How do you deal with an aging parent's constant negativity?

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It's funny, but I never realized until my Mother moved in with us just how negative and judgmental she is. Looking back over the years, it has always been this way - I just didn't realize how it has affected me throughout my entire life. Her compliments are always followed by a "but" (your dress is pretty, BUT why don't you do something with your hair?"... "That dinner was good, BUT next time try it with ____", and my biggest pet peeve of all is her pointing out to any and everyone their physical flaws. As a child, I was always reminded that I had a "bubble butt" or that I was "chubby" - the food we were fed as children was the cause, but there was no responsibility taken there. We can't go anywhere in public without her pointing out how "fat" someone is, how "horrible" that person's choice of clothing is, etc. etc. - and because she is hard of hearing, these comments aren't exactly whispers...other people hear her.. IT'S SO EMBARRASSING!!!

Now that my mother is living in my home, the constant negative comments are really taking their toll where my grandchildren are concerned, and I refuse to allow her to treat them the way myself and my siblings were treated. It was never to the level of what I would consider to be abusive, but we all had an extremely low self esteem as a result. The most I've said to her about it is "Geez mom - would it kill you to say something nice once in awhile?" Of course she thinks she's doing the person a "favor" by drawing this stuff to their attention. Oy.

I was just curious if anyone else has dealt with the above, and what they do to cope with it??

Answers 1 to 10 of 23
Purplesushi...love that name...btw......I think r mothers may be "sista's from anotha motha"...lol

My mother is, n always has been, the most negative force in my life...She does all the same things that u describe ur mom to b doing to u n, worse yet....to total strangers...I agree,,,,IT'S EMBARRASSING!!! I cannot tell u the years that i have wasted trying to get, jst one compliment, out of my mom....no can do!....She is extremely cruel to people who r dealing with weight issues...which, btw, would jst so happen that one of those people, is her own grand-daughter, but that still didnt stop her from saying hurtful things, n my daughter remembers EVERY criticism she every heard, while growing up..I have, always, been in a struggle with mom, over her negativity...

Over the last 10yrs...im 54...i've managed to come to a place where i jst have to accept that my mother enjoys her own misery, n she would love nothing more, than for me to join her in it...NO WAY....i have 3 kids of my own, n i made a vow to myself that i refuse to be that kind of example to my children...Life is hard enough, without mom's input....so, I've learned to jst turn the tables on her...It drives her crazy!! lol....Everytime i see her, n i mean...everytime...she starts our visit off by insulting my appearance within the first 30 sec...I decided to make a game out of her negativity n judgements...I use humor at every turn....n, it works...I refuse to let my mother bring me to "that place", n i make sure n let her kno that...I dont get into any arguments with her....i jst use humor n look for ways to diffuse her nastiness.
I came to realize, years ago....i don't need mom's approval anymore about anything i choose to do with my life or my childrens lives...I dont "give her permission" to spew her opinions, becuz i let her know, right away, that i'm not interested in hearing it...I, recently told her, that, as my mother, she should be supporting n encouraging me, being that i am raising a family of my own. I told her that she had no right nor invitation, to try to make me feel "hopeless.".Wen she starts in with her "dialogue", i jst find something else to talk about, laugh at her ridiculousness, or diffuse it...but i will not allow her to poison my heart, anymore...
Here's the bottom line of our mothers "opinions"....They're like ass-holes.....everybody has one!!!!!! Learn to understand that u r not ur mothers daughters in everything u do n say...U r ur own person, n be proud of that...Moms can play some real head trips on their "daughters"....but, im jst too tired to do it, anymore...I love my mother so much, but we r 2 very different people..I look at it this way,....jst becuz we r the daughters....doesnt mean we cant teach r mother's something...by example...Dont let her get to u...life is short, n we cannot "change" r mothers, but we may b able to help them soften a bit...It's a fight we cannot win...n if mom steps into the ring, without an opponent....Who Wins????..Hang in there....i know wat ur going thru...but u dont have to take any of it....so dont.. Much respect to u
Oh, purplesushi, we are dealing with very similar women. I suspect their own low self esteem is why they make the comments they do. I generally ignore it when she does this. I always found not takng the bait the most effective approach. However, I am with you - they are in dangerous territory when it comes to the kids. I will also not allow it. I already told my husband that is my line in the sand. She has taken some swipes at them to me, but not directly at them. Better not happen, that's all I got to say!
@beckncall53 - thanks - the name is the result of every other screenname choice of mine being taken on yahoo, so i went with my 2 favorite things...haha!

