did not do much around the house and had trouble at one of his jobs. My husband is not perfect, but he is also not a “sociopath” as my family claims that he is. As Laurie mentioned in her article, some people have an “agenda,” and I believe my father wants to have control over me and any spouse that I would have, and he knew my husband would not allow that. My father also does not want me to be married, and I don’t think my mother does either. It’s like they don’t want me to have my own life outside of them. They just want me to be alone forever, I guess so I’m available to them when they get old and need help?? I’m not sure, because they certainly won’t admit that they don’t want me to be married and have my own life. Anyway, I moved back in with my parents which was not the best move. I have no privacy and my father attempts to control certain aspects of my life. He has been pushing and pushing me to divorce my husband, and I used to be to the point where I’d do anything to make him happy so that I could have contact with the rest of my family. I have found a nice apartment that I can afford and really want to move out, but I have to tell him that and I know he is going to freak out and probably try to talk me out of moving. What parent doesn’t want their 31 year old child to move out?? The only thing that makes sense is that he wants to have control, I don’t really see any other explanation for it. Anyway, I am also missing my husband terribly, and it’s not fair to him that we’ve been apart mainly because of my family. I can totally relate to people who wished things with their parents were different, because I constantly wish my family would change and not be so controlling and mean and hurtful toward me and him. All we want is to be together and be able to live our lives in peace. Last time we tried to do that, they refused to talk to me. They will likely do that again if we get back together. Somehow I have to be ok with them not talking to me. I have tried setting healthy boundaries with them, but my father continues to push the limits and will badger me constantly until I give in and do what he wants me to do. When I refuse, he becomes angry and verbally aggressive. I don’t know what to do. I want to be able to see the rest of my family, but I don’t see that happening if I don’t do what he wants me to do. He says he wants me to live at home for the next 3-5 years, and to divorce my husband. The only ally I really have to help empower me is my husband, but we need to go to counseling and work out our own issues as well. It just makes me so sad knowing that I don’t and never will have a normal family. My priest brother acts as if he is my ally, but he also agrees with almost everything my father says and does. He does not really seem to have my best interests at heart, and neither does my father. My mother agrees about my father being controlling, but is too scared or passive or whatever to stand up to him, I guess because she has to live with him. Anyway, any words of wisdom are welcome!

  • My mom always tried to control me during my childhood, and she was quite judgmental. Where shall I begin?

    (Side note: I live in America. I know that are many cultures that do not encourage children, especially women, to be independent, as seen in several of the comments here.)

    My mom was slap-happy. She didn’t like any criticism or disagreement from me, and would slap me if I raised my voice at her. Or if she didn’t slap me, she silently gasped (wide mouth look), trying to make me feel guilty. Once I got stronger than her, I restrained her if she tried to hit me. If she gasped at me, I asked her, “What?” to get her to put her thoughts into words. Usually, she couldn’t do that.

    She was a music teacher, and wanted me to be interested in music as well. So, she dragged me to grade school church choir, and had me take piano lessons. In middles school, I quit piano lessons when I joined the band. After my freshman year of high school, I quit the band — much to my mom’s chagrin. For the next 10 years, until me mid-20s, she whined for me to be involved with music. When I told her was simply wasn’t interested in music anymore, she shuck her head is disbelief and pretend she didn’t her it. It was quite annoying, and I almost hung up the phone on her a few times. In my mid-20s, she finally stopped (or gave up).

    Sometimes, she criticized me for my career choices. I wanted to be an engineer while she wanted me to be a doctor or teacher. But the nagging on that subject fortunately didn’t last long.

    To escape her grasp, I went off to college over 2000 miles away. After my sophomore year of college, I decided to join the Air Force (for other reasons having nothing to do with her). During this time, did she get used to my living away from home? Not at all. I returned to my home state to finish college (for the in-state tuition). After graduation, she wanted me to stay in her city. I told her I wouldn’t make her any promises. I went to where my career plans took me.

