What You Should Do When Overbearing Parents Won’t Let You Parent

Healthy Familial Relationship Advice - Advice For Parents and Mental Health - Grandparent, Parent, and Child Relationship Tips

There is nothing quite as irritating as overbearing parents who refuse to let you parent your child. Between the feeling of being disrespected and the behavior your kids pick up because of a grandparent can often leave parents beyond frustrated. Quite frankly, there have been many times that I was left feeling angry about the way a grandparent behaved.

I’ve dealt with overbearing parents not listening first hand, I see it in groups, and I hear it from my friends and readers regularly. Luckily for you, I have had a range of experience in this. My parents have been extremely understanding and helpful. However, my husband’s mother wasn’t as receptive and quite frankly, it didn’t always go the way I had hoped it would.

You want to do things differently, and it’s your right to do that. You want to be more present, peaceful, and understanding as a parent. The goal of every parent is to build a lifelong healthy relationship with their child.

So how do you explain to your overbearing parents that the way they raised you is not acceptable by your standards and you are doing it differently. 

Grandparents holding their granddaughter

Dealing With Overbearing Parents

It could be as simple as pride or as complex as a toxic personality. Either way it’s not fun dealing with overbearing parents who wish to control your life, and tell you how to raise your kids. We grow as a society and what worked 20-30 years ago doesn’t work the same now, we know better.

Unfortunately, if you have overbearing parents you are going to have to take action in how you address their behavior and get it in line with how you wish to raise your children.

First, They Need Some Understanding

Every parent will typically do everything that they can to raise their kids to be incredible human beings. Sometimes they will believe that it’s because they did everything their way that you turned out so incredible.

The overbearing parent may feel that it was their constant push and interference that got you to where you are in life. In all reality, it’s not so much about how a parent raises a kid that turns them into who they are. At some point we make changes and grow all on our own.

It can be a bit difficult to come to terms with the fact that it was not all on them for how incredible you turned out to be. Try to understand that hit to their ego when you break the news to them that you aren’t doing it the way they did.

Show Appreciation 

Once you understand how they could feel hurt it’ll be easier to identify the good parts that you are keeping. The things that you will keep, the things that taught you valuable lessons as a child that you will do with your child.

For instance, when I was a kid I was horrible about cleaning my room. One day my mom decided she was tired of having the clean your room fight with me. So she instead took all of my toys, put them in garbage bags, and hid them away.

I didn’t know they were hidden, I just knew they were gone, and I was devastated about it. However, my room stayed clean and I even cleaned up after myself with snacks, drinks, and more. Two weeks later the two garbage bags worth of toys were sitting on my bed. 

I learned that I needed to take care of my things so they didn’t break or get lost. This is a lesson I have used with my own son with one slight change. I didn’t hide the toys away or lead my kid to believe that they were gone.

I hid the toys in plain sight and as my son listened to instruction, he could earn the toys back. Now my son will clean his room without a fight and he’s learned a valuable lesson, the same lesson I learned.

I’m appreciative of learning this lesson and that I could pass it on. While I made a small adjustment to it to avoid the trauma of believing toys are completely gone, it still worked. Find lessons your parents taught you that you will use with your kids, even with slight adjustments.

Explain Your Positions

Once they know that there are things they did right you can start talking about the reasons for the changes in how you are raising your kids. 

You can explain how the times, technology, and goals in parenthood may have changed. Explain how you want to handle these changes and prepare your child for a world that will probably be drastically different from the world you even grew up in. 

With any luck your parents will be completely on board and attentive to the changes you are making and respect those changes. They may need reassurance, they may have questions, they may even ask for reminders in how you are doing things so that they can help support you.

Set Your Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are an important part of any relationship building, they are especially important with overbearing parents. The boundaries you set are in part for you and your parents and in part for your parents with your child. Boundaries are what will keep you, your parents, and your child all on the same page.

Explain to them why these boundaries are important to you. Also explain to them that these boundaries have to be followed or you may need to make decisions based on what is best for your child and your family.

Make sure they understand that while you love them and respect their opinions when you ask for them, your family is the priority here.

Share Your Concerns

Overbearing parents may not take this initial discussion seriously and over the course of several weeks or months they may even become dismissive of your plans. At this point you can try sitting down with them again.

Explain your goals on wanting every major influence in your child’s life to be on the same page and sending the same messages and lessons. Talk about your concerns about how the messages could be mixed and make your job as the parent harder.