It sounds like we are all in the same boat. I joked with my oldest daughter one day (after we spent a good amount of time venting about my mother...haha) and said "all I know is that if I ever get that bad..." and she stopped me dead in my tracks and said "OH YOU'RE GOING INTO A HOME!" and we both burst out laughing. It's just so frustrating though - I'm trying to build up my kids/grandkids, and she's tearing them down and to be honest, I don't think she even realizes it. I am torn between ignoring it or calling her on it so (maybe) she realizes what she's doing. I don't know...

My father had the best defense against my mother's negativity. He lost his hearing and refused to get a hearing aid. He told her that he hears all he wanted to hear. I understand him more daily. :)
Purplesushi....my advice.....dont waste ur energy on "calling her on it".....it's futile....She is set in her ways, jst as my mom is, n i use my mother's weaknesses to help build my strengths....U can do the same...U r the student....mom, the teacher. She is teaching u how "NOT" to behave in the present n future....She's actually a blessing to u n ur children...Next time u see her.....after the initial insult....give her a hug n say, "Thanks, mom....i really love u".....If nothing else, u'll get a good laugh from the confused look on her face....happens to me all the time....i love it....U'll figure out the best way to handle mom..jst make sure it results in a way that improves u, as a daughter, a mother n a woman....N most important.....laugh......jst like u did with ur daughter...that was beautiful..Misery loves company.....so dont RSVP to the invitation, wen mom presents it....The choice has always been urs....much respect n hugs
I wish I had ear plugs when I am with my mother...it's the same and I noticed some years ago that my mother is more verbal with her negativity when she has a family member with her, I think it's because she thinks we agree with her. I started holding my mother accountable years ago when she would start in, I would tell her go tell them not me!!! If you think the person is too fat go tell them cuz I don't want to hear it! Of course she never would. She does criticize my sister's clothing, her weight (which is below what it should be due to health), she has criticized the size of my house, my in-laws, my son-in calling him a mama's boy,etc. I don't let her away with the name calling of family members. She is not as bad with me as she is with my sister. Now that mom is in mid stage Alzheimer's, I ignore her and don't answer. If she continues, I limit my time around her because it wears
me down. Before Alzheimer's, if she said look at the large woman eating a burger and fries, how disgusting!! I would respond, you're right mom, all overweight people have no MEDICAL problems that would cause them to be overweight so how dare she enjoy a burger and fries!! She would shut up. She never said anything about overweight men...go figure!! Just hang in there, some of the attitudes of our parents are a result of the era they grew up in and it seems to a common thing with many parents who are in their 80's. Not all of them but quite a few. Self esteem is probably a big part of why they do this. My son teases me saying if you become like grandma....Shady Pines Ma, Shady Pines, (the rest home on the tv series Golden Girls)!!! You can't change your mother...but you can change how you respond to her. Jessie, I love the hear aid defense, awesome!!
@sharynmarie...."shady pines"...hahahaa!!!! That's funny! My husband and I have both said that a lot of it appears to be "par for the course" for the era she was brought up in. She is #7 out of 14 children (irish catholic family...need i say more?) who was born right smack in the middle of the great depression (1938), so food was scarce and so was attention from the parents. Her father worked and was an alcoholic - didn't have a real relationship with any of the kids - just kept expecting my grandmother to keep popping them out, which she did. My grandmother didn't have any time to spend with the kids that didn't revolve around giving birth, feeding/changing/cleaning them. She was not affectionate, and as a result, neither was my mother with us. They survived on potatoes, bread, and whatever other "cheap" stuff they could get their hands on...hence my mother's horrible diet now. I guess I "understand" why she is the way she is, but that doesn't make it any easier to take when you're on the receiving end of the negativity. It REALLY chaps my hide when I hear from everyone outside of the home (her old apartment neighbors, the nurses at the SNF, etc.) how "sweet" my mom is - she's "such a nice lady - you're lucky to have her", etc.... Why can't she put on that hat around us???? :o/
