How To Deal With A Controlling Parent In Adulthood?

Image: Shutterstock


Take science as the major, there’s no future in the arts. That friend of yours is useless, stay away from him/ her. Let me handle your finances before it is too late.

Such advice might seem harmless, but it could be the typical behavior of parents when they are controlling, instead of being supportive or providing guidance. While the intent of the parent is the child’s safety or wellbeing, it could be stressful to handle for children. Controlling parents may not mean to but could disrupt the quality of their child’s life.

In this post, we tell you what controlled parenting is and tips to deal with such parents.

Controlled Parenting: What Is It?

Controlled parenting is a style in which one or both parents monitor their children’s activities or keep their lives under their control. It is also referred to as authoritarian parenting, where the parents focus on discipline and are strict about adhering to rules and regulations. Such parents may be detached from the needs of their children, and their overall conduct could be damaging for the children (1).

While some parents may get over this behavior when their children grow into adults, some of them may try to control their grownup children too.

Signs Of Controlling Parents

With time, and as the child matures into an adult, the relationship between the parents and the adult child should evolve. Otherwise, the equation may disintegrate, as may be the case with controlled parenting. Some signs of controlling parents are:

1. Your parents manage your responsibilities

You are an adult now, and you can manage your responsibilities, be it commuting alone, cleaning your space, or taking care of your finances. But if your parents are always trying to do your tasks, they may be trying to control you.

2. Your parents always have an opinion on you

Do your parents tell you what to eat, what to wear, or even what career you should pursue? Do they judge you, have an opinion about everything you do or say, and try to change your outlook to match theirs? Then, your parents are probably controlling.

It is good to have guidance when you are a child, but when you are a grownup, such opinions may seem overpowering and could always leave you in a state of dilemma. Eventually, you would end up becoming dependent on their approval and may have difficulty making sound decisions on your own.

3. Your parents lack kindness or empathy

Controlling parents do provide necessities to their children but may fail to understand them. They may not be empathetic to you, probably due to their busy lifestyles or not wanting to lose their authority over you.

4. Your parents don’t give you privacy

Give space to each other. This fundamental rule applies to a relationship between parents and adult children too. If either of your parents is invading your privacy, it could be due to their controlling nature. Some of the examples could be your parents stalking you on Facebook or other social media sites, reading your emails, or listening to your calls. Remember, there is a thin line between your parents keeping a tab on your online activities when you were a child and interfering and reading your messages after you grow up.

5. Your parents are manipulative

If your parents are pressurizing, shaming, or blaming you often, it could be a sign of controlled parenting. This behavior is a covert or passive form of parenting as the child is forced to do something that they do not want to.

They may do this through different forms of manipulation, such as personal attacks (psychological control, emotional blackmail), love withdrawal (not showing care or affection), or invalidating feelings (acting superior).

6. Your parents make you feel obligated

When parents keep reminding you that they have done a lot for you, you may feel obligated to do what they ask of you. But if what they want from you is against your wishes, it could be a form of controlling parenting.

7. Your parents dominate you

If your parents are still trying to overpower you by rejecting your ideas or by compelling you to do something against your wishes, then it is a sign of control. For instance, if your parents force you to try a cuisine that you don’t enjoy, it is a sign of dominance.

Dealing with a parent’s controlling behavior becomes necessary to prevent damage to your relationship with your parents and harm to your future relationships.

How To Deal With A Controlling Parent?

You don’t have to quarrel or rebel. Taking a few subtle steps can provide you the much-needed relief.

1. Determine the pattern of your parent’s behavior

Instead of reacting to your parent’s behavior, it is necessary to identify and understand the reason behind it. Are they attacking you verbally or psychologically, or being aggressive? Once you identify the behavior pattern, give a name to it. Naming it can help you connect it with the reason behind their behavior.

For instance, they may want to keep tabs on you or stay connected with you at all times because they may be feeling lonely or fear losing you. Rather than being harsh on them for that, you could assure them that you are always there for them and explain how their dominating or controlling behavior is affecting you.

2. Claim your identity

If you are in your twenties and think your parents’ controlling behavior is impacting the critical decisions of your life, then maybe you should put a stop to it soon. When your parent’s controlling behavior takes over your life, you may lose your identity.

So, think about what you want in life, what you like and dislike, and talk about it with your parents. Let them know where your happiness lies, what you want to do, and how they can support you.

3. Do not give in

Emotional blackmailing or manipulation is not a healthy form of parenting. Talk to them and stop it. Let them know firmly, but gently, what you need from them. It is essential to be strong when your future and life are at stake. Act soon to avoid regretting later.

4. Keep actions above emotions

Dealing with complicated situations in life can be overwhelming. But getting emotional about such situations may not always help. When you are not happy with the controlling nature of your parents, you should talk to them instead of being silent and building resentment. So the next time your parents take over and make a decision for you against your wishes, tell them about it.

You may not want your parents to feel bad about it, but it is essential to let them know that you want to live life on your terms. Especially when you are an adult and capable of making decisions about yourself and your life, their controlling behavior could also draw an emotional wedge between you.

5. Understand that you can’t always please them

It is okay to seek love and approval from parents for things you do, but expecting the same every time may not be a good idea.

Before you know it, you could be living your life for your parents and not yourself. As an adult, you have your individual opinions, and it is okay to have differences. So don’t lose heart even if they don’t approve of everything you do.

6. Set up healthy boundaries with parents

A healthy parent and child relationship should have established boundaries, especially when you are an adult. With boundaries in place, the relationship becomes transparent and cheerful. There would be no dependency, expectations, financial tangles, or any other ill feelings. The bond would be positive without any significant hiccups.

Relationships should be handled with care, especially the most precious one with our parents. If you think your parents are controlling and that is hurting the relationship you have with them, talk to them about it.

Sometimes, the parents may not realize that their behavior is hurting the child. Not all parents become controlling because of their selfish or self-opinionated desires. There could be varied reasons behind such a style of parenting.

Why Do Parents Become Controlling?

Some may stem from negative experiences, while others could be from positive situations.

  • Some parents could become controlling because they don’t want their children to commit mistakes in life. And so, they tend to become overprotective.
  • Another reason could be the fear of losing children. They could be afraid of staying away from their children when they grow up. In such a case, they try to control and see that the child is always with them.
  • Some parents may not want to lose their ego or superiority or may not want to treat their children equally even after they grow up. They might be lonely too and might want their children to be there for them whenever they need them.
  • Unlived lives: Parents have strong ideas about their children’s lives because they are hoping that their children live out things they never did.

Sometimes, they may have a few unreasonable expectations that may turn them into controlling parents. Irrespective of the intention, the effect of controlled parenting could be unfavorable.

Too much involvement from parents may not always be acceptable when you are an adult. It could be challenging to make your parents understand that their controlling nature is harming you. But taking subtle steps is necessary so that both you and your parents share a healthy relationship and live peacefully without conflict.

Do you have any similar stories to share? Write to us in the comment section below.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
The following two tabs change content below.

Scott Kouri

Scott Kouri runs a private practice in Victoria, B.C. He provides his clients with a personal space to talk and share what’s on their minds. He helps them self-discover, change themselves, and grow in their space.  Scott provides general and addictive behavior counseling, CBT for anxiety and depression, among others. The early counseling sessions focus on reducing negative symptoms and... more

Shikha Thakur

Shikha is a writer-turned-associate editor at MomJunction. Her core interest lies in writing articles that guide couples through their courtship to marriage and parenthood. She also specializes in baby names. Being a postgraduate in Human Resources, she likes understanding people and their relationships. This reflects in her relationship articles, where she deals with both the rosy and the grey side... more