Hopefully they will understand and get on board with your plans. If they still don’t then it’s time to get firm with your demands.

Be Firm With Them

This next step is going to be difficult. Depending on your parents it may even lead to a fight. If there is a fight you may want to take a break and try to return to the discussion at a later date or time.

The key here is to remain firm and at this point be prepared to let them know the consequences of their actions if it continues. This is your child and you have a right to decide how you want them raised. You have a right to fight for your child. 

If the shoe were on the other foot, they would have done the same thing. They would have fought to raise you how they see fit. Your overbearing parents do not get to dictate how you get to raise your child. It is ok to be firm on your boundaries and it is necessary. 

Grandparents with parents and grand children standing in front of a van style camper

If All Else Fails 

If your overbearing parents still do not respect your boundaries or if your parents are disruptive in your life and daily parenting there are a couple of next steps to take. 

Limit Visits

You can limit the amount of visits that your child has with this family member. Leave it to just the major holidays and maybe a dinner every couple of months.

If you are going to go this route make sure you stay firm on your boundaries. The moment you cave just slightly on those boundaries you may start seeing the behavior in your parents change as well. 

No Alone Time With Your Kid

While we all hope for grandparents that will take our kids for the weekend, in grandparents that don’t respect your hard boundaries this may not be possible. If you want your overbearing parents to have a relationship with your child this is a great way of letting them do that.  

It also allows you to make corrections when inevitably your parents decide to make a statement that goes against what you want your child to learn. This keeps you in control while still keeping the relationship going.

This works well in situations where your parents let you control your life but you might have different beliefs or political standings. This allows you to educate your child about different beliefs, facts and opinions, how to be tolerant, what you believe, and help your child figure out what they believe based in the facts that are given to them.

End The Relationship Entirely

In cases where overbearing parents are mentally abusive, gaslights you or your family, or anything like this. You may need to consider ending the relationship entirely to protect not just yourself, but your family.

In our case we held on for far too long when it came to trying to set boundaries, following them, and continuing a relationship with my mother in law. After several toxic fights and a realization that we were consistently being gaslit, my husband made the decision that it was time to end the relationship entirely.

While I only dealt with her for 7 years, he had dealt with her behavior for over 40 years. She had narcissistic behavior that came from her own trauma. As much as he and I tried to help her seek professional help, she was not interested in changing and instead wanted to control us and the decisions over our child.

This really is the worst case scenario result when you are dealing with overbearing parents who won’t let you parent. It’s one you may need to make for the mental and physical well being of your family. Know that we did not come to this decision lightly and it’s still a struggle, but it was our only option at that point.

A Word On Healing

Be it you have a bad relationship with your overbearing parents or you had to cut them out of your life entirely, healing is a necessary part of any relationship that went south. Healing either on your own or together.

If at all possible I do recommend that all parties try therapy together and apart to see if you can continue the relationship, grow stronger, and follow the boundaries that everyone sets. 

If you’ve made the decision to end the relationship entirely I recommend seeking professional help as well. Having toxic parents is traumatic and you may need to seek help through therapy to process and grieve the loss of the ideal family we all picture.

I recommend starting a bullet journal to track the journey of dealing with your overbearing parents. In this you can document conversations, fights, and actions that were taken. It can also be a place to vent out your frustrations so you can heal from anger or trauma that you faced or may face.

I documented most fights and problems that we had in my own bullet journals and when the time came for us to end the relationships returning to the bullet journal helped me to overcome the guilt of letting go of family.

Mother and baby with mother in law and her son in the background a healthy relationship picture without overbearing parents

Parenting Your Way

Every parent, even your own overbearing parents, at some point has to make decisions that are different from how we were raised. Your children will one day be parents that have to make these same decisions for their own child. 

Furthermore, you are with your child more often than most anyone else. You see that they love riding their bike but could care less about their electronics. So you know grounding them from their bike is a more effective punishment than grounding them from their electronics.

It’s because of this knowledge that you are much better equipped to handle situations with your children. Regardless of what your parents may believe about their abilities in raising children, every child is different and they just don’t know your child as well as you do.

I hope that these tips work for you in dealing with your overbearing parents and that you can set healthy boundaries that the whole family can follow. My hope is that you will successfully manage the relationships between you, your parents, and your children.

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Healthy Familial Relationship Advice - Advice For Parents and Mental Health - Grandparent, Parent, and Child Relationship Tips


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