Purplesushi~My mom also grew up during the depression, she is the youngest of 8 children. My mom is only one who graduated high school.Grandmother cooked on a wood burning stove until she passed away, no indoor bathroom in the house until my aunt moved back in their home in the 1960's to take care of grandfather. It was tough growing up during the depression. My mother will not throw away anything, instead she tries to give things she no longer needs to others which is a good thing to do, but the things she is trying to get rid of are obsolete and no one wants them. I get a kick out of her even passing on old magazines, Lol!! My mom told me they ate a lot of beans growing up because meat was too expensive, grandmother would use some meat with bean dishes to stretch out what meat they could afford. There were only 2 girls...my uncles all dropped out of grade school and would hunt different critters, sell the hides to help support the family. I know my mom had a rough childhood, she was only allowed two dresses for the school year, was not allowed to socialize outside of school, and my grandfather had all the kids up early everyday for chores. He ran a tight ship, stressed work...no idle time was allowed. I never met my grandparents but I suspect the negativity was handed down from them. To this day, my mother cannot sit down and relax. When we visit her, she is up fiddling with something, back and forth btwn the bedrooms and the kitchen. The whole package was ingrained in her and it bothers my sister a lot that mom won't sit down and talk with us when we come over. It's just how she is and at 83 she is not going to change. I know it is harder because your mom lives with you. Can you get her interested in some simple craft projects that will bring out her creative side, keep her busy with something she could do on her own so you get a break from listening to her negativity? I am going to go to craft store later today to look for things I think my mom might enjoy so she can do something other than reread paperwork all day. You and your hubby will have to remind yourselves of Shady Pines so you can laugh. Laughing helps alot and I make fun of my mom sometimes just so I can laugh to relieve the stress...not being disrespectful. The other day my sis and I were looking for some antibiotic ointment in mom's first aid kit, only found an alcohol wipe. Sis who hasn't drank in 4 years said oh this is an alcohol wipe, my mom replied, I don't drink alcohol, only you do that...we both laughed so hard and it felt so good to laugh after the stressful week we had with her. Wish me luck in finding a craft project for mom, keep your humor going too!! Hugs...Sharyn
Purplesushi--I agree with you that this behavior might just be a part of the time and place of our parents upbringing. My mother has strong opinions about women's weight and looks and she too, doesnt hesitate to share her opinions. She has commented on my weight to me since I can remember. I FINALLY learned when she says "youve put on a couple pounds havent you?"--I just answer "I know Mom". Then if she says something along the lines of "Why don't you go on a diet" or "Are you dieting?" I just reply "yes, I am". Then she has nowhere else to go with her comments. Ignoring, giving one word answers, agreeing... These are my weapons against this behavior!
MY MIL's 'negativitity' morphed into serious anger/rage issues and an inability to deal with her own losses. Her llack of coping skills - possibly exacerbated by small strokes have caused her to be hateful to me - I represent everything she no longer HAS or CAN DO.

We recently - FINALLY - got a healthcare professional (her primary care physician) to tell us that , YES, there IS something WRONG with your MIL and he said it was anger/rage issues and I WAS HER PRIMARY TARGET. Actually, I am her ONLY target. She is sweet as pie to everyone else. The doctor said she does NOT have dementia - that a demented person does not have the control over herself and how she treats others the way my MIL does. She can be nasty to us 1 minute and as soon as the doctor or someone else enters the room, she is instantaneously Miss Sweetheart. He said a demented person does not do this. That it is her anger and rage that she cannot control - her way of dealing with it is to PROJECT it onto me.

