Survival Guide For Dealing With An Overbearing Mother

Updated October 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Dealing with an overbearing mother can be a long, hard road - particularly for a parent and adult child who live under the same roof. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to survive the difficulty of dealing with an overbearing or borderline mother or parent beyond just wishing she had done more introspection about how to be a better mother while you were growing up. Here are a few tips:

Dealing With An Overbearing Mother Can Be Tough & Problematic

What Overbearing Mothers Look Like

The term "overbearing" can mean different things to different people, but a general consensus acknowledges that an overbearing parent, or specifically controlling mother, is likely to be one who exerts control over her children or child’s life so they feel powerless, regularly criticizes her children to make them feel guilty, and appears unsatisfied with anything her children do. Narcissistic mothers, who seem to only care about how their child makes them look, may also be overbearing. Overbearing mothers are often dubbed "helicopter" parents, as they also tend to hover over their children - eager to offer their two cents and jump in at a moment's notice. An online therapist can help you work through these challenges.

An overbearing mother or parent can demonstrate these traits and parenting styles from the time their children are extremely young, or they can develop these traits as their children age, including infantilizing their adult child. Regardless of the exact timeline, though, this can impact a child’s developmental psychology and children can often feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the presence of an overbearing mother or narcissistic mother, and they may wish to get away from their parents altogether, in order to find some peace, even if doing so makes them feel guilt . This article will offer solutions to you and anyone dealing with an overbearing mother or overbearing parent.

The Effects of an Overbearing Mother or Overbearing Parent

If you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, angry, or annoyed by your mother's behavior, you are not alone; psychologists have actually determined that overbearing parenting is detrimental to a child's health, and the negative effects can follow children well into adulthood. One of the most common problems associated with helicopter parenting is anxiety; children who have over-involved parents are far more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than peers whose parents give them more freedom.

Helicopter parenting can also lessen a child's ability to make their own choices, which can result in a co-dependent relationship between parent and child. While children are codependent from a young age - relying on their parents for literally everything they need to survive as they grow - they should learn how to make independent decisions, and they should begin operating separately from their parents during adolescence. People with overbearing mothers or an overbearing parent may be more likely to struggle making decisions, suffer from anxiety, have low self-esteem, and feel uncomfortable in leadership positions. All of these can negatively impact a child's quality of life, and all of these can carry over into adulthood.

Helicopter parenting can also wreak havoc on your ability to properly regulate your emotions, form social bonds, and communicate effectively with others. These are all fundamental skills that children must acquire in order to operate independently in virtually all settings - ranging from school, to the workplace, to friendships. Helicopter parenting does far more than simply irritate or frustrate children; being a controlling mother can actually stunt emotional growth. It can be difficult for parental figures to respect boundaries once they're engaging in helicopter parenting. However, speaking with a licensed therapist can help parents respect healthy boundaries.

Dealing with an Overbearing Mother or Overbearing Parent

There are certain steps you can take to mitigate the effects of having an overbearing mother, parent, or even overbearing mother-in-law and these steps can be taken at any time in your life - whether in adolescence or adulthood. Although you cannot change your controlling mother, you can change your own reactions to your mother's behavior and tendencies, and you can make your own decisions, like making sure that you are seeking out mental health help as soon as you are able, in order to take control of your own life.

Communicate. Although effectively communicating your frustration with your controlling mother or controlling parents will not necessarily solve all of the issues you are struggling with, it doesn't hurt to try the simplest solution first. Communicate with your mother - highlighting how you feel and identifying any behaviors that you feel cross a line. When speaking, make sure you use "I feel" language, rather than accusatory language, such as "Well, you always…" or similar verbiage. Communicating honestly, openly, and respectfully can open a dialogue into why the two of you are struggling in your relationship, and it can pave the way to healing.

