How to Deal With a Controlling Mother

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Why Does My Mom Want To Control Me?

One of the most frustrating relationships is when your mom wants to control you. And the worst part? When you tell her that her controlling behavior is affecting your relationship, she gets offended!

Let’s be honest, everyone needs a mom! Being a mom and having a mom are really important things in our lives. Until you have had your own kids, you don’t understand the intense emotions of love and fear as a parent. Every single one of us has needed a mom to help us survive, grow and learn important life lessons.

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All Moms Want To Keep Their Kids Safe

Growing up, most of us had our moms hovering around us, making sure we did our homework, ate our vegetables, and stayed out of trouble.

All moms want to keep their kids safe and protected from difficult things.

However, as we grow older, it’s natural to want more independence while our mothers want to remain just as involved in our lives. It’s great to have a close relationship with your mom, but like any relationship, it needs a healthy balance.

So what happens when a controlling mom doesn’t know how to let go? As a trained Marriage and Family Therapist, it is so common to hear stories of controlling moms. Many independent full-grown women still struggle with the desire to please their moms.

Is Your Mom A Control Freak?

Fearing unpleasant consequences, adult women will compromise and self-abandon in an effort to deal with a controlling mom. Eventually, resentment builds up between mom and adult daughter, causing their relationships to splinter into painful pieces.

Healthy mother-daughter relationships can be a safe, supportive place for sharing and connection. If you don’t have this type of friendship with your mom, it’s okay to feel frustrated and sad. It’s normal to want to be treated as an adult, with respect and loving support.

No matter how complicated your relationship with your mom may be, don’t lose hope! I can’t promise a perfect relationship with your mom, but if you use some of these skills, you might be successful in shifting the balance with your controlling mom.

Why Does My Mom Control My Life?

Okay, let’s be honest- every kid in the world thinks at some point that their mom is a control freak! Part of a parent’s job is to teach their children about the world and how to live in it safely. Since we were toddlers, our moms were there to help us avoid danger and grow up to be independent.

All Kids Think That Their Mom Is Controlling At Some Point

I will never forget when my daughter, now an adult, was 10 years old. She would set a spoon on the kitchen table and then slam her palm on the spoon handle, causing it to fly up in the air, launching and flipping over and over until it crashed back down on the table.

After watching her smash and launch the spoon about 3 times, I told her to stop hitting the spoon. She looked at me, with plenty of side eye and stated “This place is such a jail!” It took all my “mom energy” to not laugh at her hilarious snarky comment!

All moms have been controlling at some point. But as a child grows, parents should be able to encourage and nurture independence. Controlling behavior becomes a problem when your mom continues to believe that she knows what is best for you, her adult child.

Ideas For Dealing With A Controlling Mom

Dealing with a controlling mother can make your life feel exhausting.

How To Have A Difficult Conversation With Your Mother

One of the most important things you can do is to sit down with your mom and have a candid conversation about the way you feel. It’s essential to express your emotions in a respectful way and make her understand that you are no longer a child who needs to be monitored every step of the way.

Tell her that you need space to grow, make mistakes, and learn from them. Be honest and open about your feelings, but make sure to also listen to her concerns.

Communicate with her.

Before you reject this idea, you need to try it! Adults have direct, respectful conversations with each other. It is very possible that you didn’t see that modeled in your childhood home. The good news is that you are now an adult, and you can choose to behave in ways that feel authentic for you.

Sometimes when we choose to communicate with respect and reason, it changes the other person. Your mom might feel challenged by your reasonable attempts at sharing something difficult. It might be hard for her to let go of her opinion but stand firm and reinforce that you are not changing your mind.

At a minimum, you will have done one of the hardest things in the world. You stood up for yourself with respect and dignity. Congratulations, that type of healthy behavior is Adulting 101!

Boundaries Help Create Respect In Relationships

If talking to your mom doesn’t work, setting boundaries is another effective way to make her understand your commitment to a healthy relationship. You should establish boundaries that feel comfortable for you, whether it’s not answering her calls or texts right away or limiting the time you spend with her. Be firm about these boundaries and don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first.

Creating boundaries with your mom is an important part of being an adult.

Before you can have an open, honest conversation with your mom, it’s important to be clear and honest with yourself about what you want and need.

Know Your Boundaries.

What are your personal boundaries and why are they important to you? What choices have you made that your mom may find difficult to accept? Take the time to reflect on these questions and write down your thoughts. This will help you approach the conversation with clarity and confidence.

When you talk to your mom about personal boundaries and acceptance of your choices, it’s important to listen and empathize with her perspective. Your mom may have concerns or fears that are driving her behavior, and it’s important to understand where she’s coming from.

Try to put yourself in her shoes and see the situation from her perspective. Validate her feelings and acknowledge her concerns, even if you don’t agree with them.

