Survival Guide For Dealing With An Overbearing Mother

By Patricia Oelze

Updated December 13, 2018

Reviewer Stephanie Chupein


Dealing with an overbearing mother can be hard, whether she's your mother, stepmother, a friend's mother, or even your mother-in-law. No matter how old you are, it can be tough to handle the constant questions and scrutiny that mothers can throw at us.

Chances are your mothers' heart is in the right place, but her hovering, judging, showing up unannounced and other overbearing behaviors get under your skin anyway.

The irritation that you feel isn't without reason. Overbearing parenting styles have negative consequences for kids that can continue into adulthood. Parents with unrealistic expectations can affect their children's academic performance, for example, and encourage the obsessive behavior. It's better for children to have involved parents that are not too overbearing and easier to talk to.

This type of overbearing behavior doesn't mean you'll have to resort to cutting all ties with the mother in question, however. There are a place and time for releasing negative people from your life, but chances are things in your family will run smoother if you can keep the peace. With a little effort and this survival guide, your relationship with the overbearing mother in your life should start to improve.

Survival Guide for Dealing with an Overbearing Mother

  1. Communicate

Honest and open communication is key to making any relationship work. The overbearing mother you're thinking of,ultimately, despite her overbearingness, she cares a lot. That's why she is the way she is. Before you decide that you'll never get along and throw in the towel, attempt to have a calm discussion about your problems or concerns. You can't make a positive change if you don't try.

Maybe the mother in your life doesn't realize that she's overbearing. Sit her down and tell her that with work, school, and kids, it's hard to stay in touch or spend as much time with her as she's used to (for instance). Kindly try to communicate what's bothering you and hope that you can come to some compromise. You can also share how specific things that she does make you feel.


If the mother doesn't see how she's being overbearing or thinks that it's not a bad thing, you may need to switch gears. Even in this situation, honest and open communication is still a good rule of thumb. You should always try to speak your truth calmly rather than hold in anger and negative feelings until you explode or say something you might regret.

  1. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries (with love) and sticking to them can be hard but healthy for a relationship that's often strained. Of course, this is a lot easier to do as an adult compared to as a teenager living with your mother at home. It's important to let your mother know that you love her, and your relationship is important, but you need to set boundaries to keep your bond healthy and happy.

You can set boundaries around several different things, like:

  • When/how often your mother can visit
  • When/how often your mother can call
  • What subjects or questions are off limits
  • Avoiding negativity and judgment

It's best to start by setting one boundary and explaining why it's important to you. Ideally, setting this boundary should help make your interactions more pleasant and ensure that they're happening on your terms. Unfortunately, some mothers might not be happy with the idea of their children setting boundaries in the relationship. If this is the case, you might need to take a different approach.

  1. Get Them Involved

Weekly calls, dinners, and family time can help the overbearing mother in your life feel more included. Having this time should also encourage her to ease up when you need some time apart to breathe. Overbearing mothers care a lot for their children in their way. They usually just want to feel needed and make sure that their children are doing well in life.


Unfortunately, this just sometimes comes across in ways that aren't helpful or welcome. Nagging, phone calls at inconvenient times and personal questions are just a few things that tend to happen when an overbearing mother is feeling a little neglected.

Finding regular times to include your mother in your life and sharing some basic news can go a long way in making her feel like she has the family connection she craves. Carving out some time that's just for her can make her feel special. The routine means that she won't have to worry about when she's going to hear from you next or that she has no clue what's happening in your life.

By making these get-togethers or phone calls happen on a regular basis, random calls and drop-ins should start to be less frequent. In the same way, if you're a teenager being questioned incessantly about your life, school, friends, etc., make a point to share some things with your mom at dinner time or when you're spending time together. This way, she doesn't feel the need to grill you so much.

When you get sick of an overbearing mother's behavior, it can be easy to shut down and try to avoid it altogether. That type of reaction usually backfires and makes the overbearing mother even harder to handle. The best thing to do is try to find a way to ease your mother's worries while keeping your privacy and sanity at the same time.

  1. Develop Coping Mechanisms

Another way to deal with overbearing mothers is by developing effective coping mechanisms. When an overbearing mother is getting on your nerves, try to put yourself in their shoes. Their behavior may seem like it's just meant to annoy you, but if you look a little deeper, there's probably a reason behind it. She might be lonely or worrying about how a recent big change, like a new job, is impacting your life.

Understanding the reasons behind your mother's overbearing actions can help you take control of the situation and figure out a solution. Any way that you can learn to be one step ahead and address your mother's worries on your terms can help you cope with her being overbearing.

If you start seeing red and there's no way you can decipher the logic behind your overbearing mother's actions, learning some mindfulness and breathing exercises might be a better tactic. Train yourself to take a few deep breaths when your mother starts getting on your nerves instead of reacting instantly, for example. Then you'll be less likely to say or do something you'll regret.

  1. Therapy

When nothing else works, or the relationship has passed the point of being overbearing and is more toxic, therapy can help. There are many different options available to help you with your overbearing mother. One option is getting counseling for yourself. Counselling can give you better insight into the relationship and your behavior. A counselor can also teach you ways to deal with your mother.

If you would like ongoing support while you work on your relationship with your mother, online counseling services like BetterHelpare another great option.


BetterHelp matches you with a counselor based on your answers to a few simple questions. Using their affordable service, you can send unlimited messages to your counselor from your smartphone. Online counseling services are easy and convenient to use, especially if you have a busy schedule or can't find a good counselor taking clients in your area.

Another option is family counseling, whether it's just you and your mother or the whole family together. This is a good option if you all acknowledge that there's a problem and are willing to work on it together. In this type of counseling, the counselor takes a deeper look at family dynamics and can help your family learn to communicate more effectively.


Coping effectively with an overbearing mother takes patience and understanding, but in most cases, it's worth keeping the peace. There are several things you can do to learn to deal with the overbearing mother in your life so that your frustration doesn't boil over. Instead of repressing your feelings or getting into unnecessary arguments, start by learning to communicate with more effectively.

When dealing with an overbearing mother, it's important to set boundaries. It's also good to try to stay in touch and make your mother feel included. Remember that sharing a story about your day or calling to see how she's doing can make a big difference in your mother's day - it can also help her relax enough to give you some much-needed space.

In the worst-case scenario, if your overbearing mother won't give you space, you may need to consider spending some time apart (if it's possible). Working on a difficult relationship takes time, especially if things have been bad for a long time before you decided to do something about it. The first step is acknowledging that there's a problem. The next is trying to work at it.

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