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How Should I Communicate with Controlling Parents?

A person's parenting style may be affected by their own feelings of insecurity.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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Communicating with controlling parents is not easy, and how to accomplish it depends upon perspective. The answer to this question varies, depending on who is posing the question; an underage child will have to approach the situation differently than an adult child would.

In all cases, it helps to understand basic motivation for control: a need to keep oneself or children safe that may be wrapped up with other extremely complex and individual issues. The desire to stay safe is often fueled by extraordinary insecurity and anxiety. It is unlikely that either children or teachers will be able to convince these parents that they need mental health assistance. Trying this may shut down communication, and a critical and negative response to this parent may result in the parent’s greater efforts to control.

This situation is most difficult for the children in the middle of it. They really have only the choice of going along with, fighting against, or secretly defying parents, and if they have been truly controlled, they may lack resources to promote change. Some children begin to notice extraordinary restriction placed on their lives as they become adolescents.

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At this point they may have a few options. The first would be to speak to a helpful adult about the situation like a teacher, counselor, or pastor. Of most use would be to get counseling, which still may not greatly improve freedoms or communication. It may help in the respect that the child can gain greater insight into the parent’s motivations. Sometimes, a controlling parent becomes open to counseling if the child is going, but if not, counseling can help a child prepare to make decisions about adulthood.

Adult children of controlling parents may need therapy as well. Most likely, they have felt trapped their whole lives between fulfilling what their parents need and trying to discover that they’re allowed to fulfill their own needs. Therapy can begin the crucial work of mourning the fact that parents were not as good as they needed to be, and people can over time build resilience and self-esteem, deciding what level of communication they wish to maintain with their parents.

For the professional working with controlling parents, advice differs. It’s not a bad idea to chat with the school counselor about how to best approach these parents, but here the goal is to placate them and give them a feeling of safety so children can be most involved in school or other activities. For parents worried about child safety for instance, a detailed field trip itinerary or allowing a worried parent to chaperone may mean the child gets to attend.

Teachers can also sympathize with lack of control. A parent angry about curriculum could be referred to administrators if the curriculum is planned by the district or state and not part of the teachers’ own lesson plans. Bearing in mind the worry and insecurity of these parents is very useful.

With greater empathy toward controlling parents, teachers may be able to slightly ease concerns and give a child more freedom. It may sometimes be worth swallowing a little personal control that isn’t meaningful if it gives a child greater liberty. Ultimately, it really depends on the degree of parental control, and sometimes it may be very difficult to have meaningful dialogue with this type of parent.

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serenesurface
Post 3

Although controlling parents may make life difficult for their children, I don't think that's ever their intention. Most controlling parents are just worried and want to make sure that their children are safe and happy. They want to protect them and make sure they don't make mistakes or get hurt in any way.

I personally think that the best way to communicate with controlling parents is to express feelings openly and honestly, but calmly. Yelling, being mean or abusing parents won't get anyone anywhere. But if the child or adult can tell his or her parents what it feels like to live such a controlled life, then the parents might be inclined to change their ways.

The parents really need to put themselves in the children's shoes and understand what their life is like and how they're struggling because of the control.

ysmina
Post 2

@candyquilt-- I think your friend needs to speak to a professional about this -- a counselor or psychologist. An expert can give him ideas on how to overcome this problem and how he can approach his father without experiencing repercussions.

candyquilt
Post 1

Having very controlling parents can be very frustrating. My friend is in this situation and I know first-hand what he is going through.

His father is very controlling and decides everything about his life. He is not able to oppose his father, so he defies his father without the father's knowledge. But he hates it, he's tired of pretending to be happy and satisfied. He wants to do as he wishes without having to hide it.

He confides in me but unfortunately I don't know how to help him. His father has such a dominant personality that it's even difficult to speak in his presence. I can't say anything when I'm in front of his father either.

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