Are you tired of your parents always butting in?
Do they ask prying questions? Tell you how you should be doing things? Insist that you should dump that loser boyfriend/girlfriend? Let you know that you’re doing it all wrong with your own kids?
You love your parents, but they seem to be popping in with surprising frequency at your home. And, my goodness, do they really have to guilt you into spending every holiday and every celebration with them?
There’s no reason for that business.
While you’ll always be your parents’ child, the fact of the matter is that you are also a grown-ass adult and you have your own life and your own values. Your parents shouldn’t be steamrolling you.
It’s time to establish boundaries. For the good of your relationship.
How it helps your relationship to establish boundaries.
You probably want to maintain a good relationship with your parents. If so, you need to establish boundaries. Stat.
Interestingly, boundaries in romantic relationships actually help the situation. That principle also applies to other, non-romantic relationships as well. Boundaries can help you feel safe.
Plus, think about how much you hate it when your parents are too pushy and interfering. Don’t you resent them a bit afterward? Are you reluctant to see or talk to them in the future? That’s not good for your relationship.
Establish boundaries that are healthy and that work, and you will be happier to interact with your parents and your relationship will improve. It’s important to understand this as you move forward.
Remember: you’re coming from a place of love and you want to strengthen the relationship.
Good relationships aren’t about being inseparable and being up in each other’s business all the time. All healthy relationships require space for individuals and room to be yourself and make choices.
Figure out your boundaries.
You can’t just rush in and tell your parents that you hate what they’re doing. Especially when you aren’t exactly sure what your boundaries are, or why you’re upset.
So, take some time to yourself. Think about what has been bothering you, and dig into why it’s been bothering you. What can you live with? What can’t you abide at all? What have you been arguing about?
This is about constant demands for time or things that you can’t or don’t want to give. Or perhaps it’s about constant discussions about topics you wish were off limits, like your S.O., how you parent your kids, or your weight.
It’s one thing for your parents to offer you a bit of advice and let it go. My own parents have expressed things to me in the past. However, my parents are awesome examples of how to give space to their adult children. They said their piece in a loving way, and, satisfied that they had fulfilled the dictates of conscience, never pushed the issue again.
Sometimes you need your parents’ input. So carefully think about the boundaries, and why you’re setting them. Once you have that down, you can draw the line.
Be clear about what’s off-limits.
If your parents consistently do things that you find intrusive, demanding, and inappropriate, you need to be clear about what’s off-limits.
“I’m sorry that you feel that way about [insert boo’s name here], but I really like our relationship. I won’t talk negatively about it or him/her, and I won’t tolerate you saying bad things, either.”
“I understand that you don’t like how I handle discipline, but our family is doing what works for us, and I’d appreciate you not telling my kids that I’m not doing it right.”
“I love talking to you, but I also need to be able to rest for work, so I’d appreciate it if we could limit call times to an hour.”
Express empathy, and be polite and calm. Let your parents know you care. You can even thank them.
“Oh, thank you for inviting us. However, we have other arrangements for that night. We’ll see you another time.”
If they keep pressing, you can say something like, “We enjoy spending time with you, but we also have other obligations. We appreciate invitations and hope we are always welcome. However, we also don’t want to feel guilty if we can’t make it. Please know we will come when we can.”
In most cases, when you establish boundaries this way, your parents will respect that. Unless they are totally toxic people. But that’s another problem.
Stick to your boundaries.
Of course, once you establish boundaries, you need to stick to them. That means you need to walk away if the line is being crossed.
This is easiest to do when you’re on the phone. If your parents are pressuring you to come to a family event, but you have already said you aren’t coming, and expressed that you don’t like the guilt trips, you can just say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve talked about this. I love you, and I need to go.” And then you hang up.
That phrase works for just about everything, whether you’ve said you don’t want to talk about your S.O., your parenting style, or your job prospects.
It’s harder in person because you have to say that and then either stare them down or leave the room. But stick to it. If you have to leave, do so. Eventually, your parents will get the hint and start respecting your boundaries.
This is especially true when you have kids. There are times I think my parents’ amazing restraint and boundary-respecting comes from the fact that they don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize their ability to see their grandchildren.
I don’t have to say anything to my parents, or threaten to withhold my son. They just assume that if they make things unpleasant for me, I’ll visit less — and that means less face time with their eldest grandchild.
You have to give, too.
When you establish boundaries, it’s important to give as well. Know what you are willing to give. Maybe instead of coming on Christmas, you share dessert on Christmas Eve.
My ex and I had a firm policy of not going anywhere on Christmas. So our holiday visits were made the week between Christmas and New Year. Interestingly, my son and I still spend Christmas with my ex — and we still spend the Christmas Day just us, and then go visit the ex-laws afterward.
Figure out how you can remain positive and give, even as you set up boundaries. This can include saying something like, “I love to talk to you, but talking every day is starting to impact my school work. Can we talk every Sunday morning?”
Offering positivity, love, and a compromise is a way to establish boundaries while still maintaining the relationship. Once you start doing that, your parents will start treating you more like an adult, and everyone will be happier.
What’s your biggest challenge when setting boundaries? Share your struggles or your tips that others can use in the #Adulting community on Facebook.