Do you have a lot to say about how your parents are living their life? The older parents get, the more some daughters and sons seem to have to say. I get all the good intentions – daughters and sons tell me that they want their parents to be safe, secure, and living a healthy and good quality of life as possible. I have all these good intentions for my own mother.
I also get how easy it is to slip into being overprotective at best and controlling and condescending at worst. Wouldn’t it be great if it was easier to recognize when we have a crossed a line from being caring to overprotective and controlling or from being respectful to being patronizing?
The best I think we can do, is have some clues in our own words, thoughts and behaviors that suggest we may have stepped over that d*#n line again. We can’t change something until we notice it first!
Clues we may have crossed ‘the’ line
- You are ‘parenting your parents’
There is something quite demeaning about this description. This also suggests that the parent/child relationship literally disappears or reverses. This is NOT role reversal. Dr. Brian Goldman is host of CBC’s White Coat Black Art and an ER doc who has taken care of both his elderly parents. He wisely says that there is only so much advice that we can give our parents that will stick. To our parents, we will always be their child.
- Your conversations with your parent/s are full of ‘shoulds and should not’s’
This is a sure fire indicator that we are being controlling. This also suggests that it is an expectation, not a suggestion. And in case you hadn’t already noticed, ‘should-ing’ ourselves or anyone else just fosters misery and discontentment. You know about the proverbial brick wall, yes?
- ‘Stubborn’ is your favourite adjective to describe your mom or dad
Now they very well may be stubborn. So be it. This is also often said however, when a person won’t do what we want or what we tell them to do! It suggests you may be having a power struggle with your parents.
- You interrupt and/or speak for your parent/s when they can speak for themselves
This tends to show up at appointments and with various service providers.
You make decisions for them without discussing it with them
This one can be more subtle than it seems. It can show up in the form of a gift; you know, the one that will make their life easier, like cell phones, to lawn services, to where the holiday dinner will be hosted. My siblings and I have paid for a cell phone that sits uncharged in a drawer because we thought it was a good idea and tried to sell the idea after the fact. I could resort to calling my mom stubborn but that would make me a hypocrite!
Your parents tell you to back off
There are lots of colourful ways your parents may have told you or implied that you are being controlling and/or patronizing. If they have, don’t blow it off. Get curious and explore whether that is true.
Remember when the shoe was on the other foot? When your parents had to adjust to your independence and (questionable) choices and decision-making. My father used to say, “We have been around this world a lot longer than you and I think we have learned a few things along the way.” While my adolescent mind doubted that, my middle-aged mind doesn’t have to be so foolish.
Do you have strategies to check that you aren’t being controlling or patronizing with your parents?