A Mother’s Job Is To Protect Her Child

Controlling moms have a deep secret: they are driven by fear. Fear of pain, fear of problems, fear of mistakes, fear of anything that could hurt them or the children they love. To manage their many fears, some parents reach for controlling behavior to feel safe.

When you set boundaries with your mom, you are letting her know that she has crossed into your invisible emotional lines that define your privacy and independence.

Choosing to set boundaries with your mom will require her to manage her fear. When you shut down her controlling behavior, she will need to find another way to express her fear. Some moms realize that they need help managing their thoughts and emotions. Talking with a therapist or qualified life coach could help a controlling mom understand her fears and concerns.

I Can’t Talk To My Mom Without Fighting

Perhaps one of the most drastic measures you can take is to create distance between yourself and your mother. This could mean moving out of her house if you’re still living with her, or simply limiting the amount of time you spend with her.

Sometimes, a little distance can do wonders for both of you, allowing you to gain perspective and giving her the chance to see that you’re capable of handling yourself.

Create distance.

In the therapy world, this is also known as a “cut-off”. The idea around “cutting off” a family member was first defined by Murray Bowen. The concept of emotional cutoff describes how people manage their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them

Creating distance between you and your mom is one way to deal with her controlling behavior.

Sometimes an adult child creates distance by “ cutting off” their controlling parent. A cut-off can be emotional, geographical or communication-based. A “cut-off” is usually a last resort to get relief from an intrusive or abusive family member. When threatened with a “cut- off” most controlling moms will have a wounded response, but will back down from the attempt to control.

You Can Learn To Deal With Difficult Parents

After you’ve had a conversation with your mom about personal boundaries and acceptance of your choices, it’s important to maintain healthy boundaries. If it feels safe for you, check in with your mom periodically to see how she’s feeling and if any adjustments need to be made. Stick to your decisions and don’t be swayed by guilt or manipulation.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect and consideration in all relationships.

Friends vs Family

Build your support system.

When you’re going through a difficult time, it’s essential to have a support system in place. Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through and can offer you encouragement and advice. This could be a group of friends or a therapist. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, having someone to talk to can make a huge difference.

Should My Mom Be My Best Friend?

Many mothers and daughters have a type of “best friend” relationship. Being best friends with your mom is not a healthy dynamic. If your mom is your best friend, you might struggle to get beyond the shadow of her influence and opinions. It’s common for adult daughters to realize that they are just “repeating” their mom’s thoughts and beliefs.

It’s important to create a community that helps us think in new ways, and rewards appropriate risk-taking. Having a controlling mom might limit your ability to consider new ideas and try new ideas.

Why Are Difficult Conversations Important?

Set an example.

Finally, keep in mind that you can set a positive example for your mother even if she doesn’t realize it. Show her that you’re responsible, trustworthy, and capable of acting like an emotionally mature adult. Be the kind of person you want to be, and hopefully, your mother will realize that you don’t need her to micromanage your life.

When it comes to talking to your mom about personal boundaries and acceptance of your choices, it’s important to set the tone for a positive conversation. Choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable and free from distractions.

Talking with your mom can be difficult, but try to be fair and understanding.

Start the conversation by expressing your love and appreciation for your mom and the positive aspects of your relationship. Then, begin to discuss issues you want to address, using “I” statements to express how you feel.

Be A Positive Role Model Of Respect

It’s sad but true, some mothers struggle to see the adult behavior in their daughters. It can be challenging to feel like your mom is unwilling to recognize your character growth. Remember, you can be proud of your developing maturity even if it makes your mom act like a child!

Talking to your mom about personal boundaries and acceptance of your choices can often feel like navigating through a minefield. As an adult, it’s natural to want to assert your independence and carve out your own path in life.

However, this can often be perceived as a threat to your mom, who may feel like she’s losing control of her child. It’s a delicate balancing act that requires sensitivity and open, honest communication. Try to find the balance between honoring your boundaries and offering sincere empathy to your mom.

It Will Take Time To Change Your Relationship

Having a controlling mom can be a challenging situation to deal with, but remember that you have the power to create boundaries and establish a sense of independence.

Communication, setting boundaries, creating distance, building a support system, and setting an example are all effective ways to make a controlling mom begin to see her dysfunction. Sometimes a change in your behavior will help your mom begin to see that she might have to change some of her controlling patterns.

Remember that ultimately, your happiness and well-being are important, and it’s okay to put yourself first. By doing so, you can establish a healthier relationship with your mom and find the freedom to live your life on your own terms.

Be clear and honest with yourself, set the tone for a positive conversation, listen and empathize with your mom’s perspective. She does love you, despite her struggles with control.

By approaching the conversation with sensitivity, communication, and a willingness to compromise, you can navigate this delicate balance and build a stronger, more respectful relationship with your mom.

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Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.

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