    Joining the Air Force made me financially independent. My mom was in no longer in any position to manipulate me.

    Finally, she nagged about me going to church after I started college. For a while, I made up stories, like that weren’t any churches of interest nearby. In time, I just quit trying to answer her questions, and she eventually quit bringing it up. I never told my parents I quit going to church because I became an atheist (science makes a lot more sense than religion — but that’s another story).

    As if the controlling was bad enough, my mom didn’t offer good advice about dealing with problems. I was bullied at school for being a good student. Her suggestion was that I should try to understand the bullies, and maybe “turn the other cheek.” She still has a soft spot for one bully (he started out as a friend) who made grade school hell for me (she would be horrified to find out he now has a criminal record a mile long). She naively looked at the world through rose-colored glasses. I finally dealt with the bullies by giving them their own medicine. It got me in trouble with the principal a few times, along with the bullies, but then they left me alone.

    Fortunately, my dad wasn’t controlling like my mom.

    I’ll admit that her attempts to control me and her judgmental attitude never stopped me from pursuing my own interests during my youth or now, and it actually ended a number of years ago. While it never hurt my self-esteem, the nagging got to be very tiresome. What would I have done differently? I would have pointed out early on that we all have our own interests, and would have kept repeating this very simple fact, especially if my dad was present, until it stuck. I would have added that no one made her be a musician. I would have probably not gone as far away to college, but would definitely have not gone to college in my parents’ home town.

    I’ve lived a comfortable few hundred miles from my parents since college. We see each other a few times a year, including the holidays in December. But I have my own life, pursuing all my own interests. And I’m going to keep it that way.

  • I am a 30 yr old woman with kids. My mom lives with me. She has always been there for me but now it’s too much to deal with. She yells at me in front of my children all the time. I have asked her to stop but she gets even angrier. I am also engaged to a younger man in which she disapproves of. I want to be to myself but when I bring up us going I separate ways she gets to saying if I would have kept the job I had, you wait until I don’t have anything to put me out on the streets. I love her dearly but I can’t even tell my own children what to do without her screaming at me. I wanted to raise my kids in a loving environment but my mom and 20 yr old sister scream at them all the time. I am so confused. I don’t know what life feels like to be on my own although she is living with me . When I used to live with her all she would say is how she couldn’t stand me and she wished I moved out. Now that I did she slams doors around the house. I really need some advice. She has helped me financially and she raised me as a single parent. I truly feel like if we lived separately that we would have a better relationship. But how do we get to that point without her getting super angry even calling me derogatory names in front of my children? Please help me a.s.a.p!!!

