Toxic parents can try to ruin our lives. Boundary-pushing parents, even though they’re not lying, sneaky and manipulative, can drive us to distraction. They still try to treat us like we’re children in need of mommies and daddies who know better than we do. They try to control our lives so that we’ll make the right decisions, get over our fatal flaws and be successful -- according to their standards. If you want your parents to be in charge of your life, read no further. Continue letting them tell you what you should do.
Boundary-pushing parents try to do things we don’t need or we want to do ourselves. They expect us to answer their calls and texts immediately. If we don’t, they’ll call a hundred times until we do. They drop in unannounced at inconvenient times and demand to be welcomed. They misinterpret everything.
They ask probing questions or make sarcastic remarks about personal areas we don’t want to talk about all the time, “When are you going to get married or have kids? Why don’t you get a real job?” They think they have to review every plan and decision, and tell us what we should do – sometimes nicely and sometimes with sarcasm or yelling, putting us down as if we’re children.
They use fear; if we don’t do what they say, we’ll fail in love or work.
They use blame, shame and guilt to force us to do things their way. If we don’t do what they want, we’re not showing the proper love and respect.
Also, they want to train us that the price of not doing what they want is endless harassment, arguments and abuse. They want to convince us that we should give in to them in order to avoid the arguments.
They are bullies who use all the bullying tactics of both overt and covert bullies.
Since they’re our parents and they’re not crazy or openly toxic, we want to be nice and maintain a long-term relationship. But we also know that if we give in they’ll take over our lives.
What can we do? Our initial tactics are usually trying to train them, much as we would a pet. Yes, I mean that.
Initially, we usually try to give reasons like, “I know you care and worry and want the best for me, but I’m an adult now. When you give me advice on everything or tell me what’s best, even though I haven’t asked you, you’re telling me I’m too fragile and stupid to bounce back from mistakes or succeed by my own wits. I don’t want to be your little baby boy or girl any more. You don’t have to act like the worrying, concerned mommy or daddy any more – even though you may worry all your life. I won’t spend my time reviewing every possibility or decision. I won’t live with your fear or nursing me. If you try to straighten me out, I’ll only get angry and withdraw further. Then, the way you express your concern will backfire – you’ll drive me away. What’s more important to you; straightening me out or having a good time with me? Let’s have a relationship like between adults.”
Talk to them about specific limits and boundaries. Do they have to call and get permission before coming over? How many times a week will you talk on the phone or see them in person?
The real, deep issue is about what do you want to talk about and do with your parents – or in any other relationship with anyone? Some people focus their close relationships on money talk or sharing intimate details or reviewing possibilities or rehashing decisions endlessly or intensive psychoanalysis of everyone or continuous overblown, emotional melodrama. Those relationships demand continuous scrutiny and correction of every thought. That may be how you define “love” or “intimacy.” If that’s what you want to do, you will live with the consequences – your parents will tell you what’s right.
On the other hand, I prefer fun times where we share what’s great and interesting, whether it’s on television, in movies, books, sports, food, travel, study or whatever we’re excited by.
Most boundary-pushing parents won’t stop because we’ve talked about our desires.
They’ve gotten their way by wearing us down, so they’ll continue doing what they’ve always done. We’ll have to act to make the boundaries real; that is, we will have to train them with positive and negative reinforcement.
- Don’t argue, debate or justify. Don’t answer “why” questions. Don’t be moved by guilt or threats (like they’ll cut you out of the will). Simply tell them the way people have to act in order to get into your personal space.
- Reward them when they follow the rules; whether they follow the timing or they act polite and civil instead of angry and manipulative in word or deed.
- Apply consequences when they don’t follow the rules. Stay calm and even laughing when you don’t answer or you hang up the phone – especially in mid-harangue. The same for text messages. You may have to un-friend your parents. You may have to close the door when they show up unannounced. You may have to control holiday or vacation times. The more they violate the rules, the further away you distance them.
- Resist when they get relatives and friends involved to twist your arm. Test these people; if they try to force you, they can’t be in your circle. You can only keep people who act the way you need. You may have to move away physically – at least a thousand miles.
- Be more persistent than they are; this is an endurance contest.
Some people do talk with their parents every day, but about what and in what way? Is it on-going guidance by wise elders? Is it sharing the daily doings without the advice or with the advice?
The life you want to create is your prize. There are many examples in “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.
For more on toxic parents, see: Leichtling YouTube: How to Deal With Toxic Parents http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjE-mgv_BdA