4 Ways to Deal with a Controlling Parent

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4 Ways to Deal with a Controlling Parent
4 Ways to Deal with a Controlling Parent

It is common for children to feel that their parents are preventing them from living their own lives. Sometimes this is just because they are growing up, pushing boundaries and maturing a little faster than the parent realizes, while in other cases it is really an attempt to get control of the child's life. There are several reasons why a parent might want to control a child's life; for being a perfectionist or even for fear that she will repeat his mistakes. However, the parents don't realize that they are harming her instead of protecting her.


Method 1 of 4: Getting Power

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Step 1. Identify manipulative behaviors

Some parents demand a lot from their children, but it doesn't always mean they want to control them. People who are manipulative use certain tactics to “command” others; some are obvious, while others are subtle. Behaviors range from direct criticism to veiled threats. Some signs of parental control are:

  • Isolate the child from other family members or friends, never allowing him to go out with them.
  • Constantly criticize him about trivial matters, such as choices, behavior, or appearance.
  • Threats to hurt the child or yourself, like saying "I'll kill myself if you don't come home now!"
  • Show acceptance and conditional love by saying, for example, "I only love you when you keep the room tidy."
  • Recalling mistakes from the child's past, enumerating mistakes as a way to make them sad or to force them to do something.
  • Using guilt to force her to do certain things, saying "I spent 18 hours in labor to bring you into this world and now you can't even stay with me for an hour?"
  • Spying or not respecting your child's privacy, searching the room or reading cell phone messages when he is away.
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Step 2. Accept responsibility for your actions

Although parents can be very manipulative, the child should be responsible for how he responds. It is up to you to decide whether or not you will let them dictate decisions or whether you will impose against them. He will also be in control of the reaction, which can be respectful or aggressive, making the situation worse.

One way to start thinking about actions is to look in the mirror and talk to yourself. Think about the different situations that can happen with the parents and train the responses according to the reaction you think you will adopt. This way, it will be easier to have control in the important moments

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Step 3. Don't be obsessed with pleasing parents

It is their responsibility to make the child grow up to be a happy, healthy and decent person; the child, on the other hand, has a duty to be happy, healthy and a decent person. If she is not happy with the way her parents treat her, she should please herself, not them. The child will decide what to do with his life.

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Step 4. Create an objective action plan

Most likely, it will be impossible to break free from the clutches of a controlling parent in just one decision; you will need a subtle, realistic action plan to make your own decisions. The strategy can start with something simple, like telling yourself you're in control of the situation every day, building confidence little by little. The goal is that this makes the person progress and take more and more decisions in their own life.

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Step 5. Accept that there is no way to change the way a parent is

Just as they cannot control the way you think or feel, there is no way for you to do the same. It is possible to change the way you respond to them, which can lead to a change in their treatment. They are the ones who will decide when and if they will really change their personalities.

Forcing the parents to change their behavior is trying to apply the same form of manipulation that was done on the child, but this time, with them. By remembering this, the child will be forced to accept that they can make their own decisions about whether or not to change

Method 2 of 4: Improving the situation

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Step 1. Physically distance yourself from parents

In most cases, people use emotions to exert control over each other; this can occur through anger, guilt, or not showing approval. To get rid of someone's control – whether a relative or not – you may need to distance yourself, connecting less and getting less and less close.

If you still live at home, and especially if you are a minor, it can be difficult to build this distance. However, it is possible to define boundaries between child and parent. Seek help from a teacher or counselor at school

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Step 2. Don't get defensive

The longer he stays around the controlling father, the more likely he is to get angry and take it out on the son. If he complains that you don't spend a lot of time together or says you don't love him, don't get defensive.

  • Say “I'm sorry you're angry. I understand this may make you nervous.”
  • Remember that things can get worse before you realize that the situation between child and parent has improved. However, it is important to keep your distance and not be attracted to threats. If a mother threatens to kill herself if her child doesn't go home, say you'll call the police; Hang up the phone and call 911. Don't run home or give in to her requests.
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Step 3. Cut any financial dependence on your parents

Another form of control over a child is through money; however, once you manage to earn your own living, it is important not to be financially dependent on them anymore. It can be a difficult step, but it is essential to pay your own bills, buy your things and control expenses without the help of parents. The child will become more responsible and lessen the control of a manipulative parent.

Minors can also encounter difficulties, but it is not impossible to take small measures. Even if you don't pay your own expenses, try to earn some of your own money to buy anything extra you want. It doesn't mean that parents have to agree, but having the money to pay for your own movie ticket, for example, removes one more barrier that a manipulative parent can impose

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Step 4. Don't ask your parents for favors

Asking them for something gives them the upper hand; if it's a necessity, you'll have to do something back. While not a bad thing, it's a position that gives the controlling parent decision-making power. If possible, ask friends or other relatives for help if you really need it.