  • Hi. I’m a 17 year-old girl from India. I’m 4 months away from turning 18 and becoming an adult legally. I’ve always had a weird relationship with my mother. Things were fine until my sister was born. My mother became bitter and rude. She started fighting with my dad frequently. I was really scared when that happened because I was just 5 years old and had no idea what was happening. I also tried to protect my sister from her as she used to get violent and throw jewellery and stuff. All these frequent fights changed my perception of her as a gentle, nice mommy, which she had been until my sister was born. As I grew up, their fights still continued and I began to understand bits and pieces about her past. She was the youngest in her family and hence very spoilt. It all came crashing down when her mother died when she was barely 10. Her siblings were more mature and less spoilt to deal with this and trust me, they fare much better than my mother as parents. She has emotional scars, she has a few mental problems and I don’t want to end up like her. I hate her because she is very controlling and she has made it obvious more than once that she shares a similar attitude towards me. When I had just attained puberty and started menstruating, she didn’t really explain things to me and yelled at me. She told me that she wished I was never born to her, making me wonder the same. I know from my friends that all Indian parents tend to be fiercely protective of their children even after they turn 18 and want to exert control over every aspect of their life, from their children’s choice of career to life partners to their whole life. I have somehow been controlling myself all these years, but lately I feel that control is beginning to slip. I’ve become a rebel and wish to do everything against my mother’s wishes. My father is kinda passive and my sister is really young so I have no one to depend on for support. I can’t go around telling this to my friends either. There is this college I’ve been aiming for, which is away from my current city, but in the same state, so it’s not awfully far away. My parents let me write the entrance test after much convincing, thus getting my hopes up. Now I want to write the exam again since the marks in my first attempt is not enough for me to secure a scholarship. When I broached this subject with my father, he said he’ll talk about it with my mother. A few hours ago, I just overheard her telling him that I can’t write the exam again as it’s just a waste of 1000 INR (about 17 USD). She said she’ll never let me go away from home and I should stop dreaming about impossible things. I hate the fact that she was deciding my future without even bothering to involve me in the discussion. I am really frustrated and angered by her attitude towards me. There was a time when I wanted to please her, so much so that I worked very hard to score well in 10th grade. I was the school topper but she didn’t so much as smile at me. Nor was I given any of the things I was promised if I were to get good results. I really started to loathe her after that. Also, she never lets me go out with my friends. In the past 5 years, I’ve hung out with my buddies only 4 or 5 times. I’ve become antisocial because of her. I’m scared and angry because I don’t want to end up like her. I can’t really miss her off, because I’m not yet financially independent, which is an impossible thing in India at my age. Please help me. I really want to get out of the house and live a little, get some fresh air.

  • I could really use some help right about now. I am having some really serious issues with my mom… She has had increasingly worse behavior in the last few months, jealousy of my mother-in-law, straight up belittling me, making me feel like a child, but this escalated to a point that I no longer know how to deal with. Last night she told me that she would no longer be paying a life insurance policy that she had on me, and that I would need to take over the payments if I wanted the policy, I let her know I was not interested (I’m in my 20’s I don’t really think I need it. I should also note she is an insurance agent, so she makes bonuses for selling life insurance). At that point she said fine and got off the phone. She later sent me a text asking if I died tomorrow who would be financially responsible for my funeral. When I told her my fiance would be she told me she would not cancel the policy unless I wrote a letter stating that she would not be financially responsible for my funeral, signed by both my fiance and myself. When I told her I would not do that she said that I will now be responsible for the payments as she won’t cancel it. But what is most concerning to me is that I know she has a loan against this policy, in theory I could be responsible for that… I have no idea of what to do, the argument got very heated and we are no longer speaking, there is really nothing stopping her from leaving me with her mess.

  • I dont even know where to start. Im 23 and I own my own house with my boyfriend my parents are always busy doing their own thing. But then once in a while they start texting me that they don’t see me enough and I need to spend more time with them. I understand that I need to see them but I moved out at 19 for a reason. I was tired of asking permission to go places and getting 50 questions before leaving. I couldn’t study without them needing me to take care of one thing or another before going to work. I almost failed my first semester of college because I couldn’t get enough study time in. When I moved out they were mad but eventually got over it. They never came over that often and when my boyfriend moved in they started wanting me around more again. We then bought a house and we tried to include my parents but then of course things came up with other family members and we had to wait even though they promised to be their to help, so I got over it because they are adults can make their own decisions. We still asked them over but I work nights they work day I’m still trying to get through college and then there breathing down my back again about family time and not talking enough but I work 10 1/2 hours a day then sleep and school the only time I have is friday and saturday. This past saturday we asked them over to help because my mom said when we had the time she’d make curtains for the living room, my dad comes in and starts yelling for me to come look at this and do that and my boyfriend doesn’t like when he starts talking to me like that so he told him that we asked my mom over and not him and that we would take my mom home, they both left of course. Now this wasn’t the best way to handle the situation we both know that. But now my dad is going on about me pushing away my family, and how I never talk to him or my brother but they don’t talk to my either its a two way road. Now he tells me how we need more family time and I only come home every few months. Personally I like staying at my home, I don’t feel the need to go over and sit on the couch and listen to them talk about guns. I’ve never purposely pushed away from them I just started doing my own thing and enjoyed being young for once without having them talk down about it because I have more fun at a baseball game than at the gun range.

