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Controlling Parents into adulthood

Community Member

Hello. I am 33 and have come to stay with my family for a few months for the holidays. I have had a huge fight with parents and not sure how to come back from it.
I feel like they treat me as a child. In my teens they were very strict and invaded my privacy by reading diaries and phones. This continued into my 20’s and I recall my mother reading some text messages I had sent to a boyfriend when I was 27 and confronting me about them.
Now anytime they tell me to do something I snap because I feel like I am being told off or controlled. Hence our huge argument.

I went to stay at a hotel and my father sent me an emailing guilt tripping me saying I had broken their hearts when all I needed was some space to myself - because well I am an adult!

My brother has a totally different relationship with my parents , he was a nerd and never up to any normal teenage mischief and had his own kids early on granting him a different level of respect .

What should I do? How do I play nice? It’s sad as I only have a short time left before going back home overseas and my parents are getting old now.

Thank you

13 Replies 13

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Kylie,

Thank you for being so open here and sharing your story. I can see that you. are feeling troubled and helpless. You are so strong for getting through this situation.

You are an adult and should be able to do what you want and when you want. Your parents have no right to control you. Have you spoken to your parents about how you are feeling controlled? and that you are old enough to make your own decisions?

Please stay safe and i am here to chat when you need me.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Kylie I have been an adult child with parents who had different ideas to me and I have adult children and my parents are no longer around.

I understand how annoying it is for you as N adu,t to have your parents comment on your life. The thing is they remember you as a baby who needed them to clothe feed and change.
I know sonetimes I need to bite my tongue and remember my children are adults.

You say they are getting older and they love you or they wouldn’t have wanted you to stay with you. They would feel they are just caring for you .
sometimes it takes compromise. Can you find something you both like to do, like walking, cooking, playing music, a game etc. .? Share sone happy moments tigether.

Thanks for honesty. You sound like a caring person.

I am listening.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
Two months is a long time and only near the end have things taken a turn for the worse. How were things in the weeks prior?
A 'huge fight' - over what causing you to depart when you have the maturity (as an adult) to rationally discuss any differences or offence you may have taken?
Maybe they need to see the maturity in your responses before you can expect to be treated accordingly - this might have been an opportunity missed to rise above your parents' dominance and show you are no longer the mischievous teenager you once were.
Is storming out respectful or mature? How does this confirm and play into your parents estimation? It seems like they know how to press your buttons and you walked right into their trap!
Once you can accept that parents will be unlikely to change their stance, no matter how pitiful or misguided that might be, you might look upon them differently and perhaps even pity them in their dotage for not accepting you for who you are.
Respect sometimes means not reacting to past injustices as if they are still significant in the present.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello KylieC2...(wave to Tranzcrybe)

I understand your pain and frustration...Some parents just will never give up on being controlling

When I was 33 my dad was exactly the same wanting to have 'control' over me and my siblings. It seems to be very common.....despite the harm this behavior can cause
Just a friendly note....your parents may have been subject to to the same dated 'mindset' as you have been....

You are strong by communicating your feelings as well as you have...and good on you for doing so 🙂

Sometimes it can be difficult not to react when we are being treated as a child even if past injustices are concerned..especially if the 'controlling' behavior is ongoing.....

you are always welcome on the forums KykieC2...any questions are always welcome!

my kindest


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Kylie, the problem with parents being so controlling is that they don't realise how it's affecting the relationship between themselves and you, and don't understand that eventually, you are going to become a person on your own and develop a family and that their dominance may interfere in being active with the grandkids and don't realise this until it's too late.

Once you become an adult, they have no right to look into your private life, it's none of their business, and it's your decision whether or not you want to raise the topic with them.

This can create hostility between you and them and when you are still at home it will affect the enjoyment if life and what you are able to achieve.

We all get old and maybe we should mellow as we get older.

Best wishes.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi KylieC2,

Is there somewhere neutral where you can meet your parents and have a calm chat with them about how you are feeling? Listen to them and ask what their expectations are.

Your parents are from a different generation, their thinking, beliefs and behaviours are obviously no in tune with your own ideas and values for your life.

Maybe your being away has affected your parents. They may feel like they need to have more control of what is happening in your life to make them feel secure as parents. I don't know! This is just a possible assumption.

I hope you are able to talk with them openly, maybe take them out if possible and show them something about yourself they might not be aware of.

If you only have a short time here with them, I hope you can take good memories back home with you.

Kind regards form Doolhof

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Kylie,

I’m sorry that things have ended up where they are currently. However, I’m not entirely surprised given that you have had a lifetime of your parents actively steamrolling your boundaries and invading your privacy. Being confronted about private texts that you sent a boyfriend at age 27 must have been so mortifying! Your parents sound a lot like a few of ours (as we discuss in the emotional blackmailing topic), quite controlling and willing to use emotional blackmail and guilt tripping to achieve it. It’s funny how these parents often have a “favourite” child, I think it further serves their agenda by creating competition and discourse between siblings who could otherwise be allies. I think that you need to have a chat with your parents when you’ve all cooled down and explain that you love them but you are an adult and aren’t going to tolerate being controlled. It may also be a good idea to stay in a hotel each time you come to visit them as they are more likely to try and control you while you are under their roof and back in the “child” role so to speak. Organise to go out for dinners etc so that they start seeing you on equal footing and more like a peer. I think it will be a bit of a battle for them to change their mindset but that has worked for my family and I (and my mother is fairly controlling).

Thank you for your kind response.

Do you think I should explain to them how I feel and that I am hypersensitive to perceived controlling behaviour or comments due to their actions in the past? I only have 10 days left I would like things to be nice before I return overseas as who knows when I will see them next.

I would like to move on and enjoy Xmas and the rest of my time here but I’m not sure how to have the initial difficult conversation and if it is worth me explaining or just saying let’s forget about it.

I just feel like I have psychological wounds from their privacy invasion when I was in my late 20’s because there was no reason I shouldn’t have earnt their respect. I went to university, had a good corporate job, nice friends and good choice in boyfriends. So I never understood why they felt the need to pry like my life was off track.

Thanks very much


Hi KylieC2

I'm sorry you are going through this, I had similar with my parents, but good grief my partner's parents were so much worse and he ended up cutting contact altogether, he regularly receives guilt tripping emails from them and his sister, and of course I am who they blame even though I took no part in his decision to cut them off. The way I have handled mine is grey rocking as much as possible, they often tried to tell me what to do and gave unsolicited advice when I told them about things like jobs or friends or travel plans or relationship decisions or whatever and I am in my 30s. So now they don't get anything interesting out of me apart from the standard weather, mask mandates, vaccines, news, work is fine, yes I did see that on the news etc. I have been with my current partner for over a year and they have no idea he exists or that we are living together and have adopted pets together. I only just told my parents they are being too much with their 'worrying' and need for constant reassurance that I am alive by daily communication (moved overseas 4 years ago). I think where you are at it may be salvageable with a calm and gentle conversation to begin with, explain you are an adult and you appreciate their concern but you are old enough and very capable of making your own choices, and if you need advice they will be the first people you come to, but otherwise please respect your privacy. If this doesn't work I suggest the grey rocking technique and potentially discuss with a professional if you are like me and setting boundaries gives you nightmares. Best of luck.