How to Stop Being a Controlling Mom

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Let’s talk about the benefits of being a controlling mom.


Frankly, there are absolutely no benefits to being a controlling mom! If you are a controlling mom, it’s likely that your kids will avoid you. For many controlling people, being avoided can trigger your need to be in control, which creates a ongoing cycle of relationship frustration.

How To Stop Being A Controlling Mom

Truthfully Being A Controlling Mom Is Not Healthy For Your Family

Sometimes adult kids avoid sharing their lives in an effort to protect their independence. When controlling parents are minimized in family relationships, they feel judged and rejected. Round and round the wheel of dysfunction keeps on spinning until changes are made in the relationship.

If you are looking for more information about mother-daughter relationships, here are some related posts:

How A Controlling Mother Negatively Effects Her Daughter

The 4 Hidden Reasons Your Mom Is So Controlling

How To Change If Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend

Why Can’t My Parents Apologize To Me?

If you’re an adult child who has found yourself in a strained relationship with your controlling mom, you may be feeling overwhelmed and confused about why. It’s important to understand the reasons why your mother might be exerting excessive control, so that you can work towards adjusting the relationship.

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Controlling People Can Make You Feel Stupid

Controlling people believe that they have the solutions to your problems. They think that if others took their advice, every problem would be solved, and bad things would be avoided. Anyone can be controlling, but it puts your relationships in danger if you are the parent of adult children.

When you have a controlling parent, it often feels like you can’t measure up
. They have an answer for every problem, and it can make you feel stupid at times. Often your choices and behaviors seem to be just short of the right solution. A “know it all” type of parent makes sure that you know they disagree with you and your choices.

Signs Of A Controlling Mother

You’re always telling me what to do.
It can feel very controlling when your mother is always telling you what to do. It makes you feel like you’re not an adult and that you’re not capable of making your own decisions. This can be especially frustrating if you are already living on your own and doing just fine without your mother’s help.

You’re always trying to control my life.
It can feel like you fell into the ninth ring of hell when your mom is trying to control your life! For example, she may try to tell you who you should date or what kind of job you should have. Those kind of statements can make you feel like your don’t know your own preferences, strengths or personality.

You always criticize me.
It’s common for adult kids to feel like their mother is always criticizing them. It’s hard to have a loving and safe relationship with someone who makes you feel like a loser. You might feel like she’s never happy with anything you do.

You’re always comparing me to other people.
One of the most painful experiences for adult children is to feel that their mother is always comparing them to other people, whether it’s their siblings or other family members. This can make you feel like you’re never good enough in her eyes. It’s incredibly hurtful to think that you have to work harder to be accepted and respected by her.

Common Phrases Used By A Controlling Person

Here is a quick list of some common phrases or statements made by a mom struggling with the habit of controlling her family.

  • You probably didn’t know this…
  • What you didn’t know…
  • I knew that….
  • Of course, I knew that a time long ago….
  • Everybody knows that…
  • You didn’t know that?

See that pattern here? The word “know” is the centerpiece of every one of the above phrases. The controlling person will always find a way to make sure you know that THEY KNOW. The best way to effectively shorten a conversation with a controlling person is to start with “I bet you already know this but….” (Freakin’ brilliant, right? You’re welcome!)

Mom, Why Are You Such A Control Freak?

What causes people to become controlling? Is it hidden anger? Are they convinced of their own brilliance? Too many energy drinks?

Fear is what motivates controlling people. Read that again: controlling people are filled with fear.

FEAR. Yup, fear is the origin of control.

People who struggle with feeling fear often respond with control. Control is simply an overreaction to the unknown. That’s it.

Basic and simple: Fearful thoughts=Controlling behavior.

Most of us are caught in cycles of potentially negative behavior due to family history. I recommend this book if you feel like you are struggling with patterns that might have been passed down through your family. It is easy to read and has quick action steps to identify and change frustrating behaviors.

How To Stop Being An Overbearing Mother

Hidden Fear Is The Problem

People will often attempt to control their own lives based on hidden internal fears. We all have the desire to control, it is simply a core human experience. We all think that if something is exactly right, then the results will bring happiness, joy or contentment.

But the reality is control brings anger, shame and anxiety. Nothing healthy can every originate out of fear (unless the fear is physically self-protective).

A controlling mom can ruin her relationship with her adult kids.

Read that again: Nothing healthy can have fear at its core.

For controlling moms, the act of inserting themselves into their children’s lives in an attempt to silence the internal voice of fear. Fear for their kids, fear about being judged as a parent, fear over the growing independence of their kids. Fear of #allthingthings.

The Controlling Parent vs Rebellious Teenager Dynamic

My Own Experience

I grew up in a home with a mother who controlled out of fear. We had difficult uncontrollable circumstances in the home, and to soothe, she would control her children. As an adult, it makes total sense to me that she would use control to bring some stability into her world.

But as a teenager, I made the classic choice to rebel against the rules and expectations in an attempt to wrestle my identity as an individual away from her.

The worst thing for a controlling parent is a rebellious child. Her behavior fueled my behavior until I made some stupid choices. And then, as predicted, some of her worst fears had come true.

Control Can Make A Person Feel Emotionally and Mentally Trapped

I want to be totally clear; I love my mom. We have done a tremendous amount of work on our relationship and as a happy result, things have shifted into a healthy dynamic. But our family history was one of fear manifesting as control.