  • My parent has always tried to control me, thinking this is the best for me and it’s for my sake. They even try to abuse me, both verbally and physically, to make me do what they want. Throughout my life I feel so numb, like I don’t even have a voice in this world. Saying, “I’m doing this for you” “You’re just too stupid to realized that this is this for your sake” “You’re too young and too inexperience to understand you stupid idiot” and then turn around saying, “You have to make a choice, if you don’t then you’re stupid” How can I make a choice if they never let me make one? But I believed them, because I loved my parent and I couldn’t bear hurting them. Because I was too stupidly obedient. I don’t have any friends or anyone to talk to, don’t even have a voice to talk or reach out for help. The only place I can vent out to is my journal that I keep with me and the Internet. This is just too intense and overwhelming for me. They’re both controlling me, and I don’t have a choice but to fall in their trap. I feel like I could be erase from existence. My whole family, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all doctors. Since my parent was being called by rude and cruel names and violently abused, my mom and dad want us to prove to them that they’re wrong and we’re right. The only way for us to help our parent and win this game is to become a better doctor than them. If not, then I have to become a lawyer. But is it wrong to want to become a person who follow her dreams? I want to help them, but I want to do what I want to do. It’s impossible to do both, because my dream is basically a career that would let my aunts and uncles to laugh at my parent for giving birth to me. I’m confused, should I be myself and live my best and brightest full with resentment and abuses, or should I just stay trapped and be a puppet to help my parent? I just wished that I was born wanting to become a doctor, not an impossible dream that seems too difficult to reach. Many people that I know try to tell me to give up, saying that my family’s situation is too complicated, or they’ll just say that they can’t help me. I’m forced to do this alone, in fact, this is the first time I get to vent out, to be someone that have a voice. I don’t mind if no one has a solution for my problem as long as I get to vent out.

  • Hi. I am 30 years old and always had and still do have a very difficult relationship with my dad. Sometimes I am not sure if he was/is controlling or if its me.
    When I was a teenager he would critisize my choice in friends, he would in an arguments critisize everything about me even the way I walked, he would follow me, he would go through my bags, he would put the phone on loudspeaker while I was talking to my friends, he would interfer the decisions I made and still does eg my friend asked me to be her bridesmaids about 4 years ago but he straight got in there and was telling me that I can’t really do that as I am too busy, he would make fun about my writing(I love to write), he would constantly compare me to other ppl, if he realised I had found a new hobby he would say oh so you are copying one of your friends then etc etc etc
    I was very very unhappy as a teenager I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and that even though my father loved me he could never like me as a person. I often felt that life I lived was fake that I wasn’t real. The worst is that his behaviour drove me to lie and constantly live a fabricated life when he was in it and unfortunately I have learned to live that way and still do so.
    When I was 23 I moved to London to study and live with my boyfriend. He doesn’t know about the boyfriend as he does not approve of him due to cultural diffetrences . I’ve done a bsc and a MSC but in order to carry on leaving in London I lied and said I was studying med. I did try to do that but have not been successful but he doesn’t know that. Now I feel very guilty and being in London has made me realise how unhealthy my life has been.
    And today is new years and for the first time I am not going home but instead I am celebrating with my friends. My father called me yesterday and made me feel guilty for doing that by saying why are u not coming home, if u go some where be careful cause we live in desperate countries and ppl will shame us if u do something wrong, we get worried black black black and then he proceeded to tell me that the phone rings differently sometimes when he calls me and he wanted me to explain why.
    I am going back home in two days but other mere thought of being there turns my stomach.
    I am sorry for this being so long but I really don’t know what to do. How do I get out of this net of lies?how do I learnt to be comfortable with my parents?how does our relationship become one of openness, respect and love?

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