Communication Expert’s Tip of the Month – February

Conquering Controlling Parents (Part II)
by Professor Joe Martin

Last month, I outlined the three (3) basic fears most parents (who are controlling) have and why they have them. Now that you’re aware of them, I promised I would teach you how to successfully confront those fears.

These are the same successful strategies I’ve taught other young adults to use, but more importantly, these are the same strategies I’ve successfully used on my own parents to get them to “cut the apron strings.” Here they are:

Fear #1: The fear of you making mistakes

Acknowledge the fact that you know they’re concerned about you making the “wrong” decision (whether it be about choosing a major, college, mate, job, etc.). Tell them how much you appreciate their wisdom and their insight, and you know they’re only looking out for your best interest. Also let them know, you’re just as concerned as they are about making a huge mistake that could potentially affect the rest of your life.

However, tell them you also know it’s impossible for you NOT to make a mistake, because it’s part of being human; and like them, you’d like to learn from your own mistakes as well. Let them know you want to do everything you can to avoid the pains of life, but you also realize that sometimes you have to learn what NOT to do in order to learn WHAT to do and how to do it better.

Tell them you’ve learned A LOT from them, and acknowledge the fact that they’ve successfully taught you right from wrong. Now just ask them to pray that your bad mistakes won’t harm you or hurt others.

Fear #2: The fear that you will become dependent on others to survive

Again, acknowledge the fact that they’ve taught you great life lessons and survival skills. And as much as you love them, you have absolutely NO desire to depend on them or anyone else (for that matter) for your daily living. In fact, you believe that your independence will be final confirmation they did a wonderful job in raising you.

Also, make a promise to them that if you ever express a desire to return home to live with them, they have the right to have you committed to a mental institution for psychiatric treatment or shock therapy. Seriously, let them know you’re just as concerned (if not more so) about standing on your own as they are.

Fear #3: The fear of being blamed for YOUR failure

This one is very touchy, because most parents won’t admit this is a fear they have. But without exception, almost every parent fears being called a “bad parent.” Speaking for myself, when I first laid eyes on my son at birth, I said to myself, “God, please don’t let me screw this up.” I’ve since learned to take a more proactive approach to parenting.

When it comes to addressing this particular fear, you have to be sensitive, sincere, and encouraging. Tell your parent(s) something to this effect:

“I know how much you guys love me, and how you only want the best for me. And I want you to know I really appreciate that. But I also want you to know that you guys did an awesome job raising me. I know I don’t always tell you or even show you sometimes how much you’re appreciated, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you.

No, you aren’t perfect, and neither am I, but even at your worst, you’ve always made me feel loved. And for that I thank you. But please understand, even if I don’t ever live up to the expectations you may have for me or reach my full potential, I will never blame you for my mistakes and my life choices. You’ve given me everything I’ve needed to succeed, and that’s all any child could ask for.”

Of course, this strategy is assuming you have great parents. If you don’t, that’s an entirely different issue that needs to be addressed in a different article. But for now, try to stick to the script.

But seriously, even if you don’t follow these strategies down to the letter, I think you get the point. Just be aware of your parents’ fears; acknowledge them; and address their fears accordingly. This approach will go a long way in reducing the “parent drama” in your life. And hey, even if it doesn’t work, you can always resort to throwing a tantrum.

~Professor Joe Martin

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