I hated feeling controlled. I felt like I had no choice but to throw up the middle finger of rebellion while trying to establish my young adult identity

If You Are A Controlling Mom, Please Read This Carefully

Control will always result in rebellion, passive, hidden rebellion or overt, active rebellion. At our core, humans were designed to be free.

The smothering weight of control will either ignite a rebellious, angry fire, or it will snuff the spark of life out of a maturing soul.

So, are you a controlling person? And if you are a mom, do you see patterns of trying to control your adult kids?

How Do I Stop Being A Controlling Parent?

Start With Controlling Your Fear

Just like Yoda said to Luke Skywalker: You must control your fear! Controlling moms need to work on identifying their fears and then creating methods to contain their negative emotions. When Moms operate from a space of fear, the lie we tell ourselves is that we are just trying to save our kids from mistakes or pain.

We must remember that mistakes and pain are life’s most effective teachers. I could fill a dump-truck with all of my painful but educational, lessons courtesy of my dumb choices along with the bullshit that life hands out regularly.

Painful, Personal Lessons Are The Best Teacher

Take a minute to think back over your life- I am certain that the most important lessons were often the most painful. I will never forget not being allowed to watch my favorite TV show in 6th grade because I failed my geography test. I skipped studying, lied to my parents, and then failed the test.

As a result, I will never forget the feeling of disappointment and anger resulting from those consequences. I have forgotten so many important things from my earlier life, but the pain of missing my weekly TV show remains crystal clear.

A Controlling Mom Can Make Her Kids Feel Oppressed

If we stand in the way of mistakes and pain, then we have become a type of god. In the worst sense, we unconsciously see ourselves as all knowing, all seeing and able to predict the future. Controlling, arranging choices and circumstances to create the life we think our children need.

Read that again: the life WE think our children need.

Most controlling moms have the same fears: children experiencing preventable pain, the fear of not being needed and their own life regrets. Controlling moms worry that if their adult children make poor choices, it reflects on their parenting.

When Controlling Moms Feel Judged

Every parent will have the uncomfortable experience of being embarrassed by their child. Tantrums, TikTok, and tattoos, there is always a new possibility of parental humiliation. But here’s the thing Mom, if we don’t allow our kids to stumble and full out fail, we are preventing them from maturing into healthy strong- shit- storm- handling adults.

Best Ways To Stop Controlling Adult Kids

It can be difficult to let go and let your adult children make their own decisions, but it is possible. Here are three steps you can take to help you find a balance between guiding your kids and letting them make their own decisions.

First, practice empathy. Try hard to understand where your adult child is coming from, what they need from you, and why they may not appreciate feeling micromanaged or smothered.

Second, allow yourself time to adjust. It may take some time for you to get used to the idea of not having complete control over your children’s lives; so don’t pressure yourself or get frustrated if the transition isn’t immediate.

Finally, give yourself permission to step back. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your adult children is not try to fix things or give advice every chance you get!

And lastly, be prepared to apologize when you have crossed boundaries. It can be incredibly difficult to apologize to our adult children, but when we do, we create a healthier more respectful relationship.

Controlling Moms Damage Their Children. Yup, They Do.

When we attempt to control our children, we are telling them that they can’t be trusted to make their own decisions. This is such a damaging message, and often as moms we are unaware what we are communicating. Teaching a child that they have what it takes to be successful and resourceful is the foundational message of parenting.

We love when they learn how to use the toilet, but we fear that same independence when they are old enough to choose a college. As a mom of married children, I get it!

The diaper days seem way easier than watching your children buy cars, houses and choose a spouse. But we must remember to embrace the natural process of releasing our children to choose their lives.

How To Be A Less Controlling Parent

Rules For Controlling Moms To Remember

If you are still in active parenting, here are some helpful tips for creating a supportive environment for your growing kids.

Remember the first step to breaking the pattern of controlling behavior is awareness. Recognize when you’re trying to control your child, and learn how to practice mindful parenting. Then, find healthy ways to take charge as a parent without being overly controlling.

Additionally, make sure to set clear boundaries and practice empathy with your child. It is important for you to set boundaries for yourself, to keep you from crossing over into controlling behavior. Simple conversational boundaries look like this : pausing to control your urge to speak, letting your child finish their thoughts completely without interrupting, allowing your adult child to disagree with your beliefs without an argument. Creating a more respectful tone will help your child feel safer to share with you.

Finally, give them positive reinforcement and allow them to take responsibility for their actions. With patience and determination, you can stop being a controlling mom and establish a healthier relationship with your child.

If you are able to focus on mindful parenting in the younger years, there is a good chance that you will have created a respectful foundation for the young adult years.

An Affirmation for Controlling Moms

So, when that feeling of needing to control your child rises up inside of you- try this affirmation. I wrote this for women who struggle with controlling their adult children.


Begin to break the cycle of control in your family. It is very common for families to have deeply ingrained generational patterns of control. As moms, we teach our children how to love others and how to trust themselves. If we do not remedy our controlling behavior, we might damage our relationship with our adult children.

Often we mistakenly continue dysfunctional behavior because we don’t see the destructive outcome. To quote Maya Angelou: Know better, do better.

Please make the choice to love, support and encourage your adult children as they create a life that brings them happiness.

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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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