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Step 5. Identify abuse situations

Children who are being abused should ask the authorities for help or speak to someone at school, such as a teacher or counselor. Abuse can take many forms; if you're not sure if this really happens to you, talk to someone at school. Some of the types of abuse are:

  • The physical, when the father slaps, punches, arrests, burns or hurts the child in some way.
  • In psychological abuse, the father curses, humiliates, blames and gives orders that the child cannot fulfill.
  • Sexual abuse is characterized when the child is touched or caressed inappropriately, the father has sexual relations with him and performs other sexual acts.

Method 3 of 4: “Fixing” the Relationship

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Step 1. Solve the issues of the past.

Having a grudge against a parent or yourself is not a healthy way to deal with issues between you. Therefore, the best option is to forgive him for any mistakes he made. If you feel it is necessary, forgive yourself for the way you reacted to those mistakes.

  • Don't forget that forgiveness is not just important to the other person. It is also critical to your own emotional well-being. By forgiving a parent, the child will be choosing the path to forget about the anger he feels toward him, but without implying that the abuse he suffered was not a bad thing.
  • To forgive someone, you have to make a conscious choice and let go of your anger. One way to achieve this is to write a letter to the father and not send it to him. In the letter, show all the feelings you have about what happened, why it made you nervous and why you think he did it all. Then end the letter by writing the following: “I will always remember the trauma the situation caused me, but I am choosing to let go of the anger I feel towards it. I forgive you.” If you like, speak the phrase to yourself out loud.
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Step 2. Confront parents respectfully

You need to expose your feelings and tell the reason why you distanced yourself from them. It is impossible for a person to reach a solution to a problem without knowing it exists. Don't accuse or be disrespectful; demonstrate what you feel, not what happened to you.

Instead of saying "you stole my rights as a person", it is much better to say "I felt that I could no longer make my own decisions."

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Step 3. Set boundaries for yourself and your parents

Once they start to get back together, it's important not to fall back into old habits. Beforehand, decide in which situations the controlling parent can provide an opinion and in which situations the decision will be all yours. In addition, it is necessary to delimit on which subjects you can give your opinion and what you can ask a manipulative parent.

  • An example is saying that you will consult them about important career-related decisions, such as which university to choose and whether or not to accept a certain job offer. At the same time, more personal decisions, such as those relating to dating or marriage, will remain the child's responsibility.
  • Another option is to refuse to give your opinion about certain issues your parents want to discuss with you, such as your love life. However, it is always important to offer support when they are facing a serious medical problem such as cancer or heart problems.

Method 4 of 4: Keeping Limits

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Step 1. Respect the boundaries in the relationship

Once the limits are set, it's important to respect them; there is no way to expect a controlling parent to respect their space if they don't do the same for them. When encountering issues with boundaries, discuss them openly and look for a resolution.

Whenever a problem arises in the relationship with the parents, try to reach a consensus for both. Say something like “I respect your limits, but I feel you don't always respect mine. What can we do to ensure that we reach a mutually satisfactory resolution?”

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Step 2. Resolve situations where the parent interferes with personal choices

When you feel that the person is violating the imposed limits, tell them; this doesn't mean you should be nervous or angry. Quietly and respectfully inform him that he is overreacting and that he should stop. If the father really wants to comply with the imposed boundaries, he will give you space.

Using more relaxed language can be an effective way of dealing with controlling individuals. If, for example, a father constantly criticizes the career choices he makes, say to himself, “I must remember that the career I chose doesn't please the mother. Noted. Anything else?"

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Step 3. When the problems continue, you will need to distance yourself from them again

If things go back to the way they were, distance yourself from the manipulative parent again. This does not mean that all ties should be severed, just that someone is having difficulty respecting the boundaries imposed above. Stay away from them for a while longer and then try again.

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Step 4. If things don't improve, see a therapist

In some situations, the problems can be so severe that you will need therapy with the manipulative parent to get better. When limiting not even works, talk to the person and tell them if it's possible for them to see a therapist together.

Try saying “our relationship is important to me, but I think we'll need a little help to improve it a lot more. Are you willing to go to a therapist with me?"


  • Talk to a friend or relative about the issues you are having. They will be able to help.
  • Try to be serious with the parent or parents before distancing yourself. Sometimes the problem can be resolved without drastic measures.


  • If you are abused and feel that you need immediate help, ask the guardianship council for help.
  • Don't think that all the advice given is “controlling”. Generally, parents will be thinking about your own good, as well as having a lot more experience in life.

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