Suggestions to sons and daughter for dealing with controlling elderly mothers and fathers:

Started by

Time after time, I read one story after another of primarily daughters who are being controlled or fighting being controlled by mothers who evidently have been that way most of their lives and gotten worse in old age.

My suggestion is to take this experience as an opportunity to view yourself and the one who can break the chain of fearful/anxious control being handed down for the next generation to experience by seeking your own wholeness and freedom from being controlled yourself.

It will be hard work. Might even take seveal years of therapy like it has my wife and myself in getting freedom from being enmeshed with our mothers. At first, I thought I had more freedom than I really did and that is was her who needed to cut loose. Well she did and I did, plus she needed to stop hiding behind my pants and getting me to fight her battles for her.

However, spouses will be glad you did, your marriage will be healthier, your personal well-being will find more stability, and your children will bless you for it as we adult caregivers become older ourselves.

7 Comments

3930 helpful answers
You are right, there. It's good to break unhealthy behavior chains before they are passed on to one more generation. There's a difference between love and control. You sound like you've done some hard work.
Carol
Carol,

Thanks for the affirmation. When I got up this morning, I thought, oh my maybe I wrote too blunt or bold a statement and actually looked for a way to remove it. It's like suddenly I felt uncomfortable with what I had written.

I've been fighting for years to get free from how my mom asborbed me into herself as a single parent with me as her only child. It seemed just at the time that I thought I had more freedom, there was more work to do. My dad has not been a lot of help because she did such a good job for a while keeping him from me and now my dominating, jealous step-mother has done the same thing.

My wife knew she had a battle but frankly hid behind me until I finnally got tired of fighting her battles as I woke up to the fact that in being focused so much on my MIL controlling my wife, I'd allowed my wife to get control over me. Well, I reached the point in 2002 where I wanted my life back, but did not know how to define it or boundaries. I got some most important boundaries in place and thus thing began to change.

An earlier therapist had told her my wife that she needed to work on various issues related to her and her mother so that the borderline chain in her family could be broken with her.

I even had to take the boys and leave my home for several days and nights to let her know I was serious when she broke the most important new boundary that we had agreed upon. It took one more consequence after that to bring the messege home.

Her therapist was glad that I was not around with the climax of her battle with her mom came to a head for she could not hide behind my britches and had to deal with it.

From that point on, we have felt like she was more and more present with us as a family member, a mom and as my wife. I basically have spent years frankly living like a single parent, but I had to stop trying to make up for what her mother and dad did not and frankly were not able to do.

She's worked hard and I've gotten the boys in therapy after I burned out trying to be their therapist which I am trained to do some of. I'm very close with my boys which is something I cannot say about my dad or step-dad so in that sense I have given them something I did not get.

I basically know their personality road map like the back of my hand and I know how to travel it in discovering how they are really doing. They look to me for statibility, strength and help but I don't have as much with being on disability.

Occasionally, my wife still gets hoovered in by her mother by the F.O.G. Fear, Obligation and Guilt, but that is why she is still in therapy and will need to be until her mother dies.
Worry not about your post. It is of help to me. And thank you for your humble admission and transparency.

I could go on, but have important business this week to attend to. It's concerning my mom and Probate. I covet your prayers for me!!! I'm requesting God's guidance, provision, protection, wisdom, discernment, and stamina. I am also praying I can get out of the way, so God gets the glory he so deserves. To tell you the truth, I am weak, and feeling O, so small.

In return, I will be praying for you... Thank you!
Carol,

Thanks for your comment. I've been doing a lot of hard work for the last 8 years. I'm not really surprised that the longest part of the research section of my dissertation on church and clergy health had to do with self-differentiation, the very thing I needed the most of myself. I attribute some of my salvation from the bondage I was in to my doctoral studies. I heard in one of my classes that if the process of working on a dissertation did not bring about any added maturity in one's life then you missed a very valuable part of getting a doctorate and contributing to the chain of knowledge.
Crowe:

As a child, I "x-rayed" my parents. In Dad's case, what he said was what he did. Very nurturing, loving, and true to himself and others. Mom, however, was a different ballgame. She was always "fronting," and pretending to be a lot tougher than she really was. All that yelling, endless cursing, and bantering to cover up the fact she was a fearful little girl who started having babies at 13 and never got a chance to grow up. Hurt people hurt, so it didn't surprise me that total control was at the core of her so-called "tough love." The four eldest (myself included) were often beaten as a preventive measure designed to ensure our silence and subservience, and Dad never knew about it because that'd bring about more corporal punishment. ... To this day she brags about being her children's mother, father, and best friend.

During the 14 years I taught Special Ed (high school), I came across students for whom their parents might as well have been strangers from the street. Their relationships were a constant power struggle, with both sides reacting rather than responding and working together. To complicate matters, many of them were parentified children who missed out on a lot of things for which they held their parents responsible. The saddest part is that some of these students are still taking care of their aging, sickly parents in addition to their own children and household. A few do it out of love, despite the constant verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of the parents. Others, seeking refuge in the Bible, believe their sacrifices are paving their way to Heaven. But most do it out of habit. Besides, they're expected to. Especially the females.

My suggestion? Study your parents as if they were a lab experiment. Learn as much as you can about their history, show -- or fake -- an interest in their likes and dislikes, try to get to know them a little more each day, run a mild test or two. Watch, listen, anticipate their moves, and get ready for the fallout.

-- ED
Interesting perspective, Ed!

Unfortunately, my family is in the fallout stage...with an out-of-control raging mother in what she thinks is her final reign of power. Little does she know she lost that seat long ago. We've headed to the shelters...
ED,

At one point as a child, I tried playing Henry Kissinger with them, but obviously that did not work. I made a study of them and of people in general. This, I think led me to consider 'people issues' very deeply in the eighth grade when most teenagers are just dealing with hormones. All in all, I basically re-made my entire family by selecting which of my teenage friends that I wanted to be like my brothers and sisters whose parents I wanted to have as my wish they could be parents. It took some study and time, but I was able to do that. In college, I majored in Sociology. One day I told my dad what I thought of his marriage to my mom and what I thought was really at the heart of their divorce. I used some applied Developmental Psychology as well. Unlike my mother, my dad never ran my mother down. His reply to my academic evaluation of him, my mother and their marriage was 'well you have grown up and answered your own questions.' After that he did begin to share some facts and perceptions that I had not known before, but never in a judgmental way. It's sad to miss out on one's childhood because of being parentified and having to become a high self-monitor. When a parent makes their child their parent, parentifying, or makes them their partner, they have practiced covert emotional and psychological abuse upon the child. Many of these types of parents like my MIL really and truly do not want their grown up children to get married and if they do, the parent wants the marriage to fail and is frankly glad if it does. My MIL and my own mother to some degree sounds a lot like yours. Your dad sounds like a carbon copy of my FIL. My FIL really believe that the Bible taught him to literally lay down his life for his wife to the point that he never ate any food or ordered a drink when eating out without her telling him what to do. Thing was though, when I showed up, I was a bad influence which I took as a compliment. I know the Bible does not teach that anyone can earn their way to heaven, but if they could through sacrifice and obedience like my FIL they'd come close, My MIL is a shell of the person she wants others to think she is and it's all one big show.

It's sad when children get such a warped view of love that they stay unhealthily bound to their parent. It's even sadder when religion becomes a mask to hide behind from one's true feelings about living in such bondage. It's really pitiful that no one has ever pointed out to them or they have never read that their habits as parentified or partnered children are signs of covert abuse which some of these parents, usually moms, misuse Christianity to support.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support