Set Boundaries. Even if your mother or controlling parents do not respond perfectly to your attempts to communicate, you can set boundaries to make your relationship more agreeable and foster a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries will vary from family to family, but one of the simplest boundaries you can set involves the amount of input your mother has on your decisions on your own life. If you are still under the age of 18, and you still live with your mother, your ability to make your own decisions apart from hers may be limited. If you are an adult, however, you can kindly - but firmly - let your mother know that decisions will be made based on what you feel is best - rather than being made according to your mother's desires.

Cultivate Your Own Interests. If your mother is heavily involved in your life, via your hobbies, friends, and interests, work on cultivating interests, friends, and hobbies apart from your mother. This might mean trying out a new pottery class with your best friend, going rock climbing, or attending a new gym to spend time getting in shape. You might try visiting another church or reaching out to an old friend your mother is not familiar with. Whatever the exact route you take in living your own life separate from your mother’s, be sure to engage in these ventures on your own, without your mother's involvement or opinion. This isn’t self centered behavior, and you don’t need to feel guilty. Taking these steps are likely necessary for the betterment of your own mental health.

Dealing With An Overbearing Mother Can Be Tough & Problematic

Develop Coping Mechanisms. When your mother or parent behave in a way that is overbearing or controlling, what do you turn to? Some people might turn to various substances to numb their pain or frustration, or they might find themselves reacting in anger and exploding at their toxic mother or other loved ones. None of these reactions are healthy and they can all have a negative impact on your life. You should seek out coping mechanisms that can help mitigate the symptoms of anxiety, low self-esteem, or other mental health concerns that often accompany controlling mothers and their negative parenting style. Exercise, meditation, and even keeping your hands busy through knitting or something similar can help you deal with anger and frustration when your mother exhibits controlling behavior.

Seek Outside Help. Family therapy is a type of professional help designed to help improve family dynamics for the entire family and aid in communication. If your mother will not listen to the points you have put forth and continues to exhibit controlling behavior as part of her parenting style, you might want to bring a professional into the mix in order to mediate and resolve conflict. The relationship between a child and a mother is a complex one, and some of the conflicts that arise can be difficult to navigate alone. A therapist can help the two of you reach a resolution that is agreeable to both parties and develop strategies for repairing your parent child relationship.

Dealing with an overbearing mother can be trying and overwhelming at any age, and from any perspective. Although it might be tempting to cut ties altogether - and it may have to come to that, in extreme circumstances - there are some steps you can take to bring about stronger, healthier habits in your maternal relationship.

Seeking Help Through Therapy

Therapy can be one of the most effective ways to improve the dynamic you have with your overbearing mother. Because mothers often struggle to let go or see their children as the same little children whose diapers they changed, overbearing behavior can be difficult for them to acknowledge. As you age, there are certain boundaries and limits that should be placed between parents and children in order to foster healthy emotional range, independence, and confidence. In order to achieve these boundaries, you may need to seek the two cents and help of a professional therapist.

Some mothers will not be willing to engage in therapy with their children, as they might not see their behavior as problematic. That's okay! Even on your own, you can glean some aid from therapy sessions with aprofessional counselor, as they can help you develop tools to create stronger boundaries, communication habits, and even help you improve your confidence and ward off anxiety - despite parental interference or feeling shame about the relationship. Therapy is a wonderful tool that can help in many different ways, regardless of whether or not your mother actually attends sessions alongside you.

One way to connect with counselors is by visiting BetterHelp - an online hub that connects you with counselors and licensed therapists who specialize in your areas of need. Our counselors are available wherever and whenever you need - without you having to drive to their office. Below, some BetterHelp users detail their positive experiences.

BetterHelp Testimonials

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Improving Mother-Child Dynamics

Although dealing with an overbearing mother, or atleast attempting to deal with an overbearing mother, can be overwhelming, there is hope: many parents, upon realizing what they are doing, are able to learn new habits and new ways of being in a relationship with their children. Even without your mother being on board, you can enlist your own series of techniques to help the relationship you have with your mother, and move toward a healthier, happier family dynamic. Take the first step.

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