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How To Handle A Controlling Mother

Dear Sugar
My mom is trying to run my life. I'm nearly 21 years old, and am a Senior in college, majoring in Education. My mom however, is pushing me to go into Law or Journalism; neither of which I am very interested in.

Along with disagreeing with my career choice, she also gives me a hard time about my grades (which by the way are excellent). They never seem to satisfy her though. Instead of saying, 'good job, I'm proud of you' - she demands to know why I couldn't achieve a higher grade.

She is also pushing me to break up with my boyfriend (a smart, handsome, driven senior as well, who wants to be a politician). She thinks I am too young not to be "playing the field." Whenever I try and talk to her about this, she gets angry and tells me that she knows what's best for me.

Her attitude makes me feel like nothing I do is good enough for her, and never will be. It's starting to affect my self esteem and drive us apart. Independent Isabella

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Independent Isabella,
What your mom isn't seeing, is that by telling you how much of a disappointment you are constantly, she is only going to drive you away. Eventually you are going to get so tired of hearing her unsupported opinions, that you won't tell her anything.

It sounds like that breaking point is drawing near for you. You've come to the right place. Over the years, I've learned a thing or two about coping with stubborn mothers and controlling people.

What may be hard for you to realize is that you are the only person in charge of boundaries for yourself. They can be very difficult at first to set; others who are not used to them will try to break them down, but if you stick to them - they really work. Keep repeating this sentence to your mother over and over again; "I love you Mom, but I don't want to discuss this subject with you."

I know what you are thinking, "Yeah Right!" She's not going to respect this and listen to me...but she will learn to if you stick with it, I promise. If you establish limits to certain topics and keep repeating this sentence, soon enough, she'll take a hint.

You must also understand that you can't change anyone but yourself. Learn coping mechanisms for when she starts in on you, because she's not going to change. Talk to her less often, get caller ID so you know when she's on the phone, and take deep breaths when she lays into how many mistakes you are making. You could try to write her a letter, but that can often be misconstrued as disrespectful.

Also understand that your mother does love you. She's just trying to protect you from life, but her guidance is dated and way too opinionated. Tell her "thanks for the advice," and then do what you want. You are educated, smart and ready to take life by storm.

It's time to stop listening to that guilty mom voice inside your head and to stop second guessing every decision you make. That's no way to live. You and your mom may have different dreams for your life, so you need to pursue what's best for you. All mom needs is to feel love and appreciation once in a while. So throw her a bone and call her as often as you can tolerate for help with the smaller how to wash knits so they won't shrink, or for her delicious chicken cutlet recipe. She'll love you just the same.

Join The Conversation
nicachica nicachica 10 years
she may be criticizing her daughter out of love and wanting what's best for her but her mother may not realize how much it hurts Isabella. i had a similar problem with my mother but when i told her that all that criticizing was really hurting me and made me feel like i was never good enough for her, she laid off a lot. i don't think she realized how critical she was of me until i physically sat her down and told her and gave her examples. i know my mother cares for me immensely and she's always told me she's proud of me, but then she normally subplants that with a criticism. it's been mixed messages but i know that her pride in me prevails in the end.
mom2 mom2 10 years
i agree andrea - definitely something to sit down and discuss, i agree with a lot you say and like jennifer im trying to say that she may be suprised how proud her mom is of her. also she may realize maybe shes taking things the wrong way - - i just thought what toxxic said was a little harsh and the mom should be given more of a chance here - im sure she's doing it out of love!!! sit and talk!
andrea5 andrea5 10 years
True, mothers do deserve respect, and I agree that most mothers would lay out their own lives for their children, but sometimes, dated advice and pushiness toward a child can be just as disrespectful as said child's ungratefulness. It's one thing to say 'bring those grades up' if isabella was bringing home a d+ av., but if she's making deans' list and busting her bum to achieve high grades, it's only making her feel inadequate to have her mother shove disapproving and disappointed remarks in her face. Growing up, even into my teenage years, my father prescribed to the old school theory that you 'Don't ever, EVER contradict or question your father.' Granted, teens can go through phases of mouthiness and disrespect, but I can tell you honestly that I was a pretty good teenager, and there were definitely times when my father was wrong and needed to be corrected on my behalf. Parents, like children, are not perfect and do make parental errors, that's just a fact of life. I think that Isabella has every right to tell her mother how she's making her feel, because if she's anything like me, being told you're not good enough, especially when you're actually trying your hardest, only makes you spiteful.
sanD13 sanD13 10 years
*sigh* this is something i deal with also...
Padraigin Padraigin 10 years
Sounds like the mother is also not being respectful of her 21 year old daughter. Being pushy and overbearing is not always a loving thing, sometimes it's a control issue. There are three sides to every story: side A, side B, and the truth.
mom2 mom2 10 years
omg i think everyones being way to disrespectful to the mom here - isabella, your moms only doing it bc she loves you - and no moms should be "put in their place". if she's like the average mom she would give her life for you - sorry, but i think some more respect is deserved
t0xxic t0xxic 10 years
Im sure dear's advice was great, but do u still live with her? It maybe that she sees it ok to try and do that if u do. Shes treating u like ur still in highschool and as hard as it is and all for a full time college kid to get a apt and such it sounds like thats what mom need. a big dose of im an adult. good luck to you she definetly needs to be put into her place.
Padraigin Padraigin 10 years
It's not your mom's life, it's yours. And she cannot prevent you from making the mistakes we all must make in order to learn and grow. She also cannot live vicariously though you.
mom2 mom2 10 years
i dont think they are infact 'unsupported opinions' so i have to disagree with you dear sugar. in fact they may very well be very supportive opinions.... take a step back though and make sure youre not reading into things wrong - im sure your mom loves you and just wants the best for you. she sees things in a perspective you dont yet and she probably just is trying to tell you to not limit yourself. im not saying your wrong im just saying dont jump to think she's trying to do anything to hurt you - she's trying to guide you bc she loves you. just sit down and talk to her - no screaming - just fully listen and then calmly tell her your side - - u may be surprised
jennifer76 jennifer76 10 years
Dear is giving you great advice. The other thing I would suggest is if you talk to your Aunts/Uncles and your Mom's friends I think you will be surprised to discover how proud of you your Mom is.
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