After some very upsetting and unsettling things she said and did recently, I left for two weeks (with hubby's blessing - he would have left too, but had to work) and stayed with family in AZ for a while and there was absolutely nothing there to remind me of my MIL. My nerves were shot.

I have been dealing with this hateful person (who, by the way, is ONLY hateful to ME) for several years. NO ONE saw it or heard it except me. I don't think anyone even believed what she was doing. She denies it completely to this day! But, in the last year, she has not been able to 'contain' herself totally and has let her hateful remarks slip out in front of my hubby. BIG MISTAKE.

He now knows for sure (I know he believed me) that his mother is being unfair to me and he won't tolerate it any longer. Since we cannot move her OUT of our home (she does have her own private apt. built onto our home and her own entrance/exits) we have 'separated' from her. He explained how things would be to her before I came back home. I have heard her telling someone on the phone that she is 'waiting for it all to blow over' and 'waiting for me to GET OVER IT.' She hasn't a clue.

My hubby is the 'go-between.' For a short while, I was no longer her care giver - until Medicare cuts caught up with her. So, now, I do my care giving from a distance. I do NOT spend any one on one time with her. I still monitor her meds, make doctor appointments (but friends meet her there and go in/out with her for her foot doctor appts and hubby takes her to her other appts now) and she rides the Senior van when possible. I don't drive her any more.

I still send meals over and make sure she has groceries and frozen foods that are easy to prepare. Thankfully, she can bathe herself and dress herself, etc. I clean her apt. when she leaves to go to the doctor. She can always tell when I clean because I will hear her say 'the place smells like bleach.' She never says, 'OH, how nice, Oldcodger2 cleaned my apt. for me today' :0( She cannot acknowledge any kindness I do for her. Because ME cleaning her apt. is like telling her she can't. So, it just cause her more anger. But, she really CAN'T do thorough cleaning. She does keep the place picked up - but I clean every 2-3 weeks.

She blames this separation on ME. My hubby told her - 'mom, you brought this on yourself. It is your attitude. If you treated anyone else the way you treat her - NO ONE would eveyr stop by or call you. She just said 'I have to defend myself' and my husband said 'against WHAT???!!!' It is just the strangest thing we have ever dealt with.

We have blocked the doors leading into our part of the house - so I no longer receive surprise visits. She comes over once in a while for a meal with my husband and I IF WE INVITE HER. Otherwise, we are just neighbors.

My blood pressure is still higher than it should be - it was in the 120's/60's while in AZ. It's about 20-30 points higher here. But my doctor said I don't have a BP problem - I have a MIL problem. So, we are doing what we must to preserve peace and my sanity. You do begin to doubt yourself when dealing with someone like this. I do pity her. I won't say I have never gotten angry with her - mostly after she has pushed all my buttons. But I have been kinder to her than she ever was to me.

I probably should get counseling so that I can continue to be her care giver on a more personal level - but right now I just don't want to. So, I may be just as bad off as she is. The difference is that I still think of her and I do kind things for her and she never has a kind word for me to anyone and vilifies me at every opportunity. For this reason, I stay away from her. She does not deserve me.

Thankfully, her minister knows what's up with her and does not take her hateful remarks about me to heart. He has known my hubby and I for what and who we are for over 25 years. He knows that we do not do the kinds of things she says we do or for the REASONS she claims. But, it is hurtful to know that she does this behind our back - and mostly her aggression is towards me. Even though we have told her WHY the situation will never be the way it was before - we even have a half hour recording of us trying to 'reason' with her and help her understand 'what she said that hurt me to much - she adamantly refused to accept any responsibility or make any apology that anyone could construe as sincere and got up and went into her apt. and slammed the door.

End of discussion. So, things are a bit better. I can actually go for a few hours at a time and not think of her.

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