- Reasons for Control
- Signs of Control
- Long-Term Effects
- What Parents Should Do
- What Children Should Do
Controlling parents employ a parenting style where they monitor their children’s activities and keep them under their strict control. Often imposing their own will onto their children, these parents deprive their offspring of developing their own identity and prevent them from behaving authentically.
Although some parents get over this behavior once their children grow into adults, some may continue their controlling behavior beyond that phase. Sometimes, the overbearing nature of controlling parents does not end even after their children grow up.
Adulthood is legally recognized as 18 years of age in most countries. However, some parents don’t seem to consider that fact, continuing their controlling ways even after their children have reached that age threshold. Their interference prevents their children from developing the independence needed to successfully step into adulthood.
Why do parents become controlling?
Controlling parents can come from a variety of backgrounds. Some parents exert their strict control out of a response to past negative experiences. In contrast, other parents may exercise their control by thinking it will ultimately lead to a positive outcome.
Other reasons parents may become controlling include that they:
- Believe that they should raise a perfect child.
- Don’t want their children to commit mistakes in their life.
- Fear losing their children when they grow up.
- Hope that their children can accomplish things they never could.
- May not want to lose their ego or superiority.
- Want to outdo other parents.
- Want to unlock their children’s potential.
What are the signs of controlling parents?
Controlling parents may exert their strict parenting style in several different ways, which can result in the following signs:
- Perfectionists: Controlling parents are often perfectionists with unnatural demands and expectations from their children. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable or a disappointment.
- Interfere in every aspect of their children’s life: Controlling parents may interfere in their children’s activities, team sports and school projects, invading their offspring’s private space. They may even try to influence their children and be part of every decision.
- Criticize their children’s decisions: Controlling parents may speak negatively and instill doubt in their children about the choices they make, even going so far as to micromanage their children’s eating, appearance, hobbies or social life. Their children’s self-esteem and self-worth are ultimately impaired in the long term.
- Unrealistic expectations: Controlling parents typically have high expectations, which puts a lot of pressure on their children to live up to these impossibly high and unachievable standards.
- Conditional love: Controlling parents give affection as a reward and withhold love as a punishment. They may use love as a reward system for achieving success and use harsh punishments for failures. Moreover, they use love to gain loyalty and affection by bribing their children into getting what they want.
- Unrealistic and rigid rules: Controlling parents focus on discipline and are strict about adhering to rules and regulations. They forbid their children from questioning them or disagreeing with them.
- Lack of empathy, respect and caring: Controlling parents won't show their children empathy or respect their independence. Such parents may be detached from the needs of their own children. They always feel that they know what’s best and emphasize this to their children on every occasion.
- Unreasonably harsh punishment: Controlling parents generously instill harsh punishments on their children, and may even inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse.
- Lack of appreciation: Controlling parents criticize their children far more than they praise them. Rather than appreciating and accepting their children, they try to get their children to be who they want them to be.
- Role-reversal: Controlling parents burden their children with adult responsibilities, expecting them to act like a parent, such as a caregiver. They see their children as objects that are there to serve their needs.
- Manipulation through gifts: Controlling parents may manipulate their children with money or gifts as a way to control their decisions and behaviors.
- Make them feel obligated: Controlling parents continuously remind their children of everything they’ve done for them, making their children feel obligated to do what they ask. They often use guilt and shame as psychological manipulations.
- Compete for attention: Controlling parents expect their children to be loyal to them, and only them, first and foremost. They fear being replaced. This may cause parents to become even more manipulative. They see their children’s desires for independence and autonomy as rejection.
What are the effects that controlling parents have on their adult children?
A strict and controlling parenting style can end up inflicting more harm than good. The effects of a controlling parent on a child can last long into adulthood, and can be present in the following ways:
- Anxiety and depression
- Approval-seeking tendencies
- Difficulty with decision-making
- Difficulty in expressing their opinions
- Extreme sensitivity to others opinion
- Insecure attachment in relationships
- Lack of creative thinking
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- People-pleasing tendencies
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Shame and doubt
- Tendency to be dishonest
How to avoid controlling grown-up kids
For parents looking to shed their controlling ways, you can try the following parenting tips to break those patterns of control:
- Letting go of worry: Parents need to relax and let go of the fear that something will happen to their children.
- Observe respectful boundaries: Try to understand that it is not possible to orchestrate every moment of their child's life.
- Letting go of giving advice: Advice is something parents should learn to give only when their children ask for it.
- Treat older children with respect: Children will find it difficult to respect themselves if they sense that their parents don’t respect them.
- Teaching skills: Teach skills such as time management and self-discipline so that they can eventually be responsible for themselves.
- Teach problem-solving: Encourage children to be assertive instead of fighting their battles for them.
- Enhance decision-making skills: Give children the independence to make their own decisions within the set boundaries.
- Set ground rules for how to disagree: If conflicts escalate, ease the situation by listening to your children without interrupting them, and then respond in a neutral tone. Taking time-out to calm down or let heated emotions cool is a good strategy to use with grown-up children.
- Love unconditionally: Listen to their concerns, encourage their interests and praise their accomplishments.
- Make room for significant others: It is best to embrace the people your grown-up children love.
- Letting go of guilt-tripping: Parents need to accept the fact that their children have their own lives and need to give them space to grow.
How to deal with controlling parents
Dealing with controlling parents may seem like an impossible task. However, there are a few things you can do to help lift their strict hold over your life, such as:
- Acknowledge the problem: Dealing with a controlling parent or parents is very difficult. It's natural to feel guilty and angry.
- 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.
- Establish healthy boundaries: The best way to deal with controlling parents is through the establishment of strong, firm and consistent boundaries while remaining civil.
- Get backup: Children who have controlling parents may need a trusted family member or friend that their parents respect to provide validation, comfort and even advocate on the children’s behalf when needed.
- Create emotional space: Create emotional space and distance if setting boundaries doesn't work.
- Understand that you can’t always please them: It is okay to seek love and approval from parents but expecting the same result every time may not be possible.
The consequences of controlling parents can be long-lasting. Too much involvement from the parents may not always be acceptable to grown-up children. When children reach adulthood, the challenge is to find common grounds without overstepping comfortable boundaries.
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